Anyone else upset about Electoral College?

John Boyle // Published April 19, 2008 in Ashville Citizen-Times
Today I'm venturing into the scintillating waters of — drum roll, please — the Electoral College.

Hey, wake up! Yes, I know the presidential election is still six months away and we're all sick of the candidates already. But every four years, the Electoral College sticks in my craw.
I know it's mandated in the Constitution, designed in part to try to distribute power among states, but it's an anachronism derived from the way the Roman Catholic Church elects popes.

Essentially, here's how it works: You go vote. Your vote is tallied along with everyone else. (Your state) determines which candidate got the most votes. Then, ALL of the state's electoral votes go to the candidate with the most votes. The candidate who gets 270 electoral votes wins.

If your candidate doesn't take the state, your vote is essentially erased.

Here's what a truly exciting article on the National Archives and Research Administration site had to say about the Electoral College: "Under the federal system adopted in the U.S. Constitution, the nationwide popular vote has no legal significance."

Does this make sense in a "one-man, one-vote" society? Are you satisfied with the popular vote being dismissed and the electoral vote taking precedence, as happened in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost to George W. Bush in the Electoral College?

Proponents of the Electoral College argue it distributes power among the states, provides a hedge against public tyranny and prevents unsavory, television-based campaigns that concentrate on population centers. Oh, and it prevents messy recounts all over the country.

I'd argue that we already have television-based, unsavory campaigns that essentially target the biggest Electoral College states. And do messy recounts in Ohio and Florida ring a bell?

The idea that the public can't be trusted to directly elect the president is what rankles me. I know we're a republic, based on representative democracy, but "democracy" should be at its heart.

"The framers clearly didn't trust the public to make a good choice," said Bill Sabo, a University of North Carolina, Asheville political scientist.

He said the college has pros and cons, and it does offer more legitimacy to the president because he can often claim a bigger majority in the college than in the popular vote. And the race is more interesting because you're watching 51 elections (including D.C.) rather than one popular vote.

In an article by William C. Kimberling on the Federal Election Commission Web site, he says, "The original idea was for the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State to select the president based solely on merit and without regard to State of origin or political party."

NARA notes that "over the past 200 years, over 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College," and public-opinion polls show Americans frequently favor abolishing it. And yet, here comes another election, and the Electoral College remains.

I turned to Sabo seeking solace and a pledge to join me in my crusade.

"Why should I worry about the Electoral College?" he said. "I'm more worried about getting my taxes done."