Almost at the wire

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Arnold G. York

With a little more than two weeks to go until the national election, I am, like most of you, exhausted by the entire process. I’ll be absolutely ecstatic when it’s finally over and I don’t have to keep checking polls. Being an Obama partisan, I find my sense of emotional comfort is closely tied to his polling numbers in the battleground states, and I suspect if you’re a partisan Republican you kind of have the same feeling about Romney’s polling numbers. I keep asking myself, “What kind of sadist designed this Electoral College system?”

There actually is an answer to that question: the Constitutional Convention in 1787. In trying to put together a constitution there was an ongoing battle between those who wanted an elite group or the Congress to choose the President and those who wanted the people-at-large to elect the President. The Electoral College was a compromise between the two factions.

Additionally, the Electoral College was a way of giving the smaller states a continuing say in the election. Although they had no crystal balls, if the election was by straight majority vote, today’s elections would be entirely different. Consider that practically 60 percent of America’s population lives in only 12 states. In order of population they are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia. In a country of 311 million people, almost 185 million people live in those states. If it weren’t for the Electoral College most of the small states would just be ignored in the Presidential contest. Some of you, I’m sure, might think that’s not really a bad idea, but we’ve used this system for more than 200 years, which, when you think about it, is rather remarkable.

But there have been several elections when the unique structure of the Electoral College has given the Presidency to candidates who did not win the popular vote. The most recent was the 2000 election when Al Gore got the most popular votes, but they were just not in the right place. George W. Bush became the 43rd President of the United States after the Florida recount battle, and the drama of the butterfly ballot and the hanging chads, which was finally settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. That wasn’t the only time either. In 1824, John Quincy Adams, the son of one of the founders, vs. Andrew Jackson; in 1876 Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden and in 1888 Benjamin Harrison vs. Grover Cleveland were all elections where the candidate with the majority of the popular vote lost the election.

Once again, when you look at the present contest, it’s not likely, but it’s possible, that the candidate with the most votes might end up losing. This Presidential election is going to be decided in the battleground states. Originally there were considered to be 12 battleground states, but that number has narrowed. Today it looks like Missouri, North Carolina and probably Florida are trending Republican; and Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada trending Democratic. Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Colorado and New Hampshire are just too close to call as of this writing, but that could change. The situation is still very volatile. With the arithmetic of the Electoral College, Romney has got a somewhat tougher path than Obama, but it’s still doable. It’s beginning to look like this campaign is now at the trench warfare phase, or what they call in politics the ground game, meaning that the party that turns out their voters on Election Day is probably going to win, and that is the great unknown.

P.S. My thanks to the Taxpayers Network of Green Bay, Wisc. I always find their research excellent and highly credible and I borrow unashamedly from their research. I’d suggest you check out their website at www.taxpayersnetwork.org.