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Erecting A Functional US Presidential Election System
Written by  // Thursday, 19 May 2011 09:51 //

Jim BrownThe jockeying for the 2012 republican presidential nomination is rapidly picking up speed with candidates coming and going almost daily.  Arkansas’s former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, both the leaders in most recent polls, are out of the race. New Jersey Gov, Chris Christy is reconsidering his earlier demurrer. In Louisiana, we have former Gov. Buddy Roemer playing Don Quixote, while current Gov. Bobby Jindal, who protests that he is not in the running, secretly struggles with the role of Hamlet.  Since some 45 percent of voters now say they’re dissatisfied with the GOP candidates who have declared, look for more new republican faces to appear in the weeks to come.

This is certainly one of the most important elections in modern history.  But if you live in strong red states or blue states, your vote is looked upon as irrelevant to the process.  Your say on who will win American Idol has more influence than who will be the next president of the United States.

The South as a whole has been written off as one big “red state,” which means, for all practical purposes, the vote of a citizen there does not count.  The same can be said of the majority of states in the U.S. You might as well write in “none of the above” or leave a hanging chad.  Why?  Look no further than the Electoral College.  We are  about to elect our country’s and the world’s most powerful leader, but the system we have in place causes us to abdicate our right to have our vote count.

The next president will more than likely be decided in just a hand full of states.  As the Wall Street Journal said recently: “Most states (in the coming presidential election) are not in play.  Mr. Obama will not win Utah and Wyoming, and the republican nominee will not carry the District of Columbia or Rhode Island.  But right now, 14 states (with 172 electoral votes) are up for grabs.”

Under the present system, the Electoral College rules require that all the state’s electoral votes go to the winner, no matter how close the election might have been.  If, for example, Obama gets 45% of the votes in my home state of Louisiana, he still gets 0% of the Louisiana electoral votes.  If the republican nominee ends up winning by one vote in Louisiana, he receives all of Louisiana’s electoral votes.  In fact, it is mathematically possible for one of the candidates to get 49% of the popular vote and 100% of electoral votes.  Go figure.

As next year’s election date nears, only these few battleground states will be receiving the focus and the money from the presidential candidates. In a state like Texas, where the republican nominee will easily win, or a state like New York, where President Obama is a cinch, why even vote for president?  All of the electoral delegates get assigned to the winner, and we know who the winner is going to be, so for all practical purposes, your vote for president has been taken away.

When it comes to other statewide races on the ballot, like Governor or U.S. Senator, we use the popular vote, which is what you would expect in a democracy.

So why, in the presidential election do we have an electoral system that allows voters in the majority of the states to be disenfranchised?  It’s an idiosyncratic system that on four occasions in our nation’s history created a quagmire, wherein the presidential candidate with the largest number of popular votes did not win the largest number of electoral votes, and therefore did not become president.  Remember a guy named Al Gore?

The system in place was confected in the early days of the republic by our founders, where electors were supposed to be independent agents exercising their best judgment in choosing a presidential candidate from a list of several contenders. Why?  Because the Framers of the Constitution, our Founding Fathers, the champions of democracy, did not trust the voters to make an intelligent choice.  Check out these quotes from the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

“The extent of the country renders a popular vote impossible, that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates.” Delegate George Mason, July 17, 1787.

“A popular election in this case is radically vicious. The ignorance of the people would put it in the power of some one set of men and throughout the Union, and acting in concert, to delude them into any appointment.” Delegate Elbridge Gerry.  July 25, 1787.

“The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men.” Delegate Samuel Johnson, July 19, 1787.

So what this all comes down to is that the Founding Fathers were trying their best to insulate the selection of the president from the “whims” of the public.  They didn’t trust voters, then, and the system does not trust you now to make your choice. So because of conservative political persuasions, a large majority of states are left out of any serious attention from the presidential candidates.

Once they receive their respective nominations, it’s highly unlikely that either the Republican nominee or President Obama will set foot in a state like Louisiana.  Neither candidate will feel any pressure to say a word about hurricane recovery, wetlands protection, or supporting a larger percentage of oil and gas revenues for the state off the Louisiana coast.  From the perspective of both major party candidates, issues in red and blue states will be irrelevant in their coming campaigns.  There is simply no political capital to gain by visiting these states, or speaking about their state and regional issues.

By being so out of the mix, just what else is Louisiana missing? No knocks on the door by college students from out of state with leaflets about how inept and divisive the Republican nominee is?  No robo-calls in the middle of dinner telling us what a mess Obama has made of the economy?  And no presidential TV ads.   In politically irrelevant states like Louisiana, voters are left out of the national political bombardment that is taking place in the likes of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, where those voters are taught that the republican nominee is a Bush clone and that Obama will continue to socialize the country.  Besides those political commercials paid for by state and local candidates, all we will get are ads about bladder control and erectile dysfunction.

There are a number of reforms being considered for future elections.  A proportional electoral vote by congressional districts is as compromise solution that makes sense.  In the meantime, don’t forget to go vote for a number of candidates and propositions on the ballot when the national election rolls around next year. Your vote might make the difference in many of these local and state races. But in this election, depending on where you live, your vote for president really could be irrelevant.

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“We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – the American Electoral College system sucks.

The Daily Iowan

The Daily Iowan. Editorial/Opinion. “Long past time to fix Electoral College.”

Peace and Justice

 

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis

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