The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Opinion

June 21, 2008

EDITORIAL: State election laws are overreach

The system by which we elect a president in the United States has been controversial since the beginning of the republic, but it came under more scrutiny in 2000. Al Gore garnered the most votes nationwide, but George W. Bush received the most electoral votes and was named president.

The president and vice president are the only offices in the land that are not elected from popular vote. Some states are trying to rectify this by passing laws that will force electors to follow a national lead. Whatever one thinks of the Electoral College, this is not the way to go about effecting change.

The founders put the Electoral College in the Constitution because they didn’t trust the public to be responsible for the president’s election. Knowledgeable electors were actually elected by the people, and these electors would cast their votes for president. For the most part, they vote the way the popular vote goes, but they don’t have to.

They can vote any way they want. If, for example, a Democratic elector decides to cast his vote for a Republican, he’s perfectly free to do this. Some states call him a “faithless elector” and have passed laws against such crossovers, even to the point of levying fines against the faithless. Again, it’s perfectly legal for the elector to make up his own mind, though such faithlessness would earn him the scorn and repudiation of the party he represents.

The Herald Bulletin has editorialized in the past about the need to elect a president on the basis of the popular vote. Obviously, this is more democratic than a select few making decisions for the many.

But these state laws are inviting legal scrutiny. In 2007, Maryland became the first state to approve a national poplar vote. In effect, the state’s electors won’t be allowed to vote on their own. They must cast their vote for the winner of the national popular vote. New Jersey, Hawaii and Illinois have already joined Maryland.

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