Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Time to rethink Presidential elections.... not

In another unsigned editorial, the Denver Post throws its support behind a terrible proposal being offered in the Colorado legislature. Let us look at the editorial piece by piece.

First, here is their summary of the legislation:
The proposal was developed by a multipartisan national group and is circulating across the country in book form - 620 pages, to be exact. The Colorado bill is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Ken Gordon and Rep. Tom Plant. The plan calls for states to form a compact and pledge their electoral votes not to the majority candidate in their own state, but to the winner of the national popular vote.
So after some number (possibly all) states agree to pledge their votes to the national winner of the popular vote, Colorado will do the same.

Now, their argument as to why this is a good idea.
The system also gives a modest number of battleground states too much voting power. States that are dependably Republican or Democratic are all but ignored during campaigns in favor of swing states. The Electoral College discourages voter participation because people in the majority of states know before the election who will win their votes. Minority-party voters in Democratic Massachusetts and Republican Wyoming know their votes won't count, because their Electoral College votes are never in doubt.
So let us assume that Colorado is, and will remain, reliably Republican meaning that 60-70% of the voters here vote Republican on the national level. How much time do you expect the candidates to spend in our physically large but small population state? What about Wyoming? What has been fixed?
For years, political science wonks have studied the unique Electoral College system with an eye toward updating the process to suit this day and age.
This is true. The only interesting thing they have come up with is to get states to, en masse, partition their electoral votes based on either the popular vote in the state or by district. I kinda like the by district method which is closer to the original intent of the Constitution. That said, my vote wouldn't count in that case because I am in a heavily Democratic district within the state, so I am still "disenfranchised" by the Post's standards.
In 2004, we opposed Amendment 36 on the Colorado ballot because its single-state approach unilaterally diluted the impact of Colorado's electoral votes. True reform should be broader.
That is hard to disagree with. Only if California, New York, Texas, etc partition their electoral votes in a new way that dilutes their dominance does it make sense for smaller states to do so.
The Founding Fathers' rationale for creating the Electoral College is debatable even today. Some believe it was meant to balance the power of small and large states. Others thought it was to create a system of indirect election of good candidates from which the House of Representatives could make the final selection. Whatever the reason, the system creates strange anomalies in both campaigning and in settling the result.
It seems pretty clear to me that the former was the intent and the latter was a side effect of the largely rural population in a day before radio, TV and even daily newspaper delivery. "The public" was fairly well informed when it came to their local politicians but it was very difficult for them to be well informed about a national presidential election.
Colorado has often been ignored in presidential contests, having been reliably Republican and casting only nine electoral votes. The state became a battleground in 2004 largely because Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry was born here and because of the state's growing number of independent voters.

We favor attempts to change the current system not only because it will boost the value of a Colorado voter to the same level as a voter from, say, Ohio or Florida, but because a system that produces a majority winner will boost political engagement across all 50 states.
They shot down their own argument here. Colorado only has 9 electoral votes. That is because we have a relatively small population. This proposal would push the candidates from spending their time, energy and proposals targeting "swing" states, which Colorado could be one of, to targeting New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and a handful of other large cities with their interest groups. Rural America would be totally ignored along with suburban America and we would wind up with, IMO, even worse government than we have now.

At the end of the day, the editorial board is just looking for any proposal that increases the likelihood that Colorado's electoral votes could go Democrat. Since the large population centers tend to go Democrat and tend to have relatively lower voter turnout, anything that moves in the direction of popular vote looks attractive to them, for now. The south used to be reliably Democratic and has been reliably Republican for decades. Could it change again? You bet! The average guy on the street isn't nearly as tied to a party as party insiders might think.


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