We looked up from election-watching this week, and discovered Tahlequah was sparkling with the showy autumn leaves of the Ozarks mountain foothills. Here in this beautiful place, the trees speak in pointillist watercolor textures.
Congratulations if you followed the 2020 presidential pathway as the maps changed each state to red or blue. Rather than looking at states on a map, one can imagine each pixel representing a red or blue household, or a neighborhood of a city in a county in a state of a nation. Land does not vote; people do. But under our current system, individual votes don't count; only states vote, because of a constitutional oddity known as the Electoral College.
A brief primer: The EC was originally written into the Constitution to require each state legislature to choose its EC electors - consisting of the state's total number of senators and U.S. House members - who would be male white property owners, and their EC electors would then use wise judgment to decide who the next president would be. That was then. Since then, the EC has evolved.
As things now stand, the winner of the popular vote in Oklahoma receives all the EC electors, who are required to vote for the winner of their state's popular vote. The winner takes all, no matter how close the vote in each state might have been. In Oklahoma, all seven electoral votes go to whomever gets 50 percent plus one vote, as if all Okie voters endorse that person. In this scenario, 49.99 percent of state voters are unrepresented in the Electoral College. Their votes actually get marshaled over to the other candidate.
Just in Cherokee County, analogize that in a close race with high voter turnout, 12,000 voters can be disenfranchised due to this antiquated statutory and constitutional system. Nationwide, over 700 lawmaking attempts have tried to fix problems that are baked in to the Constitution and laws. The EC also enables the loser of the popular vote to receive the majority of EC votes and assume the office, as happened in 2000 and 2016.
A U.S. constitutional amendment fully eliminating the EC in favor of popular vote is virtually impossible at present. But there is an alternative called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This is an agreement among the states to require each state's EC electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote. It will go into effect when the states approving it total at least 270 EC votes.
Right now, NPVIC has 196 electoral college votes from 15 states and D.C., making up 73 percent of the needed support to convert to "one person=one vote." The NPVIC is up to each state's legislative process. In Oklahoma, that would require a statewide initiative petition. In Oklahoma, initiatives often fail. But the stakes are so high that some ambitious political science student should strategize a pathway.
It speaks to USA's resiliency as a nation that we stepped up and weighed in at record voting numbers. But nearly half of the voters' choices are irrelevant. If you're a blue dot in a red state or a red dot in a blue state, your vote for president simply doesn't count. The presidential election is the only race in which the winner of the vote does not necessarily assume the office. Our president is chosen using an archaic relic from horse and carriage days - the Roman Empire.
We can fix this by adopting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. We would get quicker and more certain election results, honor every vote, and avoid rogue faithless electors. Those who tell you otherwise have inordinate power at stake.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney, and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.