[Marxism] Abolish the Electoral College says NY Times

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Sun Aug 29 12:01:00 MDT 2004

August 29, 2004

August 29, 2004
Abolish the Electoral College

When Republican delegates nominate their presidential candidate this 
week, they will be doing it in a city where residents who support 
George Bush have, for all practical purposes, already been 
disenfranchised. Barring a tsunami of a sweep, heavily Democratic New 
York will send its electoral votes to John Kerry and both parties have 
already written New York off as a surefire blue state. The Electoral 
College makes Republicans in New York, and Democrats in Utah, 
superfluous. It also makes members of the majority party in those 
states feel less than crucial. 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 

The Electoral College got a brief spate of attention in 2000, when 
George Bush became president even though he lost the popular vote to Al 
Gore by more than 500,000 votes. Many people realized then for the 
first time that we have a system in which the president is chosen not 
by the voters themselves, but by 538 electors. It's a ridiculous setup, 
which thwarts the will of the majority, distorts presidential 
campaigning and has the potential to produce a true constitutional 
crisis. There should be a bipartisan movement for direct election of 
the president.

The main problem with the Electoral College is that it builds into 
every election the possibility, which has been a reality three times 
since the Civil War, that the president will be a candidate who lost 
the popular vote. This shocks people in other nations who have been 
taught to look upon the United States as the world's oldest democracy. 
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.

The majority does not rule and every vote is not equal - those are 
reasons enough for scrapping the system. But there are other 
consequences as well. This election has been making clear how the 
Electoral College distorts presidential campaigns. A few swing states 
take on oversized importance, leading the candidates to focus their 
attention, money and promises on a small slice of the electorate. We 
are hearing far more this year about the issue of storing hazardous 
waste at Yucca Mountain, an important one for Nevada's 2.2 million 
residents, than about securing ports against terrorism, a vital concern 
for 19.2 million New Yorkers. The political concerns of 
Cuban-Americans, who are concentrated in the swing state of Florida, 
are of enormous interest to the candidates. The interests of people 
from Puerto Rico scarcely come up at all, since they are mainly settled 
in areas already conceded as Kerry territory. The emphasis on swing 
states removes the incentive for a large part of the population to 
follow the campaign, or even to vote.

Those are the problems we have already experienced. The arcane rules 
governing the Electoral College have the potential to create havoc if 
things go wrong. Electors are not required to vote for the candidates 
they are pledged to, and if the vote is close in the Electoral College, 
a losing candidate might well be able to persuade a small number of 
electors to switch sides. Because there are an even number of electors 
- one for every senator and House member of the states, and three for 
the District of Columbia - the Electoral College vote can end in a tie. 
There are several plausible situations in which a 269-269 tie could 
occur this year. In the case of a tie, the election goes to the House 
of Representatives, where each state delegation gets one vote - one for 
Wyoming's 500,000 residents and one for California's 35.5 million.

The Electoral College's supporters argue that it plays an important 
role in balancing relations among the states, and protecting the 
interests of small states. A few years ago, this page was moved by 
these concerns to support the Electoral College. But we were wrong. The 
small states are already significantly overrepresented in the Senate, 
which more than looks out for their interests. And there is no interest 
higher than making every vote count.


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