In a piece for The Nation magazine, Brandon Hasbrouck, an assistant professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, says votes from black Americans should be counted twice.
Hasbrouck argues that “Black voters in this country are worth less than white voters,” but goes on to say that “Joe Biden won the Electoral College because Black voters in Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia turned out in significant numbers.”
Still, he says that despite “overwhelming Black support — 94 percent of Detroit voted for Biden! — the outcomes in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania were worryingly close.”
Like many liberals, Hasbrouck claims that the Electoral College diminishes the black vote.
“One core problem is the Electoral College. Wyoming, which has just 580,000 residents and is 93 percent white, gets three electors because of its two senators and one representative in the House. By comparison, Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District — which includes Atlanta, has 710,000 residents, and is 58 percent Black — has no dedicated electors or senators and can only occasionally overcome the mostly white and conservative votes from elsewhere in the state.”
“This devaluation of Black votes allows our political system to ignore Black lives, and the consequences are devastating. Unequal representation has led to unequal health care outcomes, which the Covid-19 pandemic has only worsened,” he writes.
For the record, Democratic presidential candidates have received an average of nearly 90% of the black vote for more than five decades. George W. Bush got 9% of the black vote in 2000, then made a heavy outreach and soared in 2004 — to 11%. In 2012 Mitt Romney pledged to help the black community more than had President Barack Obama (who got 95% of the 2008 vote). Romney ended up with 8% of the black vote, the same percentage President Trump would get in 2016.
But Hasbrouck claims the Electoral College devalues the black vote “by design.”
“The Constitution’s framers set up the Electoral College to protect the interests of slave states. Along with the Senate, the Electoral College was critical in the endurance of slavery and its continuation by other means. Abolishing this system would mean that ballots cast by Black voters — or any voters, for that matter — would count the same.”
The professor offers a solution: “We can implement vote reparations by double-counting ballots cast by all Black residents.”
Hasbrouck notes that the idea isn’t entirely new. A 2015 plan by Theodore Johnson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, called for making black Americans’ votes worth five-thirds, which Hasbrouck said “has a poetic symmetry with the three-fifths clause of the Constitution,” which said that enslaved blacks in a state would be counted as three-fifths of the number of white inhabitants of that state.
But he says: “Counting Black votes twice keeps the point clear and provides redress for myriad forms of disenfranchisement deployed against Black voters.”
“Because white votes currently count more than Black ones, double-counting Black votes would restore electoral balance. Vote reparations would be a giant step toward remedying our nation’s long history of denying and devaluing Black votes. To address systemic racism, we must transform how we choose our government. Even if vote reparations aren’t instituted, Black voters will keep tirelessly dragging our states toward a more perfect union. But just imagine our country if our votes counted twice,” he writes.
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