Editorial

The case for the electoral college

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

After the electoral college meets and votes in December, the 2016 presidential election will be the fifth presidential election in which the winner of the electoral college vote did not win the most popular votes.

Those five winners include: 1824 - John Quincy Adams; 1876 - Rutherford B. Hayes; 1888 - Benjamin Harrison; 2000 - George W. Bush and 2016 - Donald J. Trump.

There is currently a petition seeking to persuade electors who are from Republican voting states that donít legally bind delegates to the candidate who won the state to vote for Hillary Clinton . The petition will be unsuccessful. The plurality vote in each state determines what party is represented by the slate of electors in that state, so for Clinton to win the electoral college vote, a significant number of Republicans would have to defy tradition and expectations by voting against the Republican winner of their state. It ainít going to happen.

There are valid arguments to be made both for and against eliminating the electoral college in favor of a going to a nationwide majority vote, or in the case of some years such as 2016, to a plurality. Clinton did not receive a majority of the vote, only 48 percent, compared to 47 percent for Trump.

The argument for accepting the will of a plurality of the voters is compelling and easy to understand. Although we do not advocate one side or the other on this issue, we believe the case for keeping the electoral college should at least be considered.

The founding fathers were deeply distrustful of power and divided it up in multiple ways. Some powers are delegated to the federal government, some delegated to the states and some rights are reserved for individuals without interference by government.

At the federal level and in each state, government power is divided between three branches - executive, legislative and judicial, with each branch serving as a check on the others.

The potential abuse of power that the founders feared most was from the executive branch, not necessarily from a despot thwarting the will of a majority but more likely through a despot who has support of the masses. Perhaps this is an unrealistic fear in modern America and, to the extent it could happen, the electoral college is no guarantee against that happening, but let us consider what the practical impact would be for eliminating the electoral college.

With strictly a plurality determination of the winner, the population centers of both coasts would be the primary focus of campaigns. Rural America would indeed become fly-over country during the election.

Weíre not saying that rural voters are any wiser than urban voters, but they do have different interests that deserve to be heard.