I am writing to bolster the Monitor's tepid support of the Electoral College, expressed in your Oct. 19 editorial, "Voting on the Electoral College." No defense of this institution is complete without considering the system's underlying purposes.
The Constitution itself is a compact among the sovereign states. To protect those states, the original Constitution contained two important state checks on federal power: State legislatures elected the Senate and appointed the electors who elected the president. This first check was eliminated a century ago, leaving the Electoral College as the primary political safeguard of federalism.
If we elected a president by popular vote, candidates would pay disproportionate attention to densely populated urban areas at the expense of rural areas.
More important to the Constitution's framers, candidates would focus on large states rather than small ones. The Electoral College forced Al Gore to spend the weekend before Election Day 2000 in West Virginia, a state that would be ignored if not for the winner-take-all system.
The executive was designed to govern with a national consensus; the Electoral College helps assure that the president is not elected by one particular demographic within the American melting pot.
Your argument - that abolishing the Electoral College is unlikely - is sound, not only because it would take an amendment to the Constitution, but because political machinery would surely scuttle such an effort.
Furthermore, trying to make changes via a state legislature results in the same sort of logjam by party machinery that an attempt at abolition would. The only route is by ballot referendum. Although it would be best if all states did it, reform may only be possible state by state.
It's time for states to exercise their right to give all voters representation in the Electoral College.
Cape May Court House, N.J.
The original purpose of the electoral system imposed by the Founding Fathers was intended, in part, to protect the diversity of the states. It was not simply an anti-democratic measure. That purpose applies with even more force today.
If the present electoral system were abolished, the Sun Belt and the southern three-quarters of both coastal regions would, by reason of population, so dominate the elections that voters in New England, Appalachia, the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountain states might as well be totally disenfranchised.
Kudos to the people of Colorado for taking the first step to correct the most glaring problem with our Electoral College system. The winner-take-all basis distorts presidential campaigns by giving disproportionate power to swing states and allowing candidates to ignore states where one side has a commanding lead. We saw the effect of electoral math when the Bush administration imposed an unpopular steel-import tax to win support in swing states West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Scrapping the Electoral College and electing the president by popular vote would be the ideal solution. Until a constitutional amendment can be passed, Colorado is doing the next best thing. The rest of the country should follow suit.
Even if there is a greater risk of having an electoral tie vote, it would be worth it to have the presidential candidates worry less about swing states and more about the country as a whole.
San Jose, Calif.
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