Archive for Friday, November 10, 2000

Change to Electoral College possible, election official says

November 10, 2000


— Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh says while the Electoral College may be an outmoded idea, he's not ready to see it dumped.

The state's chief election officer said Thursday that there are better ways, including changing the system so that electoral votes would be proportional rather than the winner-take-all method in each state.

"I'm not a big fan of it," Thornburgh said. "We need to review the entire system. The end result may be less than doing away with the entire Electoral College, but it's certainly ripe for review."

The Electoral College has come under scrutiny in recent days because of the possibility of the next president winning the electoral vote but losing the popular vote.

Only three times since the Electoral College was created in 1787 has someone gone to the White House after losing the popular vote John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College as a buffer between the citizens and the election of the president. It was to protect the nation from mob rule and ensure power for less-populous states.

"It was an idea based on the concept that the average American wasn't qualified to cast an intelligent vote," Thornburgh said. "But today it is a system that is outdated."

Despite all the political hoopla from the candidates, voters cast ballots for 538 electors, not directly for the presidential candidate and running mate.

The electors, distributed in each state according to the number of House and Senate members, meet in December to complete the state-by-state electoral process. A state gets one elector for each House seat plus two more for the two U.S. senators.

One idea Thornburgh likes would have electoral votes apportioned according to the vote in each congressional district, with the two electors for the senators added to the overall winner.

For instance, if three of Kansas' congressional districts went for Candidate A and the fourth went for Candidate B, then the state's electoral vote would be five for Candidate A and one for Candidate B.

"That would bring every state into play and be a more accurate reflection of the public's wishes," Thornburgh said.

In case of an even split among congressional districts, the two electors for the senators would go to the candidate winning the statewide popular vote.

Thornburgh said electing a president by a direct popular vote also has some problems.

"It becomes more likely for extreme groups to prevent someone from winning the election with a majority vote," said Thornburgh.

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