Sunday, November 07, 2004

More Electoral College Fun!

Here's some food for thought, elaborating further on my earlier post.

25,925467 voters in "Red States" voted for Kerry.
26,078,253 voters in "Blue States" voted for Bush.

That's over 50 million Americans disenfranchised by our electoral system. When you take just the votes for the winners in each state, it adds up to about 62.5 million votes that actually count for something when the electoral votes are cast. Now, as it happens, the % margin between Bush and Kerry in that tally is roughly that of the general popular vote nationwide--53% for Bush, 47% Kerry. This at least reassures me that the electoral votes are apportioned more or less properly. But does that mean it's a good system?

The argument for keeping the E.C. system in the US is that it allows low-population states to retain some power that they would lose if it were a straight popular system. I'm not sure I buy that in general--what power is that, exactly? Whether its 5 electoral votes or 850,000 popular votes, Utah still carries about the same % weight in the grand total. So the candidates in a straight popular system would concentrate their efforts in our most populous states--New York, California, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida. How is that different from the present system, where 90% of the candidates' efforts are concentrated on the larger so-called swing states--such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.....? If anything, I think a change to a straight popular vote (or even a system wherein the electoral votes are apportioned by % of total votes within a state, as Nebraska does) would force candidates to spread their attention more evenly across the country, trying to pick up voters wherever they can instead of writing off the voter base in states that traditionally lean in one direction or the other. The argument against THAT is that campaign costs would spiral out of control. News flash, though--they already are. Kerry and Bush combined spent over 4 billion on this campaign, by one estimate I heard today. Think of all that money could have done elsewhere. The answer to this is to regulate campaign financing tightly,by restricting the amount candidates can spend on media blitz and travel (how much jet fuel was wasted in the last week by frantic glad-handing attempts in multiple states by both candidates and their running mates? My god.) This would then in turn make it possible for third party candidates, and--gasp!--even normal folk to run for political offices on an even footing without fear of bankrupting themselves. Why are we Americans, of either party, settling for this deeply flawed, disenfranchising, money-wasting system of election? We could have better. We deserve better.