« BACK  |  PRINT

RS

MEMBER DIARY

Hurricane Sandy and the Electoral College

There has been much talk in the last decade about abolishment of the electoral college. This talk is mostly from people who do not understand it. There are many reasons for the electoral college system, today we will look at two.

In what may seem like an unrelated argument there has been talk of late about postponement of the election due to Hurricane Sandy. The argument goes that votes from the northeastern states will be under-counted because of the difficulty they may or may not face in voting due to the storm.

The truth is the founders already put in place a system that mitigates the effects of regional difficulties to voting. That system is the electoral college. You see the founders already knew that the weather can be different in different states, even regularly so.

Some states regularly have to deal with snow to go to their polling places, while southern states hardly ever have this difficulty.

The average citizen in a rural state often has to travel further to their respective polling place than a citizen in Washington D.C., who will likely be able to walk if able bodied.

A poorer state may not have the financial capability to open as many polling places as a rich state.

Many other things can have an effect on the ease of voting in a particular state. The electoral college, by apportioning electors to the state in proportion to their congressional delegation, and therefore indirectly also by population, allows for the varying difficulties in voting among states to be effectively compensated for. It does not, of course, directly compensate for intrastate variations in difficulty, but does allow for state legislatures to take appropriate action by, among other things, setting the way the electors are chosen based on their citizens’ votes.

 

A second reason for the electoral college is to prevent encouragement, or lack of discouragement, of voter fraud by the state or local government.

Consider the scenario of a country with politics split largely along regional lines. If the election were based on a purely popular vote local officials might be tempted to look the other way when people attempt to vote multiple times. After all they are likely to vote for the same person that the official wants, as they live nearby. In an electoral college system, this would be less likely, as in any state with such a heavily decided population, the outcome would be known anyway. In any swing state, it would be less advantageous to allow multiple voting as the local official would have less of an idea of how the offender would vote.

I realized the significance of this effect because of a article I saw about an election in an African country(I can’t at the moment remember which, perhaps I’ll update later) in which I suspected this was going on. The country was highly divided amongst Islamics and non-Islamics in a highly regionalized fashion, with the Islamics in the minority. The election was won by the Islamic candidate due to much higher turnout in the Islamic regions, at turnout levels that strained credibility.

You may think that this may not have relevance in this country, but consider the highly regionalized politics of the United States right before the civil war. Without the electoral college, poll workers in southern states could have used this effect to prevent Lincoln from winning. Not to necessarily say that they would have, but they could have.

So the next time you wonder why we have these old institutions, attempt to understand the reasons for them before advocating their abolition.

 

–Giuseppe Van Der Waals

 

P.S.

I hope you enjoyed my first diary here at RedState and look forward to your comments, positive, critical, and otherwise.

Note that I did write this in a single draft several hours after my usual bedtime after being annoyed by arguments about both theelectoral college and unrelated ones about Hurricane Sandy, so please excuse any typos, grammatical errors or droning onsentences such as this one.

Get Alerts