Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gerrymandering and the Rigging of Presidential Elections


Perhaps the time has come for us to rid ourselves of the Electoral College!!  At least since the 2000 election, in which the loser of the popular vote managed to gain an Electoral College victory (though it was disputed), many have talked about abandoning the Electoral College as an outmoded relic of a by-gone era -- an era in which slave-holding states had a population disadvantage, and thus would have fared poorly in national elections.  The Electoral College gave them a certain amount of clout (remember that a slave was reckoned as 3/5s of a person and thus counted in assigning Congressional votes).   The contemporary argument for keeping this relic of that age is that it gives small states a certain stature needed to counter-act the population advantages of larger states.  Why would a candidate visit New Hampshire or Iowa, if the votes that counted would be found in New York, California, and Texas?  In deference to these states, we've continued on with this process.

But the tide may need to change, and change quickly.  You see, Republican legislators in a number of states that Barack Obama won, and in which they control the state house and redistricting, have figured out a way to controvert the votes of the people by assigning electoral votes according to Congressional districts.  Since Republicans did well in 2010 state wide and Congressional elections, they were given the opportunity to set up new legislative districts (both in the states and for the House of Representatives), and they did a good job in making sure that Republicans had the advantage.

So, with Barack Obama back in office and Mitt Romney sent home to the corporate world, Republicans in so-called Blue States are seeking an electoral advantage.  Why not follow the example of Nebraska and Maine, and assign electoral votes according to whether a candidate won a specific Congressional District.  And if we had been using this model in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginian, and in my current home state of Michigan, Mitt Romney likely would be president, even though he only won 47% of the vote. 

 As you think about this question of whether these self-serving decisions warrant abandoning the Electoral College -- sooner than later -- consider that Democrats running for Congress took in a million more votes in Congressional Elections than Republicans, but couldn't retake the House.  America didn't send Republicans back to Washington, gerrymandered districts made this possible (and remember Congress is reviled by most Americans -- wonder why?).  

Is this America's future, where a minority of voters can use the system to assure control of the country?   I don't believe so.  I don't believe that Americans will stand for a President who won 47% of the vote, while the "loser" won 52%.  Does a candidate have to win a minimum of 55% of the vote in order to hope for victory?  This isn't America.  It's not just unfair or unjust, in my mind it does not fit with the American spirit.  It may be "constitutional" but it's not "small d" democratic or American!   

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