and residents of South Los Angeles and throughout
the country are excited that Barack Obama has built a significant
lead in this historic presidential election. But victory for Obama
is still an uphill struggle, as he and his supporters must overcome
the Republican biases of our electoral system if they are to reach
the mountain top.
a normally insurmountable five or even ten percent Obama lead could
vanish on election day. If Obama is to win, his campaign and supporters
must keep the pedal to the metal to the last second, no matter what
the polls say.
among the Republican and racial biases is the Electoral College
system. Another is the high possibility that a small but highly
critical percentage of his white supporters may change their minds
once they enter the voting booth, recoiling from electing a black
Electoral College system greatly increases the possibility of a
that system gives as much as three times as much weight to the mainly
conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared
with states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic
rule is that each state is allotted the same number of electoral
votes as they have congresspersons. Since each state has a minimum
of one Senator and two Representatives, the states with the smallest
populations have three votes.
example, Wyoming has a
little more than 200,000 voters and has three Electoral College
votes: one for every 70,000 or so voters. By comparison large population
states, like Florida, California and New York have about one Electoral College vote
for every 200,000 voters.
the Electoral College system violates the principle of one person,
one vote, and gives the Republican a major advantage in presidential
the Electoral College effectively nullifies the votes of nearly
half of all black voters. Just over half of all black voters live
in the Southern states and usually 80 to 90 percent of them vote
in 2000 and 2004, every single Southern electoral vote went to the
Republicans. That is because whites are the vast majority of the
electorate in every southern state, and about 70 percent of them
In both elections white Republicans out-voted black Democrats
in every Southern state (and every border state except Maryland). Since Electoral College votes in each
southern state go entirely to whichever candidate wins the plurality
in each state, even if that plurality be just one vote, every single
Electoral College vote from the South was awarded to Bush in 2000
The massive Southern black vote for the Democrats counted
for absolutely nothing.
The pro-Republican biases of the Electoral College system
were one of the reasons why George Bush was able to win the presidency
in 2000 despite losing the national popular vote.
Barack Obama will have to pull out the stops to buck this
system and win in November.
Obama will also have to contend with the so-called “Tom
Bradley Effect.” This Effect refers to the documented tendency of
a small but often decisive percentage of white voters who tell pollsters
they are going to vote for a black candidate (or that they are undecided),
and then vote for the white candidate.
size of this Effect is hard to predict, but it could be a major
factor in the dozen or so “battleground states” where the vote is
1982, pre-election polls and even the election day exit polls gave
California black gubernatorial candidate, Tom Bradley, such a sizeable
lead that news organizations declared him the victor, virtually
the moment the polls closed. Instead, he was upset by Republican
same dynamic sunk Andrew Young’s gubernatorial bid in Georgia
in 1990 and came within a hair’s breadth of erasing Douglas Wilder’s
commanding pre-election lead in Virginia
Obama already had a brush with the Tom Bradley effect in the New Hampshire primary where his pre-primary lead vanished on election
day. One can’t help but worry that the Effect will be even larger
when the presidency, as opposed to a governorship, is at stake.
For example, if Obama goes into election day with a six
point lead (say 53-47 percent), it would only take 3.01 percent
of supposed Obama voters to change their minds to defeat him by
49.99 to 50.01 percent. Only five percent would need to change their
minds to wipe out a ten percent lead.
Obama supporters beware: there is no such thing as a sure thing
lead for Barack Obama. No matter how far ahead he may get in the
pre-election polls, we must fight to the end for every single vote.
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator, Marqueece Harris-Dawson,
is executive director of the Community Coalition in South Los Angeles. Bob Wing is a writer who works with racial justice
groups in Los Angeles.
to contact Harris-Dawson and Wing.