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Friday, May 6, 2016

Electoral College? Lose it

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The race for the White House has heated up; and this celebration of the so-called "art of politics" escapes me.

Believe it or not, although I am a news reporter, I really hate politics.

Each year political pundits argue minute differences in opinion about war, crime, insurance, welfare, taxation, equal rights, education and other topics they fundamentally agree upon, but won't admit they do.

Politicians agree change needs to occur for the country to move forward into the prosperous future, but none have designed a plan that will take us there.

In all honesty, take a minute and remember the last time a change was set in motion by national politics that forever changed your life for the better.

Did you remember one? I'm still trying, but I digress.

I believe the Democratic/Republican parties in this country are each equally capable of presenting a candidate who will be just as capable of screwing up as the other. For many voters, they don't cast a vote for the best candidate, but for the lesser of two evils.

Although the 2004 voter turnout for the presidential election was high, more than 78 million eligible American voters stayed home on Election Day.

I believe that is what the political pundits call "voter apathy," but no one seems to know why it is happening.

The problem with politics, as I see it, is the Electoral College process.

It's probably easier to handicap a horse race than it is to explain the intricacies of the Electoral College, but it is very depressing to think an individual's vote doesn't matter unless they live in one of the states with the highest number of electoral votes.

To win a presidential election with the necessary 270 plus electoral votes, a candidate only needs to win California (55), Texas (34), New York (31), Florida (27), Pennsylvania (21), Illinois (21), Ohio (20), Michigan (17), Georgia (15), New Jersey (15) and North Carolina (15).

The last time I counted there were 50 states in America (with a total of 538 electoral votes), not just these 11 (with a total of 271 electoral votes).

By the time numbers from these 11 states are broadcast on the news, voters in the other 39 states have to wonder to themselves, "Why even bother?"

After trying to determine which candidate won't screw up the worst when I cast my vote, I admit that I wonder why I do it. My grandparents always told me that voting had its privileges, "You have the right to complain about what is wrong because you tried to make things better."

In this technological age, why do we still have to rely upon the Electoral College?

Created in a time when people had to travel great distances to vote, and even farther to report the election totals, the Electoral College process is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution.

It would take a constitutional amendment for the November elections to become an actual vote for president and not as the way for selecting "electors" -- the state representatives who cast the actual votes for the president in December.

(Which brings up another potential kettle of fish: Did you know an elector could change their vote to be something different than that of the vote determined by the general public? It upsets me that someone else makes my choice, but it really riles me up that they could also change my mind, without my knowledge!)

I like the thought that a presidential hopeful would have to actually make an attempt to visit each state in the United States to get the votes necessary to be a president of the people, by the people.

According to a quick search of the Internet, I'm not alone in that thought.

During the past 200 years, more than 700 proposals for Constitutional amendments have been introduced to reform or eliminate the Electoral College, which is more than on any other subject brought to the attention to the Congress.

In 1987, the American Bar Association criticized the Electoral College as being "archaic" and "ambiguous," with 69 percent of lawyers polled by the organization in favor of abolishing the process.

Various public opinion polls have shown Americans are also in favor of abolishing it by majorities of 58 percent in 1967; 81 percent in 1968; and 75 percent in 1981.

There are countless websites, blogs and articles posted on the Internet raging against this archaic system, but surveys of political scientists have supported continuation of the Electoral College.

That speaks volumes about the future of politics, but what about the future of the "Average Joe?"

A candidate winning a majority of the popular vote has a good chance of winning the national election, but there are no guarantees in the Electoral College.

In 1992, a floppy-eared millionaire Ross Perot entered politics, and made a real connection with a large portion of the voting public, creating the potential of a third-party in the election process. Although he won 19 percent of the national popular vote, Perot didn't win any electoral votes.

In 2000, Al Gore became the fourth presidential candidate to receive the largest share of the popular vote while losing the electoral vote. It happened to Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel Tilden in 1876 and Grover Cleveland in 1888.

When political candidates play with popularity and numbers, anything can happen, and has.

Living in Indiana (with only 11 electoral votes), I just wish my vote, and yours, really mattered.