Democrats & Liberals Archives

Electoral Reform

While campaign finance reform has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention in the last several years, other types of reform have gotten much less attention, in spite of the fact that they could have widespread support. Two Democratic Congressmen, Brian Baird of Washington and Gene Green of Texas, have teamed up this week to introduce a Constitutional Amendment that would do away with the Electoral College and install our Presidents by direct popular vote.

Now it's a shame that we need to amend the Constitution to implement a common sense procedure, but that is the most certain way to effect such a change, and really it should be popular. Thomas Jefferson was an outspoken opponent of the Electoral College from its inception. Many of the early arguments in its favor have been obviated by today's technology, so getting rid of it should be a slam dunk, but both parties have vested interests in the system, so it's an uphill battle in spite of clear popular appeal. No less than 700 previous attempts have been made to eliminate or modify it so far, to no avail. If this year's election brings us a mismatch between the popular vote winner and the Electoral College winner for the second time in as many elections, however, maybe the will to do away with it will finally be overwhelming.

Other forms of Electoral reform well worth adopting are Instant Runoff Voting, which would empower the electorate to support third party and independent candidates without "wasting" their vote, and a depoliticization of the drawing of Congressional District boundaries. That one is much tougher, but the intensely partisan and divisive House of Representatives of the current day owes its fangs to the abominable creation of safe districts. There's a reason that the Senate is consistently the more moderate body, but that's a discussion for another day.

For a primer on how the electoral college works, visit V. Edward Martin's WatchBlog article on the subject. Misha Tseytlin presented cogent arguments against the Electoral College aside from the obvious one that its result might not match the popular result.

Posted by Walker Willingham at September 17, 2004 2:49 AM