May 23, 2019

The Erasure of the Jewish Vote

“IN RECENT WEEKS, several Democratic presidential candidates have broken a longstanding taboo in American politics: they’ve come out against the Electoral College. In doing so, they have helped reopen a national debate on how Americans elect our president. The arguments they offer in favor of a national popular vote instead of the Electoral College are many and familiar: the Electoral College gives outsize weight to swing states and rural voters; it allows the elections of presidents who fail to secure popular mandates, like George W. Bush and Donald Trump; and it is an institution rooted in slavery. Polls show roughly two-thirds of Americans agree

Let’s add another reason to the list: it discriminates against Jews.

This was not, of course, the intent of the Constitution’s framers—unlike maximizing the power of slaveholders, which actually was intentional. But in practice, the Electoral College minimizes the vote of most American Jews, while giving disproportionate influence to a right-leaning minority of us.

While Jews live in all 50 states, we are disproportionately concentrated in major urban areas, like the Northeast corridor and Greater Los Angeles. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all American Jews live in just six states: New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland.

What do all those states have in common? All of them have voted for the Democratic candidate for president in every election since 1992, by reliably safe margins. That means that in presidential elections, the vast majority of American Jews are ignored by candidates who skip their states and take their support—or lack thereof—for granted. This problem is not unique to Jews—other ethnic and religious groups concentrated in strongly Democratic or Republican states face similar underrepresentation. Hindus, for example, are disproportionately concentrated in deep blue New Jersey and California.”

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