Let's flunk the Electoral College.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Nov. 12 2001 6:25 PM

Why Is The Electoral College Still There?

Chad were never the issue.

(Continued from Page 1)

If you abolish the Electoral College, the political fringe will gain more influence.

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The idea here is that it's hard for a third-party candidate to win any individual state. By contrast, a third-party candidate with a significant minority of the vote nationwide could conceivably set himself up as a power broker. In practice, though, it's usually hard for a candidate who departs a race to exert much influence on the people who intended to vote for him. It would be easier for a third-party candidate who won a few states under the Electoral College system to play kingmaker by throwing his electors to one rival candidate or another. The novelist James Michener, a Humphrey elector in 1968, spent a lot of time that year worrying that George Wallace would do just that. (See "James A. Michener, Near-Faithless Elector.")

Under our federal system, "one man, one vote" isn't everything. If you want to abolish the Electoral College, you have to also want to abolish the U.S. Senate, because states with large populations get just as many senators as states with tiny ones.

In a perfect world, we would abolish the Senate for this very reason. Thomas Geoghegan makes a powerful argument along these lines in his book The Secret Lives of Citizens. If someone wants to pass around a petition, Chatterbox will sign it. Meanwhile, we can start by getting rid of the filibuster. (See "Abolish the Senate!")

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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