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anti-racism | government | human & civil rights selection 2004

Black Vote Smothered By Electoral College

Half of our votes will not be counted, next week.

No Americans are more adversely affected than Blacks by the profoundly undemocratic workings of the Electoral College, the rich white man's arrangement hatched in the backrooms of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia.

I "am convinced... that the black vote is going to be not only a bigger vote than ever before, it is the swing vote." Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., speaking on CNN

Rev. Jackson is right about the raw numbers of African Americans who are expected to go to the polls on November 2. However, most of the national Black voting population will "swing" neither their home states nor the presidential election. Fifty-five percent of the Black population resides in the South, and every four years their votes are drowned in a sea of Republican red. For presidential election purposes, except for the besieged Black citizens of Florida, the southern African American franchise is negated by the Electoral College - a true 21st century vestige of slavery.

The whites of the Old Confederacy - once Democrats, then rebels against the Union, then Democrats again, and now mostly Republicans - practice racial bloc voting to keep Black minorities - ranging from 16 percent (Arkansas) to 36 percent (Mississippi) - in political check within state boundaries. But it is the Electoral College that chains Black southern voters to their white political antagonists, in effect forcing Blacks to add the weight of their franchise to that of the Republican Party's racist base, every four years.

We vote against their candidate - they walk away with the southern half of Black America's electoral votes.

No Americans are more adversely affected than Blacks by the profoundly undemocratic workings of the Electoral College, the rich white man's arrangement hatched in the backrooms of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia. The same Convention enshrined slavery as untouchable by the new national government for 20 years, and designated slaves as three-fifths men for the purposes of awarding representation in Congress. Slave masters were made more powerful than other white men by exercising the franchise that was denied the slave.

Although the conventional wisdom is that the Electoral College was devised solely to protect smaller states, the scheme was at least as advantageous to the southern slave-holding aristocracy, who sought to narrow the franchise in their own states as much as possible, while also limiting the federal government's power to tamper with their "peculiar institution." The slave states amassed blocs of electors all out of proportion to the actual voting public, a bloated electoral tyranny that lasted - except for a brief intermission during Reconstruction - until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

From the beginning, the Electoral College was a "State's Rights" issue in the now-familiar, racist sense of the term. Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar and University of California colleague Vikram David Amar argue  link to hnn.us

The Colorado model

The most recent challenge to Electoral College bondage comes from the Republican-leaning state of Colorado, in the form of Amendment 36, a November 2 ballot initiative. Although the Electoral College can only be abolished by the constitutional amendment process, requiring the assent of two-thirds of both Houses of Congress and three-quarters of state legislatures, the states may allocate their electoral votes any way they choose. Coloradans led by former Howard Dean campaign manager Rick Ridder want to split the state's nine electoral votes proportionally - meaning five to four in a close race such as is expected this year. Amendment 36 would take effect immediately upon passage, and could possibly tip the balance of the election. Had Amendment 36 been in force in 2000, Al Gore would have hit the magic number 270  http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/36762.pdf with three of Colorado's proportionally awarded electoral votes - and without Florida.

If Amendment 36 passes - and clears court hurdles - Colorado would become the first state to award electors in a truly proportional manner. States get one electoral vote for each Senator and congressperson. Nebraska and Maine, the only current defectors from the "winner take all" system, award the statewide presidential winner two votes, and candidates win one elector for each congressional district carried. The formula hasn't made a bit of difference in these two rather racially homogenous states - in Maine's case, very homogenous - because the winning presidential candidate has also carried each congressional district. The states' electoral votes have never been split.

However, the Colorado model would work a sea change in the South, where the Electoral College is not merely a quaint "antique," as the Los Angeles Times editorialized  link to www.latimes.com on October 24, but a blood-soaked tool of racial oppression that renders Black voters less than 50 percent citizens in presidential elections.

We need to part the "red" sea, and free the Black South from the white-folks-take-all electoral grip.

The Black presidential impact

bc calculates that, in a proportional system that awards electors based on rounded votes (as in the Colorado initiative) African Americans in 11 southern states would account for 30 electors, 19 percent of the total.

Click for large printer friendly view of table

Under the current winner-take-all system, only the Black voters of the "battleground" state of Florida have a chance to influence the presidential election - and everyone knows it. Despite continuing gains in local and state contests, Black southern impotence in the presidential race has vast ramifications. It is as if the national Black population were sliced in half every four years, the southern portion gang-pressed into empowering the White Man's Party.

Proportional electors would bring the Black South to full stature. The region's 30 Black-weighted electoral votes would represent more than the currently hotly contested states of Arizona (10), Colorado (9), Nevada (5) and New Mexico (5), combined. Black Georgia alone would account for as many electoral votes as New Hampshire (4), also considered a prize in these final days of the campaign.

Dr. David Bositis, of Washington's Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES), agrees that proportional electors in the South "would substantially increase the influence of the Black vote. There are several southern states where there is heavily racially polarized voting and the white population dominates the elections, no matter how strongly Blacks turn out." The white vote sometimes "breaks 80-20 Republican," he said.

