When I learned about the Electoral College in the weeks leading up to the 1980 Presidential election, it was a nastier shock than when I found out that Santa Claus didn't exist.
The people don't elect the President? I asked my father incredulously. Who are these electors? How do we know they'll vote the way the people in the state voted?
I got over it and blithely started voting -- Presidential elections only -- starting in 1992. I was exercising my right and trusting that the electors would respect my choice.
Only when I became a resident of New York and voted in the 2000 election -- where I voted not just for President, but in the Senatorial and mayoral elections, too -- it occurred to me that even if the electors did their job, my vote was still subjugated to the will of the state.
That is, it didn't matter which way I voted -- or even if I voted at all -- because New York was going for Gore. Enough other people all across the state voted for Gore that it was a foregone conclusion that New York's electors would all go to his column. My vote, whether I cast it for Bush or for Gore, was nothing more than a fart in the wind.
In 2004, I was a resident of New Jersey, where the Presidential race was closer, but my vote still couldn't make a difference. Kyle voted his conscience (Libertarian party), which I half-admired, half-scorned. If my vote for Bush (yes, I admit it) didn't count for much, at least it didn't count for nothing.
Now it's 2008, and I finally live in a swing state. Colorado could go either way, and the closeness of the race is evident by the hundreds of commercials we've seen and the tonnage of junk mail we've received. This is the most my vote will probably ever count in a Presidential election.
But as far as I'm concerned, it's still not enough.
The Electoral College has long outlived its usefulness. Our vote-counting capabilities have improved dramatically. Our expectations for instant results have been tempered by the 2000 Presidential election. We're willing to wait and be sure that every last vote has been counted. And since that's the case, why shouldn't they all count?
There's no need to round off the votes by several decimal places, apportioning them to the states via electors. I find the arguments in favor of the Electoral College to be extremely tenuous, such as those cited in an American Enterprise Institute piece from April 2008, the essence of which being a defense of the "federalist" character of our nation and the castigation of giving each person's vote equal weight as being merely a "slogan".
I'm not the only one who thinks my vote -- and everyone else's -- ought to be counted. The National Popular Vote Bill -- currently endorsed by nearly 1200 state legislators -- intends to "reform the Electoral College so that the electoral vote in the Electoral College reflects the choice of the nation's voters for President of the United States."
The bill has been introduced in 45 of the 50 states (plus Washington DC), and it has been enacted into law in four states so far -- Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey. It's made significant progress in several other states, passing both legislative houses in four states (including California and Massachusetts) and passing one house thus far in five other states (including my home state of Colorado).
If you're like me, unmoved by the argument that "It's what our forefathers wanted!" and determined to find a way to make your vote count whether you live in a swing state or not, check out the Take Action options at the National Popular Vote website.
Julie is a former Air Force officer and professional project manager turned web writer. She spent four years at the Pentagon and five years in New York City, and her suburban life in Colorado seems pastoral by comparison. She's no political pundit, but she is an objective thinker in a sea of partisan propagandists. She writes for The Mom Slant, Cool Mom Picks, and is co-founder of The Parent Bloggers Network.
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