25 January 2013
Electoral College = Vote Fraud???
Jamelle Bouie's rant against the state of Virginia on the American Prospect website is a monumental example of biased Democratic whining. Bouie's irked over the Republican-controlled Virginia legislature's effort, on authority granted the state by the Constitution, to allocate Electoral Votes in future presidential elections on a district-by-district rather than a winner-take-all basis. Virginia would become only the third state to do things that way, but Bouie worries that if more states follow this example, presidential elections will increasingly reflect congressional elections. That is, just as Democrats believe that Republicans enjoy a majority in the House of Representatives only through gerrymandering, they fear that using those same gerrymandered districts to award Electoral Votes will result in GOP victories however short the candidates fall in the popular voting. This may strike Bouie and even some objective observers as unfair, but calling it voter fraud, as Bouie and the website editors have, is a childishly partisan attempt to make hypocrites out of the professed opponents among the GOP of alleged fraud by Democrats. The Constitution allows any state to do what Virginia may do. If anything, the winner-take-all system prevailing in most states violates the original intent of the Framers, if not the letter of the document, by denying each electoral/congressional district autonomy in choosing the President. The party system itself violates original intent by denying the individual electors the autonomy the Framers presumed that they'd exercise in choosing the best man in the country. Unfortunately, the Framers put nothing into the Constitution preventing state legislatures from distorting the Electoral College; they were more concerned with preserving state sovereignty over election law. That being said, what Virginia proposes is not fraud unless you consider it an offense against a "higher law" requiring that the President be chosen by a majority of the entire voting population, acting as a single bloc. That "higher law" isn't written into the Constitution, however, and it won't be binding on the states until the Constitution is amended. I've never been thrilled about the idea of making presidential elections a matter of raw majority rule on a national scale because that would only further handicap independent candidates and parties. But if that's the way Americans want to go they have two options: amend the Constitution or get your state to join the National Popular Vote compact. Democrats may regret such measures the next time they feel uncertain of their nationwide popularity, but whether it benefits or harms a particular party at this time should influence objective thinkers not at all.