Women and the Electoral College
By Gary Michael Coutin (2012)
The current debate by the Republicans illustrates the deep relationship between women and the Electoral College. The Republican Party has now gone beyond the issue of the right of women to terminate a pregnancy addressed by Roe v. Wade in the 1970’s to its roots in the 1920’s with Margaret Sanger and contraception. This issue should have been laid to rest long ago as a matter of privacy and individual rights. The Republican Party is doubling down by revisiting the issue of voluntary motherhood back to its roots a century ago. The party which began with a defense of freedom and opposition to slavery seeks to enslave women with its laws. If the nation is to finally put controversies long dormant in the past it will be necessary reformulate the legal framework for this question.
In the first place, as a result of the Electoral College not all women will have the right to vote on the rights of women in the upcoming election. Because it segregates the vote before it aggregates the vote, the votes of women who live in the United States will not be sought unless those women live and vote in swing states or battleground states. Those women who live in safe or likely states for one party or the other will see no campaign or effort to win their votes. No candidate will visit their state, no money will be spent on advertising in the state, no effort will be made to get out the vote in the state, if the state is a flyover or spectator state.
As a result of the Electoral College and its policies of segregating the vote by state, not all votes by the women of America have equal value. As a result of the Electoral College the votes of two thirds of the women of the nation do not count. Only the votes of women in some fourteen states matter and in the later stages of the election process that number of contested states will fall to seven. What this means is that two thirds of the women in the country will see an election campaign that is “virtual.” The campaign for the vote of one third of women will “stand for” the vote of all women. The opinion of the two thirds of women will be subject to the opinion of one third in a total outcome that is without the consent of the governed. The American Revolution began in opposition to “virtual representation” of the English living in the English colonies in North America by a Parliament in which they had no actual representation.
Now the Declaration of Independence lies at the heart of the connection between the substance of the issue and the procedural process known as the Electoral College. The Declaration of Independence guarantees the right to government with the “consent of the governed.” Those attacking the rights of women to voluntary motherhood seek to enslave women without the consent of women. Those attacking the rights of women to voluntary motherhood in effect claim ownership to women or at least parts of the bodies of women. This is nothing but slavery.
The connection between slavery and the movement to free the slaves and the movement to free women has long roots in American history. As the wife of John Adams who wrote the Declaration of Independence, Abigail Adams argued that it was wrong to seek freedom from England while continuing to impose slavery upon persons of the wrong color skin. Women entered the public sphere through the debates by abolitionist movement thinking about others and not of themselves. When women eventually thought of themselves, they formulated their demand for rights in terms of the natural rights doctrine that created this country in the first place. In 1848 at Seneca Falls they issued their manifesto. According to Wikipedia:
One of the M’Clintock women selected the Declaration of Independence from 1776 as a model for the declaration they wanted to make at their convention. The Declaration of Sentiments was then drafted in the parlor on a round, three-legged, mahogany tea table.Stanton changed a few words of the Declaration of Independence to make it appropriate for a statement by women, replacing “The history of the present King of Great Britain” with “The history of mankind” as the basis for “usurpations on the part of man toward woman.”The women added the phrase “and women” to make “… all men and women are created equal …” A list of grievances was composed to form the second part of the Declaration.
It was appropriate that women declare their independence as persons as a precondition of their demand for government which takes into account the demands by women and which proceeds with the consent of women. “Virtual representation” of women by men would no longer suffice. Women demanded the right to be independent and speak in their own name:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
The Declaration of Independence guarantees a government with the consent of the governed. As the American people have learned, the Electoral College can deny them their rights to vote for the Chief Magistrate on a direct and equal basis. The Electoral College can deny them government with the consent of the governed. The Constitution that sets up the government begins with the words: WE THE PEOPLE. On the Centennial of the Declaration, Susan B. Anthony asked a simple question on behalf of womenkind: Aren’t we people too? Women have come a long way since them but some would seek halt their progress and to lock them back up in the closet. Men and women of good will must join together in opposition to this assault upon freedom and liberty.