By Victor Ochieng
The U.S. presidential election is over and the greatest country on earth already has a president-elect who’s set to assume office in January 2017. From the results, it’s clear that not every American has a voice in the process, at least according to civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.
In an article posted on Chicago Suntimes, Jackson pointed out how the winner in the just concluded elections was decided. In the popular vote, his candidate, Democratic Party’s Hillary Clinton, won by a margin of close to one million votes. However, because of the Electoral College system, the popular vote margin doesn’t really count. Why? Because Clinton couldn’t garner the 270 Electoral College votes needed for one to become president.
The argument used to justify Electoral College voting system is that it ensures regional balance, giving a voice to every state, as a unit. Because of that principle, Republican Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Yes, he won simply because he managed to triumph his competitor in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Combined, Trump won by a margin of about 112,000 votes in these three states. You see the irony?
What this amplifies is the fact that the U.S. doesn’t entertain the one person, one vote maxim. The Electoral College system assigns every state a specific number of electors, with the winner of the popular vote in a given state taking all the electors. The only states where electors’ votes can be divided are Maine and Nebraska.
Jackson views this as disenfranchising millions of Americans since it gives voice to small, rural states over some popular ones such as California. At the same time, it makes candidates to only focus their campaigns in states that are grouped under “swing states” and not those that are historically leaning towards their party. What this means is that if, by majority, your state is leaning towards one side, your single vote won’t make any difference.
To further demonstrate just how the U.S. electoral system is flawed, let’s look at the voter registration process. Not everyone who turns 18 is automatically registered as a voter. This has given some states a loophole to create hurdles for qualified citizens to register.
Besides the registration challenge, the final voting day is Tuesday, a working day. Sadly, that day isn’t a national holiday.
Obama’s 2008 wide margin win came as a shocker to many right-wing Republicans, prompting them to make it even harder for young, people of color, poor and working class to vote. In spite of efforts to have these states make it easier for everyone to make their voices heard through the ballot, the 2016 elections still had 14 states that exhibited worrying levels of voter suppression.
Several measures were put into place to make it harder for people to vote. The Sunday voting that made it easier for many African-American churches to rally their members to the polls were abolished. The number of days allotted for early voting was also significantly reduced.
From Wisconsin to Milwaukee, there were evidently deliberate efforts to make it harder for people to vote.
The list of barriers created to make it almost impossible for some people, especially African-Americans, to vote is long.
The verdict: Democracy in the U.S. is still a mirage