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Schooling on Electoral College

Like swallows bound for Capistrano, we’re due for our every-four-years schooling on the Electoral College. As usual, it’s likely to include quite a few shovels of the type of excrement returning swallows create.

The Electoral College isn’t some antiquated institution that makes us less of a democracy. It is, in fact, a key element of a system that has helped ensure continuation of the world’s longest-living democracy by tempering the acknowledged evils of pure democracy with numerous safeguards.

The United States is and always has been a federal republic — a uniting of states that share some but not all of the same values, using representatives rather than popularity polls to make decisions for us.

Popular vote for president never has determined who our next commander-in-chief will be. And despite what you might hear, rarely does any nation select its chief executive by plebiscite.

In Britain or Canada, for example, you vote for members of parliament, not for prime minister. Whichever party gets a majority of seats names its leader prime minister. It doesn’t matter if the party won by only one vote in half of the districts and lost by huge margins in all the others, with an opposing party winning the overall popular vote.

In the United Nations, population counts for nothing. Every nation gets one vote, whether it is the size of China, with a population more than four times that of the U.S., or Tuvalu, with a population about the same as Marion County’s.

What we in the U.S. do is strike a balance, in part to guarantee that a majority can’t tyrannize a minority. It’s important to note that one of the key minorities we protect are small states and their rural areas, like the one we live in.

These days, many international bodies give greater voice to those nations with greater wealth. Historically, greater voice often was given to those with greater land holdings. We’ve rejected those notions and have come up with a system we call the Electoral College.

Faithless electors aside, these are the rules of the game. Just as in football it doesn’t matter if your team gains more yards, has more first downs, or leads in time of possession, we have a scoring system that everyone knows and lives with. Complaining about the Electoral College is like a basketball team complaining that its opponent won despite making fewer baskets because it shot more free throws or three-pointers. Rules are rules. If we play by them, it’s fair.

Complaining about the Electoral College is just another way in which we willingly let ourselves get mired in dung during our every-four-years venture back to Capistrano-like voting booths. It’s like the flap over the Postal Service not delivering mail ballots. Candidates really concerned about overloading the mail should stop sending all the junk mail we get from them every day.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Oct. 21, 2020

 

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