If the Electoral College is a Racist Relic, Why has it Endured? (podcast)Historians in the News
tags: Electoral College, Voting, presidential elections
The one constant in the history of voting rights in America, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Alex Keyssar says, is that no law has ever been passed to restrict the voting rights of upper-middle-class white men.
Other than that, he says, the history of suffrage has been a very mixed bag: Full of advances, retreats, progressive changes, and regressive — and sometimes violent — reactions to new groups getting the right to vote. And all of it has been aimed at controlling which races and classes of people can exercise the full power of the ballot box.
This November, issues of voter disenfranchisement will once again occupy center stage. Things like voter list purges, attacks on voting by mail, and physical barriers to the polls — including ones both man-made and pandemic-related. And looming over it all is the 230-year-old institution of the Electoral College.
The US Constitution states that the President and Vice President shall be chosen by 538 electors who are named by the states — not a direct national popular vote. Twice in the last 5 elections, the system has resulted in a US President who got fewer overall votes than his opponent, and most Americans now say it should be eliminated.
The title of Professor Keyssar’s new book asks the obvious question: “Why Do We Still Have an Electoral College?” The answer, he says, is complex — a mix of politics, constitutional law, structural racism, and more. He’s here to help us sort it all out.
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