Following Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s apparent 5000-vote loss to known Democrat Andy Beshear Tuesday, Arizona state GOP chair Kelli Ward, a perpetually thirsty electoral also-ran herself, proposed a simple solution on the Twitters: If Republicans can’t actually win a majority of votes, why not give up on “majorities” altogether? After all, look at all the red territory that voted for Bevin!
Just look at those tiny little blue areas that inexplicably have more people in them! How could they actually represent the will of Kentuckians, simply because they resulted in a higher total number of votes?
Clearly, something must be done! Mostly, Kelli Ward must be mocked and ridiculed for suggesting that elections should stop being won by “majorities” of “voters.” In an ideal world, she’d also recognize she made herself look like a complete fool and resign, but why would she give up on her one most reliable personality trait? Besides, calling for vote-rigging is rapidly becoming the norm for some Republicans, since “winning more votes” is so passe for them these days.
Ward’s county-by-county map is one way to visualize the data, if you pretend that 50 percent plus one is how every county voted, and maybe she would also like you to ignore the variations in population between those counties. Haha, “maybe”! Of course she would!
As folks on the Twitters were quick to point out, that’s pretty darn misleading! For instance, suppose you were to shade the map to show not simply a red-or-blue vote breakdown, but the actual share of the vote in each county, with the vote by county listed by size for good measure. That’s what the New York Times did:
Image: New York Times
That’s a whole lot of counties where the vote was actually kind of in the middle, huh? You could also break down the vote by the size of the lead in each area, as the Times also did:
Image: New York Times
Either way, you end up with a map that gives a far better sense of how close the election really was, which is probably why Kelli Ward went with the most misleading map she could find to suggest that all those red counties were being cheated by those meddlesome little blue dots.
As for whether a “state electoral college” would be a good idea or not, it depends on what you mean by “good.” If you mean “reflecting the will of the most people,” you probably wouldn’t want that if you’re Kelli Ward, since that’s called a “majority.” But if you mean “Republicans winning elections without actually needing a majority,” it could be just terrific, just like the Electoral College is nationwide!
Unfortunately for Ward, as New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman pointed out on the Twitters, it’s been tried in the past, and was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1963 Gray v. Sanders decision, which established the principle of “one person, one vote.”
Here’s Wegman, in convenient non-tweeted “paragraph” form! We’ve expanded some Twitterisms into standard English for you, too:
Georgia assigned a set number of “units” (electors) to each county. The biggest counties (like Fulton) got 6; the mid-sized counties got 4; and the smallest got 2. Whichever primary candidate won the most popular votes in a county got all that county’s units.
Of course, Fulton was not three times bigger than the smallest counties. It was about 275 times bigger.
As a result, people living in small, rural counties (who were disproportionately white) got far more weight in choosing candidates than those in the big counties like Fulton, which includes Atlanta and had much larger African-American populations.
To put it in other terms: in the early 1960s Fulton County had 14 percent of Georgia’s population but only 1.5% of its unit votes. Thus voters in Echols County, which had fewer than 2,000 residents, had about 100 times the voting power of those in Fulton.
Golly, I bet you’re all just astonished that the system had the effect of watering down whatever black voting power there was in Georgia! Wegman quotes Justice William O. Douglas’s ruling, on the patent unfairness of such a system:
How can one person be given twice or ten times the voting power of another person in a statewide election merely because he lives in a rural area or because he lives in the smallest rural county?
Kelli Ward may not know how, but she sure likes the idea! Incidentally, because the Electoral College is already in the Constitution, it’s the one part of American election law not affected by Gray v. Sanders, a bit of unfairness the Court in 1963 didn’t seem happy about but accepted, noting that the Founders’ “conception of political equality belongs to a bygone day.” Look at that crazy judicial activism!
For more on why a state-level electoral college would be antithetical to democracy — which is what Republicans want, because representative democracy keeps getting in the way of what they want — see this fine discussion at FairVote.org, which reveals that if Oregon, for instance, adopted a state electoral college, the political differences between the blue coastal cities and the red eastern counties would mean virtually all governors races would be decided by just three counties where there’s a rough balance of Ds and Rs.
How bad is Kelli Ward’s idea? So bad that even CNN’s Chris Cillizza called it “dumb. Very dumb.” When you can’t even get a “both sides have merit” from Chris Goddamn Cillizza, you have truly beclowned yourself.
But Kelli Ward isn’t the sort of doctor (an osteopath, at the risk of defaming a whole medical specialty) to worry about little details. Today, she was right back on Twitter, explaining that the New Deal, which was passed in 1933, caused the Great Depression, which started with the 1929 stock market crash.
Oh dear. We hope maybe some historians can stage an intervention. But look, she made (or more likely, repeated) a funny! SociaLIZm! That’s awful good, huh?
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