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Monday, April 02, 2007

Constitutional End Runs

EJ Dionne Jr. is proud of the fact that Maryland is trying to make an end run on the Constitution. Specifically, the Electoral College.

You see, the folks in many "blue states" are still (after 7 friggin' years) ticked off that Al Gore isn't President, even though he won the popular vote. It's not the first time that's happened in our history, and, unless the deconstructionists get their way, it may not be the last.

The new method in blue states to make sure that they get a Democrat in office is to try and change the system, but not within the Constitution, but instead by circumventing it. A couple of groups are pushing states to adopt laws that say that electors are to be distributed not based on the vote in the state, but on the national popular vote.

You see, changing the Constitution to provide for a direct election of the President might take too long, or not happen at all. And god knows, we can't let a little thing like the Constitution get in the way of political expediency.

Now, I'll give the Maryland Senate a little credit. Their bill requires that all electors of the state go to the winner of the national popular vote, but only if enough votes are gotten to receive 270 electoral votes, the number needed to become president.

Here's the problem, though. Every state that passes a law like Maryland's has to understand how electors are apportioned by the other 49 states. For instance there are states that apportion them based on popular vote in their state. Then the others that give all to the winner of the popular vote. Still some allow the electors to vote for whomever they chose (1 electoral vote was cast in 2004 for John Edwards).

The other thing that Dionne, and the folks pushing this forget is that, while not directly electing the President, the electors job is to vote for the people the state voted for. So if Maryland were to vote 70-30% for Hillary in 2008, but Fred Thompson or Rudy Guilliani gets 55% of the national vote, would those electors actually represent "the will of the people" of Maryland?

That's where these types of issues become tough. How long will an election be held up by challenges in court to such a system? In a close election you can see those challenges coming.

One arguement (a decent one) against the Electoral College is that it gives a disproporation share of representation to small states. However, that was by design of our founding fathers, to prevent the President from being elected by and basically ignoring those small states. Many worried that elections would basically only matter in New York and Pennsylvania if a strict popular vote was held.

In Federalist Number 68 Hamilton explains, better than I can, the reasoning behind the Electoral College, and why it exists.

That all being said, I'm all for a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Electoral College and go to a popular vote (preferably with an instant run off attached). What I'm not for is individual states deciding that the Constitution is something to be skirted when it meets their political goals.

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