Every vote counts... more or less

It’s more than a meridian, or a parallel, or a body of water that separates the people of Border States . Politically, in a quantifiable way, the separation is accentuated by the value of their vote when it comes to electing the POTUS himself.

Does it make any democratic sense that each vote cast by a person in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, be worth two-thirds more than that of his neighbor, across the Missouri, in Sioux City, Iowa? Or for the vote of those folks in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to be worth 69% more than the vote of the people in El Paso, Texas?

What about the good people of Spokane , Washington … should their vote be worth only 3/5 of the vote of their neighbors in Coeur d’Alene , Idaho ? Are they to be mistaken for 18th century slaves and accorded the same value as that given slaves by our Founding Fathers?

Carrying the electoral vote value gap to the extreme… does it make any sense for a Vermonter living in Burlington to have electoral voting power three times (yes, three times) that of her neighbor across Lake Champlain … in Plattsburgh, New York ? Is the lake such a forbidding body of water that it mimics the dividing Pyrenees ? The same holds true for the cowpokes in Cheyenne , Wyoming , who hold a three-fold electoral voting power over that of their neighbors in Fort Collins , Colorado .

And so it goes around this land of ours. The basic precept of democracy, one person, one vote, goes out the window. Yet, we are so constitutionally-righteous that celebrate the absurd in a way that befuddles most serious students of the body politic. For lack of good reason, we rationalize our keeping the “Electoral College” system in the most mythical ways.

This two-tiered political system might make a lot of sense for the European Union, at least during a transitional period of three or four decades. After all, there you are dealing with multiple, well entrenched cultures, and historically defined nations. That is a far different case than a two-tiered system for the United States . Is the farmer growing potatoes in Idaho so different from his counterpart in Maine ? Unlike Europe, where a distance of thirty miles can see pronounced differences in communities, we can go three thousand miles here and find incredible sameness in just about everything: the people; the cities; the way we talk and think.

The myth of community or cultural preservation is an ogre beheaded long ago. Only possible exceptions are the last two stars added to Old Glory, the non-contiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii . What might have made sense at early post-colonial times, through the 19th century, lost any validity a century ago.

As for the simplistic notion that without the Electoral College system the less populous states would be ignored by the candidates… hogwash! Take this 2004 presidential election: in this Undecided States of America , of the ten undecided states, little time is being spent by the candidates on the least populated, Nevada and New Mexico , while Florida , Ohio and Pennsylvania , with 40 million people and 68 electoral votes, are receiving from 80% to 90% of their campaign time.

If so many attempts taken to reform the electoral system have failed, it was not because of lack of merit but a surplus of apathy… topped by a good measure of special interests. Such apathy for a living democracy is easily evidenced by the number of potential voters who cast their ballots, about half in the presidential elections, and a scant quarter in State and local elections. It will probably take an election with a resounding victory in popular vote for a losing candidate before the entire system is abolished, or at least overhauled. A plurality of one-half million votes for Gore in 2000 just wasn’t enough. But what if Kerry were to win by two-million votes in 2004, and still lose the presidency because of fewer electoral votes?

[Chart of “Electoral College” Vote Parity by State at [link=http://www.tanosborn.com/scribo/]www.tanosborn.com/scribo/[/link] ]