Tags: electoral college | election 2016 | popular vote | voter id

Coonts: The American Election System Is a Patchwork Antique

Coonts: The American Election System Is a Patchwork Antique

By    |   Monday, 30 October 2017 03:04 PM

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the 2016 election, one that was billed as the final battle between good and evil, with each side absolutely sure they were on the side of the angels, maybe we should take another look at the American system for electing a president.

The Electoral College is a uniquely American political institution, a political compromise that allowed the U.S. Constitution to be ratified in 1788. When the members of the constitutional convention were debating in Philadelphia, the small states didn’t want the large states to decide the presidency by popular vote, yet the big states didn’t want to give up the political advantage a larger population gave them. So they came to a grand compromise: Each state would get as many electors as it had U.S. Senators and Congressional representatives, and the winner of the popular vote in a state would get all the state’s electoral votes.

The Electoral College system has profound effects, one of which is the necessity for political parties to campaign nationwide, on national platforms. This system is arguably one of the reasons that the United States has lasted 229 years, so far. Sectional interests cannot be ignored and a demagogic appeal to the inhabitants of large cities while ignoring the concerns of people in less populated areas rarely works.

One of the unique features of the Electoral College is that it is a winner-take-all system in each state. The candidate who gets a state’s electoral votes need only win a simple majority in that state, which can theoretically be as small as one vote more than half. A candidate can actually lose the nationwide popular vote and still win in the electoral college. That was precisely the result the drafters of our constitution intended when they agreed on the grand compromise. It has happened before in our national history, arguably happened in 2016, and may well happen again.

Another facet of the Electoral College system is that voter fraud, or election fraud, in any given state has a proportionally larger effect than it would if the president were elected by nationwide popular vote.

Voter fraud is alive and well in America. It has always been so. Public office is a plum that provides a good salary, prestige, influence, the opportunity for graft, and, of course, the ultimate aphrodisiac, power. Not everyone who runs for public office is a scallywag, but many of them are, so a lot of brains are trying to game the system. Courthouse politics has always been played for blood and money in America and political machines ruled some states for generations.

In the old days politicians stayed in power by buying votes with whiskey, money, jobs, and illegal access to public assistance. Political machines stuffed ballot boxes in the big cities — Truman’s defeat of Dewey in 1948 with the help of the Chicago machine is legendary. Chicago politicians routinely waited until Illinois districts downstate had reported their totals so they knew how many votes they needed to manufacture, then did it.

In America today the cultural and political divide can generally be defined as a split between rural and urban America. In 2016 the press reported that in thirty-seven percent of the precincts in Detroit there were more ballots cast than there were registered voters. Ballot box stuffing, allowing illegal aliens to vote, and the failure to require a photo ID before allowing someone to vote no doubt all played a part. Vote early and vote often. Still, despite the efforts of the Detroit Democrats, and to their horror, Michigan went for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. What if the efforts of the Detroit Democrats had given the state to Hillary Clinton by one vote?

Even counties that want to hold honest elections lack the means and funds to purge voter rolls of dead people and people who have moved away and registered elsewhere, so systematic efforts to fraudulently game the system are widespread. The nationwide use of absentee ballots has made voting your dead relatives’ ballots a national sport. The use of voting machines that contain computer chips invites those so inclined to rig them. Legislative efforts in places like California to allow illegal aliens to vote deprives the American citizens of California of their proportionate voice in the political process. The American election system is a patchwork antique that desperately needs an overhaul, which will probably have to come from the federal level.

Requiring photo IDs to register and to vote is a cheap and easy fix that would do much to cure some of the system’s ills. Politicians who think they benefit from crooked elections have resisted this change with all their might in legislative bodies and federal courts, waving the bloody flag of racial discrimination. The federal government has pretty much put an end to southern states’ systemic efforts to deprive minorities of the right to vote, yet some politicians insist that there are still American citizens eligible to vote who lack a photo ID, a ludicrous claim.

Without a photo ID one cannot check into a hospital, get medical help at a clinic, open a bank account, buy liquor or tobacco, register at a motel, drive a car, sign up for welfare or food stamps, fly on an airplane, buy a gun, get a hunting or fishing license, cash a check, obtain a passport, or do most of the other things all citizens must do to live in 21st century America. The only American citizen without a photo ID who doesn’t do any of these things is Big Foot, and no one has suggested that he votes or wants to.

America is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t require its citizens to present a photo ID to vote. Even Mexico requires all voters to be Mexican citizens and have a photo ID. Isn’t it ironic that a Mexican citizen can’t vote in Mexico without a photo ID but he can in America? If our California politicians went to Mexico and tried to vote, they would be arrested. Are we nuts?

Our American democracy rests on the premise that the American people have the absolute right to choose their leaders. If and when that pillar is removed, America as we know it will fall.

Novelist Stephen Coonts’ latest book is "The Armageddon File," about a fictional attempt to rig the 2016 election. Available November 6 in all formats.

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The Electoral College is a uniquely American political institution, a political compromise that allowed the U.S. Constitution to be ratified in 1788.
electoral college, election 2016, popular vote, voter id
Monday, 30 October 2017 03:04 PM
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