Electoral College

Dr. Gerhard Falk

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The Electoral College and the Jews:  The Founding Fathers Must Have Meant Us


    Recently, the new Senator-elect from New York, Hillary Clinton, said that she would introduce a motion in the Senate to amend the Constitution so as to eliminate the electoral college, which is rooted in Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3 and in the 12th Amendment.

    For the Jewish population of the U.S. and for other minorities, as well as States with small populations, such an amendment would be disastrous.

    In our system, someone voting for Al Gore or George W. Bush really voted for an elector, say John Smith or Jane Brown, who had pledged in advance to vote for one of the candidates.  The Constitution does not mandate a popular election of the electors. The electors were therefore at one time appointed by the governor of each state. Now the electors are chosen by popular vote. These electors then meet on one day set by law.  On that day they vote for the candidate of their choice and report that vote to the President of the Senate who then opens the votes before a joint session of Congress. The person with the most votes is then chosen President of the United States.

   The number of votes that each state can contribute to the electoral count is equal to the number of representatives each state sends to Congress. In addition, each state also receives two more votes for each of the two Senators which every state furnishes to the Senate. Therefore, states with large populations, such as California and New York, have more votes than a small state such as Iowa.

   California has 54 electoral votes. The Jewish population of California is 967,000, or 3% of the 33 million people living there. This can be significant in a close election such as we have just experienced. Likewise, in New York, which has 1,651,000 Jews, or 9.1% of 18 million citizens, the Jewish vote is very significant. New York has 33 electoral votes.  Florida, with 25 electoral votes, has 637,000 Jews or 4.2% of the population of over 15 million. Other states with a good sized electoral vote and a significant Jewish population are New Jersey with 15 electoral votes and 465,000 Jews, constituting 5.7 percent of the population of over 8 million, and Massachusetts, with 12 electoral votes and a Jewish population of 4.4% of the over 6 million citizens of that state. 

   Texas, where we are a tiny minority of only 0.6%, has 32 electoral votes. In all other states we are generally 0.5% to 1.5% of the population and have little ďcloutĒ. In all of the United States only 1.8% of the population is Jewish.

   Therefore, our political influence depends on four things. First, that we are concentrated is a few states with large electoral votes. Second, that we vote in larger numbers in proportion to our population than is true of the general public, third that we contribute more time, money and energy to political campaigns than our numbers warrant, and fourth, that we are disproportionately represented among elected officials. For example, nine out of 100 U.S. Senators are Jewish even though we constitute less than 2% of the American population.

   Now if the electoral college were abolished, then our vote would normally be only 1.8% of all votes. Even if we vote in disproportionate numbers, we would not be able to muster more than 2% of all votes. Therefore, our issues would hardly be considered by our politicians.

    To sum up my argument, I believe that the electoral college makes it much easier for us to demand that our country support Israel, which is constantly threatened by the 187 million Arabs surrounding it. Other Jewish issues, whatever their nature, receive a far more considerate hearing with the electoral college in place than without it. This does not mean that our elected officials seek to harm us or donít care about us. It means only that anyone running for office has to consider the facts of political survival.

    Therefore it is now incumbent on us to write to Hillary and tell her that abolition of the electoral college is a bad idea. Let her know that her Jewish supporters donít see it her way before no one will listen to us any more.

    Keep the electoral college which was written into the Constitution of the United States with us in mind. Donít throw away a good thing while you still have it. Think ahead and stand up for American democracy and our interests all at the same time. Donít be afraid. It is all right to stand up for Jewish interests. If you do everyone will respect and honor you for it is written: ĒHe who honors the Torah will be honored by all men.Ē

Shalom uívracha.


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