Thursday, September 16, 2004

Electoral Revolution

It's incredibly frustrating to know that the Southeast has such a massive influence on national politics. I was looking at the electoral college map at http://www.electoral-vote.com/ and it's just shocking to see all the red (representing Bush leaning states) in the deep south. The only reason Bush has any shot at the Presidency is by his support in this region. There are significant swaths of red out west, but the total number of electoral votes out there is almost meaningless. It's the south that currently sustains the Republican party.

And I think it’s absolutely ridiculous for a backward region like the south to dictate national politics, so that's why I am suggesting a radical overhaul of the electoral college system.

The president is elected by when he/she receives 270 electoral votes. Each state is entitled to a number of electors equal to that state's representation in Congress (Senate + House). A lot of people are arguing we should shift to a popular vote system. It's difficult to argue against this position, when you think of the 2000 election, but I think there is some value to the electoral system, although I recommend some major changes.

Instead of determining a state's electoral votes by house and senate representation, we should base it on social and economic indicators in the states. Here's what I mean. To keep it simple, we'll stick to a small number of indicators, maybe 10-15. I'm not going to suggest the formula here, but in a nutshell, the better these indicators, the more electoral votes you get. You would start from the original number, so Georgia currently has 15 electoral votes, but depending on how it ranks out, it might get 20, or it might only get 10. But the TOTAL number of electoral votes eligible nationally, 535, would stay the same.

My suggestions for indicators are as follows: spending on education; children in poverty; rates of health insurance (or lack thereof); divorce rates; spending on teacher salaries; SAT rankings; incarceration rates, and so on. I would like to see something like percent of state land protected for conservation, but that would be a useless statistic since many western states are predominantly owned by the federal government, so in no way does that reflect state government priorities.

Why should the South, which is so backward on so many issues, have such a disproportionate influence on national polices? Let's not beat around the bush here, the Southeast has terrible values. They rank near the bottom on just about all of these indicators. They talk a good game about family values, but that's all it is, talk. Do a little research on these indicators and you'll see the Southeast OWNS the bottom of these rankings. They’re like the 1980s Buccaneers. And the beauty of it, is if you look at Massachusetts, it ranks near the top in all of these indicators. I would also suggest including as an indicator the amount of federal taxes a state gives to the federal government versus the amount they receive back. A state like Alaska might be reduced to 1 electoral vote if we only used that standard.

The SE likes to lecture the rest of the country about morality, and specifically, marriage. They're the ones who are behind this marriage amendment. Well, take a look at the figures, Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country, and just about every SE state has a divorce rate higher than the national average.

But before you think this is designed to overwhelming elect a democrat, take another look at the stats. California is light years ahead of the rest of the country on a variety of issues, but it has to deal with such a large population, that it tends to rank low on some of these major indicators, so it would probably not gain many electoral points at all. It has a massive immigrant population and its lower rankings on the health and education indicators reflect this. But in defense of California, Texas is in the same situation with a large immigrant population, but Cali has been much more aggressive in taken care of it's citizen. You could say they're value driven, as opposed to the Texas' neglect model.

But overall, it wouldn't be completely skewed toward the Democrats, but it would increase the influence of the states that are serious about governing. If a state receives fewer electoral votes than it normally would, there's no reason why it couldn't improve these indicators and move back up the rankings. It'll be completely up to the individual states to determine if they value receiving more electoral votes. If they don't, and they want to stay mired in their own poor governance, the rest of the country doesn't have to suffer the consequences of these poor performing states' undue influence in Presidential elections. The southeast model of state governing is morally bankrupt, so why should the rest of the country suffer for it?

It’d be simpler to do than you think. Ok, any chance a Republican congress following through on my vision?

-MB

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