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The 'Anachronism' of the Electoral College

The 'Anachronism' of the Electoral CollegeWithFlorida’s election fiasco in 2000 still fresh in the mindsof voters, Tufts political science professor Jeffrey Berry saysthe Electoral College is outdated and should be abolished.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.25.04] The polls in the presidentialrace all predict a close finish, and that has voters and campaignofficials alike girding for recounts. The ElectoralCollege only exacerbates the problem, says Tufts politicalscience professor JeffreyBerry, and should be done away with.

“Itmakes people feel… that they’re disenfranchised, thattheir vote doesn’t count,” Berry said in a recentappearance on WGBH’s Greater Boston television program.“And it creates the possibility, as we saw in the last election,that the person with the most votes loses.”

Calling theElectoral College an “anachronism,” Berry argued thatthe reasons behind the Founding Fathers’ establishment ofthe College were no longer applicable.

“Theorigin of the Electoral College… was to let the elite selectour president, and not the mass electorate, like us,” Berrytold Greater Boston host Emily Rooney. “Its purpose is reallyoffensive. And we ought to move toward a system where it’sone person, one vote.”

In the ElectoralCollege, a state’s popular vote determines not the victorbut rather for which candidate a set of electors – the numberof which is determined by adding up a state’s U.S. Congressmen– will vote on a date in December.

A candidatemust win an absolute majority of electoral votes – a numberthat is currently 270 – in order to be awarded the presidency.

That setup,Berry says, is unfair.

“TheElectoral College over-represents people who live in small states,”he told Greater Boston. “It gives them more votes than thosethat live in larger states because of the over-representationof the Senate.”

One state,Colorado, may buck the system this year if a proposed amendmentwins approval from the state’s voters.

The ballotquestion asks voters whether or not the state’s nine electoralvotes should be split between candidates according to the popularvote. If approved, it would apply to this year’s presidentialelection – and the results could be far-reaching.

Despite hisaversion to the Electoral College, Berry does not believe thata “patchwork system” is the solution.

“Weactually have two states already that do that, Maine and Nebraska,”he said. “So there is the possibility that the presidencycould hang on somebody winning Colorado, and then losing the ElectoralCollege vote by one or two votes, which would diminish the legitimacyof the elections.”

And whileElection Day may be November 2, early voting is already underwayin some areas across the country. While Berry expressed concernsabout the timing of when early voting begins – not beforethe debates conclude, he suggests – he observed that mostinitiatives to make voting easier result in a greater voter turnout.

“Anythingthat makes it easier to vote, I think, is a step in the rightdirection,” Berry said.


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