By Alexander Strada
Western Sun opinion editor
With the presidential election less than a week away, I might have been tempted to write this column expressing my support for one candidate or the other. I might have presented reasoned arguments for him, or against his opponent. I might have defended Obama’s policies, or, in some bizarro fantasy world, held up Romney as an ideal replacement.
I might have expressed how I’d vote in this so-called democratic process and urge you, through reasoned argument, to use yours similarly. I might, if we actually had a democratic election.
We don’t, however, and thanks to living in California, we don’t get a vote at all. Sure, you get to mark a piece of paper one way or the other, but rest assured it won’t mean a thing thanks to the brilliantly crafted contrivance of the United States Electoral College.
In a democratic election, the winner is determined, shockingly enough, by who gets the majority of votes.
Under the Electoral College system, however, the votes of most of the electorate are rendered meaningless. Each state is assigned a certain number of electoral points based on its total population, and each state runs its own separate election to determine how those points are distributed to the candidates.
In 48 of the 50 states, including California, those points are distributed in winner-take-all fashion. If 49 percent of votes go to Romney, and 50 percent go to Obama, 100 percent of the points go to Obama, and the 49 percent are left out in the cold with only their laughably ironic “I Voted” stickers for consolation.
This has some very interesting, very undemocratic effects on the way elections turn out. First, since the number of points a state gets are determined by its population, every Romney supporter in California is actually forced to vote for Obama against their will.
Second, voter turnout becomes meaningless. If only one California citizen turns out to vote, the state gets 55 electoral points just the same as if its entire population had voted. There is no incentive to get out the vote and no reason to care at all.
Third, a few select states are given massively disproportionate influence over others, and voters in densely populated areas are legally defined as less valuable than those in low density areas.
Each election cycle, the campaigns swarm over swing states like locust clouds of television ads and traffic-nightmare-inducing public appearances, pouring obscene sums of money into just a few regions while neglecting the majority of the country who aren’t lucky, or perhaps unlucky, enough to live in a chosen state.
Fortunately, in the majority of past elections, the winner in electoral points was also the candidate with the most votes, but one need not look far to see where this convoluted system failed egregiously. In 2000, Al Gore beat George Bush by half a million votes.
More people voted for Gore than for Bush, and yet Bush became president. There is nothing democratic about that.
Even if there weren’t so many obvious arguments for why our electoral system is a broken farce, this horrifying historical mishap alone is enough to warrant throwing out the whole system. To think that so much damage was done to our country by a man we did not vote for is frustrating and confusing, to say the least.