Letter: Don't scapegoat the Electoral College

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Edgar Allen Beem argued for eliminating the Electoral College because “it takes the election out of the hands of the American people and gives it to the states.”

The Federalist Papers state the purpose of the Electoral College, part of the original compromise between the large and small states, “is to offer as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. … The intermediate body of electors whose temporary and sole purpose is making the appointment… (with) the promise of an effective security against mischief.”

The Electoral College effectively acts as a buffer against individuals, in a state or group of states, inflating the vote margin in their states(s) to capture the presidency for their favored candidate. No matter how large the margin created, their efforts only impact their state(s). I favor retention of the Electoral College as a protective buffer.

As Beem contends, the Electoral College inflates slightly the power of the individual’s vote in states with small populations, but the impact is not so great as to warrant doing away with this protective buffer.

The other points raised in Beems’s column – restoring the Fairness Doctrine, overturning Citizens United, restricting voter suppression activities in those states where the poor, elderly, and minorities are confronted by restrictions designed to reduce their ability to vote – are valid complaints.

Stan Baron
Portland

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  • EdBeem

    Thank you for the thoughtful response. I guess my argument would be that the Electoral College has now failed twice to deliver us from the tumult of an unqualified president two the majority of Americans did not want. It has outlived its usefulness.

    • Chew H Bird

      Do you feel the same about John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison (who all lost the popular vote)?

      • EdBeem

        Yes.

  • FreelancePhilosopher

    I think the Electoral College does still have a place in our process, but more states need to follow the example of Maine and Nebraska, and allow their electors to better represent the entire population while still providing the protections intended by the framers.

    As for the Fairness Doctrine… to be blunt, what’s the average age of a cable news viewer, 68? This is the era of the Internet, where we all have unprecedented access to knowledge and opinions. Even if it had never been abolished, the Fairness Doctrine would have been obsolete by the end of the 90’s. Better to focus on preserving fairness in internet access than to worry about what percentage of airtime plays your tune.

    • toto

      Maine (since enacting a state law in 1969) and Nebraska (since enacting a state law in 1992) have awarded one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district, and two electoral votes statewide.

      Nebraska in 2008 was the first time any state in the past century gave one electoral vote to the candidate who did not win the state.

      2016 is the first time an electoral vote in Maine was given to the candidate who did not win the state.

      In Maine, where they award electoral votes by congressional district, the closely divided 2nd congressional district received campaign events in 2008 (whereas Maine’s 1st reliably Democratic district was ignored).
      In 2012, the whole state was ignored.
      77% of Maine voters have supported a national popular vote for President
      In 2008, the Maine Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill

      Republican leaders in Maine proposed and passed a constitutional amendment that, if passed at referendum, would require a 2/3rds vote in all future redistricting decisions. Then they changed their minds and wanted to pass a majority-only plan to make redistricting in their favor even easier.

      In Nebraska, which also uses the district method, the 2008 presidential campaigns did not pay the slightest attention to the people of Nebraska’s reliably Republican 1st and 3rd congressional districts because it was a foregone conclusion that McCain would win the most popular votes in both of those districts. The issues relevant to voters of the 2nd district (the Omaha area) mattered, while the (very different) issues relevant to the remaining (mostly rural) 2/3rds of the state were irrelevant.
      In 2012, the whole state was ignored.
      74% of Nebraska voters have supported a national popular vote for President

      After Obama won 1 congressional district in Nebraska in 2008,Nebraska Republicans moved that district to make it more Republican to avoid another GOP loss there, and the leadership committee of the Nebraska Republican Party promptly adopted a resolution requiring all GOP elected officials to favor overturning their district method for awarding electoral votes or lose the party’s support.
      A GOP push to return Nebraska to a winner-take-all system of awarding its electoral college votes for president only barely failed in March 2015 and April 2016.

      The National Popular Vote bill is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.