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Flunking Electoral College

// Published December 16, 2008 in Baltimore Sun
Yesterday in Annapolis, 10 electors representing Maryland in the Electoral College cast their ballots for Barack Obama. The Electoral College is an institution enshrined in the Constitution. It also is an archaic threat to our democracy because the system disenfranchises many voters and sometimes results in the candidate who wins the most votes losing the presidency. Just ask Al Gore; he won the popular vote but lost the White House because his electoral vote tally fell short.

In many states, the Electoral College discourages potential voters who know the candidate they favor is likely to lose in a winner-take-all state election. And it favors small states because votes are based on the number of senators and representatives a state has, not its population.

Maryland is on record supporting the end of the Electoral College. Gov. Martin O'Malleysigned a law last year that would award Maryland's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of who wins in this state. But that law only takes effect if states with more than half the electoral votes (270) join the challenge. Three other states - New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii - have since passed similar legislation.

Polls show a solid majority of Americans favor dumping the Electoral College. President-elect Obama crafted a victory strategy that sidestepped the power of the largest states in the Electoral College. Americans should recognize that the Electoral College is outdated and lobby their state lawmakers to adopt laws similar to Maryland's. As more states follow Maryland's lead, support for a constitutional amendment to abolish the current system should grow. That would be the right way to retire the Electoral College.