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National Vote vs. Electoral College

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There is a site -- PoliPundit -- I enjoy reading -- pro-Bush, very insightful, at http://www.polipundit.com/ which today (10/20) makes the interesting point that the national polls which show Bush winning are inflated by extraordinarily large majorities in the southern states. This raises the possibility of a reverse of the last election -- Kerry squeaking through in enough states to win the Electoral College, but losing the national vote.


One might speculate that such an election would leave a President Kerry in an even more precarious position to govern effectively than Bush has been, as the Congress will almost certainly continue to be majority Republican. And of course, the Democrats in the Senate have established the 60-vote cloture rule as the threshold for any significant or controversial legislation to pass, so even if the Democrats take Congress narrowly, he would have little room to move.


The Christian Science Monitor has a good editorial today on abolishing the Electoral College, something which came close to happening in the first Nixon administration but was killed by southern Democrats led by Robert Byrd and Sam Ervin. Link: http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1019/p08s03-comv.html


Another site worth bookmarking is http://www.realclearpolitics.com -- another pro-Bush site which has a great selection of stories and editorial from both sides and a good digest of polls.

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We have entered the stupid period of national politics, when the politically ignorant pay attention to national polls. As you point out, if Bush carries states with 50 million voters by 60%, and Kerry has states with 50 million voters by only 55%, Bush leads in the popular vote by 2.5 million votes, but the electoral college vote is tied. Then it depends on a a handful of voters in perhaps a dozen states.


According to a recent Washington Post poll, Kerry leads significantly in those states.


My expectation for the last couple months has been that Bush will win the popular vote, and Kerry will win the electoral vote. That would make it the second election in a row where "loser takes all." And we're trying to install democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq!


If the election results follow the most recent poll in each state, Kerry wins this morning 291 to 247. Follow those developments at



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God willing, tomorrow morning I depart for RIO and I am not coming back to this country until we have ELECTED a President. That's right, I will return on Wednesday, Nov. 3. Of course I have already sent in an absentee ballot for the first time in over three decades of voting. Hopefully my ballot will be counted and not shredded.


Everyone please vote!

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>Wouldn't the abolition of the Electoral College require a

>constitutional amendment? If so, and given that 38 states

>would have to vote for this, it just doesn’t seem very likely

>to succeed.



Yes. It's constitutionally mandated and, consequently, can only be changed by a constitutional amendment.


But I would caution those who think it should be abolished in favor of a strict "winner take all", purely democratic vote to think carefully before advocating its abolishment.


Those who favor its abolishment describe the Electoral College with terms like "unfair", "undemocratic" and even "anti-American." The last is amusing, since it's nothing if not particularly American, having been part of our system of government since the beginning of that government. But it has also stood the test of time and, in its own way, helped to contribute to the great stability that we have enjoyed for more than 225 years.


The contribution that the Electoral College makes is not subtle: even small states count in the Electoral College and cannot be -- or at least should not be -- ignored by serious candidates for the Presidency. That means that candidates have to campaign in and appeal to votes all over the nation. They cannot win by simply capturing a few big states. And they must at least try to moderate their positions and those of their parties simply due to the need to appeal to large portions of the American electorate.


Absent the Electoral College, a large majority of votes in a few large states could easily propel a candidate into the White House, even in the absence of any approval in the rest of the nation. In that situation, even though the candidate was elected by a majority of the popular vote, there is in at least my mind a question of whether or not the person who got the job best reflected what the nation as a whole wanted.


This is not an accident. The Founding Fathers were really quite suspicious of direct democracy. That suspicion played out in a number of ways in the formation of our government: we live in a republic; our national congress has two houses, only one of which was originally directly elected (Senators were chosen by the state legislatures until the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1914); we have an Electoral College.


The Framers were dedicated to a democratic government but extremely worried that the "common man" would lack the knowledge and skills to be able to make truly educated judgments concerning the direction of the nation. That can be argued for eternity but it's clearly as open a question today as it was in the 1770s: simply compose a ten-question test on civics and current events and ask ten randomly-chosen Americans each question. My suspicion would be that most such tests would show most Americans to be reasonably uninformed on matters that greatly affect the course of their nation.


That aside, though, our government has stood the test of time for a long time, through many different times and as we've grown from a small agrarian nation into a major industrial power. And every President has been forced by the Electoral College to pay attention to states and voters all across the country. That's not a bad thing indeed.



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>God willing, tomorrow morning I depart for RIO and I am not

>coming back to this country until we have ELECTED a

>President. That's right, I will return on Wednesday, Nov. 3.



What an optimist!


You're coming back just in time for the real election season.

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