Monday, November 15

Homspun Symposium: On The Electoral College

Over at Homespun Bloggers a symposium is in the offing. This is supposed to be a weekly venture. I'm going to propose a brief entry. The question:
Is it time for the U.S. to end the Electoral College? If so, in favor of what alternative system? If not, why is it still relevant and beneficial to the nation?

Well I'm in favor of the College. Let's quickly examine some pro's and con's with a brief discussion of each point.
  • It's been in place for over 200 years and hasn't failed us yet. There is something to be said for the conservative impulse, i.e., if it ain't broke don't fix it. Unintended consequences usually have a bigger impact than your intentional consequences.
  • One of the reasons for the College, which weights state influences by combining House and Senate member counts, is that it prevents an active minority in a populous minority from dominating national politics. This was not a factor in the past election, but if political passions as a whole waned (and people became a little apathetic) one might imagine a time when in a "popular vote system" a small minority who could get their vote out might get themselves elected. I believe Mr Hitler got himself elected in similar circumstances. That turned out really well didn't it?
  • Voter fraud and close races are limited in scope to one or two states. In 2000 Mr Gore decided to take the low road and hotly contest the election results in the courts. If a future election (in the absence of the College) was relatively close. Those hanging chad complaints and lawsuits would spread over the whole nation.
  • We don't live in a democracy. But for some reason, kids get taught that we are. We are a representative republic. It was felt by our founders that is a superior system. At about the same time historically there was a big experiment in democracy. It was later called the Terror. Unrestrained democracy is not a good idea. We call it "mob rule". It doesn't have a good reputation for good reason. See this for more on that.
  • The College comes with a plethora of ways to break up close elections. There are umpteen different tie breaker scenarios laid out in the Constitution. We already know going in what to do in case of a tie. In a popular vote scenario, close elections will be worse than the Florida tussle. Only the lawyers will in win that fight.
  • Somebody might win the election but lose in the popular vote tally. Uh like, so what? It's not like all parties to the election don't know the rules going in. It's pretty clear from campaigning strategies, both candidates know how the system works and run their campaigns based on that. Presumably if popular vote was what it took to win, since all the campaigning would be done differently, a differently result is likely to have been the result.
  • Every vote should be of equal weight. Why? Nothing else in life is distributed equally. Again, you know the rules. If you want your vote to count more, move.