Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Vote Hasn't Counted

Lisa Kenney of Eudaemonia, in a very thoughtful post about presidential politics, admitted she hadn’t voted a lot in the past. Which brought the following response from Larramie of Sieze a Daisy:

Your admission, "I think I've only voted in one other Presidential election, which just goes to show how indifferent I've been in the past.," truly stunned me since your vote counts no matter who is running in what year.

For most elections, Larramie’s statement is true. But American presidential elections are a definite exception. While I expect to vote in the 2008 presidential election, I will do so with the firm expectation that my vote will not count, as it hasn’t counted in every presidential election I’ve voted in--and I’ve voted in every one since 1972.

The reason is, of course, the Electoral College. When I cast my ballot for Barrack Obama, I really won’t be voting for him, but for a slate of electors pledged to vote for him in December, when the real presidential election takes place. Had Obama chosen Evan Bayh as his running mate, my vote might have counted for something. But chances are, Indiana will go for McCain, and the electors from Indiana will go for McCain in the real election.

While I’m proud to say that I cast my first presidential vote for George McGovern, my vote didn’t count. Iowa went for Nixon. Four years later, Jimmy Carter won the election, but without my help. Iowa’s electors voted for Gerald Ford. By the time Iowa started voting Democratic, I was in Illinois, which went for Bush in 1988. And I’ve been voting in Indiana since 1992.

It seemed possible that we might change the presidential election process after 2000, when George W. Bush lost in the popular vote to Al Gore, and won the election by a five to four vote in the Supreme Court, which gave Florida’s electors to Bush. But it didn’t happen. For one thing, a Republican Congress wasn’t likely to support a constitutional amendment making a Republican victory more difficult.

One interesting idea to reform the Electoral College is one I believe was proposed by Curtis Gans, which would allot two additional electors from each state to the candidate who wins the popular vote. While it wouldn’t eliminate the Electoral College, it would make the travesty of 2000 a near-impossibility.

I encourage everyone to vote in the coming election. Even if you’re voting for Obama in Indiana or McCain in Illinois. There’s always hope. And then we should push for a constitutional amendment to assure that all of our votes will count in the future.

11 comments:

Lisa said...

As I understand it, the Electoral process was instituted because it was impractical to go with a popular vote, due to logistics, etc. Is there any real reason that we need to continue with this system? Now that voting is a pretty simple matter, have we tried to do away with the Electoral College? I'll admit, I'm woefully uninformed about this.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

You have the best explanation for this than anyone else who I've spoken to. I am sending this to my daughter. This is so basic and too the point. . .

steve said...

Lisa--The Founders were really suspicious of democracy. Initially the presidential electors were chosen by state legislators. Curtis Gans has made some very good arguments for keeping it--direct election would result in candidates concentrating only in major metro areas. Personally, I like his idea, which I can't find on the Internet now, of the two electors per state bonus for winning the popular vote nationwide. That way it would be virtually impossible for someone to win the presidency with less than a plurality of the popular vote.

Tea--Thank you. Of course, in congressional and legislative elections, every vote really does count.

Charles Gramlich said...

The electorial college has always been a bugabear for me as well.

Merelyme said...

You have explained this so well. I will be voting...for Obama.

steve said...

Charles-My daughter Anne asked me what a bugabear was. I said it was the same as a hobgoblin. The Electoral College, at least the way it's set up now, certainly is one or the other.

Merelyme--I thought Merelyme was your name, and figured it rhymed with "Scare a Mime." I gave myself a figurative dope-slap when I visited your blog and saw it was "Merely Me." I'm glad you're voting for Obama's slate of electors.

Ropi said...

I am flattered by your daughter. Hungary was also dominated by the Turks and we don't make fuss of it. Moreover Turks and Hungarians has extremely good relations now.

twoblueday said...

The Electoral college is anti-democracy and always has been. The vox populi has never once been heard in our nation when it comes to presidential elections.

steve said...

Ropi--I suspect some of these old grievances are stronger in the New World than the Old. The Swede-Norwegian rivalry is big in Iowa and Minnesota--maybe more so than in Sweden and Norway.

Gerry--It's clear that the Electoral College was set up by people who distrusted democracy. It needs to be reformed or eliminated. That won't happen unless we can get Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures to go along.

Sustenance Scout said...

Steve, ever consider becoming a professor? You've got a knack for clarifying the trickiest issues, K.

steve said...

Karen--Thank you. I've been meaning to do a post on why I dropped out of graduate school back in '79. While I'm pretty good expressing myself in writing, I'm less able lecture competently. I'm beginning to think I should have stuck it out and taught history. The trouble was that most schools were cutting back on history in those days, so I would have had a really difficult time getting a job.