Friday, August 21, 2020

How Kanye's Failed POTUS Bid in WI Exposes Flaws in the Electoral College

KANYE WEST'S ATTEMPT TO appear on Wisconsin's ballot for this year's presidential race was decidedly ended when the state's Elections Commission voted 5-1 on Thursday against accepting his nomination papers.

West's documents to be on the ballot had arrived seconds after 5 p.m. on August 4, the deadline that they were due by. However, the information on the forms was not complete, and his representatives ended up having to finish them up, handing them in well after the deadline was passed.

Even if West had managed to get his nomination papers in on time to the board's liking, it's likely they'd have faced some stiff challenges: many of the signatures collected have been questioned as being faked, in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

The more significant worry, however, would have been how the integrity of the election could have been compromised.

There are allegations — and frankly, some pretty big signs of them being true — that West's candidacy is solely to serve as a "spoiler" candidate to help President Donald Trump win reelection this year. The theory goes that West, as a candidate in this state (and perhaps elsewhere still) would have caused younger voters to support his run for office, taking away votes for Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the process.

West being left off the ballot is a good thing, particularly if you're inclined to believe this theory, but also because he failed to follow the rules to get onto the ballot. Those rules exist for a reason, and only in limited circumstances should they be broken to allow for a candidate to run.

West's "almost" run in Wisconsin, however, showcases a bigger problem with how our elections work, demonstrating yet another reason why the Electoral College system of picking presidents is a flawed institution.

As we saw in 2016, a candidate for president need not win a majority of votes nationwide in order to become commander-in-chief. With spoiler candidates thrown into the mix, they also don't need to attain a majority of votes in a number of states to win office.

Suppose Trump, worried about Biden winning in Wisconsin, decided he wanted to play dirty. Republicans in the state, whether (illegally) coordinating with Trump or not, could do something about it, running a "favorite son/daughter" candidate in the state to encourage would-be Biden voters to support someone else instead. 

Maybe they run a moderate Republican, hoping that wayward "never Trump" GOP voters would support that person instead. Or maybe they run a more progressive Democrat, hoping a few thousand voters here or there choose that person over Biden. Or maybe they run someone like West, recognizing that his run could remove certain voters that generally vote Democratic in presidential races.

(This isn't too far off the mark: Republican strategists were, in fact, the ones behind organizing West's run in the state.)

Whatever the case may be, the strategy is clear: running that candidate to win isn't the goal, but rather, the aim is to take away just enough votes as are necessary in order to help Trump win. The process can be repeated in a number of states across the country (most likely "swing states"), resulting in Trump winning a plurality of votes in those areas, and thus, the Electoral College votes they dish out, catapulting his way to an EC win across the nation. 

This, of course, is a highly dubious way to win, but it's a way that is possible. And as know, Trump has always kept an open mind to the idea of doing whatever it takes to win reelection.

This method of "winning" for Trump, or for any candidate of any party for that matter, can be prevented, however, if we get rid of the Electoral College once in for all, and replace it with a popular vote for determining the president, with an instant voter runoff element added to it

That system would allow voters to rank their choices for president. If a candidate can't attain a majority of votes, the candidate with the least amount of votes is removed, and their voters' second picks are tallied onto the remaining candidates, with the process repeated until a majority is attained.

For example: let's say 47 percent of the vote goes to Trump, 46 percent to Biden, and 7 percent to West. No candidate wins at this point because no one has a majority, and West's votes are now taken out of the count, with his voters' second-place choices now considered. Let's say 5 percent of the 7 percent who voted for West goes to Biden and 2 percent to Trump. That makes the tally 51 percent for Biden, 49 for Trump, and thus, Biden wins the race.

This ensures that no third-party candidate can be a spoiler, whether they're a purposeful helping another candidate one or not. 

There will inevitably be people that respond to this post (on this site or in social media) with the belief that the Electoral College deserves to remain in place. I've written extensively against that notion in the past, noting that almost all of the arguments in favor of the Electoral College fall flat upon closer examination.

So let's sum up those arguments (and the cases against them) quicker than usual with a short FAQ:

  • Wouldn't ending the EC hurt smaller states? No, in fact, because candidates for president don't court smaller states. In 2016, candidates for president and vice president on both Republican and Democratic tickets traveled to 26 states total, ignoring 24 states and Washington D.C. during the general election part of the campaign. The states they went to had an average of almost 14 Electoral College votes per state, while the states not traveled to had an average that was just half of that. This suggests that, the smaller the state is, the more likely it is to be courted by ALL candidates.

  • Won't candidates just go to big states like New York, Texas, California, and Florida? No, because those states total only a third of the United States' population. To even reach "50 percent plus one votes" (as required in the instant voter runoff scenario I'm proposing), you'd have to focus all efforts solely on 10 states — and even then, you'd have to assume your opponents get zero percent of the vote within them. For comparison, only 11 states are necessary to win in the Electoral College in order to win the presidency, if you're just going after "the big ones," and you don't even have to win every single vote within them to get their EC votes. 

  • Won't rural voters be ignored? No — if anything, they'll be empowered. Roughly one-in-five voters in the U.S. are rural-based. Most state populations are centered in cities, so candidates in the EC system only have to court a majority of voters there with some dedication to rural voters. A popular vote would arguably require a much greater dedication toward attaining their votes, especially with how close races have been in recent years, in terms of the popular vote.

We can learn a lot about how our country's government, as great as some might assume it is to be sometimes, is flawed from experiencing real-life scenarios. Much in the same way Donald Trump's presidential tenure has taught us how the head of the executive branch can get away with too much (ethically and legally), Kanye West's presidential bid demonstrates the dangers of allowing a candidate with a hidden agenda onto the ballots.

It doesn't need to be this way. The American people should be allowed to choose their own president, without the Electoral College interfering with their preferences. The possibility of West causing another election upset win for Trump just exposes one more reason why the Electoral College system needs complete and total abolishment.

Featured image credit: Peter Hutchins/Flickr

1 comment:

  1. Now we need to support the "Yes On National Popular Vote" campaign in Colorado, and vote for and urge state legislators in states with the 74 more electoral votes needed, to enact the National Popular Vote bill for the 2024 election.

    There have been hundreds of unsuccessful proposed amendments to modify or abolish the Electoral College - more than any other subject of Constitutional reform.
    To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with less than 6% of the U.S. population.

    Instead, state legislation, The National Popular Vote bill is 73% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.
    The bill changes state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    It requires enacting states with 270 electoral votes to award their electoral votes to the winner of the most national popular votes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.