Sunday, August 29, 2004

Axing the Electoral College

Ho-hum: The NYT presents a call for the abolition of the Electoral College.

It presents no novel arguments. In fact, it kinda overlooks basic logic in the opening paragraph when it says "It's hard to tell New York City children that every vote is equally important - it's winner take all here, and whether Senator Kerry beats the president by one New York vote or one million, he will still walk away with all 31 of the state's electoral votes."

True, but, if we moved to a direct election then the winner could walk away with the presidency with just one vote, or one million.

And, for the record, Gore likely won Florida and therefore its electoral votes as well - the Supreme Court just chose to create its own constitutional crisis by selectively dumping the political question doctrine. But whatev.

Second error in math: "The Electoral College also heavily favors small states. The fact that every one gets three automatic electors - one for each senator and a House member - means states that by population might be entitled to only one or two electoral votes wind up with three, four or five."

Okay, also true. But if each state starts with 3 automatic electors, that kinda resets 3 as the baseline, right? And that's an absolutely necessary component of our republic - the guarantee of state representation (if not for the provision allowing the direct election of senators, I think this would be more easily understood by Americans). The remainder of votes, as with the remainder of the House of Representatives, are approtioned among the states according to population - making the college correctly representative based on our founding principles.

As a Californian, yeah, I wish California were more of a question mark because . . . . well, I want candidates to pander to me like they pander to Floridians or Iowans or whomever. That's really what it's about - and I don't even think that's wholly bad - after all, call it "pork barrel" politics or legislation, but those are real roads, real jobs, real projects that positively enhance citizens' quality of life. But it's kind of California's fault, isn't it? California is a gathering of like-minded people (Orange County readers, save it, I know this is an oversimplification).

And what would happen if we directly elected the president? New Hampshire wouldn't see another candidate, nor would the majority of red states, as would-be presidents focused on urban, high density, high vote areas. Why go to Cheyenne when you can focus on Atlanta? Why go to either when you have Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City? We could see even more localized, intense campaigning - good for the city-o-centric coasts, from which media empires are directed - making the echo chambers that much louder and that much less able to expand beyond the hyper-politicized.

The NYT editorial (which I'll paste in comments below for you non-subscribers) closes by saying the small states are already significantly overrepresented in the Senate.

Depends on how you define representation, doesn't it? (I'll pause here and have myself a thesis flashback. Go Athenas).

Every vote does count, it just might need to be used more effectively. Think. Strategize. Work a little. And while you're at it - brush up on your American history. We've almost completely abandoned the notion that we are United States.

Your thoughts? The Electoral College: love it or dump it?

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