Tyranny of the Majority Oppresses Minorities    -   October 17, 2020

Majority Rules Or Electoral College – Which Is Better?

Throughout history, the more powerful always oppressed the less powerful.  Knowing history, America’s founders determined to ensure our rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” by protecting us from such tyranny.

Guided by this concern, the founders crafted a Constitution based on separating the executive, legislative and judicial powers of government.  They articulated explicit individual and states rights.  And they included another specific limit to tyranny of the majority – the Electoral College.

Tyranny of the majority manifests when an elected majority pursues its own objectives without regard for the interests of minority factions.  This can happen when, by a small majority, government passes laws that then bind all Americans (but often exempting the legislators who pass the laws).

The founders saw that tyranny of the majority could be imposed on the citizens of their states if the President of the United States were to be elected by simple majority vote of all citizens.  So they created the Electoral College (Article II, Section 1) with each state allocated electors equal to the number of Congressional Representatives from that state, plus 2 (for the Senators).  The President is elected by the majority vote of those electors, thus limiting the power of the most populous states.

The protection of this mechanism can be seen by considering a hypothetical extreme case in which candidate A receives large majorities of the votes in just the 11 largest states, candidate B receives smaller majorities in the other 39 states, and the total votes cast for candidate A is just slightly greater than total votes cast for candidate B.  Under the Electoral method the candidate preferred by majorities in 39 states would become President; under a popular-vote method the candidate preferred in just 11 states would win.

Analogous examples further illustrate:  Just two states produce about 63% of all the petroleum in the United States.  Would it be right for Texas and North Dakota to impose their pricing, environmental and marketing rules on the other 30 petroleum-producing states?  Or, consider that 16 states contain about 51% of all the miles of highway in the United States.  What if the DOTs in these states set the driving and traffic regulations for the other 34 states?  In these examples the interests of a small majority are imposed on all with no consideration for the interests of a large minority.

In our national politics, the Electoral method motivates political parties and candidates to consider the interests of all the people.  Under the popular-vote method, we would see the parties and candidates campaigning and pandering to the interests of the people in just 11 states and mostly ignoring the people living in 39 states.

Nevertheless, many Americans feel we should elect the President by simple majority vote.  What do you think … should we enable a tyranny of the majority by eliminating the Electoral College?


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