On more than one occasion after hearing that suggestion I've questioned the person making the suggestion about their reasoning behind it. I've also asked them if they understood why the Founding Fathers saw fit to include it. Of all the people I've asked, not one had a solid understanding of the 'why' of the electoral college. Of all the people I've asked, all of them used some variation of the “only the popular vote should count” argument.
It makes me question the quality of the education we've been providing all these years, because too many people have forgotten their civics lessons. The electoral college is something I've written about before.
It all comes down to power, or those trying to wrest power from the non-urban states and concentrate it in more urbanized states. Former Delaware governor Pete DuPont says it's something we should guard against.
First, the direct election of presidents would lead to geographically narrower campaigns, for election efforts would be largely urban. In 2000 Al Gore won 677 counties and George Bush 2,434, but Mr. Gore received more total votes. Circumvent the Electoral College and move to a direct national vote, and those 677 largely urban counties would become the focus of presidential campaigns.
Rural states like Maine, with its 740,000 votes in 2004, wouldn't matter much compared with New York's 7.4 million or California's 12.4 million votes. Rural states' issues wouldn't matter much either; big-city populations and urban issues would become the focus of presidential campaigns. America would be holding urban elections, and that would change the character of campaigns and presidents.
Second, in any direct national election there would be significant election-fraud concerns. In the 2000 Bush-Gore race, Mr. Gore's 540,000-vote margin amounted to 3.1 votes in each of the country's 175,000 precincts. "Finding" three votes per precinct in urban areas is not a difficult thing, or as former presidential scholar and Kennedy advisor Theodore White testified before the Congress in 1970, "There is an almost unprecedented chaos that comes in the system where the change of one or two votes per precinct can switch the national election of the United States."
Third, direct election would lead to a multicandidate, multiparty system instead of the two-party system we have. Many candidates would run on narrow issues: anti-immigration, pro-gun, environment, national security, antiwar, socialist or labor candidates, for they would have a microphone for their issues. Then there would be political power seekers--Al Sharpton or Michael Moore--and Hollywood pols like Barbra Streisand or Warren Beatty. Even Paris Hilton could advance her career through a presidential campaign.
Finally, direct election would also lead to weaker presidents. There are no run-offs in the Interstate Compact--that would require either a constitutional amendment or the agreement of all 50 states and the District of Columbia--so the highest percentage winner, no matter how small (perhaps 25% or 30% in a six- or eight-candidate field) would become president. Such a winner would not have an Electoral College majority and therefore not be seen as a legitimate president.
But that's what many in the Left want. If most of the country's non-urban voters can be disfranchised, most of them being rather conservative, then the so-called progressive voters in the urban areas will run the show. Since they seem to have problems winning presidential elections according to the Constitution, they're making a move to ignore it, or at least declare it moot.
It means that very few outside of New York, California, Washington, and other states with large urban populations would ever see presidential candidates because the candidates would know that campaigning outside those urban compacts would be a waste of time. The votes of those of us in rural states will mean very little.
How many times have we heard people say that “America is a democracy.” The problem is that they are wrong. Again they've forgotten their civics lessons. The U.S. is a federal republic, a representative democracy. If it were a true democracy we wouldn't have a Congress because every eligible voter would be voting on every issue normally handled by the Congress. But with a nation with almost 300 million citizens such a democracy is unworkable.
It is also a truism that a 'pure democracy' is merely mob rule by a different name. A true tyranny of the majority would exist and those with a minority opinion would be in serious danger of losing everything to the majority, including their lives. There would be no rule of law. All one needs to do is look at the French Revolution to see how a pure democracy works. That period in French history wasn't called The Terror for nothing.
Any move to do away with the electoral college must be stopped if we wish to maintain the unique nature of our country.