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Electoral College undermines principle of 1 man, 1 vote

Jesse Jackson | 11/18/2016, 6 a.m.
America’s election system is a disgrace, as the 2016 presidential election once more demonstrates. This isn’t sour grapes.

America’s election system is a disgrace, as the 2016 presidential election once more demonstrates. This isn’t sour grapes.

I’m disappointed that my candidate lost but the election is over, the results are in. What every American ought to be outraged at, however, is that the United States is still not a democracy of one person, one vote. Our electoral system is suppressing the right to vote for millions.

Start with the obvious. Hillary Clinton won the election, by a margin that may amount to 2 million votes. No need for a recount; she won big. But Donald Trump will be inaugurated president on Jan. 20, 2017 largely because he won three states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — by a total margin of, at last count, 112,000 votes.

The U.S. doesn’t count presidential elections by one person, one vote. Instead the system counts electoral votes with the winner taking all in every state except Maine and Nebraska.

This not only gives greater weight to small, rural states over large populous ones like California; it also makes for perverse campaigning in a few, closely divided “swing states,” with much of the country essentially ignored.

The president of the United States governs all Americans – not just Americans grouped by state. This is the second election in 16 years in which the winner of the popular vote lost the election. This dangerously saps the legitimacy of the presidency. The Electoral College system survives only because most Americans know little about it.

America makes it hard to vote. Registration is not automatic on turning 18, allowing states to erect different hurdles for registering. Voting is usually on a workday that is not a national holiday. States set the laws allowing for infinite schemes designed to make it harder for some to vote. Voting is the most fundamental right in a democracy — and the U.S. perversely empowers petty, partisan officials in various states to whittle away at it.

2016 was the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, gutted by the right-wing gang of five on the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

With Republicans shocked at Obama’s majority margins in 2008, Republican governors and legislatures pushed various schemes to make voting harder for the young, for people of color, and for working and poor people. Despite fierce legal battles, 14 states had various forms of voter suppression schemes in effect in 2016.

Various tricks and traps were put into effect. Early voting days were reduced. Sunday voting — a favorite for African-American churches that organized to take our souls to the polls — was outlawed by some. Polling places were reduced in numbers, particularly in poor or African-American districts. Hours were restricted. New forms of voter ID was required, usually to disadvantage students or minorities disproportionately. Electronic machines with no paper record are widely used, virtually inviting vote manipulation. Voter rolls were purged — allegedly to address fraud — but with lists that always target African-American and Latino voters disproportionately.