Brunswick Post (NJ)
electoral college is doing harm to our democracy
time the Electoral College was put permanently out of session.
Electoral College system is absurd on its face and undemocratic in
its application, with potentially disastrous consequences for the
country, as the 2000 election proved. That's when Al Gore bested
George W. Bush in the popular vote, but was denied the White House
thanks to a contested vote in Florida, a U.S. Supreme Court decision
and the arcane math of the Electoral College.
The fallout from the 2000 vote could be seen in the poisoned
politics of the last four years, capped by this ugly presidential
election campaign in which much of the attention was focused on a
handful of contested states and the distinct possibility — as many
of the national polls indicate — that we could face a rerun five
days from now.
even if things go off without a hitch, there remain significant
flaws in the Electoral College system that must be addressed, like
the disproportionate way in which electorate votes are distributed.
do the math. Small population states like Delaware and Wyoming have
a disproportionate number of votes in the Electoral College because
electoral votes are apportioned based on the number of senators and
congressmen each state has. So, while Wyoming, with a population of
500,000 residents, has three electoral votes, New Jersey's 8.6
million residents have 15 electoral votes.
about one electoral vote per 167,000 Wyoming residents and one per
575,000 New Jersey residents. So much for "one man, one
issue is compounded by the winner-take-all approach used by 48
states. Nebraska and Maine each give two votes to the state winner,
with the rest to the winner of each congressional district. Under
this approach, each of Florida's 25 electoral votes went to George
W. Bush in 2000 (the state has 27 this year), even though then-Gov.
Bush and Vice President Gore had virtually the same number of votes.
That meant that more than 2.9 million Florida voters were
essentially disenfranchised by the use of the Electoral College,
their votes rendered meaningless because of an antiquated system put
in place by the Founding Fathers to address states' rights concerns
and to control class conflict.
same kind of disenfranchisement occurred across the country and
across the political spectrum. Here in New Jersey, which voted
Democratic in 1992, 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, 1.25
million New Jersey residents voted for George W. Bush in 2000, or 41
percent of the electorate, but not one of the state's 15 electoral
votes went to the Republican.
only does the Electoral College violate the notion of "one man,
one vote," it creates a situation in which the candidates
target their messages to small slices of the electorate. The
candidates made more stops in Ohio in one week in September than
they did in New Jersey, considered a safe Democratic state, in a
several-month period. And while the candidates were expected to
spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million on television
advertising, they avoided the airwaves in New York, stations that
serve not only the Empire State, but New Jersey and Connecticut as
well. Perhaps we should view that as positive — we were spared the
barrage of ads — but it's likely to translate into a lack of
interest in the election and could have ramifications for candidates
running for Congress or even the Township Council.
perverse incentives created by this method are painfully obvious
from this year's campaign — most states already are effectively
ignored by the candidates and groups seeking to mobilize voters
because in a competitive national race most states are dominated by
one party or the other," wrote Rob Richie and Steven Hill of
the Center for Voting and Democracy in a June opinion piece on the
Common Dreams News Center (www.commondreams.org).
what to do? There are a number of options, ranging from the complete
abolition of the Electoral College, to the rewarding electoral votes
based on Congressional district, to using a proportional allotment
(the two candidates would have split the electoral vote in Florida
in 2000, while Gov. Bush would have garnered about six of New
Jersey's electoral votes).
shift from the current Electoral College system should be
accompanied by other reforms — full public funding of campaigns,
instant runoff voting, etc. — that could inject new life into our
democracy and give the people a real voice in their government.
one thing is clear. The Electoral College has outlived its
usefulness and we need to move on without it.