An Argument for the Electoral College

In response to the plan by Pennslyvanian Republicans to change the state’s electoral laws. Its electoral votes are currently given on a winner-take-all-basis to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote, as is done in 47 other states. Under the current pending legislation, “Pennsylvania would join Maine and Nebraska in allocating one vote to the winner in each congressional district, with the two remaining votes going to the statewide popular vote winner.”

Supporters of the compact say they favor direct popular election of presidents. But that exists — within each state. The Framers, not being simple, did not subordinate all values to simple majority rule. The electoral vote system shapes the character of presidential majorities, making it unlikely they will be geographically or ideologically narrow. The Framers wanted rule by certain kinds of majorities — ones suited to moderate, consensual governance of a heterogeneous, continental nation with myriad regional and other diversities.

Readers will know that I’m a fan of both the argument and the author. I would add that neither Maine nor Nebraska (4 and 5 electoral votes, respectively) is as important as Pennsylvania (21 votes) in presidential elections. They are also not considered swing states. PA is considered a swing state even though it has not gone for a Republican since 1988. Democrats will rightfully cry foul – this vote minimizes a state they usually, although not easily, win. This vote would both weaken the importance of PA – well done, legislators! – and encourage the minorities in other states to push for reforms. The next time Democrats have power (legislature and governorship) in red battleground states – VA, NC, SC, AZ, CO, NV, FL – they will push through such legislation, regardless of how slim the majority, while they have the chance. This may come back to bite them as the electoral map eventually shifts due to demographic and ideological changes, as it always does. But that is not any consolation. It only serves to make the system both more unpredictable and less democratic.

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Filed under Domestic Politics, Election 2012

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