If Democrats are serious about reforming the electoral college, we must start by nixing caucuses

If Democrats are serious about reforming the electoral college, we must start by nixing caucuses

There is much consternation in Democratic circles about the place of the electoral college after Donald Trump became the second Republican to win the White House while losing the popular vote in 16 years, only Trump lost the vote by a runaway margin much wider than George W. Bush in 2000.

As we have reminded our readers time and again, the electoral college is a vestige of the slave era. But if we are really serious about doing something about it - whether that's getting rid of it altogether or signing onto the National Popular Vote pact between states would allocate a winning number of electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote - Democrats must address an white ethnocentric and economic privilege-centered, undemocratic process within our own nominating contest.

Caucuses. Compared to primaries, caucuses are sparsely attended, require that participants show up at a certain time and stay until a certain time, do not allow for absentee balloting, make it easier to manipulate election day verdict with dirty tricks during additional caucuses held for local level delegates, and usually revoke citizens' right to a secret ballot. Of the states that allocate their delegates to the Democratic National Convention through a caucus system, only Nevada and Hawaii have any semblance of racial diversity, and Nevada's results - which Clinton carried on caucus day - was tampered with by Sanders folks during subsequent concentric caucuses.

Every other caucus state's electorate was overwhelmingly white, and the great majority of them was won unsurprisingly by the candidate who famously struggled to connect with people of color. The candidate who dedicated her campaign to defending civil rights (and netted 3 million more votes than the pelican heading to the White House) won the great majority of primaries where people cast ballots, and her margin generally expanded the more diverse a state's electorate was.

I am not saying all this because I backed Hillary Clinton early on in this campaign. As much as I don't care for Bernie Sanders and his loudest supporters, this isn't about pushing them out of the party. They should be able to compete and make their case to Democrats across the country.

This is about the Democratic party pledging its loyalty to the democratic process. Our claim to the moral high ground in democratic elections must be backed up by our commitment to making our own nominating process more democratic. That means that for the purposes of choosing our nominee, we should not rely on a process badly biased towards those privileged enough to be able to take time off work at a given time, or to be able to find and pay for child care on a Saturday. We should not rely on a process that is known to advantage whites over people of color. We should insist on giving every Democrat a full and complete opportunity to cast a vote to select our nominee without having to be subject to cat herding, being publicly pressured, or the loss of a secret ballot.

Now, it is true that states determine how to hold their elections. But the party has a big say in it. In Idaho, for example, Democrats hold caucuses and Republicans a primary. In the District of Columbia, Republicans hold a caucus like convention while Democrats vote in primaries. Recall that all states hold primaries - if not for president then for their statewide and local offices - and it should not be difficult to simply add the presidential primary to the ballot. It is holding caucuses that require special arrangements, not primaries.

In the very unlikely event that some states couldn't be persuaded to hold their presidential primary the same way they hold every other primary, Democrats would have two options: first, they could punish states with a reduction in delegates (the Democratic party had done so in 2008 when it stripped Michigan delegates of their votes for holding a primary ahead of its place in the Democratic calendar - though their voting rights were restored later). Even better, Democrats could switch to a national system of delegate allocation: candidates would get a number of pledged delegates proportional to their share of the national popular votes cast in all the primaries and caucuses combined.

However we choose to do so, it is time for the thoroughly undemocratic process of causes to end their rein over the selection of the Democratic nominee.



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