It is high time for the United States to do away with its racist electoral systems

Opinion

In recent years, most notably after the 2020 election, voting rights have been under attack. Record turnout in the presidential election along with the Georgia runoff election has led to a major uptick in restrictive voter laws that primarily target the black population. However, these racist practices are not new; in fact, they stem from the ratification of our Constitution. 

One of the most fervent displays of these racist principles is our actual method of voting: the Electoral College. The Electoral College fixes the number of “votes” a state can have based on its population size; each state has a proportional number of votes based on total representation in Congress. 

However, like many institutions in this country, the Electoral College is inherently racist. It was instituted at a time when slaves were considered ⅗ of a person and unable to vote; this gave southern states a disproportional advantage and set the stage for less diverse, predominantly white states to continue to have an outsized influence in national elections.   

Today, a voter in Wyoming has four times the influence of a voter in California. Wyoming is 92.5% white, while California, a much more diverse state, is 59.5% white. Naturally, this heavily affects the presidential outcome; as 2020 exit polls demonstrated, Donald Trump won the popular vote among white voters with 58%, while 71% of non-white voters voted for Joe Biden. 

Aside from the Electoral College being an obviously racist complex, it simply does not make sense that a president can win with millions of fewer actual votes.

 Rank-choice voting would be a much more logical solution. Voters would list candidates in order of preference, and the candidate wins with the majority of first preference votes. This way, everyone’s vote is worth an equal amount, and we can do away with another intolerable relic.

It is impossible to ignore the flaws in our methods of redistricting as well. Every 10 years, state legislatures are granted the ability to manipulate county lines as a reflection of the state’s natural change in population distribution. However, this power is easily abused and exploited to favor the party in power by gerrymandering, often at the expense of minorities. 

Gerrymandering is executed through two avenues: packing and cracking. Packing is accomplished by concentrating epicenters of opposing parties’ voters into a singular district to reduce their overall power, while cracking consists of splitting voting epicenters and placing them in districts with the preferred majority to suppress the influence of the opposing party’s voters. 

Redistricting often invites racial bias. Most famously, in North Carolina in 2011, two districts, District 1 and District 12, were manipulated by employing the aforementioned packing tactic. As a result, District 12 appeared as a thin, unconventional squiggle, barely wider than the highway that connected the locations of major black influence in the state. Similarly, District 1 employed the packing strategy to drown out the Black vote. 

Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s General Assembly had unconstitutionally exploited their power, and the map was struck down in 2016. 

This abuse of power with blatantly prejudiced motives highlights the racist foundations on which the methods of redistricting were built. While gerrymandering has existed since the introduction of redistricting in the 1800s, it greatly increased once Black men gained the right to vote after the Civil War. Unfortunately, these patterns still remain in this day and age. 

Instead of our current method of determining district lines, solutions like transferring power to a bipartisan committee or group of civil servants would make more sense, as maps would consequently be voted into action by the state legislature. Even the idea of General Assemblies drafting their plan and then requiring the approval of the Supreme Court could be a much wiser and equitable solution to ending an age-old racist practice. 

While both the push for abolishing the Electoral College and the reworking of methods of redistricting haven’t gained much traction on either side of the aisle, political leaders like Stacy Abrams of Fair Fight have worked tirelessly to combat injustices of both historic and modern voting practices. 

“From limiting original voting rights to white men, to the elitist and racist origins of the Electoral College, American democracy has always left people out of participation, by design,” Abrams said. 

Now more than ever, with the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, it is time to address the racism within our voting systems: both the new, more restrictive laws, and those that have existed since the birth of our nation.