Jose C. Pangan: One man, one vote — a myth

Sunday, January 27, 2019
One man, one vote — a myth

It starts with the Constitution and the Electoral College. The framers of the constitution had to make compromises with the smaller states and the slave owning states in order to get them to agree with the draft. Therefore they had to agree to give some power to the less populated states by giving them two senators regardless of population. With the slave owning states there was the 3/5 compromise which allowed them to count each slave as 3/5 of a person when determining its population although the slaves could not vote.

The two senators each state is entitled to leads to many consequences which magnify the inequality of voters in the 50 states. The electoral college by which we elect our president is constituted by giving each state electors equal to its number of senators (two each state) and representatives (which is based on population). Therefore California with a population of 39,540,000 has 55 electoral voters. Thus California gets one electoral vote per 718,900 people. Wyoming with a population of 579,315 gets three electoral votes, or one per 193,105.

Then there’s the Senate. One senator in California represents 19,770,000 people. One senator in Wyoming represents 289,657 people. This gives a voter in Wyoming 68 times the power of a voter in California in Senate elections (19,770,000 divided by 289,657 equals 68). In the three crucial states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania in the 2016 election Trunp won by just 79,675 votes over Clinton in the three states and received 46 electoral votes. Clinton won Massachusetts by 904,303 votes over Trump and got only 11 electoral votes.

In the 2016 presidential election national vote, Clinton received 65,853,514 votes while Trump received 62,784,828, a difference of 2,868,586 votes but lost the presidency because she lost in the Electoral College by 306 to 232 votes. In the Electoral College, which has 538 members, you need 270 to win.

The two senators per state regardless of population constitutional provision has a lot to do with the fact that the one man, one vote principle is a myth. Because the Senate confirms all nominees to the Supreme Court, the small states get a much bigger say on who gets on the Supreme Court. (CNN, July 10, 2018). The 50 senators voting yes for the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court represent states covering just 44 percent of the U.S. population or 143 million Americans. That’s less than a majority, less than the 181 million Americans represented by the senators voting no. (GovTrack. US Oct. 2, 2018) “The rise of minority rule in America is now unmistakable. Especially with a sitting president who won a majority in the electoral college [in 2016] while receiving roughly three million fewer votes than his opponent, and a supreme court four of whose nine justices were nominated by Republican presidents who collectively received fewer popular votes than their Democratic opponents and were confirmed by Senates similarly skewed.” (Lawrence Tribe, Harvard Law Professor, The Guardian, Nov. 8, 2018)

Jose C. Pangan

South Hadley