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Sen. Nelson: Abolish Electoral College

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Florida Senator Bill Nelson plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college and replace it with a straight-up popular vote. I guess Nelson is so incensed over the primary system that he’s focusing his disgust on the other election system that relies on dubious apportionment of votes and a system of delegates (or electors) standing in the way of “the will of the people.”

The electoral college is undemocratic. Of course, our founders didn’t create a pure democracy, they created a representative democracy with very deliberate machinations to prevent the tyranny of the many over the few. Our constitution exists to prevent unrestrained majorities and there is nothing more unrestrained than a pure popular vote on a national scale.

Theoretically, without the electoral college, candidates could campaign exclusively in the 10 most populous states which make up over half the total U.S. population. Then again, because of the winner-take-all apportionment system in almost every state, there are already huge numbers of citizens going ignored (24 million people live in Texas and over 36 million in California but neither state is likely to receive much attention come Fall because results there are considered predetermined).

The electoral college is designed to even the playing field. However, because of modern political strategy, the electoral college’s effect has been to reduce the playing field to all but the designated “swing states.” We end up with the tyranny of the few over the many. You’d think Floridian Nelson would want to keep the current system as his state is one of its great beneficiaries. Proportionally, no state gets more pandering in presidential elections than does Florida.

However, Nelson is smart enough to know what giveth today will taketh away tomorrow. His proposal to make presidential elections based on a national popular vote is not perfect. There probably still needs to be some provisions to ensure the majority doesn’t trample the minority. But ending the electoral college system is an idea long past due. Of course, if the 2000 election didn’t lead to change I can’t imagine Nelson’s initiative will go anywhere. Still, it’s worth discussing because, eventually, I expect us to get around to making this necessary constitutional change.