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Bush Wins, Again

And you thought you were done with the 2004 election. Today the electoral college formally meets to reelect George W. Bush as president. Barring any last-minute surprises, the vote should be 286 for Bush, 252 for John Kerry.

This ratification will elicit yawns instead of the outrage it did in 2000, when the electoral college went for the loser of the popular vote. But don’t think 2000 was such an anomaly. The country barely dodged a bullet this time around. Had 59,388 Ohioans switched from Bush to Kerry, 2004 would have repeated the acidic result of the electoral college winner -- the next president -- being the popular-vote loser. This time the travesty would have been even greater, as Kerry would have been sworn in despite receiving 3.3 million fewer votes than Bush, who received 543,895 votes fewer than Gore in 2000.

We have often been highly critical of the Bush administration, but because of his decisive win in the popular vote, we surely are glad that he is the certified Ohio winner. Even die-hard supporters of Kerry should thank their unlucky stars that he lost Ohio, to spare the country such an undemocratic outcome.

Not to mention an outbreak of flip-flopping. Imagine how unseemly it would have been -- had Ohio gone for Kerry -- to see all those Democrats singing the virtues of the electoral college, while Republicans extolled the virtues of the popular vote.

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Americans of all political persuasions should agree that it’s time for this 18th century constitutional compromise to go. America’s democracy has lasted far longer than most others in history, in large part because it has displayed the capacity to change. The electoral college only produces a corrosion of confidence in and stoking of cynicism about the overall election system.

Electoral college reforms won’t occur suddenly, given that they would require a constitutional amendment. Dissatisfaction with the process has long been building. Colorado’s eruptive bid to split its nine electoral votes proportionate to the state’s popular vote failed on Nov. 2, stumbling in part over its potential immediate effect. Such efforts reflect simmering dissatisfactions, the kind that devalue people’s faith in our democracy. With today’s anticlimactic electoral college vote, we fear that the steam behind a reform drive is likely to dissipate for 47 months. It shouldn’t.


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