The Electoral College

Professor David Lublin who blogs at Maryland Politics Watch has an op-ed in the Washington Post on the silly fad circulating in some circles of pledging a state’s electors to the candidate who wins the popular vote.

The prospect of a serious independent presidential bid by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg underscores the importance of electoral college reform. In a three-way race, most Americans would probably expect the plurality winner to prevail, but the electoral college renders that outcome uncertain, especially if the election were close.

For this and other reasons, direct election of the president sounds like a no-brainer. It would count the ballots of all voters equally, whereas the much-pilloried electoral college gives greater weight to ballots in small states even as it encourages candidates to focus on large states that award lots of electoral votes.

Professor Lublin makes some good arguments. In my view, though, he skirts the obvious. We are citizens of the United States of America. The presidency is a federal position and it is elected by the states with each state having an equal vote. The fact that California is bigger than Vermont does not mean that Vermont doesn’t have a vote.

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If we’ve learned anything it should be that the ideas of governance that underpin the Constitution are timeless. Everytime we tinker with them we set in motion a series of unforeseen consequences. How the direct election of senators has done anything other than create a House of Representatives that serves for six years and is free to crap on its home state is unclear to me.

Using some sort of “compact” of uncertain enforceability lends itself to all degrees of mischief. The trend towards direct popular election of the president is an idea whose time, hopefully, will not come.

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