Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Maryland Electoral Reform

This morning I read an article in the Baltimore Sun about state legislation to designed "side-step" the electoral college in national elections. I have to warn against this legislation, as it could relegate small states like Maryland to the side-lines. The article states that the purpose is to prevent a repeat of the 2000 election, in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election due to the electoral college votes:

The idea is being considered across the country as a way to pull the teeth out of the Electoral College and avoid a scenario where a candidate wins the most votes nationwide but loses the election, as Democrat Al Gore did in 2000.
I should point out that this measure does not address any of the core issues which led to the problems that plagued the 2000 election; in practice, this measure cannot prevent a catastrophe like the one in Florida every time. But this is a topic for another post, so I'll get back to the subject at hand.

State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery Co.) asks, "Why shouldn't we have a direct popular vote where every vote counts equally?"

I'll tell you why: because small states like Maryland will lose out. The electoral college, the Senate, and the House are all designed to create a balance between majority rule and minority rights. The reason why all states have an equal number of senators was to appease the smaller states who feared that the larger states would dominate politics, and the reason the number of House members per state is based on population was to appease the larger states who felt that since they had larger populations that they should have more of a decisive vote. The electoral college puts these two models together for electing national candidates.

What the Maryland state delegation proposes would remove the protection in the constitution that gives small states like Maryland a more equal voice in comparison to large states like Texas and California in national elections. Circumventing the electoral college would mean that large states would rule national elections. This is basic civics, and this is what small states fought for when this nation was first formed -- but now we have a small state fighting to remove its own protection.

At least state Senator Mike Lenett (D-Montgomery Co.) gets it:
Lenett warned that sidestepping the Electoral College would hurt rural, less populous states. Candidates, he argued, would spend most of their time in big cities, where the most people live.
As the end of the article states, if this plan is put into action it "would have meant left-leaning Maryland awarded its electors to President Bush in 2004, when Democratic Sen. John Kerry handily carried the state." This is precisely the problem. Maryland's voice will be snuffed out by the national majority's voice. This country is not founded on majority rule -- we are not a true democracy, we are a republic. And in a republic, protection for minority rights is essential.

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