So for the past couple of weeks we have been considering notions of ‘democracy’ and in this latest instalment of ‘PPP’ we are going to further postulate on the idea of ‘rule’ (cracy) by the ‘people’ (demos). This time we are struck by vagaries of the US presidential election system and just exactly how that thing works.
Now then…well…it’s complicated and since you don’t have all day we will use (our admittedly small brain capacity) to explain it. Cast your minds forward (or backward depending on when you are reading this) to a November near you. In a nut shell everybody goes to The Polls. They vote for their preferred candidate. Their votes are tallied and The Electors (shadowy, hooded figures – no one really knows who they are except that they can’t be a Senator or Representative or in a ‘government’ job) then promise to take your preferred choice’s vote to Congress and the votes are counted up and there is a winner. Hooray.
The problem is this: not all States are equal – the number of Electors they have is based upon how many people live there (or more accurately the number of congressfolk and representatives they have but that’s essentially the same thing). So California has fifty-five of them and Alaska has three for example. Additionally Washington DC has three even though it’s not really a state at all. Ok. That’s a bit like Warwickshire saying ‘fuck you’ to Yorkshire. Yeah – I know we all do it because Yorkshire is a fucking hell hole and deserves to be told where to go whilst Warwickshire is the palladian fields of old and we play better cricket.
In a ‘WTF’ moment, when this stuff was being devised all those years ago some southern states demanded that they include all citizens of that State (including slaves) so that they had more Electors even though (obviously) many weren’t even allowed to vote. Curious.
And, here’s the thing, The Electors aren’t are ‘upon their honour’ to uphold the popular vote. Theoretically they could vote for whoever they wish when they present their votes to Congress. Might be a lawsuit in the offing if they did but its possible.
And finally this – it is entirely possible (and has happened) that the popular vote (i.e. the candidate with the most votes) doesn’t win and that the electoral college system returns a president who got fewer votes than their rival.
It’s a funny old game…