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The Electoral College Is Not Archaic

There will always be people who think they know better than our Founding Fathers. Year after year, someone always comes along and advocates changing a process that has been in place since 1787. David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute has penned a piece for the Journal Record in which he advocates dumping the Electoral College. His reasoning is the same, tired, old, and long-used excuses that have been put forth time and time again for why we should scrap a system conceived by our Founders and replace it with a voting system that would eliminate the electoral process that has served the States well for the last two hundred and twenty-nine years.

Mr. Blatt is certainly not alone in his views as there have been voices from all areas of the political spectrum advocating for electing the president by national popular vote instead of the Electoral College. Even here in reddest-of-the-red-states Oklahoma, the Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill a few years ago that was designed to do exactly what Blatt advocates. The Senate passed this bill without notice to the public and the public fury that was heard prevented the House from considering the bill. It did not go unnoticed that several senators, including the bill’s author, Rob Johnson, accepted an expenses-paid junket to a resort from Fair Vote, which is an organization backing a national popular vote. Several House members were scheduled to go on their own junket but canceled them after their shenanigans became public.

So what exactly is this movement about and what do they hope to accomplish? The process advocated by those pushing the national popular vote would award the electoral votes for a state to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of the number of votes a candidate received in the state. For example, in the 2012 presidential election, the vote here in Oklahoma was 891,325 for Mitt Romney and 443,547 for Barack Obama. Under this proposed national popular vote process, all of Oklahoma’s electoral votes would have been awarded to Barack Obama. If Mr. Blatt is so concerned about Oklahoma votes mattering, what would he say to the 891,325 people who had their votes nullified by voters in other states?

What exactly is Mr. Blatt’s reasoning here? Let’s take a look.

Oklahoma Journal – The weeks before the recent presidential primaries were heady times in Oklahoma.

The leading candidates for both parties’ nominations held large, enthusiastic rallies in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Small armies of volunteers registered new voters, organized meetings, and got out the vote. On Super Tuesday, the nation watched as Oklahoma “chose Cruz” and “felt the Bern.”

For choosing our parties’ nominees, our votes mattered. Oklahoma mattered.

But now we can all go back to sleep. Even in this highly unpredictable election year, one prediction seems solid: No presidential candidate is likely to step foot in Oklahoma again before the Nov. 2 election.

For those who live in a state like Ohio, come October, the presidential candidates will become so familiar that you might find them on your lawn raking your leaves. For us here in Oklahoma, we’ll be lucky if the spouse of a vice-presidential candidate pops in for a fundraiser.

The reason, of course, is our archaic system for electing the president. The Electoral College’s winner-take-all method of distributing electoral votes leads the parties to concentrate their resources in an ever-fewer number of swing states, while ignoring those states, like Oklahoma, where the outcome is certain.

The Electoral College is one of the reasons electoral participation has plummeted in Oklahoma in recent decades. In the absence of serious presidential campaigns, Oklahomans have fewer ways to get engaged in the electoral process and less reasons to care.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A serious bipartisan effort has emerged to change the method for electing the president. Under a proposal known as the National Popular Vote, the candidate for whom the most popular votes are cast across the United States would be elected president. The proposal will take effect if adopted by states representing 270 Electoral College votes. So far, National Popular Vote legislation has been enacted by 10 states and the District of Columbia possessing 165 Electoral College votes.

As the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network argues, “If every citizen’s vote in all 50 states was sought after by candidates, more eligible voters by a large factor – in the millions – would participate in presidential election years.”

And just maybe, come fall 2020 or 2024, when Oklahomans’ votes matter, a presidential candidate will save you from having to clean up your yard.

An “archaic system for electing the president?” I wonder if Mr. Blatt believes the rest of our Constitution is also
archaic. Most liberals do believe that our Constitution needs to be ‘fixed.’

If Mr. Blatt thinks eliminating the Electoral College would suddenly make Oklahoma a popular campaign stop, he needs to examine population data. While 81% of the population lives in cities, one-third of the population lives in only ten metropolitan areas. Candidates would concentrate their campaigning in ten or twenty cities and virtually ignore the rest of the country. If Mr. Blatt and others think votes in Oklahoma don’t matter now, imagine how it would be if ten or so large cities decided who would be president. None of those large cities are in Oklahoma. And so what if candidates ignore Oklahoma? Why is it a bad thing that a candidate doesn’t deem it worth their time to make a stop in Oklahoma to shake a few hands and make their stump speech? Are people’s feelings so fragile that they need an appearance from a candidate to prop up their self-esteem so they can go on with their daily lives? Seriously, David, what does it do for you when a presidential wannabe flies in for an afternoon to say hello and lunch at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse before flying on to the next campaign stop?

The Electoral College is not one of the reasons electoral participation has plummeted in Oklahoma. If voting for the president was the only thing people ever voted on then that argument might carry water, but it’s just not so. If you’ve voted before then I’m sure you’ve noticed that there were many other races, bond issues, state questions, or other things besides president on your ballot. In non-presidential election years, what excuse does Mr. Blatt use for the low voter turnout? Here in Oklahoma, we elect our governor and many statewide offices in non-presidential election years. There are also municipal elections, school board, school bonds, and special elections. Do not tell me the Electoral College is keeping people at home when there is not even a presidential election on the ballot. That’s hogwash and a phony excuse for going to the national popular vote.

With the Electoral College, every state matters, no matter how few electoral votes it has. In 2000, Al Gore would have been elected president had he merely won the electoral votes in his home state of Tennessee. Under the Electoral College system, even the smallest states with the smallest populations can affect the outcome of a presidential election.

Over the years, Congress has rejected hundreds of bills aimed at eliminating the Electoral College. Fortunately, enough people see how misguided that would be.

In 2012, the Republican Party platform approved at the convention included language opposed to any change.

“We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College. We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose ‘national popular vote’ would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”

Those who think the national popular vote would be a good idea need to bone up on their history. The federal coalition of the United States was designed with the intent that the States, not a direct vote of the people, would select the president. In Federalist Paper 39, James Madison wrote that “the immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters.”

Even the leftist website Slate published an article in defense of the Electoral College, giving five reasons for retaining it.

1. Certainty of Outcome
2. Everyone’s President
3. Swing States
4. Big States
5. Avoid Run-Off Elections

There’s no legitimate reason for eliminating the Electoral College. Those who advocate doing so are either ignorant of the federal system created by our Founding Fathers or they wish to destroy that system because they know doing so would give control of the presidency to the largest metropolitan areas in the country, all of which tend to be liberal.

Perhaps Mr. Blatt and others who want the national popular vote to elect a president should list all the other parts of our Constitution they think are “archaic.”

It doesn’t seem likely that the national popular vote movement will have the success that they want anytime soon. Hopefully, never, or you can say goodbye to federalism. Either way, Mr. Blatt, you can clean up your own yard.

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