The Electoral College: a hallmark of the republic


By: Robert E. Meyer

Over the last several years, numerous editorial letters have been the subject of complaints that American politics do not reflect a true democracy. Many of them suggest that the current electoral system needs to go, and that the popular vote should be sole criterion in the election process, particularly as it pertains to presidential elections.

One writer, apparently blinded by ideology, suggested falsely, that the electoral winner of the 2004 presidential election didn’t win the popular vote. This false assumption was undoubtedly the result of the same presidential candidate who won in 2000, being reelected in 2004.

First of all, the country was never designed to be a true democracy, as our Founders frowned on that form of government, at least some of them thinking it to be tantamount to “mob rule.”

Those who insist upon the “popular vote” are often people still upset about the 2000 presidential election outcome, who have never considered the disadvantages of such a system, or how it ultimately undermines the rule of law.

The reason the Founders implemented the electoral system is to ensure wider demographic consensus, not mere a majority, but majorities across differing constituencies, thus avoiding “factionalism.” People who live in suburbia, rural areas, and small town U.S.A., obviously have different values and societal objectives than those of the teaming masses crowded in big cities. The U.S. is a representative republic, not a democracy, regardless of the frequency that certain politicians misspeak.

Without the electoral system, a politician could more easily win an election just by catering to the wants and demands of those in large metropolitan areas. That is done merely by promising to the disgruntled masses, a greater portion of the public treasury. Such a “vote for benefits” quid pro quo, could insure that those politicians playing the game have a virtually perpetual incumbency. That sort of politics are the perfect recipe for baking career politicians into the political cake.

The small metropolitan area where I live has seen vigorous campaign efforts from both parties over the past two presidential cycles. My state has voted blue by between 10,000 and 20,000 votes in the past two elections. My political district is a conservative stronghold, which has been drifting left of late, thus is deemed a targeted constituency by both major parties. Without the electoral college, that keen interest would quickly disappear.

The current electoral system landscape, actually has been greatly “democratized” since its original inception. One such change that few people are aware of, occurred early in the 20th century, when the Constitution was amended, so that popular vote, rather than the state legislature would determine the two senators from each state.

Personally, I favor a hybrid of the original electoral system in place before the 1840′s to determine presidential elections. Each candidate should get electoral votes for the congressional district he or she wins, rather than the “winner take all” state electoral system we have now. Two additional delegates at large, representing the Senators would be awarded for the winner of the popular vote within each state.

Such a system gives greater weight to the votes of each congressional district, while the two at large votes would give more political clout to less populated states.

Those who complain that the electoral college skews the majority opinion, should consider that in the state of Wisconsin, for example, the more liberal candidate consistently gets sent to Washington D.C. This happens despite the fact that the same candidate generally wins only two state congressional districts, out of the eight or nine represented in the last two presidential cycles.

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