Imagine if American Idol counted votes from some states more than others; or ignored votes from some states entirely. Viewers would be outraged—and justifiably so. Yet if it’s not good enough for a reality show, why should we accept it in our presidential elections?
The Electoral College makes the way we elect our presidents the least democratic part of our democracy. While many people and organizations working on clever hacks to get around it, we’ve just launched the Equal Votes project to file the biggest legal challenge to our electoral system in decades.
We intend to bring this case to the Supreme Court, and we believe we can win—even in time for the 2020 election.
Watch the video to learn more about what we’re trying to do—and chip in to support our crowdfunding effort to get this project off the ground.
The Electoral College is created by the Constitution. But the way the states allocate Electoral College votes is not created by the Constitution. The winner-take-all system is something states came up with to give themselves more weight in the election. Now that 48 of 50 states allocate their votes that way, that leverage is long gone.
The result is millions of votes for president are essentially uncounted every cycle. if you’re a Republican in Massachusetts or a Democrat in Montana, your vote for president consistently counts for zilch.
This is a clear violation of the “one person, one vote” standard at the core of the Equal Protection Clause of our amended Constitution. And, as recently as 2000, the Supreme Court has affirmed that the Equal Protection Clause applies to the way our votes are counted in the “presidential selection process.”
Take a look at the way the winner-take-all system forces presidential candidates to act. Because most states are decided long before Election Day, candidates campaign almost exclusively in “battleground” states, where the margin of victory is expected to be close. In 2016, 14 states saw 99% of ad spending1 and received 95% of candidates’ campaign visits2. Their campaign platforms cater toward voters’ concerns in these states, while the rest of the country—which skews younger and more racially diverse—gets left behind.
The consequences of this concentration for our democracy are profound.
If we continue this way, the presidents we elect will be less and less representative of our entire country. Two of the last three presidents—George W. Bush and Donald Trump—took office after losing the popular vote. And by our calculations, the chances of electing another president who fails to win the popular vote is over 20%.
Our legal challenge is the best hope we have of fixing this system3 in the near term.
But to get this project off the ground now, we need your help. We’ve secured an initial commitment of pro bono legal work to enable us to launch this litigation, but we will need to raise much more over the life of this case if we’re going to win.
We set a goal of raising at least $250,000 from grassroots donors in the next 30 days—before October 13th—to fund this effort. You can chip in to help reach that goal here.
And you can learn more about our campaign, and get any questions you have answered here.
Thanks—more to come,
1 Huffington Post, “Here’s more evidence the 2016 election was not about the majority of Americans”
2 Nonprofit VOTE and U.S. Elections Project, “America Goes to the Polls 2016” (pdf)
3 Medium, @Lessig "The Equal Protection Challenge to Winner-Take-All: A Legal Guide"