Voting rights are under assault what with pervasive gerrymandering and suppression of especially black and student voting. Case in point: The Georgia Supreme Court recently overturned state plans to close seven of nine voting stations in a predominantly African American county, ostensibly for efficiency but we all know the real reason.
But the sacrosanct concept of “one man (person), one vote” has been a ruse since 1789. Many states restricted voting to white, male property owners until1856. Slaves were counted as three-fifths of a white man for purposes of representation until they were enfranchised in 1870. Women did not receive the right to vote until 1920. Direct election of senators didn’t occur until 1913.
Currently, the four largest states by population — California, Texas, Florida and New York, total 33 percent of the nation’s citizens — or about the same as the smallest 32 states combined. In practical terms, that means 33 percent of the nation is represented by eight senators and 32 percent is represented by 64. Add five more states, in order of population, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia and North Carolina, accounting for half of the U.S. population and you’re up to 18 senators and 82 for the rest of the country.
For instance, Wyoming, the least populous state, has two senators for 575,000 people while California, the most populated, has two senators representing 40 million people. How can that be anything but undemocratic?
This isn’t one person, one vote. It’s one cow, corn stock or tree, one vote.
Remember, despite the tantrums of traditionalists for whom any change to the Constitution, regardless of its commonsense quotient, is considered unseemly, this was the product of plain old political haggling resulting in the “Great” or “Connecticut Compromise” to entice small states to sign on board.
Of course, the same charges can be and should be leveled at the Electoral College — although the words Electoral College aren’t in the Constitution. But isn’t “majority rule” and “taxation (with) representation” the essence of America? We’d be outraged if the town council overrode the people’s choice for dogcatcher, yet we see nothing exceptional about 538 political elites determining who will be our next president in hung elections, as occurred twice in the last 16 years.
It’s not as if constitutional democracy came fully formed. For 230 years provisions of the Constitution found obsolescent and undemocratic — just like the Senate and the EC — have been overturned and replaced to update what the Founders considered to be a starting point and a living document not the vision of some impermeable American “Republic” Conservatives imagine. Why else would they have insisted on including the mechanics to fix it?
Well this is no longer 1800. Time moves on. The Civil War, once and for all, established the nature of America as one nation not a collection of quasi-states, and both the anachronistic Senate and the Electoral College now just thwart the will of the majority. It’s time to complete our evolution toward full democracy and practice “one person, one vote.”