Written by Bob Woelk Tuesday, 09 October 2012 14:22
So, it looks like I will be throwing my vote away again in a few weeks. Thanks to the insistence of our Congress to hang on to the archaic institution of the Electoral College, if a Kansas voter does not cast a ballot for the Republican candidate for president this November, he or she is likely “spitting in the wind.”
It amazes me the Electoral College has survived since the founding fathers established it as part of the Constitution more than 200 years ago. I believe it is just another example of how the power of the individual has been diminished.
According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, the organization that oversees the electoral process and verifies the presidential vote, more than 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress over the years to reform or eliminate the Electoral College.
“There have been more proposals for Constitutional amendments on changing the Electoral College than on any other subject,” the NARA website reports. “The American Bar Association has criticized the Electoral College as ‘archaic’ and ‘ambiguous,’ and its polling showed 69 percent of lawyers favored abolishing it in 1987. Public opinion polls have shown Americans favored abolishing it by majorities of 58 percent in 1967, 81 percent in 1968 and 75 percent in 1981.”
Yet, the system survives.
Kansas is a winner-take-all state, as are most. We have six votes, all of which are supposed to go to the candidate who wins the popular vote. And, that is the heart and soul of my complaint. No matter how close the election is, even 51 percent to 49 percent of the ballots cast, all the electoral votes go to the winner of the majority, essentially locking out the voice of the 49 percent.
Historically in Kansas, that means anyone who is a Democrat or an independent.
All this seems, well, un-American. According to NARA, “the last third party, or splinter party, candidate to make a strong showing was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 (Progressive, also known as the Bull Moose Party). He finished a distant second in electoral and popular votes (taking 88 of the 266 electoral votes needed to win at the time).
Although Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote nationwide in 1992, he did not win any electoral votes since he was not particularly strong in any one state.
Any candidate who wins a majority or plurality of the popular vote nationwide has a good chance of winning in the Electoral College, but there are no guarantees (see the results of 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000 elections).”
The 2000 election: There’s a sore spot. I really thought when George W. Bush and his Florida hanging chads (sounds like a 1980s hair band name) eked out the presidential win over Al Gore in that year despite losing the popular vote, there would be a groundswell of discontent from the masses. It didn’t happen. And, I still don’t know why.
We live in an age where we have instant access to all kinds of data. Surely technology exists that would allow us to cast authentic individual votes for president. After all, we can accomplish accurate state and local elections. We have Kris Kobach, our superhero-esque secretary of state, safeguarding Kansas from ballot-box terrorism.
So, just why did the founding fathers set up this system that I contend discriminates against freedom of individual choice?
According to uselectionatlas.org, “the Constitutional Convention considered several possible methods of selecting a president. One idea was to have the Congress choose the president. This idea was rejected, however, because some felt that making such a choice would be too divisive an issue and leave too many hard feelings in the Congress.
Others felt that such a procedure would invite unseemly political bargaining, corruption, and perhaps even interference from foreign powers.
Still others felt that such an arrangement would upset the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. ??
“A second idea was to have the state legislatures select the president. This idea, too, was rejected out of fears that a president so beholden to the state legislatures might permit them to erode federal authority and thus undermine the whole idea of a federation.
“A third idea was to have the president elected by a direct popular vote. Direct election was rejected, not because the framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence, but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their state, people would naturally vote for a “favorite son” from their own state or region.
“At worst, no president would emerge with a popular majority sufficient to govern the whole country. At best, the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous states with little regard for the smaller ones. ??
“Finally, a so-called ‘Committee of Eleven’ in the Constitutional Convention proposed an indirect election of the president through a College of Electors. ??
The function of the College of Electors in choosing the president can be likened to that in the Roman Catholic Church of the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope. 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.”
I’m sorry, but that history lesson doesn’t really make me feel any better. Republicans often talk of the elitist views of anyone who is not a member of their party. But, I can think of nothing more elitist than hanging on to this antiquated, archaic and, yes, even undemocratic, system.
I don’t hold out much hope of the Electoral College going away in my lifetime. It would literally take an act of Congress and a constitutional amendment to change things. And, in today’s political climate, our national leaders have an impossibly hard time agreeing on anything that really matters. Sad, isn’t it?