The Electoral College is an HBCU

You can't abolish the EC anytime soon - so, let Black voters go ahead and own it

Dr. G.S. Potter | Contributing Editor

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For the first time in American history, the Black voting bloc has the opportunity to choose the President of the United States. This is, of course, making Republicans nervous. 

The popular vote has never decided the outcome of a single Presidential election in the United Sates. And since the election of 1804, the battle for the White House became a battle between parties and not people.  That year, the way that the President was chosen in the United States changed dramatically.  In previous elections, a number of candidates ran for President.  Whomever got the most votes became President. The candidate with the second most votes became the Vice President. 

That changed in the earliest years of the 19th Century.  After a couple of heated elections and ties for first and second place, the federal powers decided a new system should be put in place, but there was a battle between the North and the South for exactly what that system should look like.  The North outnumbered the South in terms of the population, the popular vote, and the number of electors.  The Southern slave economy, though, meant that the Southern states had a lot of tax dollars to contribute to the federal economy – so the Northern states were willing to negotiate away power in exchange for money. 

The Electoral College: An Original Southern Play

At the time, there were only 17 states, 176 Electoral College votes, and the South was outnumbered 2 to 1. But the South figured out how to win anyways.

Long story short, the slaveholders developed a system by which an organized minority voting bloc (like Southern slave owners) could still win the White House even if they lost the popular vote.  The North signed off on it so they could keep bringing Southern taxes into the federal government.  This is how it worked:

  • Instead of electing a President and Vice President individually, the nation would be split into groups.  It was this decision that largely split the nation between the North and the South, the Union and the Confederacy, slaveholder and abolitionist.  No longer could two parties occupy the White House.  From then on it would be a competition between “parties” – or a war between White people who wanted slavery and those that didn’t. (As the Confederate flag still flies today in Conservative states, those divisions are still very evident.)

  • Black folks would not be allowed to vote, but they would be counted during the Census.  This little trick gave the South an advantage in two ways. First, the South wouldn’t have to worry about Black people and their allies outnumbering them at the polls if they weren’t allowed to vote.  Second, the Census ultimately determines how many people each state gets to send to the Electoral College.  if enslaved Black people were counted as part of the Census, they would be able to get enough Electors to outnumber the North.  So as long as Black folks were never allowed to vote, and they couldn’t leave the slave states – the South would win. 

The North wanted Southern tax dollars, so it was willing to sell off it’s power and Black people in exchange for a compromise.  The three-fifths compromise to be exact.  Black folks would not be allowed to vote, but they would be partially counted in the Census for tax purposes. 

The unfair advantage for the South was that not only would Black folks be partially counted in order to give tax dollars to the North, but it also gave the South more votes in the Electoral College.  Enough votes, in fact, to give themselves an overwhelming advantage in Presidential Elections that they wouldn’t have otherwise. 

And it worked.  Really well.  Until it didn’t anymore. 

This strategy is supported by two strategic pillars. First, Black people can’t vote.  Second, Black people can’t leave the South.

The First pillar fell after the Civil War.  With the end of Slavery, Black folks would be allowed to vote, but they would also be fully counted during the Census.  So if the South could find ways to prevent Black people from voting, they could actually bolster their advantage in the Electoral college without giving up power at the polls.  As a result, aggressive and violent strategies of voter suppression were applied to the electoral process.  They still exist today. 

While the end of Slavery came as a hit to the South’s hold on the Electoral College, it was not enough to destroy it. And, so, the second pillar still stood. 

So long as the Confederacy could control where Black folks lived, they could still control the White House.  Runaway slave laws and red-lining weren’t and aren’t just tools of economic control.  These policies are, in effect, methods of consolidating and diffusing political power.

But freed Black folks did leave the South.  In massive waves known as the first and second migrations.  The first major leap out of the South for the Black community came as the result of World War I.  A shortage of labor in industrialized urban areas resulting from the war created a need to exploit Black labor.  As reported by History

By the end of 1919, some 1 million blacks had left the South, usually traveling by train, boat or bus; a smaller number had automobiles or even horse-drawn carts.

In the decade between 1910 and 1920, the black population of major Northern cities grew by large percentages, including New York (66 percent), Chicago (148 percent), Philadelphia (500 percent) and Detroit (611 percent).

The end of the Great Depression and the Start to the Second World War spawned the Second Great Migration.  According to a piece published by Washington University, “From 1940 to 1980 roughly five million blacks moved north and west, more than twice the volume of the earlier sequence that is most readily associated with the label Great Migration.

The second pillar had fallen. 

With Black people free to vote and leave the South, the South lost the two key components of their Electoral College Strategy. 

They Won’t Tell You This in School

Each state is allotted a different number of electors for the Electoral College.  This number is determined by population.  If every single Black person was held to one state, the power of the Black voting bloc would be limited to the number of votes allotted to that state.  For example, if all 48 million Black people in the United States moved to Iowa, they would only be able to harness the power of the electoral votes of that state. With their power dispersed throughout the nation, the Black voting bloc is able to not only influence, but completely control key electors in the Electoral College. 

