Author and attorney Tara Ross recently explained why she believes the Electoral College remains an excellent system for selecting U.S. presidents — and explored how President John F. Kennedy openly supported the Founders’ intent on the matter.
In a follow-up interview with Faithwire, she pushed back against some of the most prominent critiques of the Electoral College. First and foremost, Ross responded to claims made by opponents that the system is old, antiquated and no longer applicable, saying this argument is based on faulty assumptions about why the Founders first embraced it.
“When people make a comment like that, they are usually referring to issues with travel and communications that existed in the late 1700s. My response to that is simple: The Electoral College wasn’t created because of problems with communication and travel!” Ross said. “The system was created because the Founders knew that humans are imperfect. Power corrupts. Bare majorities can act in emotion or selfishness and tyrannize even very large minority groups.”
She said the Founders opted for a system of constitutional checks and balances in an effort to protect the nation against the flaws of human nature — flaws that have not changed since the drafting of the Constitution.
“Humans are still imperfect,” Ross said. “The Electoral College — and every other check and balance in our Constitution — is still needed.”
Listen to Ross discuss these issues at the 2:30-mark below:
The attorney and author also responded to critiques surrounding the purported disconnect between states’ populations and the numbers of electoral votes that are allocated for each. One such critique that was recently waged on Twitter read, “I think it’s problematic that Colorado has 10x the people of Wyoming, but only 3x the electoral votes. Don’t you?”
Ross, however, responded that she doesn’t see this paradigm as problematic at all, and offered up some background she believes will help in understanding why, from her view, this argument doesn’t hold much sway.
“The Founders were looking to create something better than a simple democracy. They knew that simple majorities should not be able to rule without any regard for minority groups,” she said. “But here’s the flip side: Should small minority groups dictate to large majorities? Of course not. Rhode Island should not be able to order California around. The state should have enough power to defend itself, but not so much power that America has ceased to be truly self-governing.”
Ross went on to explain that the specific Twitter critique actually proves to her that the “Founders struck a nice balance,” seeing as Colorado’s population size would clearly mean that the state would always outvote Wyoming in a direct election.
“Colorado has a little over 9x the number of people in Wyoming; its ability to outvote Wyoming in a regular national popular vote seems like a tad too much!” she said. “On the other hand, Colorado has only 3x the number of electoral votes, which indicates that the Electoral College is helping to mitigate the harshness of that popular vote difference just a bit.”
Ross reiterated that Colorado still has more electoral votes than Wyoming (9 vs. 3), instilling what she sees as a fair system (i.e.: the state still has more power and sway in the overarching electoral paradigm than the smaller-populated Wyoming).
As Faithwire reported on Thursday, Ross also took aim at critics’ claim that “the Electoral College was established because of slavery,” saying this simply isn’t the case.
“I get tired of such attempts to undermine our heritage. Yes, some of our Founders owned slaves. It was a terrible, horrible flaw. But our Constitution is far more than just a ‘relic of slavery,’” Ross said. “The delegates who met at the Constitutional Convention were well-educated, wise men. They were students of history; they’d studied political philosophy. They were relatively free of partisan motivations. The biggest allegiances that they owed were to their home states.”
And while Ross clearly favors the electoral college, critics, again, claim it’s antiquated and gives too much power to smaller states. The college is made up of 538 electors; each state receives a combined number of electoral college votes equal to the number of House members that represent it as well as the two senators allocated to each state.
Most states have a winner-takes-all mentality, as I noted earlier this year in an article for Deseret News.
Critics say the system grants too much power to smaller states, and has led to scenarios (five elections since America’s founding, to be exact) in which the candidate who wins the popular vote can still lose in the Electoral College, as was the case with Trump and Clinton.
Read more about the critiques here and learn more about Ross’ books, including “Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College.”
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