Every four years we watch the Electoral College do its thing. Every four years we whine about its effectiveness. Every four years we stop whining about a month after the College meets in December to formalize the November popular vote.
Our Founders’ wisdom never ceases to amaze.
It’s fun to bash the College. They have no basketball team, no alumni group and nobody likes them — if by “nobody” you include the supporters of candidates who lose the College’s vote. Now, if you want a solid argument to do away with the College, there are plenty, especially if you’re a fellow Democrat:
• In 2000, Democratic Vice President A1 Gore lost the Electoral College by a slim margin, when Florida’s recount wound its way through the Supreme Court. Gore won the nationwide popular vote.
• This year, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the nationwide popular vote, and lost the Florida vote by about 140,000 votes — 30 per precinct.
• Florida’s 29 Electoral votes gave George W. Bush and Donald Trump the E.C. margins to win. In both instances, the College victor did not win the popular vote.
So it’s a good time to change the system, because we want the person with the most votes to win, right?
Not so fast.
The College rarely makes a difference in Indiana. We were the first state “on the board” for Donald Trump and George W. Bush. Only twice in the last 60 years has the state not voted Republican at the top
of the ticket — so our Electoral votes are almost-automatic GOP locks.
But those who favor the Popular Vote Only model ignore one political fact: Small states such as Indiana would never count in the national results if we used only a popular-vote model. Neither would most of America’s states — because a national-vote- only campaign could easily spend all its money and time in the top 10 states and produce a solid win. Is that fair?
Our Founders’ Arguments in favor of the College are best-summarized by Alexander Hamilton, who said presidential Electors selected by voters are best-suited to choose the president:
“Men (Electors) are most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”
Which is 1776-Manspeak for, “We know better than the populace.”
In Indiana, and most states, the presidential Electors are selected by the state parties. They’re usually best-known among party loyalists — their names are available if you do your research. They’ll meet in the Indiana Statehouse in a few days as prescribed by law, and formally cast Indiana’s 11 Electoral votes for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Is it an antiquated process? Probably.
Is it likely to be changed? No. Amending the Constitution is no easy task.
For now, and probably forever, voters will have to put up with a November ballot process that doesn’t really elect the president and vice president. There’s no national appetite to tackle an Amendment process yet.
But maybe if Trump had won the popular vote and lost the College….