Staff Editorial: Scrap Electoral College

The presidential election hanging in the balance of one state exposes the need to create an election system that truly represents American citizens. As the country waits for its next leader to be announced, Florida voters have found out they hold more power than the rest of the nation in determining the next president of the United States. Al Gore has won the popular vote by nearly 100,000 votes, but the election will come down to a few thousand Florida votes. The U.S. Constitution created a system by which the citizens of the United States do not elect the president or vice president. This system, called the Electoral College, subverts democracy and diminishes the power of individual votes.

Under the original blueprint for the federal government, only members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by the people. State legislatures appointed senators, and the Electoral College selected the president. Under the system now in place, thanks to the 17th Amendment, senators are elected directly by the people of the states they represent. But those same voters still have a diminished voice in the presidential election. Rather than vote for a candidate, voters pick electors who will in turn vote for that candidate.

This system should be done away with just as the system of legislators appointing senators was scrapped. A constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of the president based upon the nationwide popular vote must be passed to make elections reflect the will of the people.

Because of the peculiarities of the Electoral College, the 43rd president could conceivably be elected without a majority of the popular vote, a situation that has not occurred since Benjamin Harrison won the White House in 1888. A result that is not drawn from the majority of votes makes those who voted for the more popular candidate feel that they were cheated – that their votes do not matter. Such feelings are dangerous to democracy.

The Congress and state legislatures should work together to amend the Constitution to bring the process for electing the president in line with the feelings of the people for whom and by whom the government was established. Abolishing the Electoral College is the best remedy to reinvigorate democracy.

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