Friday, January 27, 2012

How U.S. Elections May Violate the 14th Amendment

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The ideal of 'one man, one vote' has never been achieved. If your vote does not carry the same weight as does the vote of someone else, then your rights under the 14th have been violated! For example, it is possible that a Presidential candidate could get a greater number of popular votes but, by losing a few large states, get fewer 'electoral college votes and, thus, lose the White House.

That's only one example and a more obvious one. On any given election, votes are not equal. Someone else's vote may be 'worth' more than yours or yours may be worth more than another person's. Votes are not equal. And, in some cases, some votes --perhaps your vote --may not even count.
In a democratic election between two candidates, the winner is the person with the majority of the votes. But when three or more candidates run, things are seldom so simple. The winner often amasses only a plurality, not a majority, of the votes. (Bill Clinton, for example, won the presidency with 43 percent of the vote; Jesse Ventura won the Minnesota governorship with 37 percent.) The plurality winner could be everybody else's least favorite candidate and could even lose to each of the other candidates in a head-to-head battle. As Saari puts it: "The plurality vote is the only procedure that will elect someone who's despised by almost two thirds of the voters."

--Discover Magazine, May the Best Man Lose, November 1, 2000
The 14th says that " state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

--U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment
The Equal Protection Clause can be seen as an attempt to secure the promise that "all men are created equal". But not only minorites but every person has a stake in his/her vote being counted but --even more imporantly --counting for as much as every other vote cast by every other person in the nation.

The most promising proposals include the 'System of Single Transferable Vote' (STV) proposed by Thomas Hare in England and Carl George Andrae in Denmark in the l850s. Adopted throughout the world, STV has been adopted to elect public officials, prominently in Australia, Malta, the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland as well as in local school board elections in New York City.

But other systems, likewise, have their advocates. They include 'preference voting', the Borda Count, range voting et al. All have in common that they are far superior to any method now used in the United States in terms of how accurately any given election reflects the will of the people. My own 'preference', however, is the Borda count in which...
...each voter ranks all of the candidates from top to bottom. If there are, say, five candidates, then a voter's top-ranked candidate gets 5 points, his second-ranked candidate gets 4, and so on. Finally, the points from all the voters are added up to determine the winner.

--Discover Magazine, May the Best Man Lose, November 1, 2000
It is hard to see how anything could be simpler and just as hard to see how a nation which tolerates the unequal nature of elections can --with a straight-faced --claim to be democratic or fair. It is hard to see how any government formed as a result of unfair or inaccurate voting systems can claim to be legitimate.

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