Monday, November 3, 2008

Picking a President

The Economist celebrates American democracy, concluding that our long, often absurd, system of choosing a president ultimately gets the job of democracy done. The present match-up of two candidates, each at one time considered a long shot, certainly reflects well on the system.

But there are obvious flaws with the electoral college (EC) system. My brother, a New York resident, argues convincingly that his vote doesn't really count. Many people share his opinion and it's unarguable that the current system focuses attention on a limited number of states (the attached map demonstrates the mathematical emphases of the EC). Proponents of the electoral college generally appeal formally to the preservation of federalism and practically to the EC's maintenance of a national election, without the development of regional voting factions (Ron Paul animates here).

I don't find the arguments for the electoral college particularly compelling, though it's easy to see potential difficulties with a national popular vote. MIT recently hosted an interesting conference "To keep or not to keep the Electoral College" discussing, among other things, the national popular vote movement gaining traction since 2000.

(image credit: map showing each state re-sized based on relative influence of individual voters, The United States Election Project at George Mason University, nytimes.com)