What’s Wrong With America: The Electoral College

Hanging chadAs of this writing, the most likely scenario is that Obama will be reelected, but Romney will win the popular vote. Now, you might think this would make me happy as I stated early I’d be voting for Obama. It doesn’t.

As in 2000, this situation would be wholly repugnant to me. Why? Because the Electoral College serves no useful purpose. Why go through the entire process of a popular vote only to have to add a step that, if the election is close enough, might reverse the popular vote.

Part of the issue is the way in which electoral votes are generated. Basically, when you vote for a candidate, you actually vote for a slate of electors who then commit to voting for the president and vice president when the electoral vote is taken about a month after the election. In most, but not all, states, the winner of the popular vote wins all electoral votes that state has to offer. And as we wind down our election season, you’ll notice I live in the state that quite likely will decide who will be president on January 20, 2013. You’re welcome.

But it should not be that way anymore than New Hampshire and Iowa should hold that much sway over who becomes the nominee for each major party. If I’m voting for president, I want to vote for the candidate, not some guy who commits to voting for the candidate.

There are those who point out  that the Electoral College is not bound to the popular vote. Technically, that’s true. There have been so-called “faithless” electors in the past, but they are few and far between, and the consequences to the person who bucks the vote he committed to in order to earn the position are generally severe. The last serious faithless elector was in 1976, when an elector refused to vote for Gerald Ford and voted for Ronald Reagan instead. A more recent example was the guy who voted for the wrong vice president as the president and vice president ballot separately when the electoral vote is taken.

But why even have an electoral college when the net effect is to confirm the popular vote. Some would say it’s the only power remaining to the states. However, the states no longer choose our senators (except upon the death, removal, or resignation of a senator, when governors generally appoint a replacement). We do. The last thing I want is a state making a decision for me when my experience with state governments, specifically Ohio, has been roughly akin to watching monkeys try to learn how to use tools.

But let’s back up a bit here. The whole primary process is a sham, as are the caucuses. Local news anchor Ben Swan ran a series of exposes on the Republican Party’s handling of Ron Paul and the process that named Mitt Romney the standard bearer for the party. If the rules had been properly followed in several states, Mitt would have had to endure several ballots before securing the nomination, something we haven’t seen since the 1970’s. The conventions were intended to choose the party’s nominee, not function as the choreographed pieces of stagecraft they are today.

Instead of the primary system, which is joke anyway, let’s try this: In January of election year, we have a cattle call for candidates. Anyone who wants to be president runs. You vote in that race regardless of party, since parties have nothing to do with the Constitution anyway. There’s nothing that says we can’t have political parties, but there’s also nothing obligating us to preserve them. If the top four candidates garner, say 10% or more of the vote, those four have a run-off in June of election year. Those four, and only those four, can run in this election. If only one candidate gets that much of the vote – Let’s say he or she gets 95% of the vote (100% or even 99% is so statiscally unlikely, we should not even consider it) – then the closest runner-up is the only one that survives. There is no June run-off. We just have the November election. On the first Tuesday of the first full week in November, we pick either from those two or the two top vote getters of the June run-off.

Think about that. We could have two black candidates, two female candidates, two Republicans, two Democrats, or even two non-major party candidates. It happens in mayoral elections all the time. My favorite example is when Cleveland City Council President George Forbes, a black man and a Democrat, ran against State Senator Mike White, also a black man and a Democrat. All of the sudden, race and party were stripped from the election. White won and was mayor for three terms, but Forbes could just as easily done the same.

The point is the Electoral College serves no real purpose anymore other than to send a bunch of campaign workers banging on my door to try and elect a guy to vote for president on my behalf. As often as not, that person will vote for someone I did not. All perfectly legal.

But not right at all.