Posted on: Tuesday, January 2, 2001
Electoral College, for all its flaws, still works
About the only universally positive thing to come out of this falls presidential election was the education of the American public on how such matters really work.
They learned that voting is far from the mathematically sure thing they thought it was. At best, it is an approximation of the public will, as measured by a system ripe with mechanical and human error.
And they learned about the Electoral College and how it fits into the great national process.
It came as a shock to some that George Bush could lose the popular vote but win the presidency, because he won 20 of the 29 smallest states that are demographically overrepresented in the Electoral College. Each state gets Electoral College votes equal to the number of senators and representatives they have in Congress.
Thus Hawaii has the same two "senatorial" votes as big states like California or Texas.
There are cries for reform of the Electoral College system in the wake of the election. But from the perspective of a small state such as Hawaii, the present system looks good.
If change is necessary, there might be some logic in copying Maine and Nebraska, which give the popular vote winner in a state two electoral votes (the Senate votes) and then mete out the rest congressional district by congressional district.
This could lead to broader campaigning by the candidates, as they might see value in visiting one or two districts in a state even though they know their opponent will likely win the overall popular vote.
There is one change that makes sense and seems to have no downside. Today, party loyalists are named to act as "electors." Generally, they follow their instructions and vote for their own partys candidate.
But they dont have to. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires an elector to vote for the candidate of his party.
Its a nice honor, but it is subject to mischief. So, keep the Electoral College, but get rid of the electors.
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