The Role the Electoral College Plays in Suppressing Female Presidential Candidates


One ignored fact from the 2016 Presidential election is that the majority of American voters did vote to put a woman in the White House. With her almost 3 million popular vote margin over Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton proved America is indeed ready for a female President. Yet as we gear up for 2020, there are is still a lack of women in the already large Democratic field of potential candidates emerging among the front-runners to take the nomination.

Fortunately, Elizabeth Warren officially announced her presidential bid on Monday. 

Early polling and cable TV pundit analysis puts former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and three-term Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke in the lead. Biden, Bernie and Beto are the names that roll off the tongue to take on Donald Trump in 2020 if he isn’t ousted by impeachment before then. California Senator Kamala Harris might get a mention along with her Senate colleagues from Minnesota and Massachusetts. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren are often followed by a “yeah, but.”

It’s interesting that Hillary Clinton ranked #3 in the 2018 Gallup Poll of Most Admired Women, while among the men, Joe Biden came in at #9, Bernie Sanders at #6 and Beto O’Rourke at #14 behind Mike Pence at #11.

In the 2018 Midterms, women did impressively well in Congressional, Gubernatorial and State Legislative elections with wins in formerly unheard of numbers, but in the 2020 Presidential election, it appears that the top of the Democratic ticket is most likely going to be a white male. Maybe the only thing left to be determined is if he will be a young man or a man of a certain age. One can only ask why.

We know a woman can win the popular vote, but can she win in the electoral college where it counts?

To answer that question, one should probably ask why the United States is the only western democracy with the antiquated, misunderstood and nothing more than a compromise electoral college as the means to override the popular vote in the election for President of the United States. We know a woman can win the popular vote, but can she win in the electoral college where it counts? This is one election a woman has never won. With the high stakes in 2020, will the Democrats take the chance of a 2016 repeat and watch their female popular vote winner make her concession speech to a Republican popular vote loser?

The older white male Republican minority can, with the Red state advantage in the electoral college, keep a popularly elected woman out of the White House. They did it once and the country has suffered greatly for it. The Democrats must have a win in 2020 and get the White House back from the Republican minority.

It takes 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency, and there are many paths to it. Ohio, often referred to as necessary for a Democratic win with 18 electoral college votes, is now considered a red state. Florida, once a key swing state with 29 votes, is now a red state. There are many states that can be considered purple – Texas, Georgia and Arizona among them, but they haven’t flipped blue yet. The electoral college leans heavily toward the red states and that may sink any woman’s White House ambitions in 2020 and for years to come after the debacle of 2016.

While voter suppression can certainly harm a white male Democratic candidate, it proved particularly potent against a female candidate in both 2016 and 2018.

Another thing we’ve learned is the Republicans are masters of voter suppression. It damaged Hillary Clinton in key electoral college states in 2016, and stole the Georgia governorship from Stacey Abrams in 2018. While gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in his 5-4 majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder 570 U.S. 529 (2013) often-out-of-touch Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told us “our country has changed.”

Nine mostly Southern states, along with counties and municipalities in other states were now free to change their election laws without federal approval. Republican-controlled state legislatures and local election officials jumped right in and proved Chief Justice Roberts wrong, doing all they could to suppress the black vote and protect Republican power.

The Republicans did not hesitate to show us a political party willing to throw morality and ethics aside to win elections. These Republicans proved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg right in her dissent, given from the bench, when she said, “The court errs egregiously.” While voter suppression can certainly harm a white male Democratic candidate, it proved particularly potent against a female candidate in both 2016 and 2018.

Presidential elections come down to money. With the headwinds faced by a female presidential candidate in 2016, Russian interference, an electoral college stacked against her, the misogyny that still exists primarily in the red states and voter suppression that cuts into her base (none of which will be gone in 2020), can a woman attract the vast amount of money needed from the big dollar donors in 2020 to win the nomination? Democrats want a win in 2020 and Democrats, along with the country, need a win in 2020, but perhaps the flaws in our democracy revealed by the 2016 electoral college defeat will scare that big money away from ticket topped by a woman in 2020.