Right Data – Wrong Conclusion

When the New York Times publishes an editorial I always read carefully. I do not agree with some of their columnists, but I have never disagreed outright with the columns of their editorial board – until they said that we should Abolish the Electoral College. I fully agree that “the Electoral College makes Republicans in New York, and Democrats in Utah, superfluous. It also makes members of the majority party in those states feel less than crucial.” But I cannot agree that “The small states are already significantly overrepresented in the Senate.”

The apparent disparity built into the electoral college by the founding fathers was not an accident based on a desire to not have to count each individual vote nationally back when it was more difficult to count each vote. The fact is that even back then every state had to get a tally of each vote within the state to choose the electors and even today it would only take a couple of minutes with a paper and pencil to add the numbers certified by each of the fifty states.

Let’s think about the effect that abolishing the Electoral College would have on national campaigns to remind ourselves why it was invented in the first place. We have seventeen states in play during this election. Without the Electoral College a solid majority in the ten largest states would allow a person to get elected so long as they did not lose by large margins in the other forty states. Not only that but since the concerns of voters break more along regional lines than strictly along state lines the campaigning would actually take place in two or three regions that comprise a solid majority of voters. That is not any better than the current situation. It actually sounds like the situation with the South when Lincoln was elected in 1860. It would mean that we would always know which ten or fifteen states all the campaigning would take place in well ahead of time. If you live in one of those largest of states it makes perfect sense to call for the abolishment of the Electoral College where the politicians will pander to your wishes perpetually.

As for the smaller states being over-represented in the Senate, that fact is balanced by their underrepresentation in the house where agreement of the ten largest states can override the interests of the other forty states and all the other representatives in the House. These “smaller” states tend to be among the largest states with regard to land and resources for the nation. In these under-populated states the federal government often controls huge amounts of the land which means that they must have adequate representation lest their rights be trampled by states with higher populations and far different concerns.

It is presumptuous to say “it’s a ridiculous setup” without allowing the system to function as it was designed – which it does not do currently. We must eliminate block voting by all the states which, unlike the Electoral College, is not established by the US Constitution if we are to see how the Electoral College was meant to work. Until we have tried the more representative version of the Electoral College that the founding fathers envisioned we cannot accurately say that it is fundamentally flawed.

It would probably be useful for me to note here that Maine and Nebraska do not practice block voting. In Colorado the Democrats are trying to put a referrendum on the November ballot to stop block voting there as well. I know that in these states the votes corresponding to their representatives are divided proportional to the vote and the votes corresponding to their senators are blocked for whoever carries the state. That is one example of how to not vote as a block. I am sure that there are more options than how these two states do it or straight block voting.

It is possible that we could still find that the Electoral College does not work and that we need to change the system but we should try to fix the problem without altering the constitution before we jump into yet another ill-conceived constitutional amendment debate.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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  1. Pingback: David Miller » Blog Archive » Cracking the Blocks

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