Unpopularity Contest
Mother Jones|March/April 2021
The case for finally doing away with the Electoral College
By Laura Thompson

In 1823, Thomas Jefferson described it as “the most dangerous blot on our Constitution.” In the 1960s, Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee called it “a loaded pistol pointed at our system of government,” whose “continued existence is a game of Russian roulette.” New York Rep. Emanuel Celler once called it “barbarous, unsporting, dangerous, and downright uncivilized.” In 2012, Donald Trump tweeted that the institution is “a disaster for a democracy.” Despite more than 700 legislative efforts to amend or abolish it, the Electoral College remains.

The case against the Electoral College is straightforward: Because states are allocated electors based on the size of their congressional delegations, those with smaller populations have an outsize influence on presidential elections. The result is that a small number of voters in certain battleground states become kingmakers. By one analysis of the 2012 presidential election, four out of five voters had virtually zero influence on the outcome.

“It’s really a relic from the past,” says Wilfred Codrington III, an assistant professor at Brooklyn Law School and a Brennan Center for Justice fellow. The Electoral College was established by the framers of the Constitution as a last-minute deal, a gift to Southern states trying to protect slaveholders’ power and leverage the three-fifths compromise. “It wasn’t a stroke of genius. It was really just the least objectionable at the time,” Codrington says.

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