Trent England’s letter defending the electoral college [Alibi, v28 i10] merits a response. I usually avoid ad hominem arguments, but since Mr. England opened that door by casting aspersions on John Koza’s background, I think it only fair to consider his organization’s bias. He’s a member of the Rio Grande Foundation, which purports to be an independent, local research organization but is actually just one of the think tanks set up by the Koch brothers and the Heritage Foundation in each state. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which wants to “save our state” from the popular vote, is another.
Mr. England’s criticism of the National Popular Vote is largely a “straw man” argument, as it isn’t the only alternative to the electoral college. Personally, I favor a direct, popular vote for president. I understand the practical reasons of an interstate compact; it probably would be much more difficult to get a constitutional amendment passed—given that the very states that benefit from the electoral college would block it!
The electoral college was a compromise; some of the Founders felt that citizens could not be trusted to wisely choose the president. In addition, according to some scholars, slave-owner James Madison was concerned that Southern states would have less power due to their lower population. He came up with a compromise whereby the non-citizen slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person.
Mayors, county officers, state governors, members of Congress and Senators (since the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913) are all chosen directly by popular vote within their respective constituencies. The majority of US Supreme Court Justices decide the cases before them. Why then do we not use the democratic method of majority rule when voting for president? Moreover, since the 1964 Supreme Court decision Reynolds v. Sims, states must follow the One-Person One-Vote principle. Yet voters do not have equal representation when voting for president; voters in rural, low population states have an unfair advantage, as each state gets two additional electoral votes by virtue of having two senators regardless of its population size or representation in the House.
So why does the Right want to preserve such an archaic system with dubious origins? Because its political party, the GOP, benefits from having its constituencies over-represented in the presidential election. Fewer voters are registering Republican, and population projections do not bode well for the GOP’s aging, mostly white male demographic. But with the electoral college, Republicans have their solid block of “red” states in the South, Great Plains, and Rockies. There are far fewer people per electoral vote in Wyoming than in California. Thus, the “minority rights” Mr. England wants to safeguard are those of the shrinking GOP. The president should serve all Americans, not just certain states or regions.
Virtually every other Western democracy uses a direct, popular vote to choose its national leader, as do countries new to democracy. Yet twice in the past 20 years we have “elected” a president who lost the popular vote.
As historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has said, “The Electoral College is an appendix, and it’s time to get rid of the appendix.” Let us join the other great democracies by abolishing the electoral college and switching to a national, popular vote for president.