Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hey, Bush Still Would Have Won in 2004 Under this System

When our government assists other countries in developing democracies, our advisors do not recommend that emerging democracies copy our system of using an electoral college to select who will lead the executive branch. Our Electoral College is something that continually confuses high school civics students, people studying for citizenship tests, and just about anyone learning how we elect a President. The reason why so many have trouble understanding our Presidential election system is because the process makes little sense. Indeed, confusion grows when we realize that the Electoral College can even fail to elect a President and pass along the election to Congress, which appears even loss logical a way to choose a President. We should not e choosing the leader of the free world in such a complicated process that alienates voters.

The Electoral College was established as a political compromise during the formation of our country back in the 18th century. The objective then was to hold separate states together in creating a new nation. That objective has been achieved. There is no reason why we need to remain bound to a political compromise that is no longer necessary.

The result of our nation’s continuing experience with the antiquated Electoral College is a distortion of the campaign process for President. The political reality is that many states have a strong majority of their voters so predisposed to vote Democratic or Republican for President that both political parties essentially ignore the voters in those states as it would be a waste of campaign resources to use them in a state where the outcome is fairly certain. Campaign resources of both parties are generally targeted towards undecided and persuadable voters in a few competitive states. It is sad that the President of our entire country may be selected by being the candidate who best addresses issues that appeal to such a small percent of voters.

Pennsylvania has been one of the states where Presidential campaigns have been competitive. Yet, we can no longer assume we will continue being one of the few states that receives additional attention from the Presidential candidates. Pennsylvania was Mondale’s fifth strongest state in terms of percentage of votes for Mondale in 1984, went for Bush in 1988, and has gone Democratic in four Presidential elections since. New York and New England has become increasingly Democratic in Presidential elections and Pennsylvania seems to be falling along with this regional trend. Pennsylvania appears to be trending from being what is called a competitive “purple” state into a “blue” state that will soon be among those states mostly bypassed by the Presidential candidates.

The Electoral College process most hurts Pennsylvanians more than residents of any other state. This is because the Electoral College is based upon population. A state’s population is very different from a state’s number of registered voters. Those who do not vote, especially non-citizens and children, count towards the population count that determines the number of Electoral votes a state receives. Pennsylvania, with the second largest percentage of elderly voters, has relatively fewer children compared to other states. In addition, we have a lower proportion of non-citizens as has most other states. What results is that Pennsylvania is the state with the highest proportion of its population who are voters. Thus, Pennsylvania is the state that is least represented by Elector per voter. Our votes are diluted and ill-served by the Electoral College.

The best process to elect a President is a simple one. The candidate who gets the most votes wins. That is how most every other democracy works. There are two ways to change how we elect our President to achieve this sensible method of electing a President. One method is by amending the Constitution, which is a long process. The other process, which is more easily attained, is for Pennsylvania to join a compact of states that will pledge to create a direct election. Once enough states representing a majority of the Electoral College join this compact, all compact member states will assign their Electoral votes to the winner of the popular election. This will thus create a national election for President where the Presidential candidates will concentrate more on addressing issues of concern to the entire nation.

The bill creating this compact achieves an important principle. The person who gets the most votes should be who wins. I urge passage of my bill so we may leave an 18th century political compromise method of selecting our President and enter a common sense era where the person who actually wins the election is the person who becomes President.


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