Democrat Nelson Wants to End the Electoral College

It must be an election year…Democratic Senator Bill Nelson has proposed an amendment to do away with the Electoral College. He argues (PDF) that the Electoral College “permits a candidate with fewer votes nationally to win the presidency by capturing narrow victories in big states.”

Huh. It’s almost as if it had been designed that way

The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

The effect of moving to a popular vote system would be to shift the attention of candidates from swing states to the largest media markets. Which is hardly an improvement over “narrow victories in big states.” Rural voters and low-population states would be even more neglected than they are under the Electoral College.

More than that, one of the hallmarks of American federalism would be discarded. The Electoral College is one of the few institutional barriers keeping the crowded states from imposing their candidates and policies on everyone else. I suppose if you’re in the majority party living in a crowded area, you’d be happy to be catered to by candidates and parties to the exclusion of low-population states. But that leaves a lot of people out in the cold.

Obviously this idea isn’t just coming out of the blue (so to speak). At the moment there’s no chance that a popular vote amendment would pass and be ratified. I wonder if that will change if Obama absolutely crushes McCain in the popular vote, but still loses because he can’t carry Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. There were rumbles about the Electoral College after 2000, but even Democrats stood down on the idea after Gore turned out to be such a comical figure post-election. Will they be so ready to let go if Obama loses?


~ by Gabriel Malor on June 7, 2008.

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