Dropping Out Of Electoral College

Every 4 years, some know-it-all-reporter says the Electoral College is not a school, but a system, quips CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod on CBS News' Sunday Morning.

It's the uniquely American way of electing a head of state that in 2000 allowed an election night to stretch 36 days.

It's the way we choose our president - not by "he who gets the most votes wins" - but by 50 separate state elections, where each state gets a certain number of points.

Even after the debacle in Florida, most Americans still have no idea how we actually elect our president. The important thing to know: We don't really have one man one vote in this country, when it comes to electing a president.

To scholar Thomas Mann, the Electoral College governs under the law of unintended consequence. Mann is a Brookings Institute senior fellow in American governance. He says a system designed to make sure candidates would engage all parts of the country - not just where the most votes were concentrated - has had the opposite effect.

"My view is that we need to change the system. And that means amending the Constitution," Mann says. "Because we have this winner take all system, and as the campaign progresses, more and more states move into an almost certain Democratic, or almost certain Republican category, the candidates are driven to go to those states that could go either way."

"That means Florida and Ohio and Wisconsin and Iowa... It's not very many.," he says. "And means the rest of the country is not actively involved in the campaign."

A backlash is growing. Small but perhaps significant. On Nov. 2 voters in Colorado will consider a ballot initiative to divide their nine electoral votes along the lines of the popular vote. No more winner take all. Good news, right? Maybe.

"If it were to pass it would be challenged in the courts, and ironically we could end up back in the Supreme Court, with them in a position to determine who will be the next president, God save us."

Colorado is one of 8 or 10 states where the race is so close it could decide the election. Colorado could be this year's Florida, unless Ohio is this year's Florida, or New Mexico or Pennsylvania or Iowa, or unless Florida is this year's Florida. The system designed to ensure a wider field of vision from candidates has narrowed it to unacceptable limits.

"It's a sad commentary when a great, large nation like ours decides that only those folks living in a handful of states deserve the attention of the candidates and their campaigns. We can do better than that," says Mann.

Do better, says Mann, than Electoral College, winner-take-all math that transformed a razor-thin Bush victory in Florida in the last election - 537 more popular votes than Gore - into 27 electoral votes, one-tenth the total needed to win the presidency. One man one vote? Not even close.

So this Sunday Morning, as we start once again to eyeball the possibilities 9 days from now, let's remember, the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one.


  • Joel Roberts

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