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  • Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    Electoral College is an elementary problem 

    Every four years, Ohioans and their fellow Americans rediscover the strange wonders and oddities of the Electoral College, the indirect, Rube Goldbergesque manner in which we elect our president.

    Because those who would have to amend the Constitution - members of the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and state legislators - create power for themselves by helping to deliver a state in the winner-take-all Electoral College system, they have little incentive to change the system. Some even argue that direct election would strengthen minority parties at the expense of the historically effective two-party system, or that tinkering would throw elections into the House of Representatives, a place we don't want to go given the quality of our representatives.

    ``The biggest problem in the mechanism of the Electoral College is the winner-take-all system,'' Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Political Science George C. Edwards III told NPR's Morning Edition. ``The winner-take-all system allows candidates to win some states by small margins - as in Florida, 537 votes - and lose other states by large margins and as a result the candidate may end up with fewer votes overall and still win the presidential election.'' (As George W. Bush
    did against Al Gore in 2000.)

    Edwards is the author of Why the Electoral College is Bad for America. He does not believe that the country's founders would saddle us with the Electoral College today. ``It doesn't work at all like the Founding Fathers intended,'' Edwards told NPR. ``There were many motivations behind the Electoral College. One was that the Founding Fathers didn't think the people would know about distinguished people in other areas of the country because there wasn't any mass communication, for example. They wanted intermediaries - they wanted the electors to actually exercise descretion. Thus they viewed the Electoral College primarily as a nominating body who would nominate a bunch of distinguished candidates and then the House of Representatives would select the winner. There wasn't any theory behind the Electoral College. There was no coherent design. And virtually every one of the motivations the Founding Fathers had for the Electoral College is now simply irrelevant.''

    There is an alternative to striking down the Electoral College, and that's the divided vote used in Maine and Nebraska (two electoral votes go to the statewide winner and the rest go to the winner of the individual congressional districts). Colorado voters will have the opportunity on Nov. 2 to change the state's system to one awarding Colorado's 9 electoral votes proportionately. If a candidate receives 40 percent of the votes, he gets 40 percent of the state's electoral votes. If approved, the measure would apply to this year's presidential election and could change the winner nationally. So what. The concept seems fair. Too bad Ohio isn't voting on it, too, because neither President Bush nor John Kerry have proved themselves worthy of our entire 20 electoral votes.

    posted by Ohioblog: A Swing State Journal at 11:26 AM

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       •  July 2004
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