Can we please finally reform the Electoral College?


Every four years, when I see this map above (or variations thereof), I’m dismayed.

Regardless of who wins the presidency, just looking at the potpourri of red and blue for a year leading up to the November general election is tantamount to a national disgrace.

It’s not that I’m at odds with the reasoning of the Founding Fathers for the establishment of the Electoral College. I discussed that, and some of the ongoing attempts at reform, in my Portland Sun column this week, “Building an electoral bridge?”

In some ways, Jay, Hamilton, and Madison – much as their  Athenian paradigms two millennia earlier – had it right: the general public is susceptible to the wrath of demagogues and undue influence. As such, it can’t be trusted to make the best decision consistently when directly electing leaders, especially the top dog.

Still, that was then, this is now. Today, the office of the presidency remains the lone national office we elect indirectly. But why? Shouldn’t the public be held accountable for its wisdom or madness, whichever the case may be?

History bears this out: the effect of presidential elections often require a few years to take root, and perhaps even more to bear fruit. All this, despite what the instant gratification of the frenzied media would have us think – or not.

So it’s up to all of us, not just a few states, to get rid of an incompetent in the Oval Office, or keep marching off the cliff for another four years.

Frankly, we should all loathe battleground states, swing states, bellwether states, purple states and whatever other inane metaphor attached to the handful of realms where the Electoral College’s effect weighs most heavily.

That’s not sour grapes, either.

When it comes to the chief executive, every American citizen’s vote should be equally valued, not favorably weighted while the rest of us sit around to see what will happen in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois – or wherever shifting demographics now make the flavor of the election cycle sweetest for campaign funds, and media dollars.

And every candidate should be forced to hustle to remote corners such as Presque Isle, Maine, and Keokuk, Iowa – not just to Cleveland and Orlando.

What do you think? Wouldn’t you have loved to have seen Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney actually staring down a grizzled lumberjack with a mouth full of chaw? I’d have paid good money for that.

The ideal is one voter, one vote, period. Which also avoids messes such as the 2000 Florida hanging chad fest in Bush v. Gore.

But I’m not holding out hope for that any time soon, given what would be required to get there. My column does examine some other reforms that seem worthwhile. But to apply them inconsistently across all 50 states is anathema.

Get ready for more of the same in 2016. Just try not to hold your nose at the ballot box.

Telly Halkias

About Telly Halkias

Award-winning freelance journalist from Portland's West End. Writes columns, features, and drama reviews for newspapers in Vermont, where he also owns a home, Massachusetts, New York and Maine.. Former weekend columnist at the now defunct Portland Sun. Longtime adjunct professor of college English/history/humanities. Has lived overseas for 15 years, and all over the U.S. Veteran. Small business owner. Published poet. ATCA drama critic. Loves all things outdoors, and Siberian huskies.