Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Time to Junk the Electoral College?

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Time to Junk the Electoral College?

Article excerpt

A crazy election raises the question

YES The Electoral College is a hopelessly outdated system and we must abolish it. Direct election would resonate far better with the American value of one person, one vote. Indeed, the college was designed at the founding of the country to help one group--white Southern males--and this year, it has apparently done just that.

In 1787, James Wilson of Pennsylvania proposed direct election of the President. But James Madison of Virginia worried that such a system would hurt the South, which would have been outnumbered in a direct election system. The creation of the Electoral College got around that: As part of the deal, Southern states, in computing their share of electoral votes, could count slaves as three fifths of a person each--even though slaves could not vote.

Now fast-forward to Election Night 2000. Al Gore received the most popular votes nationwide, but may well lose the contest for electoral votes. Once again, the system has tilted toward white Southern males, a group in which exit polls show Mr. Bush won big.

Advocates of the current system say it forces presidential candidates to take into account individual state interests. But candidates don't appeal so much to state interests as to demographic groups within states. And direct election could give states an incentive to increase voter turnout, because the more voters a state turned out, the bigger its role in national elections.

AKHIL REED AMAR Professor of Law Yale University Times Op-Ed Page

NO The real source of our recent confusion was the closeness of the election, not our system for electing Presidents. …

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