November 6, 2012

OUR OPINION: Electoral College gives clout to swing-state voters

When the United States helps an emerging democracy develop its system of government, it never gives them an Electoral College.

Not in Bosnia, not in Iraq, not in Afghanisan.

So, if we never recommend other countries create a system of winner-take-all races for their states or provinces in national elections, why do we cling to the system here?

Baring some unforeseen calamity, we will pick a president today, but it seems as if a few counties in Ohio will decide the winner while the rest of us watch.

Our Electoral College system -- designed before the telegraph, telephone, radio, television and the Internet -- might have served a logical purpose in the the days of slow travel and poor communication.

Now it creates presidential elections that can turn local issues into major planks of public policy and ignores what matters in most of the country.

Maine would be completely forgotten if we didn't share a TV market with some swing-state New Hampshire voters, and if we did not have the flexibility to split our electoral votes by congressional district.

That's a reform that every state could make without changing the Constitution, and one that could radically change how campaigns were run.

Big states would lose some of their winner-take-all clout, but they also wouldn't be ignored as one party's property, either.

That might not get more attention for Maine, but if we had an election where candidates spent more time in diverse California than they did in Iowa, we might see debate of issues more relevant to Maine's people.

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