Has the time come for us to disband the Union and start afresh? Some say our current Constitution, ratified over two centuries ago, no longer meets the needs of our nation. A couple of the most frequently-heard complaints are levied against the Electoral College and the Senate. Why? Because neither of these institutions is based upon the principal of one person – one vote.
In a democracy, would we expect anything less? Let’s say that you live in California, a state with almost 40 million people, and your state elects two senators to represent you in Washington. On the other hand, a person from Wyoming, a state with less than 600 thousand citizens, also has two senators representing them. That handful of people have equal representation as your massive state possesses when it comes to drafting laws, approving judges or even impeaching office holders. Clearly, the Wyomingite wields vastly more influence than you do.
In the same sense, the Electoral College doesn’t respect one person, one vote. While you do get to send electors to the Electoral College proportional to your population, plus two, Wyoming sends electors per their population, plus two more, just like California. So while you aren't as badly underrepresented in the Electoral College as you are in the Senate, you are still underrepresented.
There has always been a bit of a buzz about this structure, but as the division within the country grows, the buzz grows louder. As a matter of fact, we see it right here in “The Taming” by Lauren Gunderson, being performed at Cape May Stage through Nov. 1. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it; it is wonderfully well performed.
So how is it that our federal structure doesn’t provide everyone equal representation under the one person, one vote principal? Lynne Cheney explains this issue in great detail in her book, “James Madison: A Life Reconsidered.” The issues being discussed today are, in great measure, the same ones excruciatingly fought over when our Constitution was drafted in George Washington’s day.
A tiny state like Rhode Island, with a population of 69 thousand could see no way of combining forces with mighty Virginia, with 748 thousand. The small states would not even consider being part of a nation comprised of a strictly one person – one vote structure. Their voices would have been drowned out.
What were the colonies to do? Under the Articles of Confederation, each state had an equal vote. The idea of going to a union where they lost that altogether was dead on arrival. In the end, they worked out a compromise: each state would have equal representation in the Senate, and would have representation according to population in the House of Representatives.
To consider going to a population-only structure today would transfer decision-making to the heavily populated states, and would smother the diversity of this vast and varied nation.
You are living in California, which today is a liberal state. You probably wish that Donald Trump, who did not receive a majority of votes in the general election, had not been elected president by the Electoral College. You are probably also upset with his choices for judges and myriad other actions. Meanwhile, Trump’s election – through the Electoral College – reflects the majority of the voters in a majority of the states.
I certainly agree that our system of government is imperfect. Let's work to improve it, but let's do so within the constitutional foundation which we have in place, which makes various provisions for being amended.
If we were to throw it all out and start over, as advocated in “The Taming,” we have no idea what we would end up with. Our Constitution has created the most successful nation since the beginning to time. I think that you and I should rightly fear putting it at risk.