When Thomas Jefferson first carved his sketch of the Declaration of Independence into the conscious of the nation’s founders, he may not have known that his first draft would prove more prophetic than the final version. Southern states objected to his original draft’s denunciation of slavery, which was omitted from the final Declaration.
His first draft was, no doubt, just the beginning of a movement that would later manifest itself in the form of John Brown’s courageous march toward Harpers Ferry, the Union Soldiers victory march into Galveston, Texas on June 19th 1865 declaring victory in the civil war and an end to slavery, Thurgood Marshall’s founding of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund office nearly a century and a half later, and Rosa Park’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Montgomery Bus Boycott.
James Madison and the drafters of the US Constitution were somewhat craftier, in appeasing Southern states, in their composition of a document that would both protect liberty and defend slavery. While the language of the Constitution bore no mention of this “peculiar institution,” its substance was a legal framework holding the system firmly in place. It would require the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to abolish the system’s legacy.
One remnant of the Constitution’s legal framework supporting slavery that remains, however, even today is the Electoral College. In its origination, the Electoral College gave slave states the luxury of both denying those enslaved of the right to vote and counting them as three-fifths of an individual for the purpose of increasing each state’s electoral votes.
Today, the current Electoral College system remains an obstruction to democracy for all Americans. The state-by-state winner-take-all system makes it easy for presidential candidates to write off most states as either “red” or “blue” before the election even begins, and focus their attention and resources on a select group of battleground states. African Americans get the smallest share of this bargain. While more than 30% of the nation’s white population lives in battleground states, just 21% of African Americans live in these states. Nearly 80% of African Americans do not live in a battleground state. In fact, most African Americans live in Southern racially polarized states that have consistently voted Republican in the last few decades, though more than 80% of African American voters have supported Democrats in each of these presidential elections.
The Electoral College ranks state rights over individual rights and places enormous power in the hands of state authorities to determine and manipulate the outcome of Presidential elections, as evident in Florida during the Presidential election of 2000.
This is an historic year of breaking through significant barriers from reaching the office of the President of the United States that have already stood for far too long. Earlier this century, this body passed a resolution endorsing Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s bill for a constitutional amendment to make the right to vote an individual right, rather than just a state right. Lets go further, and pass a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College. Furthermore, lets join Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and the National Caucus of Black State Legislators in endorsing National Popular Vote legislation currently sweeping the nation that, beginning in 2012, would have the end effect of electing the President by popular vote.