Top Democrats in the Iowa Senate think the country would be better off without the Electoral College deciding presidential elections.They think the popular vote should rule.
So they’re pushing a bill that would hand Iowa’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, even if that nominee fails to win Iowa’s popular vote. It would take effect once it’s also approved in a list of states with electoral votes that add up to the winning majority of 270.
The upside, backers say, would be to make sure that we don’t have a repeat of 2000, when Al Gore won the national popular vote but lost the Electoral College and the presidency to George W. Bush. Never mind that we now have a Democratic president who won a sweeping popular and electoral vote victory. Dems can’t let go of 2000.
When news of this first broke, I was intrigued. I’m a popular vote guy, a fan of small “d” democracy.
We’re not the dangerous rabble who our Founding Fathers feared would ruin the country for rich landowners.
But the more I thought about this issue, the more I realized this is a bad idea.
It’s not because I’m worried a popular vote system would diminish the importance of small states like Iowa. I’m more worried about what’s good for the country than what’s good for Iowa.
Speaking of the founders, one big reason I’m against the Senate bill is that it seeks to change the Constitution without formally amending it. One reason the document endures is that it’s wicked hard to change.
Finding a clever way around the amendment process is misguided.
I’m also not sure the country is ready to handle a national popular vote-based presidential campaign.
I think three things have to be in place before switching over to the popular vote.
You need a uniform, standardized, safe and efficient system for voting, counting votes and potentially recounting votes. You need a transparent, real-time and loophole-free reporting system that can be used to track campaign finances and other paid political advocacy. And you need a strong, authoritative and independent news media to help inform hundreds of millions of voters.
We have none of those.
We have a hodgepodge of state-by-state election laws marred by a litany of flaws.
Look at the mess in Minnesota over a U.S. Senate seat.
Can you imagine a multistate or a national recount?
We have a campaign finance reporting system that allows mountains of dollars to be shuffled and hidden.We can’t trust the system to allow us to follow the money.
Our news media are becoming more fractured, partisan and economically fragile by the day. The news is becoming less thoughtful and more viral. We’re now more suited to covering “American Idol” than a national popular vote for president.
Some also argue that electoral votes should be handed out by congressional districts, bringing us closer to a popular vote. But what about all the states with messed-up partisan redistricting systems?
So I’m reluctantly sticking with the Electoral College. I still hope someday we can graduate.
■ For further discussion, go to https://24hourdorman.wordpress.com/ Todd Dorman’s column appears on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
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