June 30, 2005

I'm Pro-American but Anti-Electoral College

Okay, I've been stewing about this for a while, so I thought I should finally come right out and say it: It's time to eliminate the Electoral College from the US Constitution. It no longer serves the purpose for which it was designed, it is has been outdated by mass communications, and in fact it is damaging to the majority of Americans.

As I understand it, the framers of the Constitution intended the EC as regulating device, to prevent the masses from being duped by a manipulative political elite:

"The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men." -- Constitutional Convention Delegate Gerry, July 19, 1787.

Their thought was, by distributing electoral votes throughout the nation (each state gets at least 3 votes, no matter how tiny their population), the concerns of the entire nation would be taken into account, and a team of "designing men" couldn't dupe a large population in one part of the country into voting for their particular candidate. However, it hasn't worked out that way. These days, presidential campaigns focus on a few critical "swing states" and pander to the needs and desires of the tiny fraction of voters in those states who can swing the electoral vote one way or another. The majority interest is not taken into account-- it's all about mining for the electoral votes you want in whichever state you can get them.

The recent development of mass communications has also rendered the EC obsolete. One of the primary reasons the framers of the Constitution created the EC was their concern that voters in remote parts of the country would have a difficult time learning about presidential candidates:

"The extent of the country renders it impossible, that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates." -- Consitutional Convention Delegate Mason, July 17, 1787

Remember that the EC was designed in the late 1700s, when sending messengers on horseback or by sailing ship were the primary means of communication. The telegraph wasn't even invented yet, let alone the telephone, television, or the Internet. Lack of communications between candidates and potential voters was a legitimate concern in 1787, but not 2005.

We should eliminate the EC because it's harmful to the lives of most Americans, who now live in urban and suburban areas. It no longer makes sense to give more electoral power to a rural voter in Montana than to an urban voter in D.C., especially when the vast majority of Americans live in or near cities. Right now we're diverting billions of tax dollars generated largely by urban workers to subsidize the infrastructure of rural America. Meanwhile our cities and densely populated states face massive budget shortfalls. This rural welfare program deprives American cities of critical ingredients (mass transit, affordable housing, schools, recreation) that make cities so liveable elsewhere in the world. Posted by todd at June 30, 2005 10:50 AM