Let’s obliterate a dinosaur

We have a tradition of the person or team with the most points, runs or votes winning – except when it comes to electing our president, the highest office in our nation. The blame for this democratic anomaly rests with that 18th century anachronism, the Electoral College.

Created in less democratic times by our founders, the Electoral College is a clumsy device that no longer serves us well. It harkens back to a time when the U.S. Senate also was devised to be elected by our state legislatures instead of a direct vote of citizens. The Senate election was changed to a direct vote in 1913 with the 17th Amendment, but almost 200 years later we still have the Electoral College.

The perverse incentives created by the Electoral College are obvious from this year’s campaign. States like New York which are locked up early are effectively ignored by the candidates. Most of the campaign energy, and increasingly even the candidates’ messages for how they’ll govern, are aimed at swing voters in a few key states. Consequently, voter turnout in the battleground states was up by 10 to 15 percent but was down in the rest of the country.

What can be done? For many years leading politicians such as Strom Thurmond, Orrin Hatch, Ted Kennedy and John McCain have supported approaches to reform or scrap the Electoral College. It’s time to abolish it and institute a national direct election, specifically instant runoff voting.

This inexpensive alternative simulates a traditional runoff in one election by allowing voters to rank on the same ballot their top choice as well as their second and third “runoff choices.” If no candidate wins a majority of first choices, the weakest candidates are eliminated and their voters’ ballots counted for their runoff choices. Rounds of counting continue until there is a majority winner.

The instant runoff corrects the defects of traditional runoffs and improves their benefits. Great Britain, Australia and Ireland use the system and likely it will be the subject of a ballot measure in Alaska in 2002 for its federal and state elections, including the president.

To ensure that the country’s chief executive commands support from a majority of voters, let us work together to abolish this 18th century dinosaur.


Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, April 17

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A new apple variety, WA 64, has been developed by WSU's College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. The college is taking suggestions on what to name the variety. (WSU)
Editorial: Apple-naming contest fun celebration of state icon

A new variety developed at WSU needs a name. But take a pass on suggesting Crispy McPinkface.

Apply ‘Kayden’s Law’ in Washington’s family courts

Next session, our state Legislature must pass legislation that clarifies how family… Continue reading

What religious icons will Trump sell next?

My word! So now Donald Trump is in the business of selling… Continue reading

Liz Skinner, right, and Emma Titterness, both from Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, speak with a man near the Silver Lake Safeway while conducting a point-in-time count Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The man, who had slept at that location the previous night, was provided some food and a warming kit after participating in the PIT survey. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Among obstacles, hope to curb homelessness

Panelists from service providers and local officials discussed homelessness’ interwoven challenges.

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Editorial: ‘History, tradition’ poor test for gun safety laws

Judge’s ruling against the state’s law on large-capacity gun clips is based on a problematic decision.

This combination of photos taken on Capitol Hill in Washington shows Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., on March 23, 2023, left, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on Nov. 3, 2021. The two lawmakers from opposing parties are floating a new plan to protect the privacy of Americans' personal data. The draft legislation was announced Sunday, April 7, 2024, and would make privacy a consumer right and set new rules for companies that collect and transfer personal data. (AP Photo)
Editorial: Adopt federal rules on data privacy and rights

A bipartisan plan from Sen. Cantwell and Rep. McMorris Rodgers offers consumer protection online.

Students make their way through a portion of a secure gate a fence at the front of Lakewood Elementary School on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. Fencing the entire campus is something that would hopefully be upgraded with fund from the levy. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Levies in two north county districts deserve support

Lakewood School District is seeking approval of two levies. Fire District 21 seeks a levy increase.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, April 16

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Commen: ‘Civil War’ movie could prompt some civil discourse

The dystopian movie serves to warn against division and for finding common ground in our concerns.

Harrop: Expect no compromise from anti-abortion right

And no clarity from Donald Trump regarding his position, at least until he’s back in office.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.