This power, though, couldn’t be actualized until now.

At the height of the Civil Rights Era, the White population held strong at 83%.  The Black population was only 11%.  Over the past 50 years, though, the White population has diminished to 60% and the Black population has increased to (really) 15%.  There is a tipping point.  And we have reached it.

The strategy devised by Southern Slave owners to maintain power over the majority of the population is set to self-destruct and the clock is ticking down to Tuesday, Noember 3, 2020 – Election Day.

For the first time in American history, the Black voting bloc has the freedom, the mobility, and the sheer numbers needed not only to have a seat at the tables of the Electoral College – but to completely take it over altogether.  And the Republicans are scrambling. 

They know that ultimately, the popular vote doesn’t matter.  It’s the Electoral College that decides who gets to be President and Vice President.  For the 2020 election, the Black voting bloc is positioned to control 270 of the 538 votes needed to win the White House. 

That means, for the first time in history, the Black voting bloc is positioned to be the organized minority that could overpower the majority and take control of the Presidency. 

This is one of the reasons that the Republican Party has launched voter suppression efforts the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Reconstruction Era.  Gerrymandering, voter purging, voter ID laws, felony disenfranchisement, mass polling place closures, and widespread disinformation campaigns have been loaded and launched in efforts to prevent Black folks from getting to the polls and in many ways, taking complete control of the White House.  And if we take a look at where these efforts are the most focused, a pattern begins to emerge.

The Republicans aren’t just targeting the Black voting bloc as a whole.  They are directing their money and energy into the states where the Black voting bloc could take control of the Electoral College electors.  They know that the key to the White House lies with them, not the popular vote.  And the evidence is in the efforts.  States with Black voting blocs that outnumber Conservative voting blocs are being hit the hardest. We see unprecedented suppression is places like Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. We also see massive waves of suppression in predominantly White states where large Black voting blocs can control the outcomes of the election.  States like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are among them. 

Here’s why. As previously reported at TheBENote, if the Black voting bloc strategically mobilizes in key states and urban areas, they could take control of the White House.  The Republicans have already done the math.  They know which cities and states can amass the most Black power, and they are doing everything in their power to prevent it. 

Ultimate Black Voter Math

Here’s how the math breaks down.  As explained in a previous report:

In the 2020 Presidential election, there will be 538 Electoral College votes up for grabs. These votes are tallied from the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Ten of these states, plus the District of Columbia (D.C.) have Black electorates that outnumber the Republican voting bloc …

  • Illinois (20)

  • Georgia (16)

  • North Carolina (15)

  • Virginia (13)

  • Maryland (10)

  • Alabama (9)

  • South Carolina (9)

  • Louisiana (8)

  • Mississippi (6)

  • Delaware (3)

  • Washington DC (3)

If the Black voting bloc mobilized to claim 112 of the 538 votes to win the Presidential election, that would be a lot of leverage in an of itself. Especially when the current Electoral College map looks like this according to ElectoralVoteMap

But that’s not all: Black voting blocks can also take claim of Electoral College votes in states where their populations outnumbered the gap between Republicans and Democrats in 2016.

For example, Donald Trump only won Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes by approximately 68,000 votes. Black folks made up 11% of the potential electorate in that election with 1.1 million eligible voters in the state. Turnout hovered around 63 percent though, leaving an upwards of 400,000 voters that could completely up-end Trump’s hopes to retake Pennsylvania in 2020.

In addition to Pennsylvania (20), there are six other states that similarly have Black voting blocs large enough to overtake the Republicans in 2020 should they sufficiently mobilize …

  • Ohio (18)

  • Michigan (16)

  • Tennessee (11)

  • Missouri (10)

  • Wisconsin (10)

  • Arkansas (6)

These 7 states are worth 91 Electoral College votes.

And we’re still not done.

There are 4 states where Black and Latino electorates combine to outnumber the Republican Party. They are ….

  • New York (29)

  • New Jersey (14)

  • Texas (38)

  • Florida (29)

New York and New Jersey are being held down by blue voters, but Texas and Florida are still controlled by white nationalists. They are both in danger of flipping in 2020, though, if the Black voting bloc mobilizes in those states as well. If Texas and Florida are added to the tally, that brings the power of the Black voting bloc to …

270 Electoral College votes out of the 538 total. A candidate needs at least 270 to win the White House

In other words, the Black voting bloc could completely dominate the race for the White House in 2020.

As of 2016, though, the Black voting bloc has only consolidated the electoral power of 4 territories and has claimed only 49 of their 270 electoral college votes.  In 2016, Black folks took control of Illinois (20 EC votes), Virginia (13 EC votes), Maryland (10 EC votes), Delaware (3 EC votes), and Washington DC (3 EC votes).

If the Black voting bloc organizes to compete with White folks at the polls, though, they could take control of 270 Electors and take the White House with them.  If they mobilize in the most disenfranchised communities, they can produce the turnout needed to make the Electoral College an HBCU.  If the Black voting bloc mobilizes to assert its full Black power at the polls and masters the game that the South created, it can take the house that slavery built and turn it Black.