Dear Editor, let’s face up to an important political reality: American democracy is becoming less democratic. This is a mathematically provable fact, not some whiny liberal opinion.
Our government has never been truly representative, as in “one person equals one vote”. From the moment of “all men (sic) are created equal”, we haven’t really been treated so. Our culture and society were not made up solely of property-owning European-derived males in the 1770s, but that’s who could vote. When African-American males were “enfranchised”, each only counted as five-eights of a person. I am not making this up. Women are still less than 100 years in as voters in this country.
Those were unenlightened times. Now that all citizens over the age of 18 can vote, we want to pretend that we are all equal in the eyes of those who govern.
Not to fast. Let’s begin with the electoral college. Only two offices are truly “national” in how they are awarded; President and Vice-President. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of representatives it has in the House, plus one each per its two Senators. This seems just and reasonable. But a sparsely populated state has fewer citizens per electoral college vote than does a more heavily populated one. Therefore one electoral college vote reflects the will of fewer people in Montana or West Virginia than in New York or California. Five times in U.S. history, the electoral college vote has not agreed with the popular (democratic) vote. Five. Two of these touch on the last three presidencies: 2000 and 2016. So we, the people got a president we didn’t vote for two of the last three times the office has changed hands. Simple math.
While not identical in detail, there is a similar disproportion in the U.S. Senate. Every state has two Senators. This made sense when the founders needed a way to ensure representation from the less populous states. But the disparity in population between mostly rural and mostly urban states has increased such that we are approaching a time when 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 of the states. But they will be represented by only 30 of the 100 senators in Congress, because Senators are distributed by state, not population. Math again.
Then there’s gerrymandering. This is the (entirely legal if done constitutionally) practice of the party in power drawing both Congressional and state voting districts. Gerrymandering is why some voting districts look like squashed spiders or a spilled liquid. Techniques vary, but the result is to diminish the voting power of less powerful groups. It works. In our time, gerrymandering has led to numerous court cases and much redrawing of districts. This wastes government time and resources, and more important, is a result of unconstitutional action by those in power. If left unchecked, the result is a system of those who govern choosing their constituents instead of the other way around.
Please observe that I lay this out without naming parties, politicians, or policy positions. It’s just math. But it’s changing what it means to vote.