Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Problem Of The Electoral College

For a society that promotes democracy to the rest of the world, the U.S. has a very undemocratic institution in the electoral college that gives unfairly high weight to the voters of small "red" states and tilts the election process in favor of Republicans. Rather than being truly democratic like a popular vote system, this system only insures that more Republicans than Democrats will be elected president. This is not democracy.

A small state like Wyoming with only 3 electoral votes has 493,782 persons, or roughly 164,000 persons per electoral vote. A large state like Calofornia has 55 electoral votes and a population of 33,871,782 or 615,000 residents per electoral vote. This is a serious flaw woth the electoral college, many small "red" states such as wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Utah and other find that one popular vote in their state has the same weight as nearly four voters in large "blue"" states such as California or New York.

Three times in American history, Democrats who won the nationwide popular vote were denied the White House in 1876, 1888 and in 2000. It has only been Democrats who were denied the White House because of the electoral college, no Republican candidate for president has ever been in the same position, although some questions about the 1960 vote remain because of votes from Chicage and a vote for some unpledged DEmocratic electors in Alabama. In the 2000 election, Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote by 543,816 votes, yet lost the election because of a 537 margin for bush in the state of Florida for the state's 25 electoral votes. Bush won the electoral college by 271 to 266.

The electoral college forces candidates to ignore states that are a shoo-in, and instead concentrate on states "in play" with the electoral college. John Kerry in 2004 concentrated resources on states that were "in play" as did George Bush, and for that reason many states voters went largely ignored in the election campaign. A popular vote based election process would mean active campaigns in all 50 states where all voters, not just some are important. Had the Kerry strategy worked, with significantly less votes than Bush he would have been the first Democrat ever elected president who lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote.

The current electoral college system rewards small mainly "red" states by giving their votes more weight than the voters in large states. The electoral college gives Republican candidates a built-in advantagein electoral votes. And the electoral college system pretty much guarantees that voters in many states will be ignored and only the states that are sen as "in play" will be rewarded with candidate visits. The system is only like to grow worse as it becomes a race to harness "in play" states with each election cycle.

After the 2000 election it was remarkable that no changes to the electoral college were made by Congress. Future elections are likely to be to thrown into more and more problems if the vote is close unles some changes are made to this system.


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At 6:45 AM, Blogger Stephen Johnson said...

If Kerry had won Ohio, you would have had the spectacle of someone losing the popular vote by 3 million plus yet winning the presidency. In fact, if the 2004 election were run based on the 1970 census, Kerry would have won 270-268.

It's not a "Red State" "Blue State" issue, but instead a protection that the Founders put in the Constitution to prevent the bigger states from dominating the smaller states.


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