Reforming an Electoral System that Creates Polarization

02.11.2020 - US, United States - Jhon Sánchez

This post is also available in: Italian

Reforming an Electoral System that Creates Polarization
(Image by Wikimedia Creative Commons)

By Jhon Sánchez

The electoral system contributes to the polarization in the USA. To the frustration of millions, the electoral college had handed the victory to the popular vote’s loser in 2000 and 2016. This indirect system of selecting the president was established because the slave owners wanted to count their slaves towards representation in Congress. This history is offensive to African Americans who have been fighting for the revindication of their rights.

After the civil war, during the disputed elections of Hayes v. Tilden, the House of Representatives handed the election to Hayes. The new president compromised to withdraw the troops from the southern states and allowed the creation of limitations in the right to vote. The compromise caused the federal government not to protect the new African American citizens and  the Southern states to actively promote voter suppression that continues today in 2020.

Even though a constitutional amendment would be ideal, this may not be necessary because the electoral system’s problems occur at the State level.

One of them is the winner-takes-all-method. During the Obama v. Romney elections, all 10 Minnesota electors were awarded to Obama even though Romney still got more than 1,500,000 votes. And in 2016, President Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by total of 78,000 votes. Each 78,000 thousand votes counted thirty six more times than the 2,800,000 votes that Hillary obtained. The reality is that clearly democratic States like Massachusetts and the clearly Republican States like Utah count very little in the presidency’s battle.

Proof of this can be seen as in 2016 candidates concentrated their efforts on the swing states like Pennsylvania, which could change from one party to the other. This means that a Republican’s vote in Massachusetts counts little towards the general election. As such, only blue or red States cause radicalization of the majority and stubbornness of the minority groups.

The campaign for the National Popular Vote Compact (NPVC) would allow the elector to vote for the winner of the popular vote. NPVC laws have been enacted in sixteen States but only would enter into effect when the number of states that approve it would reach the same number of electors to win the presidential election. The number is 270 out of 538. The approval of the law at the State level so far represents 196 electors.

The other problem is the bipartisan system gives little to no room to minorities and independents in elections. People cast their votes considering the count of the vote without considering other candidates who may appeal to their needs and political ideas. The campaign for the ranked vote system would cure the problem. In this method, voters can choose first for the candidate of their preference and rank second and third candidates more appealing to them. A ranked vote would cause electors to look for information about other candidates, increasing their critical thinking. In addition to that, this gives negotiation leverage to minority groups whose votes would be added according to the people’s choices. The negotiation power would reduce confrontation among candidates and increase the search for common grounds to address the problems. The vote wouldn’t be a scarlet letter that marks my political party, but it would offer me other political viewpoints to consider.

Just imagine a vote without fear that another candidate would be elected without winning the popular vote and elections with informed citizens willing to explore other candidates that may have policies representing our direct interests! The lesson here is that we not only need to vote, but we need to look for a system that allows us to count on our opinion.

Categories: North America, Politics
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