Before Donald Trump won the election Tuesday night, the president-elect had previously called the Electoral College "a disaster for democracy." Especially now that Trump won the election despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, many agree with Trump's previous statement. Just yesterday, Michael Moore dismissed the Electoral College as "an arcane, insane 18th-century idea." As anti-Trump protests are erupting around the country, petitions are calling for the electors to make Clinton president.
While Trump currently has more electoral votes, Clinton actually leads the popular vote by about a million votes, according to NBC News. As we noted yesterday, this is actually the fifth time—roughly a tenth of our presidential elections—when the winning nominee actually lost the popular vote (this also happened in 2000, 1888, 1876, and 1824).
Now, a Change.org petition is "calling on the Electors to ignore their states' votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton," when they cast their votes on Dec. 19. Describing Trump as "unfit to serve," the petition, which has nearly 700,000 supporters and counting, says, "His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic."
"The only reason Trump 'won' is because of the Electoral College," the petition explains, again noting that Clinton won the popular vote. "But the Electoral College can actually give the White House to either candidate. So why not use this most undemocratic of our institutions to ensure a democratic result?"
Other petitions are making similar pleas:
Nonetheless, the plan is unlikely to succeed. According to the Daily Dot, at least 29 states, along with the District of Columbia, require electors to vote for the candidate who won their state's vote. In U.S. history, there have only been 157 "faithless electors," who defy their state's vote. That's less than 1 percent, and 71 of those 157 faithless electors changed their vote because of the death of the candidate their state had voted for.
When it comes to the Electoral College, a state’s members of the House and the Senate determine their number of electors (along with three electors for the District of Columbia). While the House of Representatives is relatively proportional (because it’s based on population), the fact that each state has two Senators (regardless of its population) means that smaller states are over-represented, while bigger states are under-represented. For example, California has about 69 times as many people as Wyoming, but only about 18 times as many electoral votes, according to NBC News. That means that a person's vote in Wyoming counts more than a person's vote in California.
The Founding Fathers decided on the Electoral College because it gave smaller states more power and, according to the New York Times, "in an era that predated mass media and even political parties, they were concerned that average Americans would lack enough information about the candidates to make intelligent choices."
But there's also a more sinister reason for the Electoral College. While slaves were unrepresented and disenfranchised, the Three-Fifths Compromise (in which slaves would count as 3/5 of a person for a state’s population) allowed slave states to gain more representatives—and therefore more electoral votes—without actually letting enslaved persons have any voting rights whatsoever.
Still today, the Electoral College marginalizes people of color because it unfairly empowers small states—which are disproportionately white. Even in states where people of color make up a significant percentage of the population, minorities are essentially disenfranchised because most states are winner-take-all. In Mississippi, for example, almost 4-in-10 residents are black. But because of the winner-takes-all system, all of the state's electoral votes went to Donald Trump, despite the fact that people of color overwhelming supported Hillary Clinton.
Despite the inherent issues with the Electoral College, we're unlikely to see a President Clinton in January. "We must accept this result and then look to the future," Clinton said in her concession speech. "We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead."