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Abortion rights demonstrators react outside the US Supreme Court in Washington on June 24. The court overturned the 1973 Roe vs Wade decision and wiped out the constitutional right to abortion. Photo: Bloomberg

Letters | Roe vs Wade: how the US’ skewed political system got us here

  • The electoral college system means that the US president, who nominates and ultimately appoints Supreme Court justices, may not have won the popular vote
  • The people of less populous states are also disproportionately represented in the Senate, which confirms the nomination of judges to the highest court
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The overturning of Roe vs Wade is not just about abortion rights. It highlights a major institutional problem that the United States has refused to face – the fact that people’s power is not represented appropriately in the legislative and executive branch of government. This is what got us here.
Let’s start with the presidential election and the winner-takes-all electoral college system, and how that affects the Supreme Court. Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump lost the popular vote in their first presidential election, yet, through the electoral college, they became president.
Four of the nine judges on the Supreme Court were appointed by them: Chief Justice John Roberts was appointed by Bush, and Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett were Trump appointees. Do these appointments reflect the wishes of the majority of Americans? Not necessarily.

The people of swing states such as Pennsylvania and less populous states like North Dakota have a disproportionately high impact on the path which the country takes. In 2020, an electoral college vote in Wyoming represented about 190,000 people while the same vote in California represented about 720,000 people.

The Senate and its various rules also lead to this situation. Each state is represented by two senators, regardless of the population of the state, which means people in less populous states are disproportionately represented in the Senate.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, for example, was confirmed by the Senate in a 50-48 vote, with the support of all 49 Republicans senators, as well as West Virginian Democrat Joe Manchin’s. However, those Republicans represented a significantly fewer number of people than the Democrat senators. The Senate in 2021 comprised 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, yet the Republicans represented over 40 million less people.

This tipped the ideological balance in the Supreme Court, leading to the court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade, an outcome 69 per cent of Americans said they were opposed to, according to a CNN poll this January.

With Justice Clarence Thomas suggesting that the Supreme Court “reconsider” the precedents set in cases relating to same-sex marriage and birth control, this nightmare will continue.

Americans who value their liberty and still see their country as the beacon of democracy should reflect on how they can ensure it remains so.

Tom Leung, Tin Shui Wai