From The Daniel Island News
What 167-year old college may be going out of business soon?
By Steve Ferber
Jan 2, 2013 - 9:16:19 AM
You’ve probably never visited their campus, and you have never met an alumni. This college offers no formal lecture halls and continues to operate tuition-free (that said, you may, in a way, be a major donor). The college specializes in political science, and “graduates” precisely 540 individuals every four years.
We’re talking, of course, about the Electoral College*. Some political historians predict that the College may be closing shop come 2016, this in the wake of the close presidential popular vote and the upcoming inauguration later this month.
The current movement to eliminate the Electoral College is called NPVIC (the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact) and over the last four years, a majority of state legislatures have actively debated joining the Compact. Here’s how it works: individual states approve a law which says that all of their electoral votes will be awarded to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. So, for example, if South Carolina were to pass such a law (they have not yet), and had Romney won the popular vote, all 9 of South Carolina’s electors would have been awarded to Romney.
To date, eight states, plus the District of Columbia, have passed such a law – and here’s the creative part: in each case, the law doesn’t go into effect until the states in the Compact make up the majority of the electoral votes (that is, 270 electoral votes from a total of 538). Currently, the eight states, plus DC, total 132 electoral votes (the eight states are: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington).
In 1969, the U.S. government came close to abolishing the Electoral College when Congress voted to amend the Constitution. At the time, 38 state legislatures were required to approve the federal legislation, but only 31 ratified, and the movement has laid dormant since then, until now.
Proposing to abolish or amend the Electoral College is nothing new. The federal web site www.archives.gov explains that over the past 200 years, “over 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. There have been more proposals for Constitutional amendments on changing the Electoral College than on any other subject.” But the NPVIC may be the one that sticks because of three factors:
1. The NPVIC route does not require amending the Constitution;
2. Over the last four years, at least one house in 31 state legislatures has approved a bill to comply with the NPVIC (though in 22 states, the agreement has not become law); and
3. Close popular votes, in recent years, have raised (anew) the spectre that the winner of the popular vote could be denied the White House.
A 2011 Gallup poll found that 62% of Americans favor replacing the Electoral College with a straight out popular vote, but there are strong arguments for retaining the current system – most notably that it protects small states and minority interests. Explained Michael Racette this August, on the web site www.2paragraphs.com:
“The Electoral College gives disproportionate voting power to less populous states, which the framers thought they needed. Because a small state’s few electoral votes might make the difference in a close election, the current system encourages candidates to take into consideration the needs and concerns of those states in developing an election platform (and in governing, if elected). This tends to result in (as the framers hoped) the nomination of candidates with broad national appeal. The abilities of ethnic minorities to influence the national election outcome are also enhanced in the current system, because those population groups tend to live in or near large cities in large states, thus encouraging candidates to consider their interests in hopes of capturing large blocks of Electoral College votes.
“For instance, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, persons identifying themselves as ‘Hispanic or Latino’ comprised 16% of the national population, but far greater portions of the populations of large electoral states such as Texas (38%), California (38%), Colorado (21%), and Florida (23%), as well as some other smaller ‘swing’ states, whose votes might be enough to tip the balance in favor of a candidate in a close election. The voting power of minority groups would arguably decrease with a direct national popular vote because candidates might be less inclined to champion their interests or concerns in favor of majority interests.”
* The term “Electoral College” was first written into law in 1845, though the term itself does not appear in the Constitution.
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