Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Election process needs reform

America: land of the free; home of the brave; of the people, by the people, and for the people. Most Americans — indeed, a large portion of the world — have heard these descriptions of the United States. We accept them as true … but are they? Do we have, much less enjoy, the freedoms which we tout on the world stage? Much debate could be had on this topic, as it is a rich topic with much depth.
However, I will go out on a limb, a bit, and say that, no, those statements of freedom are not actually true. They are goals, they are dreams, but they are not reality.
Standing between Americans and American freedom are two insidious blockades: gerrymandering and the Electoral College. Before I go further, you can stop your finger-pointing and partisan rants. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are deeply guilty of employing these democracy-rotting tools to further their own interests and to remove self-determination and freedom from those who they claim to represent. Indeed, these methods are key to the shaping — and misshaping — of America since the beginning. They are as old as our nation itself, but they are as un-American and anti-freedom as politics can get as well.
Most have heard of gerrymandering, but not as many understand it, and fewer still understand the gravity of its effect on the nation. This is not to be a lesson in gerrymandering, either in practice or history. Rather, it is meant as a call-to-arms for our population to stand up and demand that politicians cease and desist this practice because it robs us of our voice, vote, and right to self-determination.
Politicians have used redistricting as a tool by which to control the outcome of elections since the early 1800s, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. However, the efficacy of this practice has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to advancements in technology. Currently, politicians can use computer programs to analyze census data, then they use that information to redraw their district maps in order to increase their population of supportive voters and split or reduce the opposition.
The effect is that they can split a densely populated city or area that is in opposition into smaller contingents that hold much smaller influence at the ballots. Make no mistake, this is a very real form of voter suppression and election meddling, albeit that this is, currently, a legal one.
Gerrymandering is the modern form of sophistry, whereby the weaker is recast as the stronger, and it needs to stop. Add to gerrymandering that we also must contend with the Electoral College, and Americans’ votes amount to little more than a chance to get a sticker and a great new status update on social media.
When we vote in a presidential election, we are not voting for a candidate, we are voting for that candidate’s electors. Those electors then represent their candidate and state at the meeting of electors the month after we all cast our votes. I won’t dive any deeper into the intricacies of this institution other than saying that our eligible voting population (over 235 million) are summed, rounded, and categorized into 535 electoral votes, of which a candidate only needs 270 electoral votes to win the election.
The issue is that that does not represent the will of the people. Most people have, likely, heard the argument that the presidential election should be based on the popular vote, not the electoral. The driving truth behind this is that that would stop the charade that is our American voting tradition, whereby our individual votes do not matter any more than 535 electoral voters decide that they do. Keep in mind, electoral appointees can, technically, cast their votes for whichever candidate they choose, despite what the actual voters determined.
No, in modern America, the Electoral College is nothing more than a Congressional method by which to control the outcome of elections and to fleece our nation into thinking that we are free to choose our representatives. Keep in mind that in the 2016 election the runner-up won the popular vote — America’s populations’ vote — by over 3 million votes … but still lost the electoral vote and, thus, the election.
No matter your party affiliation or your personal feelings about the candidates in that election, it is hard to argue that the disparity between what Americans voted for and what America got is both unfair and un-American. Until American voters take a stand and demand free and fair elections by abolishing these two voter blockades, we will never be free, we will never have self-determination, we will never see real change, and we will never be of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Matthew Williams
New Haven

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