Archive for Saturday, June 26, 2004

One man, no vote

June 26, 2004

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We have a running joke at our house these days. In our retirement, whenever my wife and I have a decision to make, I get one-half vote, and she gets one vote. Just yesterday "we" decided to do some extensive landscaping around our townhome. The vote was one vote for and one-half vote against. I can live with that. But what I have great difficulty living with is our archaic presidential voting tradition.

As a lifelong American, my vote for the presidency has counted only twice in the 48 years that I've voted. While living in Kansas in 1956 I cast my ballot for Dwight Eisenhower, who carried the vote in Kansas and thus received the state's eight Electoral College votes. Eight years later my vote for Lyndon Johnson also counted, which by the way was the last time a Democrat carried Kansas.

Since that time I have voted for the man who eventually became president three times, but each time the electoral votes all went to the other candidate. So, my vote did not make a difference.

Except for those two early races, the Electoral College system has annulled my vote. In seven other elections my candidate lost.

Here is the crux of the matter. The Electoral College system is unfair, unneeded and undemocratic. Of course it was once needed in those early years of our country when communication was such a slow process. Now it is not needed. The system is discriminatory and costly. In 2000, this outdated process cost Al Gore the presidency, rewarding the man with the fewest votes with the presidency.

The knife cuts both ways. My brother is a staunch Republican, but has the misfortune of living in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, so, guess what? His vote has not counted either in the almost 50 years he has lived there.

Soon the administration in Washington hopes to have free elections in Iraq to further the cause of democracy there. My mind plays with a logical procedure for this election. Should we not advocate some form of the Electoral College system, which would emulate our own American pattern? Let's see we could set up electors from the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Bagdadites, the insurgents, etc. I'm being sarcastic of course. I'm sure we'll push for a majority vote system, and in so doing, will have a more democratic and fair system than we do in the United States.

Some people will conclude that this is really a trifling matter, but I don't think so. I can live with my one-half vote at home. But with the choosing of a president of these United States we can do better.

I propose that we change the outmoded process to one where every vote counts, ever time. The winner is the one with the most votes. The time to act is now, so that the 2008 election will be fair for all. Let the common people of this free land ignite a grass-roots movement that will light a fire under our legislators, some of whom may be reluctant and/or partisan. I'll work for that, and I'll vote for it too. A vote that will count.

- Lee W. Carlson is a retired American Baptist minister and a Lawrence resident.

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