Meet Cate Carrejo.
Carrejo describes herself as “Small TexMexican. Broadway obsessed, Shonda Rhimes devotee. Trying to learn about everything.”
She’s also a writer for Bustle, a “for and by women” website with sections devoted to news, entertainment, fashion and beauty, lifestyle and books. Two weeks ago, Carrejo posted a piece called “What is the purpose of the Electoral College? It’s a uniquely complex process, with lots of room for error.”
I came across it by accident. It showed up in a list I track of articles featuring the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), the U.S. commonwealth where I lived during high school. In her article, she mentions how the Electoral College “discriminates against American citizens who don’t live in states,” and embedded the video of John Oliver I wrote about last April where he discusses the disfranchisement of NMI and other Pacific U.S. citizens who aren’t allowed to vote for president.
Normally, I wouldn’t have stuck around to read Carrejo’s missive, but after realizing not only what she was writing about but how, I stayed with it.
As she points out, the Electoral College is “a perplexing and frequently misunderstood concept in American government and it doesn’t lend itself well to study.” It’s “slightly shrouded in mystery,” she continued, and then went on to explain how there are 538 electors (equivalent to all 100 U.S. senators and 435 U.S. representatives, and three electors from Washington, D.C.).
Like many such websites, Bustle allows its writers, including Carrejo, to embed videos or link to related articles on other sites. One of those links led to a 2012 Huffington Post article which explains the Electoral College was created to “ensure the rights of smaller states.”
In October 2012, my predecessor in this space, Glenn Tucker, declared the Electoral College system doesn’t work.
Glenn pointed out then another reason for the College -- logistics. It’s a lot easier today to vote, and count votes, for president than it was when we first started electing our presidents.
It was either that, Glenn wrote, or “the guys who made the rules back then just didn’t think the American people were smart enough to elect the president.”
I’m beginning to believe that might actually be true this year.
Moving on, now ... Glenn also said the Electoral College has allowed for just a few “battleground” states to be an election’s deciding factors.
It’s been a while, but I’ve mentioned several times in the past I no longer think any of this is necessary. If we, supposedly, elect our president (and vice president) by popular vote, then I believe the U.S. population is sufficiently high enough -- yes, I know there are big states, geographically, with low populations -- to warrant a true one person/one vote system.
But, back to Carrejo’s article.
When anybody does bother thinking about the Electoral College (usually when watching returns on the big newscasts), they think it’s pretty straightforward: most people in a state voted for Candidate A, so the electoral votes from the state went to that candidate. Well, yes, but as the title to her article states, “it’s a uniquely complex process.”
Cribbing from Carrejo: Twenty-six states have laws requiring electors to vote with their party’s nominee. Twenty-four states have no law requiring them to go with the popular vote, so the electors can pretty much do what they want. (Carrejo points out this has almost never happened, but still.)
In two states -- Nebraska and Maine -- the winner of the popular vote gets the two electoral votes representing their senators; all the other electoral votes are split among who won in the individual congressional districts. Say, what!?
Carrejo also notes while the popular vote (the ballots you and I cast) are secret, electoral votes are not, which she argues “promotes a state identity as being part of one party or the other ... becoming increasingly partisan.”
Carrejo ended her piece by agreeing “the electoral college may be antiquated and unnecessary, but it’s almost certainly here to stay and everyone needs to pay attention to how it works.”
I agree with that, too, even if I do want it gone.