Readers Speak Out On The Electoral College

December 20, 2008

The editorial "Flunking Electoral College" (Dec. 16) suggests that the Electoral College should be abolished because "the system disenfranchises many voters and sometimes results in the candidate who wins the popular vote losing the presidency."

The editorial then cites the law Gov. Martin O'Malley signed that "would award Maryland's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of who wins in this state."

My question is: Who is disenfranchised if this law takes effect?

Suppose Maryland votes for the Democrat and the Republican wins the national popular vote. Under this law, Maryland's electoral vote would go to the Republican.

Is that fair? Wouldn't the voters of Maryland then be disenfranchised?

The Electoral College may need to be retired. But not by this law.

Richard Jones, Randallstown

Let me get this straight. The Baltimore Sun's editorial board rejects the Electoral College because, among other things, "in many states the Electoral College discourages potential voters who know the candidate they favor is likely to lose in a winner-take-all state election."

Nevertheless, the editorial board favors a law "that would award Maryland's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless [emphasis added] of who wins in this state."

So, if President-elect Barack Obama had won, say, 80 percent of the popular vote in Maryland but lost the national popular vote by 8,000 votes, the board believes all of Maryland's electoral votes should have gone to Sen. John McCain?

Now that would really be a system that "disenfranchises many voters."

Bob Price, Lutherville

If our government representatives had taught a seventh-grade civics class, as I did for 10 years, I think they'd look at the Electoral College from a different vantage point, and perhaps a clearer one.

Each year, as I attempted to explain in detail the machinations of this system, the end result was always the same. The main conclusion the students drew was that a candidate could win the popular vote and lose the presidency.

This made no sense to them, and, since this is such an illogical system, it made it difficult for me as a teacher to try to validate this archaic procedure, especially as I knew that part of the reason for its origin was that the Founding Fathers didn't feel most early Americans were educated enough to vote directly for a president.

Many of us stood in line for lengthy periods this last election. One disgruntled voter I met, who was obviously a Republican, complained that he didn't know why he was staying in line. He said that since Maryland overwhelmingly votes Democratic, he knew that his vote wouldn't really count.

If this isn't an example of a voter being disenfranchised by the Electoral College, I don't know what would be a better one.

Barbara Blumberg, Baltimore

To suggest that the electoral college poses a "threat to our democracy because the system disenfranchises many voters" is wrong.

On the contrary, the Electoral College prevents the potential disenfranchisement of the few in favor of a factional majority.

Further, your editorial goes on to suggest that "it favors small states because votes are based on the number of senators and representatives a state has, not its population."

While it is true that the system was created, in part, to ensure small states weren't ignored, electors do reflect the total number of a state's congressional representatives, which is based, in part, on its population.

The bottom line is that this structure has served us well for more than 200 years by ensuring that elected presidents are not only able to secure a sufficient enough popular vote to enable them to govern but also that that vote is distributed across the country.

Charles Black, Towson

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