Electoral College is pillar of government, should be kept

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Should the Electoral College be abolished? I say no.

If popular votes alone determined election outcomes, a dozen presidential contests would have been close enough for the result to be disputed without end, or at least without an end that most Americans could see as fair and honest.

WHAT DRAGGED out the notorious 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore were the partisan lawsuits and the tortuous methods employed to recount votes or decipher voter intent.

The closeness of that 2000 election in so many places – multiple states as well as the nation as a whole– suggests that we should thank our lucky stars the Framers gave us the system we have.

It is precisely because of the Electoral College that the recounting of votes focused on one state instead of many. If the popular vote decided the winner, we could have been bogged down for months in questionable recounts in dozens, if not hundreds, of counties across the country.

Is it unfair for a candidate to win in the Electoral College and become president if another candidate actually had more popular votes? It is extremely unlikely this could ever happen when the popular vote margin is wide. A narrow margin in the popular vote – narrow enough to be wiped out with a few vote-rigging recounts – cries out for a decisive conclusion, and that’s what the Electoral College offers.

IT’S NOT unfair that little Delaware gets just as many senators as big California. It’s not unfair that 34-year-olds can’t become president or that a simple majority in the Congress is insufficient to approve a treaty, convict an impeached president or amend the Constitution. Nor is it unfair that the winner of the World Series is the team that wins four games, not necessarily the one that has the most runs. These are the rules of the game, and in the case of the Electoral College, the rules were written for some very good reasons.

At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, some delegates wanted the popular vote to elect the president. Others argued that Congress should make the pick. The smaller, less populated states feared, correctly, that under either of those options they would be swallowed up or ignored by the larger, more populous states. The Electoral College represented a compromise to accommodate the concerns of the small states.

The Electoral College serves as a pillar of our federal system of government, wherein the states – which created the central government in the first place – do not
dissolve into an amorphous national mass, but rather retain a substantial identity and hence a check on unbridled power in Washington.

KEEP THE Electoral College. The Framers of the Constitution knew precisely what they were doing when they established it.

(The writer is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, N.Y., and Atlanta. He lives in Newnan. This column originally appeared in the Newnan Times-Herald.)

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/02/12 - 09:34 am
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Nice column although the

Nice column although the subject is well-worn and understood by most.

americafirst
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americafirst 12/02/12 - 10:13 am
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If it was understood by most,

If it was understood by most, then there would not be talk every 4 years about doing away with the electoral college.

GiantsAllDay
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GiantsAllDay 12/02/12 - 10:26 am
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PLEASE keep the electoral

PLEASE keep the electoral college! My older brother was captain of the football team there.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 12/02/12 - 01:49 pm
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All valid points. But the

All valid points. But the fact remains that when someone wins the presidency via the electoral college but does not win the popular vote it destroys the "one man one vote" concept and the premise that "your vote counts". The reality is that "your vote counts.....sort of......maybe". Put that on a few bumper stickers and Public Service Announcments and let's see how the turnout goes.

As for being "swallowed up or ignored by the larger, more populous states." Do you not think that still happens with the larger states who have large numbers of electoral college votes? Do you not not think that Michigan's and Indiana's large number of electoral college votes had no influence in the decision to bailout the auto industry? Did the electoral college get Rhode Island ANYTHING? How many campaign visits did Rhode Island get as opposed to Indiana or Michigan? I really don't think the "swallowed up" argument is still valid in support of the electoral college.

As for legal challenges and recounts, with the persistent 47% to 47% Republican Democrat split in much of the country and a few Independents who fall off of the fence one way or another to decide our national elections, there is just as much potential for lawsuits and recounts under the electoral collage as there would be with a popular vote system.

Challenges and recounts aside, if the popular vote were used at least when you get the final count there is no argument or irrational dissent with the outcome. And we would actually have one man, one vote THAT COUNTED.

kohler
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kohler 12/03/12 - 03:09 pm
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If you support the current
Unpublished

If you support the current presidential election system, believing it is what the Founders intended and that it is in the Constitution, then you are mistaken The current presidential election system does not function, at all, the way that the Founders thought that it would.

The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 14 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore's lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 23% of the nation's votes!

With the Electoral College and federalism, the Founding Fathers meant to empower the states to pursue their own interests within the confines of the Constitution. The National Popular Vote is an exercise of that power, not an attack upon it.

The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists who vote as rubberstamps for their party’s presidential candidate. That is not what the Founders intended.

The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, in 2012 did not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

80% of the states and people were just spectators to the presidential elections. That's more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans.

Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College.

Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

States have the responsibility and power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond.

Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution-- "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, or national lines (as with the National Popular Vote).

kohler
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kohler 12/04/12 - 12:18 pm
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Recount Realities
Unpublished

The current presidential election system makes a repeat of 2000 more likely, not less likely. All you need is a thin and contested margin in a single state with enough electoral votes to make a difference. It's much less likely that the national vote will be close enough that voting irregularities in a single area will swing enough net votes to make a difference. If we'd had National Popular Vote in 2000, a recount in Florida would not have been an issue.

The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush's lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore's nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes); no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state-by-state winner-take-all methods.

The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.
“It’s an arsonist itching to burn down the whole neighborhood by torching a single house.” Hertzberg

Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years with the National Popular Vote. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. With both the current system and the National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a "final determination" prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their "final determination" six days before the Electoral College meets.

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