This is not just about winning national elections. Under the current system, southern white Republicans are rewarded for delivering the whole Electoral College pie, while African Americans scramble to figure out how they can impress upon the national Democratic apparatus that state party organizations would cease to exist were it not for Black voters. Instead, power in state parties devolves to white Democrats, who imprint the organizations with corporate Democratic Leadership Council ideology. The DLC rules because it can deliver corporate cash, while Black southern Democrats cannot deliver electoral votes.

Conventional wisdom wrong

The JCPES's Dr. Bositis believes proportional allocation of electors "is not going to happen" because "institutional forces are too strong." We are not so pessimistic. The conventional wisdom is that smaller states will fight tooth and nail to keep the system as it is. But Maine (4 electors) and Nebraska (5) are on the small side, and they broke with winner-take-all, albeit with a formula that Dr. Bositis says, correctly, "would probably be worse than the current system" if applied in the South.

The brazen gerrymandering  http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/Stories/0,1413,206%7E11851%7E2491201,00.html of Texas is proof enough that the Maine-Nebraska rules - awarding electors based on presidential candidates' victories in congressional districts - will not serve African Americans well. Black congresspersons represent 17 southern districts, subject to the redistricting machinations of state legislatures. This does not adequately represent the Black presence in the South.

The Colorado formula is the most democratic - and worth fighting for in state legislatures. (Only a few states allow such changes by referendum.) Strong majorities of Americans - in big states and small ones - favor abolishing  http://www.fairvote.org/irv/jacksonelectoralcollegebill.htm the Electoral College altogether. Colorado's Amendment 36 is the closest thing to it, without going through a (very long and grueling) U.S. Constitutional amendment process. A legislative remedy along those lines would have mass appeal.

North and South, the winner-take-all electoral system is the most glaring impediment to Black collective political expression - a prerequisite to self-determination. Half of our votes will not be counted in the Electoral College, next week. We must create a system in which we can bear witness to the fruits of our numbers, and give credit to ourselves, so that we may truly feel the power - and exercise it.

homepage: homepage: http://www.blackcommentator.com/111/111_electoral_college.html
address: address: The Black Commentator

on the electoral college 28.Oct.2004 21:30



I don't see how an institution can be racist. It is people who are racist in the institution. Simply changing an institution is hardly an assureance that you are actually addressing the racism. Florida and Texas---I wish there was a way to stop their votes actually counting toward the presidency in 2000 or 2004 because of the whole white elite state framework there is racist and corrupt. They trashed the black vote--and everyone elses votes--in 2000 and the federal government is so corrupt that they are simply watching them do it once more in 2004.

Actually, I support the concept of the Electoral College though I would like to see the elaboration changed to make it a means of party competition instead of whole state domination by a particular party's vote. I mean that one's individual vote--regardless of race, creed, ideology or religious affiliation--in a state theoretically counts for more if it is totaled by state, than simply aggregated vote totals. In smaller totals, and in 50 different totals, the individual vote matters more. I think maximizing the institutional capacity of the indiviual state voter is a good rule to follow.

As for a different elaboration on the Electoral College that would definitely allow for a way to oppose such white racism, I think that proportional representation by state vote percentages in the Electoral College would be a better way than simply handing all the voting rights to only one party per state. We can do better than that. Proportionaal representation is a better federalist method. You could either scraps the idea of the intervening Electors altogther, and simply aggregate up various state percentages by party per state, or, you could maintain the idea by making Electors proportionally representative to the vote demographic per state. In this way the Electoral College becomes a multi-party framework immediately. Instead of giving all the Electors to one (white racist) party, you could simply say that Elector A gets to have a vote only based on the limited percentage that his or her party got in that state (instead of it all); same for Elector B who's party got only 20% vote to put whereever, etc.

Actually, I'm afraid that if you get rid of the Electoral College motif, in destroying the distributive federalism and localism of the arrangement, you would really see what corrupt white privilege is because it would be immediately concentrated without any state level checks and balances on racist political policy. If you think we live under a one party state now with two WASP white heads (like I do), just you wait till someone removes the Electoral College. Then only about 8 states in the entire country will effectively own the Presidency for all time and 42 states will drop from the national political map.

I hope all those people talking glibly about removing the Electoral college as if it is some magic trick that, "SNAP!" will make America better, seriously should calmly think out what happens after it is removed. I suggest you consider offering something besides political naivete.

There are many things that have to change, and I think that a proportional representation framework for Presidential vote totals by state would be very progressive and very anti-racist in its politics for any minority because they would be assured automatically, if a block voted that way (they don't have to of course), of some immediate sway in their vote totals per state.

What is all messed up right now is the way that states proportion their Electoral College vote wins, instead of the Electoral College motif itself. For instance, 48 of 50 state simply have 'winner take all' frameworks. It doesn't have to be that way. For instance, presently, even if the vast majority of a state dislikes Bush or dislikes Kerry (which is obviosu to me througout the country) and one or the other manage to scrape it out with only 26% of the vote or something--then well, Bush's or Kerrys' 26% gets 100% of your state's votes. That to me is very unfair politically.

