The Boston Globe on electoral reform

October 17, 2004

The Boston Globe on electoral reform

Posted by Ed

Today's Boston Globe ideas section features a nifty little article on the last serious attempt to abolish the Electoral College. Back in 1969, the House of Representatives passed a Constitutional Amendment to abolish the college, but the amendment was killed by conservative Southerners in the Senate. I had no idea that electoral college reform had been considered so seriously that recently in our country's history.

According to the conventional wisdom, the Electoral College is here to stay, since small states will never give up the political clout they're given by the current system. (This year, South Dakota has one electoral vote for every 230,000 people, but each New York elector represents half a million people.) The Globe article, however, suggests that if the political circumstances were right, small states would support electoral reform: when the issue came before the upper house of Congress thirty years ago, for example, Senators from the 26 smallest states split evenly on whether to abolish the Electoral College.

On one level, the Globe is presumably right--should the stars align just right, even small states would be willing to abandon their parochial interests and support a more rational electoral system. I can't really imagine this happening any time in the near future, however. If the people of a small state supported the presidential candidate that won the popular vote and lost the electoral vote, then their representatives in Congress might support reform--but in these politically polarized times, can anyone imagine Republican senators from Wyoming and Montana endorsing a Democratic proposal for a popular vote? Even if this year's election resulted in the opposite of the 2000 vote--and Bush won the popular vote but lost the electoral college--I can't imagine a bipartisan coalition endorsing reform. That's a shame, since even the most compelling argument to keep the current system are extremely unconvincing.

Posted by Ed at October 17, 2004 07:28 PM
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