Friday, August 24, 2007

More on the electoral college

Slate has a good piece up about the electoral college and that new BS initiative in California by Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin. Interesting in general, and makes a good three points about what's wrong with the current system:

First, it betrays the principle of majority rule, threatening every four years to deliver the White House to the popular-vote loser. Second, it reduces the general election contest to a matter of what happens in Ohio, Florida, and a handful of other swing states, leaving most Americans (who live in forsaken "red" and "blue" states) on the sidelines. This in turn depresses turnout and helps give us one of the worst rates of voter participation on earth. Third, because of its proven pliability, the Electoral College invites partisan operatives, legislators, secretaries of state and even Supreme Court justices to engage in constant strategic mischief and manipulation at the state level.

What I found interesting in the article, however, is what's called the 'national popular vote plan', whereby the states create an interstate compact and agree to award their electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Several states have passed it already, and after all, the Constitution specifically gives this freedom, in Article II Section I: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors..." (my italics, obviously).

The current system is arbitrary, accident-prone, and increasingly untenable. On that I can agree with the Republicans who back the California initiative. What I cannot accept is that a more convoluted system, undertaken by a single state for transparently political reasons, is the solution. It is time for the American people to elect the president directly and democratically.

Here, here.

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