Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On the electoral college...

Somebody obviously missed the clue train...

...the vast majority of voting-age Americans can't cast a meaningful vote for their candidate of choice. Yes, we can vote absentee, early, or at the polls. Yes, we can vote a straight party ticket or for an individual politician. But, what we can't do is make that vote count. We might as well write in "none of the above" or leave a hanging chad. Why? Look no further than the Electoral College.
Unfortunately, because we now use the Electoral College to elect our country's and arguably the world's most powerful leader, we have abdicated our right to have our vote count. And what is voting without the right to have that vote impact an election?
In 48 states, including Texas, the Electoral College rules result in all of that state's electoral votes going to the winner. If, for example, Obama gets 45 percent of the Texas votes he still gets 0 percent of the Texas electoral votes. If Obama wins by 1 vote in Ohio he still gets all of Ohio's electoral votes. In fact, it is mathematically possible for a candidate to get 49 percent of the popular vote and 100 percent of the electoral votes.

All of this would seem to me to be a rather blatant appeal to emotion, or ignorance, even. The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They knew that with safeguards like the Senate and the Electoral College, whoever had the most votes wouldn't be able (or perhaps, be less able) to screw over the other side. If you wonder what pure democracy can lead to, I'd say Illinois and its gun laws make for a pretty good example of that because as it turns out most of the downstate Illinois residents are outvoted by Chicago and its environs. (According to Wikipedia, some 66 percent of Illinois residents live in metro Chicago.) Morton Grove and Wilmette, to name two suburbs of Chicago, had handgun bans just like Chicago does. If the Electoral College was abolished we'd see this sort of thing writ large across the fruited plain — not necessarly these types of draconian gun laws (although I'd bet they'd be one of the first things to roll down the pike), but the smaller, more rural states would be vastly outvoted by the more urbanized ones — in fact, one could say the folks in the large cities would hold complete power over the rest of us — and no doubt they'd suffer as a result of that. Or, as it's been defined in this space, what the author is essentially proposing is a "tyranny of the majority" whose doctrine says that if 51 percent of the people vote to strip the other 49 percent of their God-given rights then that's just too bad for them. As one commenter said, if the author of this drivel has this level of understanding of the Constitution he should just go back to his day job.
But hey, here's some hope! From the letters to the editor in today's Chron...
Once again the fabric of the country is under fire from someone who should know better. Mr. Pozmantier either doesn't understand the basis of this country's Constitution or prefers to try to disguise it as something it is not.
The filtering of the people's choice through the Electoral College is a belief in the American republic. Doing away with it would be totally against the spirit of the Constitution.
If we were to eliminate the Electoral College we would see elections dominated by the most populous regions of the country and those of us in "fly-over" country would not have a voice.
Without the Electoral College, 46 or so states would never again receive a single instant of any presidential candidate's attention. Let's hope those less-populated states understand the damage they'd do to themselves by ratifying an amendment to render irrelevant their voices in national elections.
Using the popular vote instead of the Electoral College also gives more power to heavily populated cities in each state. It effectively disenfranchises Texans living in the less-populated counties, municipalities and rural areas.
Thankfully, our forefathers and framers of our U.S. Constitution had the good sense to establish the electoral college as the law of the land, so that every vote actually was worth something without giving undue influence to places having the greater number of people or voters.

I must admit, I was actually heartened by the response to that op-ed piece. With some of the idiocy that appears in the op-eds and letters to the editor I was half-expecting a chorus of "oh yeah, let's do it!" I only hope that was not just an aberration, that more people actually do see the reasons for such safeguards.
More on the Electoral College here.