White: Anachronistic Electoral College undermines Constitution, equal voting rights

The Electoral College has been a fixture of American politics since the founding of our democracy. It was originally put in place as a check on voters in case they attempted to vote a severely underqualified individual into office.

Today, however, we boast an educated voter populace that antiquates the Electoral College. The continuation of this system not only skews the voters’ wishes – see the 2000 presidential election – but also denies voters equal voting rights.

The Equal Protection Clause in the Bill of Rights reads, “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This clause has been used in numerous cases to provide equal rights for Americans under the law. It was cited in Brown v. Board of Education to declare “separate but equal” as unconstitutional.

In the case of voting, equal protection means one vote for every American, regardless of skin color, gender and sexuality, among other things. But shouldn’t location be included on that list? We should not be able to make a person’s vote count more or less simply based on where they reside in the U.S.

That is exactly what the Electoral College does, however. In South Dakota, there are about 824,082 people. That accounts for .26 percent of the total U.S. population of 314,725,578. Yet, South Dakota has three electoral votes. Given the nation’s total of 538 electors, South Dakota accounts for .55 percent of electors, despite only accounting for .26 percent of U.S. population. That’s more than double the influence it should have based on its population.

Compare this to New York, which represents 6.1 percent of the U.S. population, but with 29 electoral votes, only accounts for 5.4 percent of electors. This means that each New York voter effectively has 88 percent of a vote in the election, while South Dakota voters have 211 percent of a vote in the election. Our votes are not being counted equally simply by location. How does that not violate equal protection under the law?

Now, I understand the argument that the Constitution is full of checks on tyranny of the majority. And, believe me, there is no one who wants a tyrannical majority. But the reason why these checks are in the Constitution is to allow for a majority system of voting. Our voting system is based on majority and should be. But once people are elected, there are checks on what they can do. That is how we prevent tyranny of the majority, not through disenfranchisement of those from states with large populations.

We consider voting a sacred establishment in this country. By allowing the Electoral College to continue at a time when it has long outlived its purpose, we are doing a disservice to that sacred establishment. South Dakota voters should not have almost three times as much influence as New York voters.

One vote for each individual is the only equal and just way to run an election. The Electoral College not only violates this basic moral principle, it violates the Equal Protection Clause in the Constitution. I look forward to a time when my vote will count just as much as others’.