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Rigged

November 9, 2016

In perhaps the greatest irony (and there were many) of this Presidential election, Donald Trump’s concerns about a “rigged” election came to pass, though not in the manner that he foresaw. For the second time in the past five elections and the fifth time in our history, the candidate who had the most votes did not win.

Why? Because of the presence in our “democracy” of an archaic system called the electoral college. In this system, the principle of one person one vote is in actuality circumvented.

So why do we have this system in the first place?

One must go back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 for the answer. The founding fathers had thought about a variety of different methods of electing the President, most of which did not involve any direct vote by the people themselves. When they settled upon the electoral college, part of the reasoning was to provide a degree of participation by the population. Tweaked in 1804 by the 12th Amendment and then again by the 23rd Amendment, the system remains essentially the same in that the deciding vote is that of the electoral college and not the popular vote. In this system, it is which states a candidate has a simple majority in rather than the more logical simple majority in the entire nation. It is even potentially possible in the current system to win a Presidential election with under 30 percent of the popular vote.

The 2000 election illustrates the inequity of this process. Before the Florida vote was finalized, Al Gore led George W. Bush in the nation-wide popular vote. He also led in the electoral vote 265 to 246. But a difference of a mere 537 votes gave Florida — and its 25 electoral votes — to Bush, and thus the entire election. How does this make sense?

Perhaps it is time for a change.

Just such a change was considered during the 91st Congress. A resolution proposed a direct election based on the popular vote with the provision that a run off would be required if no one received over 40 percent of the vote. In 1969 the House of Representatives passed this resolution, but the Senate did not.

I, for one, believe such a change is long overdue, not just because of the result of this particular election or any other, but because if we are to truly be a democracy, no other system makes sense.

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