Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Electoral College must go

In 2008, 126.5 million votes were cast in the presidential election. Even so, the real number of votes it takes to win is exactly 270 because Electoral College votes allocated to each state are the only kind that matter. It's a winner-take-all system.

By federal law, electors chosen at the time of the national voting represent the political party of the candidate who wins the popular vote in each state, no matter how large or small the popular vote margin. Four times in our history, the winner of the popular vote lost the electoral vote and did not become president: Andrew Jackson (1824), Samuel Tilden (1876), Grover Cleveland (1888), and Al Gore (2000). Imagine the hair-on-fire frenzy of birthers like Donald Trump and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio if Barack Obama had won the electoral vote (which he did 365-173), but had actually lost the popular vote (he won 54 percent to 46 percent).

The simple truth is that we have never had a national ballot for president and this year we don't even have a national campaign because of the Electoral College. Campaigning in Idaho for President Obama or in California for Mitt Romney is a waste of effort because the electoral votes of those states are a foregone conclusion. So the campaign barely exists for residents of those states while Ohio and Nevada are buried under campaign advertising because their electoral votes are up for grabs. The winning margins for the Republican in Idaho or the Democrat in California simply do not matter.

This vestigial piece of the Constitution is terribly wrong and should be eliminated, as were slavery, the disenfranchisement of women and minorities, and prohibition. It's high time to make sure that all votes and all voters matter.

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