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GUEST OPINION: Time to dump Electoral College

By GREG BENTALL
Greg Bentall is a financial analyst who lives in Cloverdale.

The 2012 presidential campaign will soon be under way, if it is not already. No one wants to see another Electoral College tragedy like the one that occurred in 2000. George W. Bush was elected by a handful of votes in Florida that overrode the choice of millions of voters across the country. In truth, the election was decided by one vote when the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision gave Florida and the election to Bush.

The Electoral College is full of mathematical aberrations which make for unfair elections. Wyoming has a population of 563,626 and 3 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 187,875 people. California has a population of 37,253,956 and 55 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 677,345 people. Thus the vote of a Wyoming resident counts 3.6 times as much as the vote of a California resident.

The Electoral College system disenfranchises those who vote for the losing parties in each state. If you are a Republican in California or a Democrat in Texas, you need not even bother to vote for president in 2012. Your vote for president will not even be counted in this winner-take-all system. The only way to make your vote count is to move your voter registration to a swing state, such as Florida, where it just might make a difference. But such shenanigans are shameful and ought not to be necessary.

The Electoral College made sense in 18th century America. Back then America was much like Europe is today. The European Community is still a collection of nations, even though there is the beginning of a European government. In the 18th century, colonial America was also a collection of nations. People were Virginians or Georgians or New Yorkers. No one thought of us as a federation.

The name the “United States of America” comes from the Declaration of Independence. But what the Declaration of Independence really says is, “the 13 united states of America.” The emphasis was on the individual states and not on a union.

It was the Civil War that finally fused this collection of states into a nation. The Spanish American war in 1898 marked the birth of the American superpower, capable of influencing events beyond our borders.

Now in the 21st century, the Electoral College is a dangerous and destructive historical anachronism. We are one nation, and we need to vote as one nation. The elected president should be the person who commands the most votes regardless of the states in which those votes were cast.





17 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Time to dump Electoral College”

  1. This is one of those seemingly egalitarian “democratic” ideas that the Founders who would lead to the end of the republic, and therefor put procedures in place to guard against. The Seventeenth Amendment was a huge populist mistake, and direct election of Senators has done incalculable harm to the republic. The Founders put the right power in the hands of The People’s House and provided for direct election of Representatives. Everything we have done since then has worked against an effective and durable federal government.

    Rather than further meddle with the Founder’s extraordinary wisdom, how about campaign finance reform? That’s something that would actually improve the situation with tampering with basic Constitutional safeguards. Public financing of election campaigns must be mandatory, with a lifetime ban on public office for anyone who violates.

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  2. country boy says:

    @Dave “as pointed out by other posters, is left to the states to decide how to wield the votes.”
    But actually that was what Gore vs Bush was all about. The Supreme Court, a Federal institution, that decided how Florida’s votes would be counted.

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  3. Mike says:

    Does anyone seriously believe Gore would have been a better president than Bush? We needed Bush after 9/11. He also did a good job dealing with muslim terrorism. Bush won the first and second election fair and square. That is why the electoral college elected him. Hard for the left to believe or understand.

    Gore got fat and grew a beard. His wife left him and went far left.

    Thank you electoral college for doing a great job for over 200 years for this country.

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  4. Skippy says:

    Hear hear!
    You get to vote when you can prove who you are and that you have the right to legally vote.
    When that happens, Democrats will never win another election…anywhere!

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  5. Josh Stevens says:

    All we need to fix elections in this country is to require I.D. when you vote.

    The Electoral College I can live with.

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  6. Beef King says:

    How is possible to read every word from ‘Old Gulph’ and give his writings a thumbs down? Huh?
    Thanks Old Gulph, for taking the time to provide a statistical and historical glimpse into the Electoral College and why it exists.
    Now, let’s get rid of it.

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  7. Dave says:

    Ahh, the great debate of the electoral college and its legitimacy. In the end it still balances things out, and as pointed out by other posters, is left to the states to decide how to wield the votes. The system of electoral votes is not going anywhere anytime soon, as that portion is outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Though the methodology of the votes application may in fact change due to states modifying it. However; I would be surprised to see that if it were only a handful of states that did so, as opposed to all changing. In theory, the electoral votes reflect the number of Congressional members of each state, changing in accrodance to the population as determined by the U.S. Census every 10 years. Since it includes Senators, it is not as simple as using the Congressional Districts and casting the votes accordingly, as there would be the two per Senator outstanding. And I agree that popular vote is not representative of each state as well, as there are areas in nearly every state that lean one way or another, even in \Blue\ or \Red\ states. Here is what I mean, let’s say that some of the largest populace states (Take CA, TX, NY, PA, FL and the Metro Chicago states of IL, IA and WI.) With popular vote all go massively one way. This could decidedly tilt the popular vote, but is it representative of the nation as a whole? I think most would argue no, it is not. It would be like saying that since one party won 70% of the popular vote then they should have 70% of the seats in each Congressional house. And I am evenmore sure we can say that is not representative. So we go back to square one. The wisdom of the founding fathers was to take the passion out of voting and to have the states represented as a whole, with each state determining how to apply their electoral votes. And thus far, the system, as much as we might want to debate it, seems to function well.

