June 2, 2008 By Chad Vander Veen
The other day I was going through my morning ritual of visiting certain news sites - in a certain order - to get a quick sense of what's going on in the world. One Washington Times headline, in particular, caught my attention: "Michigan primary revote chances diminish." How is it that in 2008 this nation still can't cobble together a decent, sensible system for electing people to office?
Though the race for the White House is certainly historic, it's also giving more Americans a good look at how dysfunctional our election process has become. The Democrats have gone out of their way to illustrate how cockamamie their system is. Florida, for example, moved up its primary to an earlier date, despite the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) threat to strip the state of its delegates if it did so. Florida did anyway, and now as of press time, the delegates haven't been awarded to either candidate, leading some party officials to call for a "do over."
But the DNC's problem speaks to a larger issue in American elections. Now, I'm as pro-states' rights as any person you'll meet, but it's high time this country seriously considers nationwide standards for electing candidates to national office. It doesn't matter whether it's a nationwide system of electronic voting or paper balloting - just that we design a simple process for casting a vote.
Much of this year's caucuses and primaries have proven themselves totally archaic, so too is the U.S. Electoral College. The time when representative democracy was needed has long since passed. Today direct democracy is socially, technically and logistically feasible, even with punch cards or paper ballots. Think about it this way: The Nielsen system for rating TV shows - in which viewers write down what shows they watch and send that data back to Nielsen - is outdated, inefficient and just plain sucks. But it still works better than the way we vote for president.
Now I know we don't technically live in a democracy. We live in a republic. And those who defend the Electoral College say it's the republic's way of making sure less populous states don't get left out of the process. Under a strictly popular vote system, Electoral College defenders claim large population centers, like Los Angeles and New York, would unfairly skew the state voting results in their favor. The solution, then, is to ignore state lines altogether. Let every eligible American cast a vote, then tally 'em up. The person who receives the most votes wins. Who cares about awarding states? States aren't voting, Americans are.
Sounds simple. But seeing as the DNC can't even hold a simple election for itself, your vote for president may never actually count.
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