Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Electoral College Change Would Be Unlikely, but Nice

Amen to the New York Times editorial page today for its whole-hearted endorsement of an effort get rid of the Electoral College. I read something about this a few weeks ago and was intrigued. It's unfortunate that everyone with any power over this (beside the people, that is) is likely to be whole-heartedly against it.

The idea behind the latest push is to skip amending the Constitution (past efforts to get rid of the Electoral College have failed to jump the mountainous hurdles that stand in the way of any amendment process) and go directly to state legislatures to make changes that would make the supremely unfair and antiquated Electoral College irrelevant. Basically, states would commit to throwing all of their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote, making the Electoral College what it should be -- purely symbolic.

Of course, making presidential elections national affairs (as opposed to really big deals in 13 of the country's 50 states) would hugely complicate the jobs of candidates and political parties, so you can bet they'll be quietly trying to stymie any effort to bring this to more than a hand-full of states. Let's just hope state legislatures in enough solid red and blue states will have enough of a backbone to pull the trigger on this, because it could create a beautiful era of political involvement in this country.

Imagine this: People in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are whipped into a frenzy over a presidential election in the future. Not only will everyone's vote count, giving people more incentive to pay attention to the campaign, but people won't have to travel thousands of miles to make their door-knocking efforts mean something. Communities everywhere -- not just in the Midwest -- will have neighbors talking to each other and trying to convince those deciding votes to check the right box. People from all social strata -- not just the young or financially comfortable -- will get an opportunity to engage in grassroots political efforts.

If the effort were successful, parties and candidates would no doubt be concerned about getting enough volunteers to make personal connections with millions more voters, but I think they'd be surprised at the number of people who are willing to work hard but haven't been able to because of the electoral map. People in the country's small states would certainly be concerned that they'd be ignored in favor of the country's urban centers, but again I think they'd be surprised. Much like the way candidates don't ignore rural areas in big states with large cities like Ohio and Pennsylvania, candidates would absolutely understand the importance of swinging rural voters in the heartland.

Regardless of anyone's concerns, people in the non-battleground states -- red and blue -- should be clamoring for this change, and I hope state legislatures controlled by both sides of the aisle will step up to the plate on this effort. It's time for our quadrennial political showdown to stop excluding 74 percent of the country.


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