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Tinkering with Electoral College unconstitutional

BY TIM HENDRIX - GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 24, 2009 7:29 AM

There is a movement among the Iowa lawmakers to change the state’s Electoral College voting system. The system currently mandated by the Constitution may seem to be outdated, cumbersome, and unfair at first look, but in reality it is not.

Now, when we vote for a particular person for president, the totals for the candidates are added up and the one with the most votes gets that state’s Electoral College votes. The number of a state’s Electoral College votes is the same number as the total number of U.S. representatives and senators that state has. With Iowa’s five congressional districts and two senators, we have seven Electoral College votes. After the election, seven voters from the winning party formally vote in the new president.

The movement to change the current system stems from the idea that if a person wins the popular vote, that person should be president. Al Gore won more popular votes than George W. Bush in 2000, but Bush won the electoral vote. The argument goes then that Gore should have been president because he won the popular vote. What is proposed is that Iowa’s votes go along with the person who wins the national popular vote even if Iowans by a huge margin want the other person to be president.

It sounds good and American, but in reality it isn’t fair, especially to smaller states such as Iowa, and it gives too much power to the larger states. Actually, it unwittingly stabs smaller states in the back. The top nine populated states could control the election and the direction of the United States without any input of the other 41 states. Do we really want such states as California, Texas, or New York imposing their social agendas on us without our input? And do we want to hand over our votes to the 29 other states that have greater populations than Iowa?

When campaigns are fought, they fight for electoral votes, not popular votes because electoral votes win elections. So to say that Gore beat Bush in popular vote is true, but it is also true that neither side was fighting for the majority vote but for the electoral vote. There are different dynamics between the two types of campaigns, and a straight comparison of raw facts does not clearly present the truth.

Finally, we consider our votes to be nearly sacred in our country. I do not appreciate that we cleverly go around the constitutionally mandated process in order to get our own particular way. It may be legally cunning, but it bypasses the spirit of the Constitution. If we want to change the presidential voting system, fine, then let’s do it by following the constitutional guidelines and have a national debate that would lead to a constitutional amendment. This is the correct way of changing the Constitution.

I urge you to contact your state representative and state senator to vote against HSB 98 because it would hurt Iowa, give our votes to other states, and undermine the U.S. Constitution.


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