‘Fit for purpose’. Why the US Electoral College is a device for all seasons.

As we near the halfway point in the US Presidential election cycle, it’s time the Left started brushing off its anti-Electoral College rhetoric. Given the disaster of the Biden presidency thus far, it is fairly certain that a Republican candidate will win in 2024. If it’s not Donald Trump, then someone else.

A current feature of Democrat (Left) politics is to opt for an approach that in simple terms means ‘If we can’t beat them through the system, then don’t campaign harder with better (or less flawed) candidates, but CHANGE THE SYSTEM.

A popular aspect of the system for targeting, is the Electoral College. Even in countries well removed from the US, the College provokes ire. Even in far-distant New Zealand, we have a process for preventing sparsely populated regions from becoming ‘electorally irrelevant’. But more on that later.

The critical (and likely deliberate) misunderstanding the anti-College lobby has, is bizarre and is the idea that all 50 States in the Union achieved Statehood at the same time and in doing so went through identical processes of consideration and action.

The First Three

From 1787, when the first three states (Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey joined the new-minted Union through to 1959 when the two most recent (Alaska and Hawaii) came on board, is 172 years. During that period, each prospective new member state went through its own internal debate about the wisdom, or otherwise, of joining. The case of Wyoming is of particular interest, because like New Zealand it is sparsely populated and also, at one time, made most of its living from sheep farming. Wyoming at the time of its Statehood bid, was a minnow in terms of population.

Making a Deal

Given that we are talking about the ‘Good old USA’ I like to imagine the conversation between Washington and the Wyoming Territory Capital in Cheyenne as akin to a sales pitch, with objections raised and overcome. Talking to Wyoming about a Statehood bid wasn’t DC’s ‘first rodeo’, but nevertheless the Federal side needed to understand Cheyenne’s concerns. The Wyoming: ‘What’s in it for us? questions would be answered along the lines: ‘You’ll no longer be a Territory but a full-blown state, with a star on the flag. You’ll have a State capital, a State song, a State motto, a state flower and a State bird. You’ll have two senators and a population-based number of Congressmen/women.

The ‘crunch’ Question

I’m sure the discussion wasn’t quite that banal, but the ‘crunch’ question from the Wyoming side would have been: ‘We get the Senate and Congress bits, ‘BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PRESIDENCY?’ Our current (1890) population is 61,000, but that of our near-neighbour California, is already 1.2 million’.

Again, like any good salesman, the Federal rep would likely have responded: ‘I’m glad you answered that question. Our revered founding fathers anticipated this issue and wrote into the Constitution a two-stage Presidential election process. There is an Electoral College on which Wyoming will be guaranteed two places- no matter what. No Presidential candidate would dare ignore the Great State of Wyoming and choose not the campaign here. Why? Because your two College votes may mean the difference between success and failure’.

And so on 10 July 1890, the Territory of Wyoming became the State of Wyoming. Its population (580,000) is still low, by US standards, but it takes its place proudly in the life of the nation, knowing that its weight is felt through the genius of the Electoral College.

Hillary didn’t get the memo

The drafters of the US Constitution, may have felt that to any Presidential hopeful, the need to campaign in even the smallest state was self-evident. But in 2016, candidate Hillary Clinton declined to visit. What she did do, was sent husband Bill to campaign on her behalf. Given Bill’s colourful past and the innate conservatism of rural Wyoming, sending Mr Clinton to press the flesh in support of Hillary, was a bit like sending Hugh Hefner to campaign on behalf of the YMCA.

New Zealand’s protection arrangement

It’s strange, that a lot of the Left’s whining about the US Electoral College comes from outside the US. In New Zealand the complaint is that the College is not ‘democratic’. The criticism abates somewhat when it is pointed out that the US has not formed itself as a ‘Democracy’, but rather as a ‘Constitutional Republic’. The Constitution modifies the pristine ‘one man one vote’ model to recognise the particular demographic and geographic realities that the founding fathers were confronted with.

New Zealand opposition to the US College pales further, when it is pointed out that protection has been granted to the South Island, which although geographically larger has a smaller (and falling) population. The solution has been to grant the Island sixteen Parliamentary seats out of 120. Regardless of further population shifts north, the South Island will always have seats that are worth contesting.

What next for the Dems?

If the Democrats fail to get rid of the Electoral College, they are determined pack the Supreme Court, so they get the decisions they want, but to get that to work they will have to appoint SCOTUS justices for a fixed term, rather than 'life' as at present. Additionally Democrat controlled states are intent on loosening up on ballot harvesting, so that anyone can offer to take their neighbours’ ballot papers to the returning office. If the key to a sound election is security of custody of the ballot from voter to counter, this is a situation ripe for abuse.