Male Nipples or the Queen of England

I found a great article in the April 2007 New Yorker about elections in the US, with some very practical solutions to some very glaring inequities.

Hendrik Hertzberg points out that voters who live in late primary states have no real say in choosing candidates, and voters in safe “non-battleground” states have no real say in choosing the president.

While most people think these inequities are built into the US Constitution, they’re not. As Hertzberg points out, the Constitution makes no mention of political parties or primaries. That system has simply evolved by custom.

And futhermore, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires all the electoral votes from a state to be cast for the same candidate. That’s just custom, too.

The first inequity could be eliminated easily by either or both of the major parties by a simple vote of its membership at their next convention.

Former Tennessee Senator Bill Brock worked with his colleagues across the aisle to develop a fair system. “Such things were possible, once upon a time,” he told Hertzberg.

The Delaware Plan called for four sets of primaries, a month apart, starting with twelve small states and ending with the largest states, which would still choose a majority of the delegates.

Although Brock was chairman of the Republican Party, his plan was “shot down at the last minute” by the Bush camp in 2004. Surprise, surprise.

But there is no reason the same plan, or another like it, maybe a lottery or a system of rotation from state to state, couldn’t be adopted by one or both parties. It’s not rocket science. We just want everyone’s vote to count equally.

The second inequity, the electoral college, which gives undue weight to votes in “battleground” states, can be dealt with even more easily without having to pass a constitutional amendment.

In fact, Hertzberg notes, Maryland has already approved the National Popular Vote Plan, which is elegant in its simplicity. State legislatures simply pass state laws requiring  their electors to vote for the candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote.

Once states with a majority of the electors pass these laws — simple majority-vote legislation, not constitutional amendments — then bingo! The electoral college becomes a vestigial remnant, like male nipples or the Queen of England.

It would no longer be possible to win the electoral vote without winning the popular vote. And every citizen in every state would have an equal say in choosing our president.

Reporters in New Hampshire have always had fun asking candidates if they think New Hampshire should continue to hold the first primary. If they say yes, they are clearly sucking up to New Hampshire voters and have no commitment whatsoever to the principles of fairness and democracy.