It would be much more democratic if electoral college votes--meaning state votes for the presidency--were simply added up as state percentages of different candidates.

You would virtually guarantee that would turn the U.S. into a multi party (actual) democracy overnight.

I typically take the worth of these ideas as guaged how terrified they make the Republicans and Democrats. ;-) If you want to see how scared some of these such ideas make a corporate Democrat, read some of my email exchanges with one of my called 'representatives' below. ;-)

Title: TOWARD A BIOREGIONAL STATE: People Have Right to Stop Ecological Tyranny & Make Democracy
Author: web
Date: 2003.12.25 12:52
Description: "Presently we are trapped within these unecological democracies that are underwriting and protecting this process of politically sponsored ecological degradation. How do we instead explain to others that the state has an Ecological Contract with its people, and if such a contract is neglected, they can overthrow it as an ecological tyranny?" . . . ". . .a people's self-interest is geographically specific and protective of a particular geography. . . .Citizen feedback is always in and from particular geographic spaces and human-environmental contexts. To create the additional checks and balances for an ecologically sound developmentalism is merely to latch onto and facilitate an already-existing affirmative feedback from watersheds/bioregions that is ignored though waiting to be formally organized. This is done by aligning political feedback as closely as possible to a direct feedback from particular geographically specific areas into the state. My [first] suggestion is through watershed based vote districting."


#1-#3 Why the Electoral Congress is Important to Keep,
and how to make it Popular and Geographic;

#7 Five points about proportional representation in the Electoral Congress, and how it helps third parties

[making an unrepresentative corporate Democrats sweat in an email exchange!]
#9 Maximizing voting, Maximizing party competition:
Response from Representative Miller, discussing the differences between his majoritarianism that minimizes voting, and a majoritarianism that actually maximizes voting--proportional representation with a majoritarian allotment


more ideas like this here:

Constitution of Sustainability

external link: sign the petition at ipetitions.com --->


The appended text to the left is a transcription of the Constitution of the United States of America. It has the required additions and changes for checking and balancing against the process of unsustainability, that, unless addressed explicitly in the formal frameworks of government, will plague all societies and all governments.

In a nutshell, the process of unsustainabilty comes about through an unrepresentative government that institutionalizes unsustainable informal consumptive political relations. It effects state representation issues, science issues, financial issues, and consumption issues directly.

Thus, this is a Constitutional blueprint for sustainability, regardless of geography or epoch, as it represents general requirements of governments in administrating and creating the conditions of sutainability, and maintaining the process of sustainability. To read it with a critical eye as to the origin of the ideas and phrasing:

Items in black text are the same as the United States Constitution.

Items in green text are additions.

Items in faded light blue have since been amended or superseded in the Constitution of the United States, or appear in blue to avoid duplication as already folded in black text in this 'update' for sustainability. For example, many later amendments (in blue) have become black-text Articles in this update, or appear folded in as Sections in particular Article. Thus, all that is in black text is already part of the United States Constitution. What is in green text represents additions.

The Signature Area at the ipetitions.com website can be signed, by you, on the webpage. From that page, it is suggested that you could, if you wish, send this copy to any of your present government's representatives or officials. Send it to academics to get them thinking about the formal political requirements of sustainability.

After any email is sent, then you can see the total number of people who have signed this Constitution for Sustainability, organized by their origin in existing unsustainable governmental frameworks--which of course are obsolescent in the Constitution for Sustainability, because they abet unsustainability.

Within the Constitution of Sustainabilty is a process of how existing unsustainable formal frameworks can be adapted to sustainability, for unsustainable States around the world. These sections describe how entry in the Constitution of Sustainability is possible for such States wishing to join the Union or claim their rights under the Union as politically and consumptively externalized trade colonies. These trade colonies experience "extraction without representation." At present, they are socio-financially manipulated from afar by other States, and denied political feedback into these unsustainable relationships. It is demoting that difference, a difference that facilitates the unsustainabilty of trade relationships, that this addresses.

The aim of the petition is both recognition of the Constitution of Sustainability, as well as promoting State level activism toward setting in motion existing U.S. Constitutional machinery for establishing a Constitutional Convention that would institutionalize sustainabilty instead of unsustainability in the present frameworks of the United States government.


A matter of scale 29.Oct.2004 10:24

Bison Boy

"No Americans are more adversely affected than Blacks by the profoundly undemocratic workings of the Electoral College, the rich white man's arrangement hatched in the backrooms of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia."

You're worred about what the founders did to blacks with the ELECTORAL COLLEGE?

Holy crap, man, they did way worse than THAT.

US Constitution, article 1 section 2, paragraph 3:
"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."

And section 9, paragraph 1:
"The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person."

Article 4, Section 2, Paragraph 2:
"No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due."

Put simply: States may import slaves, escaped slaves must be returned, and anyway they only count as three fifths of a person.

Sure, feel free to criticize the electoral college. But it's one of the lesser complaints blacks and other minorities have against the founders.

Greed was the US's orginal sin, and slavery its visible stain.