Letter to the Editor: Les Cohen Missed the Point on the Electoral College

To the Editor:

I’m not here to challenge Les Cohen’s partisan opinions of this or that presidential candidate. But I draw the line at myths or omissions around the Electoral College like those contained in his April 24 op-ed, “Missing the Point-Is the Electoral College Constitutional?” And really, he answers his own question: the Electoral College is detailed in Article II and Amendment 12. That’s about as constitutional as anything could be.

Cohen acknowledges that the “one person, one vote” idea appears nowhere in the Constitution. So why argue it in relation to the Electoral College? And regarding a 1964 Supreme Court ruling on the Equal Protection Clause, I suggest that to mean not “one person/one vote,” but rather, all states adhering to the process outlined in the Constitution. And remember, Supreme Court decisions sometimes get reviewed and modified.

Cohen’s major omission concerns EQUITY in the US Senate, as reflected in the Electoral College. Equity reflects SOVEREIGNTY, the overarching principle of ensuring that all states have an equal voice in governance. Every state, whether Delaware or Texas and all in-between, is equally sovereign. That is, a law passed in Delaware applies to Delaware citizens to the same degree that a law passed in Texas applies to Texans. And if Delaware passes a law that Texans don’t like, Delaware doesn’t need to care. And if all 49 states don’t like Delaware’s law, Delaware’s sovereignty has the last word.

Cohen is not the first to bring up the Clinton-Trump contest. And he’s right, “one person, one vote” had nothing to do with Trump’s election,” or anyone else’s! POTUS stands for “President of the United STATES.” The only “majority” that counts in a presidential election is the majority of electoral votes cast by the states.

Acting as CEO, the President represents the states in matters that are primarily external to the states: trade deals and treaties, defense and warfare, border integrity, and running the Executive Branch.  No other office crosses borders and speaks for the whole. That’s why the presidential election process is unique.

Did you know, in 1996 Bill Clinton got a smaller percentage of the popular vote (43%) than Donald Trump did in 2015 (46%)? Such details are both interesting and meaningless. The Electoral College delivered both men to the Oval Office.

Going back over a century, the bi-partisan list of presidents who were elected with less than a majority of the popular vote includes but is not limited to: Lincoln (1850), Hayes (1876), Garfield (1880), Cleveland (1884, 92), Wilson (1912, 16), Truman (1948), Kennedy (1960), Nixon (1968), Clinton (1992 and 1996), George W. Bush (2000), and Trump (2016). (STATISTA.COM- “Share of electoral college and popular votes from each winning candidate, in all United States presidential elections from 1789 to 2020”)

This has been the case about 40 percent of the time since 1824. The LA Times (7/14/23) reports that since World War II, the Electoral College has had a Democratic tilt nine times and a Republican one 10 times…”

As for the National Archives and our Census process, would Cohen disparage his home state’s sovereign standing? When it comes to voting, the Electoral College builds a legal wall around every state, so the popular vote count doesn’t color what happens in any other state. Recall the 2020 election controversies in a handful of states. Thanks to the Electoral College, the 20 states that border the ones in question were unaffected by the disagreements. That’s pretty important.

While Cohen is entitled to freedom of thought, why hold up a non sequitur? “People, not states,” has never, ever, ever been what mattered in a presidential election. To say the Electoral College “is irrelevant and wrong” is to play Pied Piper. But under the US Constitution, there’s nowhere for him to go.

2 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: Les Cohen Missed the Point on the Electoral College

  • April 12, 2024 at 2:36 PM

    Thanks. Best regards, Roberta

  • Les Cohen
    April 12, 2024 at 11:56 AM

    Missing the Point – Response to Roberta Schlechter Counterpoint
    April 12, 2024

    Hi, Ms. Schlechter. Thank you for reacting to my op/ed questioning the constitutionality of the Electoral College.

    You and I agree that the United States is a federation. And that states do have rights. Of course they do. I just don’t think those rights should extend to electing the President, certainly not through a process that does not respect the principle of “one person, one vote.” Electing a President should be up to the voters, collectively, nationwide. You believe otherwise and in the Electoral College as means by which the states cast their votes.

    That said, I couldn’t help but notice the featured image at the top of your letter to the editor which highlights the phrase, “We the People.” Our founders, who chose their words carefully, could have said “We the States,” but didn’t.

    In any case, the Constitution was written a while ago. Since then, we’ve tweaked the original document through amendments and their subsequent interpretation by the Supreme Count.

    To the extent that the 14th Amendment has been interpreted, by the Supreme Court, as asserting “one person, one vote,” it overrules all previous language in the Constitution that would contradict that foundational concept of our democracy – including references to the Electoral College in Article II and other sections of the Constitution written prior to the 14th Amendment.

    That’s not my opinion. It’s a fact. It’s how documents like the Constitution work.

    Your problem can’t be with my op/ed. If you don’t like the Supreme Court’s 1964 interpretation of the 14th Amendment that may have rendered the Electoral College unconstitutional, you should encourage the Court to consider the issue – in which endeavor you have my full support.

    -Les Cohen


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.