The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 12 - 11/16/00
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I had looked forward to November 8 as a personal holiday when I would no longer have to listen to the hysterical "Look at me! Make me President!" After a good night's sleep, I first tuned into Paul Harvey's morning news to hear the election results. As soon as I heard his unusually subdued voice, I knew Bush was in trouble.
Our nation is in trouble. Our ridiculous, undemocratic system of choosing our head of state has betrayed us again. In two hundred years, three presidents who received less votes than their opponents in the overall national vote, were put into office by the Electoral College. It came within a whisker of happening again in 1976 and can very well happen again this year. That is a total of five times it has either happened or come dangerously close. With an election every four years, in two hundred years that is fifty elections. Fifty divided by five is ten, so ten percent of our 'democratically" elected presidents have either been the defeated candidate (according to overall popular vote) or at risk of being so. This should be enough to convince the staunchest defender of the status quo that the system is deeply flawed.
The October 30 Newsweek carried a map of the fifty states showing eight states as "safe" for Gore, seventeen for Bush, saying in effect, that any citizen intending to vote for the minority party in those states would do well to do something else besides vote. No way was his vote of any worth.
A number of alternate systems have been proposed from time to time. One is to divide the votes of the electors in each state according to the popular vote. But how would the one vote in Wyoming be divided? Let's hope those apportioning the votes would be good at fractions. Another solution, of course, is the popular vote. There is always the danger that, with additional parties getting a slice of the pie, that no candidate would get a clear cut majority. One suggestion is that if no candidate gets as much as 40% of the vote, a special runoff election be held. Another intriguing plan that is being kicked around is "instant-runoff voting." It has been put into practice by the Australians and the Irish. In this plan, each voter is given four or five votes. They list their choice of candidates one, two, three, four, five in order of their preference. This plan would certainly give the voter more options and might yield some very interesting results. I'm sure we will hear a lot more of these sketchy plans and other plans in great detail in the future.
If the public gets serious about election reform, that would fit in nicely with the movement with changing the way campaigns are financed. Nobody likes the grossly swollen costs of a political campaign except the candidate sitting on the biggest war chest. Raising money turns into a full time operation turning honest men into conniving beggars. No matter what admirable goals the candidate may have in mind, to achieve those goals, he first has to get elected, and getting elected has turned into a demeaning process.
We have four years to prepare for the next political avalanche. Lets try to correct the flaws in the system even if it takes an amended Constitution to do so.
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