Remember the 2000 Presidential election, Gore v. Bush? Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote in the country by a margin of more than half a million votes. But George Bush became president because he won in the electoral college.
This year, there’s a chance that could happen again. Statisticians say it’s only a 7 percent chance, so it’s unlikely, but possible. If it happens, the most likely scenario would be that Mitt Romney wins the popular vote but President Obama would win a second term.
With the technology we possess, it just seems wrong to have someone become president who came in second in the popular vote. Back in the 1700s when the system was set up, it wasn’t possible to hold a national election. Now it is and we should.
There’s another negative aspect to the electoral college that seldom gets mentioned. It damages voter incentive. For example, why should I go out and vote Tuesday in my state when it’s already clear who will win? My state will be voting for Romney, and all my state’s votes in the electoral college will then go to Romney.
You vote counts only if you live in one of the eight states still in play. That’s why the candidates in these final days only campaigned in the states that were close.
But if we had direct popular vote for president, my vote would mean something. It would also mean the candidates would have to bring their message to every part of the country, not just concentrate on the swing states. With direct popular election, a vote has the same value, no matter what state it’s in. I’ll vote anyway, but with direct popular vote, I’d be a lot happier.
There also is a significant group of disaffected voters who have dropped out of the political process. For the past two presidential elections, voter turnout rate was 64 percent. Which sounds pretty good unless you think about the fact that over one third of voters who could vote choose not to. I know many of these types. Some of them think all politicians are corrupt. Some just don’t see a choice they like. Some are trying to send a message that they are angry by not voting. They are a large group of Americans who no longer believe in the system.
There has been a tremendous amount of coverage by the media of a tiny sliver of undecided voters. But I’ve yet to see one reporter talking to someone who does not plan to vote. Though this is a group of more than 30 million people, the media has ignored this issue.
Maybe one reason for this is that our political system no longer seems to be able to get much of anything done, even something that makes a lot of sense like getting rid of the electoral college. You would have thought that the 2000 election would have changed attitudes, but no change has happened.
My biggest fear is that, no matter who becomes president, there will be four more years of gridlock in Washington with nothing getting done to move the country forward.