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  8. oldgulph says:

    The National Popular Vote bill would end the disproportionate attention and influence of the “mob” in a handful of closely divided battleground states, such as Florida, while the “mobs” of the vast majority of states are ignored.

    The current system does not provide some kind of check on the “mobs.” There have been 22,000 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 10 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector’s own political party. The electors are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

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  9. oldgulph says:

    Most people wrongly believe the presidential election system we have today is in the Constitution, and think that any change would need an amendment. But state-by-state winner-take-all laws to award electoral college votes, are an example of state laws eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, Now our current system can be changed by state laws again.

    After days of debating and rejecting possible methods for selecting the President, the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention left the entire matter to the states by only saying in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” That’s all the Constitution says about what we now call the Electoral College. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    The constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The winner-take-all method is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.

    As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and frequently have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.

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  10. oldgulph says:

    The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states, like California, where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all method (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided “battleground” states and their voters. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree already, that only 14 states and their voters will matter. Almost 75% of the country will be ignored –including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. This will be more obscene than the 2008 campaign,, when candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

    2/3rds of the states and people, including California, have been merely spectators to the presidential elections.

    Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states, like California, are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

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  11. oldgulph says:

    Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) in 48 states, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation’s 56 (1 in 14) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a handful of votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

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  12. Skippy says:

    This is amazing.
    After 12 years liberals are still angry about having had to admit George W. Bush actually won in 2000.
    Despite having prevailed in every recount he is still considered illegitimate by the perpetually angry left.
    This brings the expression, get over it, to a whole new level.
    And all because Sandra Day O’Connor couldn’t be bought!
    Priceless article!

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  13. John G. says:

    Is there really nothing else to write about? The far-left slanted Press Democrat is still not over the 2000 election, so they are publishing this garbage? I am 100% convinced that as long as the article’s author for the Press Democrat uses spell-check the editors will call the article “good to go” and publish it accordingly. I don’t think that I have heard the “eliminate the electoral college” argument since high school. We all know that had Gore been declared winner in the 2000 election in one way, shape, or form that this article would not have been written.

    Don’t worry. Due to population shifts there will be readjusting of the House of Reps and the electoral college. *Hint: People are abandoning blue states in mass exodus. I wonder why?

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  14. BigDogatlPlay says:

    Still whining over the election in 2000, I see.

    The Electoral College was put in place so that presidents would be elected proportionately and that no single city, county, state or region could sway an election. The proportions of the Electoral College are the exact same as the Congress and that seems to represent the larger population fairly well, for the most part.

    Scrapping the Electoral College is a step toward mob rule….. and guess which mob rules?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ1NJaCtIkM

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  15. Beef King says:

    The Electoral College is a farce and should be abandoned immediately.
    We have the technology to allow for an individual vote to be securely cast. Let’s do it!
    Maybe Mike Thompson can sponsor this legislation and add this bill to the one he wrote that stops loud commercials.

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  16. Reality Check says:

    Yes, the Electoral College isn’t democratic. Neither is the U.S. Senate. Should we do away with it? (One is tempted sometimes.)

    The appeal of a pure popular vote is obvious. It’s seemingly simple and it plays to our democratic sensibilities. Fortunately, our Founders knew better and balanced the passions of the majority with a system that also sought to protect the rights of the minority, in this case smaller states.

    As messy as the 2000 election was, imagine the mess we’d have in a very close election under a popular vote system. Votes would be challenged all over the country. The court cases would be endless. Enough said.

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  17. Anderson says:

    @Greg

    But based on the dubious voting history of Californians in recent elections, it seems Wyoming voters make 3.6 times better decisions than people here, so perhaps it all works out for the best. After all, you don’t see Wyoming electing Woolsey, Boxer and all the other left-wing nutjobs.

    So perhaps the electoral college isn’t as “dangerous and destructive” as you suggest.

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