Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wants To Get Rid Of Electoral College, A ‘Shadow Of Slavery’

Written by Ann Brown

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is continuing to shake up the political landscape. The Democratic socialist running to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District recently said that the Electoral College is a racist American relic that must be abolished, the Washington Times reported.

“It is well past time we eliminate the Electoral College, a shadow of slavery’s power on America today that undermines our nation as a democratic republic,” the 28-year-old candidate tweeted to her 881,000 followers.

Ocasio-Cortez, a Boston University graduate, was commenting on a tweet by GQ magazine’s Julia Ioffe, who wrote that the Electoral College helps conservatives get elected. Ioffe tweeted: “We are a country where two presidents who both lost the popular vote have now placed four justices on the Supreme Court. Democracy in action.”

Calling for an end to the Electoral College isn’t new. “Democratic calls to abolish the Electoral College have continued since twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College in 2016, handing the victory to President Trump. Clinton has repeatedly called for eliminating the system, which would require a constitutional amendment,” the Washington Times reported.

“I think it needs to be eliminated,” Clinton told CNN last month. “I’d like to see us move beyond it, yes.”

But what’s different about Ocasio-Cortez’s call to end the process is that she described the Electoral College as “a shadow of slavery’s power.” A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Ocasio-Cortez defeated a political incumbent, veteran Joe Crowley in the Democratic Party’s congressional primary in New York City. She’ll face Republican candidate Anthony Pappas in the November midterm elections.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a winner of a Democratic Congressional primary in New York, acknowledges her supporters as she is introduced at a fundraiser Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Electoral College was included in the Constitution by the founding fathers “as a compromise between election of the president by a vote in Congress and election of the president by a popular vote of qualified citizens,” according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. To become president, a candidate must have a majority of 270 electoral votes. Each state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for your Senators. “Each candidate running for president in your state has his or her own group of electors. The electors are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party, but state laws vary on how the electors are selected and what their responsibilities are,” according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

While most states have a winner-take-all system that awards all electors to the winning presidential candidate, Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of “proportional representation.”

Of the many grievances about the Electoral College, one that’s rarely addressed is that it was created to protect slavery, planting the roots of a system that’s still oppressive today, NPR reported.

“I think if most Americans knew what the origins of the Electoral College is, they would be disgusted.” — Paul Finkelman, legal historian and president of Gratz College, Melrose Park, Pennsylvania

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” was a Virginia slave owner in 1787 when the founders were debating whether America should let the people elect their president through a popular vote. At the time, Virginia was the most populous of the 13 states including slaves, who were about 40 percent of its population.

Since slaves could not vote, Madison knew the north would outnumber the south:

His proposition for the Electoral College included the “three-fifths compromise,” where black people could be counted as three-fifths of a person, instead of a whole. This clause garnered the state 12 out of 91 electoral votes, more than a quarter of what a president needed to win.

When the founding fathers debated the Electoral College, they weren’t talking about slaves voting, said Paul Finkelman, a legal historian and president of Gratz College, Melrose Park, Pennsylvania. Finkelman wrote a paper on the origins of the Electoral College for a symposium after Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College.

“The debates are in part about political power and also the fundamental immorality of counting slaves for the purpose of giving political power to the master class,” Finkelman said in an NPR report.

 

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About Ann Brown
Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.