Archive for Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Wise system

June 30, 2004


To the editor:

Lee Carlson, in his June 26 piece "One man, no vote," described the Electoral College as "unfair, unneeded and undemocratic."

While granting the last (the Constitution, wisely, makes no effort to establish our government as a pure democracy), I would instead argue that the Electoral College is an example of inspired genius.

The presidency is the sole national office in our government. The Electoral College system forces any candidate who credibly seeks election to run a truly national campaign that encompasses the interests of multiple regions of the country. This creates an internal pressure for realistic, moderating compromise within a candidate's campaign. It also eliminates the possibility that a candidate with exceptional popularity (i.e., getting 80-90 percent of the vote) confined to only a few groups or regions will win on a pure popular vote.

As an aside on electing a president by a "majority" of the popular vote, given the voter participation rates in U.S. elections, this might be accomplished by getting the votes of barely 25 percent to 30 percent of registered voters.

No doubt there will be pressure in Iraq to adopt a system of elections by pure popular vote, and it will be unfortunate if it prevails. In a country with a significant Shiite majority -- yet riven with religious and ethnic tensions -- such a system risks tyranny by the majority, ignoring or repressing the rights of minorities. Mr. Carlson's sarcastic suggestion that the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites (plus let's add the Assyrian and Turkomen minorities) possess distinct representation within an Electoral College system would offer better protection of their rights and interests.

Robert W. Ramsdell,


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