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Guest column | Jack Bray

Electoral College remains our best option

"Oh, the days dwindle down . . . to a precious few . . . September . . . November . . ."

— From September Song

Well, that lyric has been in my head a lot lately. It is September and we still have the month of October to trudge through before November, when we choose a new president and vice president.

We've been at this now for, what, 20, 21 months? Are you kidding me? The pope is chosen in shorter time.

Looking back at the verbal and visual political rhetoric that lies scattered across the landscape of our memories like so much roadkill, we have to wonder how in the world we lived through it.

And after all this time, in the end, the Electoral College chooses the president and vice president. Sorry to remind you. So, get ready for the howls to abolish the Electoral College. To do that, in my opinion, would be a colossal mistake. I used to think otherwise until I did some homework.

In Article II of the U.S. Constitution, as part of the executive branch of government, the founders established — in great detail — "electors."

The framers believed a direct popular election and an indirect election by Congress were the best ways to get all citizens involved in choosing their leaders. Since there were no political parties as yet to limit candidates, they worried that just a popular election could result in choosing a popular regional candidate unknown to the rest of the country. If there were too many regional popular candidates, they would divide the voting.

However, election by Congress would require the members to determine the desires of the people of their states and vote accordingly. That could have led to elections reflecting the political agendas of the members of Congress more than the actual will of the people.

Thus, the Electoral College system was a compromise. And despite the moaning and groaning by all the voters after every presidential election, the compromise was and is a surprising success. Only three times in our history has a candidate lost the popular national vote but been elected by electoral vote. (Can we ever forget 2000?)

Even though we are casting our vote for our candidate's electors and not just for the candidate, we should not worry. Our system works. See usgovinfo.about.com/od/thepoliticalsystem/a/electcollege_3.htm.

Lastly, each state has different rules, but in most states, whichever candidate wins the popular vote wins all of that state's electors. If anything, the process of electoral voting should be standardized. Perhaps every state should apply the percentage of the popular win to the same percentage of the electoral number.

So, no, no, a thousand times no. Abolishing the Electoral College would place undue importance on the popular vote. That would not end the political madness we have all endured, but only make it worse. I shudder to think.

The upcoming election will make history. We will have either the first African-American president or the first female vice president. We should do something about the primaries and nothing about the electors. If we don't, then the campaigning by the losing party will begin the day after Inauguration Day.

Make that the day after the Electoral College makes the announcement.

Trust me.

Buckle up.

Jack Bray, a retired broadcasting executive, is a former Dunedin resident who now lives in Alabama.

Electoral College remains our best option 09/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 7:38pm]

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