My Election Day Plea

Today is Tuesday November 2, abortion 2004; Election Day in the United States of America. I don’t suppose that you need to be reminded of the importance of voting, check so instead, I want to tell you about why I support the Electoral College.

In a nutshell, the USA doesn’t have a direct election. We vote, and then representatives for our state (called electorates) will cast their ballots based on the popular vote for our state. (There isn’t a law in Utah that says electorates have to vote according to the popular vote, but that is another issue for another day.) In most states (48 of them) the presidential candidate that wins the popular vote for that state gets all the state’s electorate votes.

Critics of the Electoral College believe that we should elect our president directly; the winner of the popular vote nationwide would win the election. They also say that the problem with the Electoral College is that in heavily Republican states (like Utah) a vote for the Democratic nominee is a “wasted” vote. The same, they say, is true in heavily Democratic states (like California) where a vote for the Republican nominee is a so-called “wasted” vote. Critics claim this leads to voter apathy for one major reason: people don’t vote because they don’t believe their vote can make a difference. Why vote in California, they ask, when you know that all California’s votes will go to the Democratic nominee? If you are a Democrat, you would just be adding your vote to the millions already supporting the Democratic nominee. If you are a Republican, your vote is “wasted” because it doesn’t “count.” Besides all of that, they say, a President could get elected without winning the popular vote (i.e. in 2000, Al Gore had more people vote for him, but George W. Bush became president because he got more electoral votes).

The above-mentioned arguments seem persuasive; you might be led to believe that a reform is necessary. The problems listed above are real, and I believe that there are ways to address them, but I believe they should be addressed within the scope of the current electoral system.

Here are two good reasons why the Electoral College is a good thing for our country. First, the Electoral College gives smaller states a voice. Without the Electoral College, candidates would only be required to win a simple majority of votes. Our most populated states would then have more of a voice than our less-populated states. A candidate could win all the votes in the five most populous states (California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois) and win the election without receiving one vote in any other state. The Electoral College requires that candidates win a majority in the majority of states. Candidates can’t pander to the special interests of five states and ignore the other forty-five. Candidates must appeal to a broad range of citizens, and win a majority of votes in a majority of states.

The second reason why the Electoral College is good for our country is that it brings balance. Because they have to appeal to a broad range of Americans, candidates tend to drift towards the middle of the political ideological spectrum. The party platforms of the two major political parties in the United States are quite similar to each other, which is due, in part, to the effect of the Electoral College. Without the Electoral College, candidates from a number of smaller parties with special interest focuses and extremist ideologies could band together and cause radical shifts from administration to administration. However, the Electoral College mutes these radical groups and ideas, and brings the parties as a whole closer to the political center. This provides greater stability in the country from one administration to another.

Are there problems with the Electoral system? Yes, I believe so. Are the concerns noted above valid? Yes. Can they be addressed? Yes.

What if the rest of America adopted Maine and Nebraska’s plan? Maine and Nebrasks allocate their electoral votes based on the representative districts in the state, with the popular vote winner taking the extra two votes. Take Utah for example. Utah has five electoral votes (three house districts, plus two senate seats). If Utah’s second district (which has elected a democratic representative, Jim Matheson, for three terms running) had more votes for the Democratic nominee, but the 1st and 3rd districts had more votes for the Republican nominee, Utah’s electoral votes would go 4 to the Republican nominee (one for each of the house districts, plus two for winning Utah’s popular vote) and 1 to the Democratic nominee (for winning the house district).

I see three benefits for this plan: First, a candidate still has to win a majority in the majority of house districts in order to win the presidency. Second, more states become “swing states”, because winning every last house district would matter. Third, this plan would be enacted by the states, and wouldn’t require an amendment to the US Constitution.

I believe that the Electoral College is good for America. If a change in our election process is necessary, it is a change that should be enacted by the states, and should be modeled after the plans used by Maine and Nebraska. Our Founding Fathers showed great foresight when they planned the Electoral College. Let’s not throw that away flippantly–just because we don’t like one of the guys currently running for office.

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