Sunday, March 05, 2006

Electoral Politics

While I understand that voting irregularities are decidedly unamerican, I have to say I am so tired of hearing about the "stolen election". It is 2006 and I still see the awful rhetorical device used. You know the one where people say regarding the 2000 Presidential election: "Gore won this election by xx votes and Bush went crying to the courts who overturned it." This is such a misleading argument and actually demonstrates a complete lack of understanding regarding the system of Presidential election in the United States. Those last two words are the key, United States.

The U.S.A. is not just one flat country with a majority vote for president. In fact none of that is true. The United States is 50 states with their own laws that even differ regarding how the presidential election works. The President is not elected by a popular vote in America. I know, sit down...put down the protest picketts just for a moment. Each state appoints Electors equal to the number of senators and representatives from that state. This gives a nod to both the state's soveriegnty as well as a nod to the actual number of American citizens living in the state. The Electors vote for the President and Vice-President of the United States. It could be argued that the popular vote within each state is merely a strong suggestion as to which way the Electors should vote. Some states split their Electors along the lines of the proportional outcome of the state vote, meaning some of the Electors from that state vote for one candidate and some for another based on what percentage of the state vote each candidate received from the voting public.

The national count for each presidential candidate may be added up by news organizations or interested citizens, but has no bearing on and no meaning in the Electoral college. This system is wise as it reduces the scale of power of large states against small states. While preserving the idea that population matters. It tempers majority rule. So when people say "Bush won more states" they mean he had the majority vote in more states considered individually, so that their Electors voted for Bush (because the Electors were being cooperative with the majority vote). In some large population states that went for Gore, those Electors voted for him.

The deciding state in the 2000 election was Florida. There were enough Electoral votes to be won, that winning this state could make up for either candidate's need for Electors to claim victory. My understanding is that the vote counts in some counties in Florida were close enough and under such dispute that flaws in the voting system were revealed. Things like...inconclusive votes from poorly maintained voting equipment, legitimate voters who were denied because of clerical errors...Illegitimate voters who were still listed as legitimate, like felons, deceased etc. So parties sued for a resolution of the dispute, as is their right, and under the laws of this nation the case proceeded quickly to the Supreme Court who ruled with the skill and wisdom with which we entrust them and there was a decision. Nothing was co-opted, hi-jacked.

The voting irregularities which existed in many states, but came into focus in one state, have been addressed by many states since the election. Also, the ballots were carefully counted anyway and it was found that under every stretch and interpretation that was reasonable, Bush still would have taken all the Florida Electoral votes.

So, we have a President elected legally and legitimately by a minority of our population which was distributed in such a way as to provide him with the majority of Electoral votes. Bill Clinton was also a minority-vote President. In fact when elligible voters fail to vote, the rest of us run the country on their behalf. So the thing to do, in America, is not to spew specious rhetoric about fictional fantasy voting scenarios, but get out and vote your mind while you are alive...and never give up your vote to laziness or becoming a criminal. And please understand how your country works before repeating that "Gore won the national popular vote"...that's just not an Electoral institution we have in this country, at least when it comes to Presidential politics.

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