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The Electoral College

    For those who have been asleep, or dead (like a certain congressman, who was elected despite the slight disadvantage of having lost his life), I must say that this has been a startlingly close election. Bush took it, despite challenges from the most litigious group in the world --- the American left. Much of the tension centered around the electoral college, and there were some who held out the possibility that one candidate could win the popular vote, while another garnered more electoral votes. This has happened three times in the past, during particularly close races. Interestingly, the predictions were for Bush to win the popular vote, but Gore to take the electoral. I pity anyone who missed the elections. This was the closest, most exciting event I have ever seen. More important than any sporting event, the feel, and energy of it were the same. The closeness of the race is mimicked by the electoral votes. The fact that Bush took the electoral vote, but not the popular vote means a very close scrutiny will likely be made of the electoral process.
    It may be remarkable to some, that such an anachronistic system still chooses the man who is arguably the most powerful in the world. It is difficult for us to understand the reason and purpose of this institution, and indeed, it may have no place in the most powerful nation that has ever existed, but it may have a place in the United States. The seeming contradiction here, shows how far this country has come from what it once was. I do not mean for this to be a defense of a system which would seem to undermine the democratic process, but there is some food for thought here. Is the Electoral College an outdated mode of attempting to express the will of the people? Has it been made obsolete by modern methods of vote tallying? Most important of all, did the Electoral College fail in 2000 by not exactly reflecting the popular vote, or did it succeed by overshadowing the popular vote, for something that was seen as more important during the founding of this country?
    This country began as a mixed bunch of colonies, and settlements. There was a certain attitude, and exploitiveness, among the colonial powers, which colored the way they treated their possessions. The colonies were convenient places to send criminals, idlers, and other malcontents, along with the restless, and the ambitious. These were also good places to garner a few extra taxes, use as markets for domestic goods, and harness for raw materials. Occasionally a nice, tidy war of proxy might be fought there, permitting the armies to have at each other, without greatly endangering or inconveniencing the folks at home. In many ways this was similar to the attitude of today's absentee landlord. The individual settlements were independent entities, each with it's own government, and often it's own currency. Each had also developed it's own culture and way of doing things. The initial revolution was merely an attempt to throw off the shackles of colonialism. The citizens, and governors of these newly freed states, had no more trust in a central government based in North America, than they had for the old central government across the ocean. We had no desire to fight a revolution, merely to replace one unresponsive dictatorial government with another. This distrust was the basis for the Bill of Rights, and for much of the rest of the Constitution. It was a very near thing, this forming a new nation from a group of separate colonies. It very nearly did not happen at all. We could have easily followed the pattern set by the colonies in Africa, and South America, breaking up into a number distinct, and in some cases, feuding, sovereignties.
    One way to prevent the dictatorship of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia was to represent all of the states equally, as separate but equal sovereignties, in the Senate. Populations would be represented in the House. This seemed a good compromise, with each house being equal to the other, but what of the chief executive? It was eventually decided that this person, the President, would be chosen by a number of people equal to the members of the House and the Senate. In this way, the states would have representation in the choosing of the President, equal to that which they had in the legislature. It was also decided that it would be the states, as individual bodies, which would decide how these votes would be cast. So it would be the states who would choose the president rather than a direct vote of the people as a whole. Looking at this arrangement, the question might be asked, aren't the States and the people, one and the same? The answer to that question, in the context of the concerns of the revolutionaries, is no. In the original thirteen colonies, the vast majority of the people lived in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. These cities were geographically, and culturally very close to each other, and all were part of New England. As these were the most populous areas, and had much in common, it seemed natural to the leaders of the other colonies, that it would only be a matter of time before they all came under the thumb of the New Englanders. Choosing the president by a popular election, though fair enough in principle, would in fact, turn the office over to whomever best represented the interests of these populous areas. There was the feeling, that many ofthe other states would, once again, become colonies; this time, of the big New England cities. It was decided that the compromise instituted in the Congress, would also be instituted in the electorate. Each state would have a number of electors equal to the number of representatives it sent to both houses of Congress. It was also decided, that it would be up to each individual state, how those electors would be chosen.
    This arrangement still gave the more populous areas an advantage in the election of the President, but it somewhat diminished the possibility of them ruling the nation by themselves. The included map shows county by county voting patterns in 2000. It is obvious that the majority of the country, geographically, voted for Bush. The fact that Gore was almost elected, confirms the worst fears of the founders. Thin slivers on both coasts, along with a smattering of areas in the midwest, very nearly chose the President over the wishes of the rest of the nation. There is more to the Electoral College than this though. The desire was to have authority for the election of the chief executive spread out among the states. This would prevent a centralization of power in the running of the election, and the tally of the votes. So it was to be a majority of the people in a majority of states, rather than a majority of the people in the nation as a whole, who would select the nation's leader.
    In addition to insuring that the President would be chosen by the individual states, the Electoral College was also a safeguard against something that many in politics joke about, but few wish to address directly, voter fraud. Much has been made of this, because of the closeness of the election. Interestingly, it always seems to be the democrats who are the worst offenders. The last time there was such an outrage over voter fraud was during the Nixon/Kennedy election. In that election, it was later found that dead people had been registered, and that there were many voters who could not be found, registered at addresses which did not exist. The Daley stronghold of Chicago was particularly notorious for this type of thing. There are well organized political machines in many, if not all, of the states, and I would not be shocked to hear of many of these organizations rigging elections. I have just read that the city of Philadelphia, with a population of 1.3 million, had over 1 million registered voters. It seems that, in the entire city, there are only 300,000 people who did not vote. In essence, we should believe that there are only 300,000 children, infirm, unconcerned, and ineligible people living in the entire city. Ineligible people would include those who's voting rights have been taken away because of criminal records or imprisonment, an adjudged mental incapacity, or other factors determined by the state. This does not even include people who fall into none of the mentioned categories, but simply chose not to vote. There are the cases right here in Milwaukee, where I live, in which college students voted multiple times, and then bragged and joked about it.
    In a straight election, in which the President is picked by the raw vote, all of these violations would influence the election. In a state by state electoral system, the effect may be canceled out. This is because any state in which the polls can be defrauded in such a way, is likely already run by the party manipulating the election. This state would likely go to the same candidate, whether the election was rigged or not. As an example, if Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have their ballot boxes stuffed with an extra million votes, by the democrats who run the political machines in those places, the election results could be changed in a direct election. In an electoral election, this would merely strengthen the victory already won in these heavily democratic areas. No one wants to discuss the matter openly, but it is quite obvious that election fraud, organized or not, is widespread. This is particularly emphasized by the appearance of a Daley as Al Gore's campaign manager. This is possibly the most crooked political family in the nation, and the one which made the most wide spread, and effective use of election fraud. It is no surprise that an alliance was formed between the Daley, and the Clinton/Gore camps.