Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By John Davis

A look at the Electoral College


December 27, 2016

I don’t usually write about controversial subjects in this column, but there’s one subject that’s arisen lately that I want to talk about. I’m referring to the Electoral College and the push by some folks to abolish it. I’ve also read columns declaring the unfairness of having a Senate, a legislative house in which each state gets two senators. I can understand why those in states with large populations would object to these arrangements, but it’s incomprehensible to me why anyone from Wyoming would take that position.

The United States Congress, as established in our Constitution, was a compromise creation. Remember that delegates from 12 colonies (Rhode Island didn’t send a delegation to the Constitutional Convention) met in Philadelphia in 1787 to address the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation. One serious shortcoming was that the national government had very limited ability to act on behalf of the nation as a whole, and clearly needed a stronger ability to represent the entire country. But the smaller colonies feared the power of the populous colonies, such as Pennsylvania and New York. This is why Rhode Island didn’t show up, because they did not want to encourage the formation of a government wherein big states would dominate. This was a general fear among the small states, such as New Hampshire and Delaware. They expressed their disdain for “mobocracies,” and fear of a tyranny of the majority.

The resolution of this dispute was twofold. One measure created two houses in the United States Congress, one reflecting population, the House of Representatives, and the other establishing protection for the small states, the United States Senate. The Senate gives equal standing to each state, thereby providing an equal measure of power for each state, regardless of the sizes of their populations. Too, the Electoral College was established to mirror this arrangement. So our founding fathers set up the selection of presidents so that it considers not simply the decision of the voters, but, as with the Senate, also protects the sovereignty of the small states. In return for the concessions made within the Constitution, the small states agreed to join in a federal government.

These issues are still with us today. The viewpoints of many of those who live in large cities versus those who live in thinly populated areas have become more and more opposed. Worse, the large, urban states frequently wish to impose their very different views on us. Many city people have little sympathy for our perspectives: They see Wyoming as inhabited by benighted people whose social awareness lies far below those in the rest of the country. Many Wyoming people, on the other hand, see city people as living in a strange and artificial world inhabited by huge numbers of human beings, people who understand very little about rural areas. The issue where these differing views now clash most strongly is the environment.

For the last 20-some years, an ongoing siege has been carried out against ranchers and farmers by environmentalists, and Democratic administrations, supporting the views of their environmentalist constituents, have taken measures that threaten the livelihoods of Wyoming workers. I’ve heard it said that if they could, these urban forces would push all non-native people out of Wyoming and create a Buffalo Commons, formerly known as Wyoming.

In the face of this dispute the only real protection for Wyoming and other small states is the United States Senate, and, to a lesser extent, the Electoral College. Without these two institutions, Wyoming and other small states would indeed be vulnerable to a tyranny of the majority.

I believe that in order to preserve and protect my state, it is essential that neither the United States Senate nor the Electoral College be altered.

John Davis was raised in Worland, graduating from W. H. S. in 1961. John began practicing law here in 1973 and is mostly retired. He is the author of several books.


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