(This is the first of a two part series)
Today’s differences in population among states in the USA is truly staggering. California had 39.35 million people in 2020, while Wyoming had only 581,348 and North Dakota 760,094. Therefore, California, with 67.9 times as many inhabitants as Wyoming, and 51.7 times as North Dakota, has the same number of senators: 2. Similar discrepancies exIllinois, New York, and Texas with Illinois having 12.72 million, New York 19.51 million and Texas 28.64 million. It is impossible to understand why we tolerate such a corrupt, thoroughly undemocratic system, and why there is not a raging clamor for some kind of solution. It is clearly not democracy when representation is so disastrously mismatched from reality, and in some cases it has become a dictatorship by right-wingers from low-populated states
This kind of extremely undemocratic discrepancy simply did not exist when the USA was founded. In fact, the biggest difference in population was between Virginia, with 583,004, and Delaware, with 45,385, giving Virginia 12.8 times as many people. Eight of the other states ranged between New Jersey’s 139,627 and North Carolina’s 270,130, with only 3 that totaled a bit more than Delaware.
Aside from deporting tens of millions of people from more populous states to enjoy life in the Dakotas and Wyoming—or adding significantly more senators to the more populous states, I do not know how this hideously unfair discrepancy can be solved. But if it is not dealt with somehow, the country will continue to suffer from this undemocratic imbalance.
The other bizarre feature of our glorious, rapidly declining democracy is the Electoral College, the institution that enabled a pompous, corrupt idiot like Donald Trump to become president, despite the fact that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had 3 million more votes.
I don’t know if this remains true, but all through my education the Electoral College was viewed positively, as a basic “American” institution and a vital aspect of democratic governance. It continues to be favored by 61% of Republicans, while 71% of Democrats would like to get rid of it and switch to a popular vote for president. The loser of the popular vote has been elected president by the electoral vote in four elections, in 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016.
The problem is that now, if candidate wins by a simple majority in a state, then all the state’s Electoral College votes go to the winner, regardless of whether he or she won by one vote or a million. That’s how it works in 48 states. (Two states, Maine and Nebraska, award their electoral votes by congressional district.)
But this can be changed by the states, and does not require a constitutional amendment. Each state can deliver all its votes to the person who wins the highest number of votes nationally. A law making this possible has already been enacted by 16 jurisdictions that have a total of 195 electoral votes. When the total hits 270 votes, it will be able to determine the outcome based on the popular vote. See https://www.commoncause.org/democracy-wire/is-one-person-one-vote-really-controversial-the-case-for-the-national-popular-vote/ for details.
One thing that has undoubtedly slowed its adaption is its cumbersome, indeed absurdly obscure name: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). How can an ordinary voter decipher such confusing verbosity?
Still, NPVIC continues to advance. Its latest well-known backer is Eric Holder, former attorney general of the USA. In his new book, Our Unfinished March, Holder declares wholehearted support for the NPVIC, saying it “has the power to be transformational.”
As for that other, indeed far greater problem, the grotesque 67-to 1 disparity in senate elections, stay tuned. I will address it tomorrow.