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Is electoral college still the best means to protect voter equality?


With 2020 on the horizon there seems to be a greater interest and discussion about the electoral college. There was even a recent commentary in the Wisconsin Energy Cooperative news.

In these times of extreme polarization is it possible to consider the matter in terms of critical analysis backed up by systematic evidence and not view it through the lens of rigid ideology, partisanship or parochialism? To think so may be naive yet despair is not really an option either. Do the arguments for retaining the electoral college in the 21st century outweigh the prime democratic principle of voter equality, often expressed as ‘one man, one vote?’ I would simply like to provide some information.

Each state must file a Certificate of Ascertainment. If you are interested in who your most recent electors were you can go to electoral-college/2016/certificates-ofascertainment. html The argument that one of the major advantages of the electoral college is that it forces candidates to be more attentive to and protective of state-based interests, especially the interests of states with small populations, is based on the premises that 1.) States have interests as states; 2.) These interests require protection; 3.) Interests in states with small populations both require and deserve special protection from federal laws; and 4.) Candidates focus on state interests, especially those of smaller states.

My focus at this time would be on premise number 4). A prominent means by which a candidate can attend to the interests in a state is by addressing them in speeches to that state’s voters. The election of 2000 was very close so one would think every state would be crucial. A team of researchers led by Shanto Iyengar at the Political Communication Lab at Stanford University compiled, read and classified the speeches of Gore and Bush. The results showed that only two of the 51 speeches by Al Gore focused on interests concentrated in a state. Bush delivered no speeches that focused on the special interests of small states. What about campaign appearances? Election analyst Daron Shaw tabulated the campaign appearances of presidential and VP candidates in each state during the election of 2000 for the period of time Aug. 24 to Nov. 6. None of the states with only three electoral votes received a visit from a presidential candidate. Same with VP candidates. Multiple visits only went to states deemed ‘competitive.’ Advertising? Hagen, Johnston and Jamieson found, again for the election of 2000, that the candidates advertised in only four of the 13 smallest states. Of the next 15 smallest states, both candidates advertised in only five. Hagen, Johnston, and Jamieson, “Effects of the 2000 Presidential Campaign,” 1,3-4. (Our perception may be skewed as Wisconsin was bombarded with 16,740.) So much for now. Take a position but let it be an informed position.

Darwin Zwieg