The Electoral College Must Go


      It's been two weeks or more since the 2000 election was supposed to be over and decided (in fact, it's 11/27/00).  Instead, the whole contest has come down to who can prevail in courts at various state and federal levels up to and including the United States Supreme Court.  To ask "Is this any way to run a country?" has been reduced to the level of rhetoric and irony. 

      No matter who wins, of course, the winner will find themselves most likely unable to do much of any actual governing for the first two years because, with Gore winning the popular vote but Bush most likely winning the electoral vote, neither will be taken seriously by the opposing party nor will there be even a suspicion of a mandate for the winner's policies.

      What can America do to improve our electoral process in order to keep this sort of farce from ever soiling our nation's history again?  Well, short of allowing the United Nations to send the same observers to our polling places and counting halls as we have so often done to other nations, there are a few very substantial options.

      First, and most obviously, we can turn our attention to what should have been the original choice of the Founding Fathers.  For whatever historical reasons, the idea of a pure version of "One Man - One Vote" (my apologizes to all pronoun purists) was not considered an acceptable alternative to the Electoral College in presidential elections.  It could be time to correct that oversight. 

      The one beneficial justification that I have heard repeated over and over to defend the Electoral College has been that, somehow, this protects the smaller states from being ignored during the campaign in favor of larger states with more voters.  As a participant in every election over the past thirty-odd years, I have yet to see this proven true.  While Wyoming may have a greater voter to electoral vote ratio than, say, California, the candidates have seldom spent their valuable time or energy or money wooing Wyoming folks rather than those California votes.

      I really can't see the difference between the attentions that candidates would give smaller states in the current system as opposed to the attention that these states would receive under a popular vote system.  It would remain to the advantage of each candidate to focus on states with the highest number of voters.  That won't change. 

      Of course, a candidate could run a campaign, which focused nearly exclusively on those smaller states, hoping to add some small percentage of the total votes of the rest to squeeze out a victory.  Whether or not such a strategy would succeed could only be judged in retrospect, I reckon.

      Another alternative would be what has been described as Instant Runoff Voting.  With this type of approach, each ballot would retain the current list of candidates but, instead of casting your ballot for only one, you vote for each according to a very simple procedure.

      Say that you, like me, believed that the best and most honest candidate on the ballot was Ralph Nader.  Imagine, as well, that you were one of the millions of Nader supporters who so feared a Bush Administration that you held your nose and cast your vote for Al Gore as the slightly lesser of the two very great evils.  You did this, of course, knowing that America would remain in the dirty grasp of Corporate America and that little would change for the better even with Gore.  In other words, you were forced to vote your fears and to deny your hopes.

      Under a system of Instant Runoff Voting, you would literally vote for every single candidate on the ballot.  Assuming that you were still convinced that Ralph Nader was the very best candidate, yet still feared the return to the Dark Ages that Bush would (will) bring, you would now have a choice in how to express that belief. 

      Imagine, now, that if there were the following six candidates, you would punch out the #1 chad for Nader, the #2 chad for Gore, the #3 chad for Hitler, the #4 chad for Jeffery Dahmer, the #5 chad for the child molester down the street and the #6 chad for Bush.

      Okay, now imagine that the child molester down the street actually got fewer votes than Bush.  As impossible as that might appear to a rational mind, the result would be that all of the ballots that had listed our molester as their first choice would be checked and all of them that listed Bush as their second choice would be added to Bush's total, those that had Dahmer as their second option would be added to his total and so on until all of the molester's ballots were winnowed out.  These ballots for the molester would then be put aside.

      Now let's imagine that that fewer people chose Jeffery Dahmer than chose Bush (remember, we're just pretending) and Jeff had thus attained the fewest votes in this round of counting.  Again, all of the Dahmer ballots that had Bush as their second choice would be added to Bush's total, those that had Hitler as the second choice would be added to Adolph's and so on.

      Okay, let's skip ahead to the point where Nader now has the most votes in total, Bush has somehow stolen enough to be in next and Gore trails by just few votes.  At this point, all of Gore's votes are divided by the same procedure between Nader and Bush, leaving Nader with a nearly seven to one advantage.

      America has now had the opportunity to vote for exactly whom they supported in the order in which they felt that support.  After just one pass of the ballots through the counting machines and an ultra secure computer's counting off the losers one by one and adding the choices of each voter to the next selection on their ballot, the very best candidate will triumph (assuming of course that the winning candidate is Nader, otherwise it would be the second best choice).

      This system could be a bit more complicated than I've expressed here but the point is the same.  Under Instant Runoff Voting, no one would have to swallow the bile that voting for an evil over a greater evil produces.  All of us would then be able to always vote our hopes and our dreams first, leaving behind the odors that this election left behind.

      There may be other systems that America could use in order to elect our leaders, such as iron man competitions or knife fights or dodge ball games or multiple choice exams or the like, but I think that the winners of these contests might not be our most appropriate options.  Therefore, at least in my not so humble opinion, America might want to begin investigating the idea of Instant Runoff Voting and make the momentous decision as to whether or not we, as a people, feel strongly enough that the current farce and abomination should ever recur and, if we do not wish to witness this silliness ever again, that we will alter our Constitution and its directions on conducting presidential elections.  Personally, I am far past the point of it all being too silly for words and fully ready for change.

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Copyright 11/28/00