Why we need the electoral college

Your Aug. 18 editorial "Sidestepping the electoral college" takes an overly simplistic view of the electoral college and offers very weak arguments about the need to get rid of it.

The Times argues that the Legislature should vote to discard the current system created by our founding fathers and instead join the constitutionally questionable National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. If this legislation is enacted, California would award all of its votes, during a presidential election, to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the winner of the state's popular vote. Thus, if this system had been in place in 2004, President Bush would have won all 55 of California's electoral college votes -- despite the fact he lost the state by more than 1 million votes.

You argue that voter turnout is hurt in states like California by the electoral college. This is a bizarre argument for a state that in 2004 had 76% of registered voters turn out on election day. California's turnout was above the historically high national turnout of 64%.

The Times also states that this legislation "in no way violates the Constitution." This is very debatable, as Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from entering into interstate compacts without the consent of Congress. At the very least, this legislation disregards the intent of the founding fathers, who wanted to ensure that the winning presidential candidate enjoyed a broad coalition of support. If we went to a "majority rule" system, as your editorial advocates, in a race with multiple candidates, the presidency could be won by an individual who is only supported by one region or political interest group. Though he didn't win the White House, former segregationist and Alabama Gov. George Wallace gained undue prominence simply by capturing popular majorities across the South in 1968.

Finally, the argument that the best way to make states more relevant during presidential elections is by totally removing them from the process does not seem to make much sense. In a national-popular-vote model, entire states would be ignored by candidates who would campaign only in large metropolitan areas. One also has to wonder what a recount of votes would look like during a national popular election; imagine Florida in 2000 on a national level.

California should reject National Popular Vote legislation because it would disfranchise voters and could be a disaster for our nation. The electoral college, while not perfect, is the best way to elect a candidate who represents the will of the states and enjoys a broad base of support from multiple regions of the country. We should not throw out a system that has served our nation for more than 200 years for an ill-conceived scheme.

Michael Hough is director of the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development and the Criminal Justice and Homeland Security task forces at the American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington.

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