Saturday, September 02, 2006

More on the Electoral College

Keryn wrote recently about the Electoral College. She read me another piece that is also worth linking to on the subject. This was was from Pete du Pont on Opinion Journal.

Du Pont points out that direct election of presidents would probably lead to candidates focusing only on large cities and the issues important to city dwellers. This would strike at the heart of the compromise forged by the Founders that led to the bicameral legislature. Small states and large states get equal representation in the Senate while representation in the house is aportioned by population.

The other convincing argument from du Pont's piece was the probability of weaker presidents elected by a smaller percentage of the population. Without an electoral college with a winner-take-all system, you'd have more candidates running for a slice of the pie. There is no such thing as a run-off election (which would require a change in the constitution), so a candidate could become president by only winning 15% of the vote in a crowded field of hopefuls. Such a president would lack a mandate that comes from majority votes.

(Incidentally, I tend to favor a proportional allocation of electors as mentioned by gsbbyu in this comment.)

Reach Upward said it well in his recent comment, "Our Founders constantly turn out to have done a pretty fine job." Amen.


Scott Hinrichs said...

Since all of the county-by-county red-blue maps of the '04 elections show that most urban areas trend liberal while less urban areas trend conservative, the plan to eliminate the Electoral College would overrepresent liberals while underrepresenting conservatives. But good government requires that the system be as fair as possible. Smart guys, those founders.

Anonymous said...

Um, I don't think the Founders had liberals and conservatives in mind when they cobbled together the compromise that gave us the electoral college (which was largely meant to punt on the problem of how to elect the president, while ensuring that slave states ratified the constitution).

It's unimaginable that today we have a presidential election in which not every vote is equal. Why is no one suggesting we use an Electoral College system to elect the governor of NY? After all, you'd want to balance out the "city dwellers", right? The reason is that such a suggestion would be preposterous.

The president should be elected the same way we fill every office in the United States: By popular vote, and via a process in which every vote is equal.

Remember, half of the framers owned slaves. That wasn't so smart (in our view), and neither were their hideous compromise(s) in the Constitution -- like the Electoral College -- meant to preserve it.

Bradley Ross said...

Anonymous, I understand the point you are making. It is a very intuitive point that is pretty persuasive. But I'm even more impressed recently by the advantages that we get from using the electoral college system. Consider the recent election in Mexico. Because the vote counts were so close, every single vote in the country is questionable. The electoral college limits vote recounts to single states rather than making them a country-wide affair. That was one of the big points from the article Keryn linked earlier on the electoral college.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Actually, the Founders were concerned about conservative and liberal viewpoints when they cobbled together the compromise. Go back and read the debates on the issue. They didn't use the labels we use today, but they were talking about the same thing.

Slavery is a black mark on our nation that we cannot simply sweep under the rug, but the Union would not have happened at all had northern representatives insisted on immediately ending the vile practice. It is also myopic to think that *every* law we live with today that came about partially to appease slave owners is inherently bad because of its origins. Each such law needs to be considered in light of how it functions within our society today.

By that standard, the Electoral College has proven to be a stable standard that tends toward good government. It is the last vestige of national recognition of the value of the state as an important governmental entity.