THE BLOG

The Electoral College and Making Presidential Elections Less Ridiculous

12/17/2007 01:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Electoral College is a ridiculous system.

In New York, I know that whether I go to the polls or not, the Democrat presidential candidate is going to carry all of the electoral votes from my state. Both parties acknowledge that New York is a perennial blue state, and thus neither candidate (even if they are Giuliani and Clinton -- two New Yorkers) will spend much time campaigning in my state. I still vote because it feels like the right thing to do, but I know that my New York vote just doesn't count for much.

If I lived in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, or one of the other "battleground states," I would have myriad opportunities in the summer and fall of next year to see the candidates in person, and my vote could play a role in shifting a boatload of electoral votes. My vote there would count infinitely more than my vote in New York.

Residents of battleground states have no personal incentive to change this system, just as residents of New Hampshire and Iowa enjoy the primary election system giving them oodles of access to every candidate.

However, the system is fundamentally unfair when a disproportionate amount of attention and value is given to a small group of voters. We're not electing a president of the United States of Iowa and New Hampshire in primary season and then a president of Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio during the general election.

America has been saddled with the Electoral College for so long that it's easy to write off a popular vote as crazy-talk. But what is so good about a "democratic" system that values some votes higher than others? If America changed to a popular vote system, candidates would be forced to campaign everywhere, because every vote would matter. (Also, if we had changed this earlier, George W. Bush would never have become president.)

Let's be honest: minority party votes in "solid red" or "solid blue" states just don't matter. If you happen to be a Vermont Republican or Nebraska Democrat, why even go to the polls in a presidential election?

However, instead of removing this antiquated system of inequity, some have been looking to exploit it. A Republican-led "dirty trick" initiative has been underway to split up California's electoral votes by district, thus preventing all of its 55 electoral votes from going to the Democrat candidate.

New Jersey's Assembly last week voted to give all 15 of its state's electoral votes to the national popular vote winner. This would be a great idea -- but only if the other 49 states would do it too. They are not going to under the current system, which makes it a terrible idea.

National elections require uniform national rules. How a vote should count is not an individual state-by-state issue. You can't skew the electoral votes in a blue state and then not in the red and "battleground" states.

Any kind of chopping up electoral votes is an idea rife with opportunities for gerrymandering, corruption, and voter suppression. Let's snap out of the haze of blindly following an outmoded system, and abolish the Electoral College in the name of voter equality and a national popular vote. The Constitution is a living document; a change in this case is direly overdue.

Dan Brown is the author of the new teacher memoir "The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle."