Nearly every day, we hear the latest tracking poll showing the percentage of people who intend to vote for Romney or Obama. Today I heard one with 48% for Obama and 45% for Romney (the rest undecided). The percentages keep changing.
The thing is: IT DOESN’T MATTER. It’s like picking Harvard to win every football game, because their players have the highest IQ. Irrelevant. That’s not how games are decided.
America isn’t a popular democracy, where the person with the most votes wins. At least not in presidential elections. Majority vote prevails at every other level–city and county, state, US Representatives, Senators–but we use a whole different method for selecting a president. Doesn’t that seem odd? It’s like playing a full soccer game, and if it’s tied at the end, you switch and play a whole different game (the lame shootout, or kick-off, or whatever it’s called).
We have this electoral college thing, treating states on a winner-take-all basis. Most states are already considered in the bag for one candidate or the other (including my state, Indiana). Romney and Obama will focus on just a handful of states, and eventually just one or two states. We call them “battleground” or “swing” states.
I realize there are pros and cons to the electoral college, and it’ll never be changed. But I’d like to see the nationwide popular vote decide who wins the election. That way, EVERY vote would count, not just those in Ohio and Florida (or whatever the battleground states du jour are). And we’d get pummeled with the same spate of TV ads assaulting everyone else. (Okay, this is a distinct advantage of living in Indiana.)
For instance, California will go to Obama; a majority of Californians will vote for him, no matter what Romney does. But I’m sure there are huge pockets of moderates who could easily swing to Romney, and would make a difference in a popular-vote election. But Romney’s not going to go after them, because they don’t matter. He won’t waste his time on the millions of voters in California. Nor those in New York and Illinois.
Likewise for Obama in Texas, Arizona, South Carolina…and Indiana. There may be hundreds of thousands of voters he could swing his way, while still not carrying the state. In a popular election, those voters would still matter. Because a vote is a vote. But in our system, they don’t matter. A vote is NOT necessarily a vote. Only in certain states.
Over the years, 700+ proposals have been introduced to reform or end the electoral college (a term which doesn’t appear in the Constitution itself), but none have gone anywhere. Polls consistently show that a wide majority of people favor abolishing the electoral college (75% in 1981). It’s an archaic system, which may have fit the world of the late 1700s, but it’s time to go. Plus, the electoral college is death to third parties. Ross Perot won 19% of the votes in 1992, but received NO electoral votes because he wasn’t strong enough in any single state. I’d love to see a third party candidate who actually stands a snowball’s chance.
Here in Indiana, we moderates can basically sit this one out, again. The state is firmly in the Romney column, and neither Romney nor Obama are going to waste time or money coming for a visit. We are taken for granted. And I hate that.