Personal Voices: Electoral College is an Outdated Relic

I probably knocked on your door at least once during the past two months.

But as only one of dozens of canvassers that harassed you during dinnertime, made you pause your movie or woke you up from your nap to bludgeon you with political propaganda, I had to leave my mark.

I let you know that the weight of the free world rests on your shoulders.

But it broke my shivering little clipboard-clutching heart that I didn't have enough time to explain that no, in fact, the future of humankind was not in your hands, but in the hands of an anachronistic system that was implemented back at the birth of our country.

The electoral college is a process that began as part of the U.S. Constitution in the 18th century. It was a way to ease the difficult process of electing a president in a more simple country of only 13 states where national campaigns and political parties didn't exist. (Imagine a world with no political TV ads!)

The physical and demographic characteristics of our country weren't as accommodating to a true democracy as our world is now. Hearsay along trading routes was ever so slightly less accurate than our evening news, and hitching up the covered wagon to get to the polling box proved more difficult than putting your slippers on and trekking out to the mailbox.

The electoral college has served our country well, remaining more or less stable through various wars, economic depressions and times of social unrest.

Supporters of the system say it allows for even distribution of presidential support, gives more power to less populated, rural states and provides political stability by encouraging a two-party system.

But the antiquated system also contains glaring flaws that clash with modern America and the basic principle of a democracy.

First, as many dismayed voters learned in the 2000 presidential election, the popular vote of the people has little to do with who is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Al Gore won the popular vote over George W. Bush, 48.38 percent to 47.87 percent (for results, go to this site).

The electoral college makes it possible to disregard the will of the people. The first definition of democracy, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a "government by the people; especially: rule of the majority." The majority spoke in 2000 and the electoral college silenced it.

Second, the electoral college unashamedly encourages a two-party system, making it nearly impossible for a third-party candidate to ever win the presidency. While this may contribute to the strength of our nation's politics, it also fosters a weakness.

Too many doors I knocked on yielded apathetic voters who were indifferent only because they felt stuck choosing a candidate that was the "lesser of two evils." The Democratic and Republican parties have become so powerful and so polarized that there is no room for other voices. That is not a true democracy.

No one should ever have to vote for a candidate they feel is evil. But evil can describe a bi-partisan system that discourages voters from casting their ballots.

It will be difficult for Americans to continue to believe that they live in a democracy, and for that democracy to grow, unless the constitutional relic designed to choose a leader is greatly reformed to be accurate and fair.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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