The real forgotten men


Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…"– Article. II, Section. 1, Clause Two of the United States Constitution.

The framers of the Constitution gave the power of selecting presidential electors to the state legislatures. Through time, the state legislatures slowly decided that the selection process involves the voters and the current elector selection process emerged from within the framework of that founding document.

I first hoped I would not beat the dead horse, but you know what? Forget it. Give me a crowbar and a horse carcass.

The winner-take all system currently practiced by 48 states, the method used in Nebraska and Maine, and the processes outlined in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact are all implementations of the Electoral College. Each does not represent, or misrepresent, the intentions of the framers more than any of the other two.

In addition, all three are derived from a voting population. If one believes that electors should not be selected by voters, they are entitled to that opinion because the Constitution provides that framework. If state decides, by its laws, to just have the state legislature select a slate of electors without the direct consent of its constituencies, it would be consistent to the Founding Father's intentions as well.

However, the rebuttal against my piece supporting Interstate Compact both warned against the dangers of populism yet endorsed Nebraska's method of elector selection, which is still derived from how people vote nonetheless.

The rebuttal also misrepresents Nebraska's algorithm as proportional. Instead its process is winner-take-elector each congressional district, with the statewide winner taking the remaining two electoral votes. If it was proportional, President-elect Barack Obama would be receiving two of the state's five electoral votes rather than one this year. Just sayin'.

When Republicans in the California legislature attempted to implement a similar plan for the states' 55 electoral vote, conventional wisdom saw it as a thinly-veiled attempt to give a the G.O.P. approximately 20 electoral votes in a single state, chopped up by gerrymandering, in guise of populism. When the Colorado still trended Republican in 2004, the Democrats tried to pull a similar scheme. The people rightfully voted against the referendum. In addition to being dishonest, on a pragmatic level, it puts less electoral votes at stake, making the entire state less relevant for presidential candidates.

The only way to ensure there is no partisan ulterior motive is to have a reform's rules "go into effect" simultaneously across the nation, and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is the only substantial proposal that includes such a provision.

The idea that the 2000 Florida recount drama did not highlight a fault in the winner-take-all system is untrue. Clearly, the eventual winning ticket did not receive the reported popular vote, which certainly put an asterisk on the then-president-elect's legitimacy. It is entirely possible that the winner of the reported electoral votes, President George W. Bush, could have won a plurality of the national vote as well had the rules permitted both him and his opponent to seek undecided voters around the country rather than constraining their campaign efforts to a handful of "toss up" states. Unfortunately for both him and the republic, history will never know.

The winner-take-all system has exaggerated perceptions of cultural and political divides within the nation, rather than deter sectionalism. Remember all the talk about the red states and blue states? The prevalence of CNN's bipolar map? The Internet's Jesusland map? Not counting the District of Columbia, no single candidate received more than 75 percent of the vote in an individual state in at least the past three presidential elections.

The idea that a popular election for the president would effectively be decided by California, New York and Texas is untrue. A popular vote instituted by state legislatures would make those same states' borders irrelevant. Comparing a popular election of the president to having Texas select every other state's governor is just, for lack of a better word, idiotic.

A popular winner in a competitive democracy for an office with term limits will certainly not seed the tyrannical majority that some would scare you into believing. And if it will, how do we not know we are not already living in the tyranny of the minority – a president effectively selected by a handful of undecided voters and faulty voting machines in Ohio?

It cannot be emphasized enough: There is a difference between the Electoral College and the statewide winner-take-all system that most Americans would want to do away with. I may not have convinced the rebuttal's author of the benefits of the popular vote compact, but I encourage anyone else reading this to look up the details for themselves.


Roger Sheng

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Targum.