Sunday, April 6, 2008

Electoral College

Within the last month, an article was written for the Lincoln County Journal that proposed abolishing the Electoral College. Remembering back to high school and American Civ., I found that frankly I knew little about the Electoral College. So I decided to do some research, and I have found it and its history to be a little more complex than I first imagined.

It seems that our Founding Father’s original intent was to allow only the most respected and intelligent voters to cast a vote in behalf of their states for the President-Elect. This was to avoid "cabal (intrigue and conspiracy) and influence from abroad." They believed that the masses were too easily swayed and manipulated. They wanted those who were honorable patriots to take the time and really study the issues, study the candidates, and then very carefully cast a vote for that person who would best honor the intent of the constitution. Their concern was not for who was going to build the best social program, but for who was least likely to usurp unconstitutional power. Sounds right to me. It’s so easy as a go-to-work-everday citizen to be swayed by the hype: the slogans, the rhetoric, the personalities. At the end of the day for the average citizen, this is the best that they can do, or will do. Frankly, it takes a long time and a lot of hard thinking to dig deep into the issues, to see the patterns and possibilites, and to understand the candidates true intents.

Personally, I think the original Electoral College arguments of the Founding Fathers have great merit. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to be what the present day system is about. The states now require their electors to vote the popular vote, hence the whole "wisdom factor" is negated. Every state but two is winner take all. Thus, in Idaho, it is most likely Democrats who object to the Electoral College. ( Being a minority conservative in this district and having three Democrats represent me at the State Capitol, I can understand their sentiments.)

In my research, I found the arguments "for and against" the present day system to be complex and debatable. The detailed argument is probably way more reading than you want to do currently, so I am just including the summary of each. (These are the bulleted points from Wikipedia.) The arguments "For" include: requires widespread popular support, maintains the federal character (state rights and individuality honored,) enhances minority groups, encourages stability through the two-party system, isolates election problems to the state (remember Florida in 2000?,) neutralizes turn-out disparities (if one state has a hot gubernatorial race, that state doesn’t necessarily get a larger say in the Presidential race,) and maintains separation of powers (the people can’t just vote for who offers to give them the largest check.) The arguments "Against" include: unequal weight of voters (people in littler states actually get more say,) winning the popular vote and losing the college (again 2000,) focuses the campaign in swing states, and disadvantage for third parties.

After all the arguments "for and against" there are also compromises and new plans with new rules to try to negate the disparities. It’s all a lot to consider and study. Like Bastiet: What is Seen and Not Seen is not always so easy to discern. Until I have more due diligence in the subject, I will continue to trust in the wisdom of the well-educated and thoughtful Founders. They did an amazing job putting this country together. Despite the problems and the quarrels that we citizens have with one another, the framework they created provides us with unprecedented homeland peace and prosperity. We should be very hesitant to rush into change where the outcome is ambiguous. When the French uneducated masses tried to create the same; well, you know the story.