(NNPA)—Public policy is determined by politics. Politics is predicated on electoral rules.
The presidential election is closer than most Americans are aware.
Current electoral rules in the United States of America, pursuant to the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution (and affirmed by the Supreme Court case, Gore v Bush, 2000), permit states to control federal elections. From formats of ballots to private contracts for voting machines, election law is set on a state-by-state, county-by-county, city-by-city basis.
In addition, and also evidenced by Gore v. Bush, the Electoral College allows for a winner-take-all format in which candidates receive all of a state’s electoral votes without receiving the most popular votes cast. Historically, winner-take-all rule has permitted candidates to win the American Presidency in 4 of 56 national elections (or 1 in 14 times). Too often for allegedly the worlds premiere Democratic Republic.
For example, an unjust electoral system in Ohio determined the national presidential election of 2004.
In addition to (or because of) a state Secretary of State who in a biased manner used his office stationary to campaign for one of the candidates (George Bush), and the tabulation of public votes by private computer software, 60,000 votes in Ohio could have shifted the national election toward John Kerry, if not for the winner-take-all format.
Another un-democratic aspect of the current winner-take-all electoral system is that presidential candidates have little incentive to campaign in states where they are comfortably ahead or woefully behind. In 2008, presidential candidates poured out two-thirds of their campaign funds for advertisements and travel in only six (of 25) states with significant electoral votes. The result virtually rendered the remaining 66 percent of votes meaningless.
And, by the way, the winner-take-all rule is not in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, only three states used the rule in 1789, upon the founding of our Democratic Republic.
The current use of a district electoral system by the states of Nebraska and Maine illustrate the fact that America’s process for electing her president was established by states’ laws, and that such state rules may—and should—be changed from time to time.
Therefore, a far more democratic and fair political process is one that includes a Constitutional Amendment for an individual right—not state right—to vote of citizens. Under such a system federal courts/agencies would control federal elections for the office of President, U.S. Senate, and House of Representatives. Accordingly, a unitary format for one ballot and one voting machine for all states would do justice to the current system different rules, district-by-district. However, the timeline for enactment of Constitutional Amendments—no matter how they make sense—can be lengthy.
A potential “on ramp” to the “individual right to vote highway” and the elimination of the “electoral college bi-way” is proposed legislation for states to determine vote counts in federal elections by the popular vote in states rather than by Electors in the Electoral College.
The National Popular Vote bill would assure that a presidential winner would be declared by the total of most popular votes in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia). The bill has passed 31 state legislatures including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Unfortunately, the National Popular Vote bill would preserve the Electoral College, while assuring that every vote is equally counted, and each vote cast would matter in every presidential election.
Yet, the bill is but one stop on the way to every American—regardless of race or resources—having the individual and federally protected right to vote. The political roadmap for change, barring revolution, many times has policy pit stops along the course. 2012 is around the corner.
(Gary L. Flowers is executive director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc.)