As disgruntled citizens grope for a solution – any solution – for the disarray in our “status quo” political system, they are grasping at structural reforms, abolishing the Electoral College, creating a multi-party system, designing new ballots and voting directly for president, to name a few.
Every time a new cause appears, social media platforms are full of solicitations, some of dubious origins. Money is being gathered to abolish the Electoral College. Contributors should realize that this is a futile effort and they could make better investments at a casino.
To abolish the Electoral College would require submission by two-thirds of each house of Congress and ratification by three-fourth of the states. Democrats think abolition would benefit them and Republicans think the system already benefits them. Right off the bat, we have two competitive parties opposing each other, meaning they will never overcome the majorities required for amending the Constitution.
After George Wallace carried five states for 46 electoral votes in 1968, both parties realized that a third party could bargain with the major parties on radical issues and they would end up in a bidding war. Republicans were especially concerned and espoused alternate ways for casting electoral votes to keep people like Wallace from getting leverage in the future.
George Wallace proved that a hazard of the Electoral College is its vulnerability to minority parties, not that they could repeat Wallace’s successful win of electoral votes but as spoilers.
Direct vote for president has also been picking up steam. Because advocates know it cannot succeed in the normal status quo climate, they are supporting legislation by states to cast their electoral votes for the presidential candidate who gets the largest popular vote.
A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that 56% of the electorate favors the direct election while only 37% favored continuing the Electoral College. But the people have no voice in the decision, so popular opinion will be dismissed out-of-hand.
As of April 2021, 16 jurisdictions with 195 electoral votes have ratified the compact, leaving the campaign 75 electors short of the 270 needed to activate the compact.
It should be noted that the national vote committee has enjoyed picking the low hanging fruit. The remaining states include a number of small states, among them North Dakota, that think the Electoral College gives them disproportionate leverage in choosing presidents. Mathematical calculations prove that this is not correct but perception is truth.
Direct popular election has merit but it also has negatives to worry about. It would encourage the formation of multiple parties, with each screening votes away from the two major parties. All sorts of candidates would get on the ballot unless access was limited to candidates with minimal strength.
Unless the popular vote system was restrained, it could destroy the two major parties and create havoc in the political system.
As for me, I lean to abolishing the Electoral College and approving the popular vote, not for partisan reasons but if equality of people is good enough for God it is good enough for me.
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email email@example.com
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.