Schwarzenegger Gets Chance to Terminate the Electoral College

A proposal is being considered in California and other states to end the system in which a President is elected based upon the number of electoral votes won as opposed to the popular vote. This may very well be a worthy goal, but the means raises concerns. The scheme would have a number of states agree to award their electoral votes to the candidate which wins the popular vote nationally, regardless of who wins their state. If enough larger states do this, the electoral college will be thrown to who ever wins the popular vote regardless of whether the entire country approves the change.

There are many valid reasons to support a popularly elected President as opposed to the electoral college. Candidates might compete for votes everywhere rather than a handful of swing states (or perhaps it would be worse if they stuck to the most densely populated areas). It isn’t worth debating this based upon who you desire to win as the results are unpredictable. I recall in 2000 people were discussing the possibility of George Bush winning the popular vote but losing the electoral college since he might win by a larger margin in the southern states than Gore would win in the northern states. Instead the opposite happened. In future elections Republicans might have an advantage due to the higher winning percentage for Republicans in the south, but in the long run this might help the Democrats as Howard Dean’s fifty state strategy would make even more sense if Democrats would benefit by increasing their percentage by five or ten percent regardless of whether they actually won a majority in southern states.

While the goal is admirable, I am disturbed by the means. We are already faced with a problem where a large percentage of the voters do not accept the results of elections, which is a very serious problem if we are to maintain a democracy. While Democrats have been complaining the loudest lately, the Washington Senate election last year showed that Republicans would do the same if they lot by a narrow margin. Justified distrust after the 2000 election leads many Democrats to accept even the weakest arguments for a stolen election in 2004, while Republicans ignore the actual acts of voter suppression which did occur. Each side looks at the convictions for voter fraud from the other party and sees a one-sided conspiracy from the other party. Election reform to be successful must be a bipartisan effort coming from honorable people of each party who support fair election as an end it itself. Instead we have a situation where each party sees the other side’s complaints as an attempt to tamper with the results or deny the other party their victory.

With distrust at such a great level already, we cannot afford to create even more controversy over the results. If this system passes in enough states, the first time it results in a different winner than under the current system this will be yet one more reason people will not accept the results. We must have nation wide and bipartisan agreement as to the rules, and the rules must be in accordance with the Constitution so nobody can question their legitimacy. It would be much safer if any change in how elections are decided was accomplished by a mechanism accepted by all as legitimate, such as a Constitutional amendment.

Other blogs discussing this (left and right): Althouse, Daily Pundit, and Blue Crab Boulevard.

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