Column: Electoral College Diminishes Value Of Votes From Non-swing States

This story was written by Joel Cohen, The Diamondback

I was walking through the campus the other day when I decided to stop by a voter-registration booth set up in front of the university health center. After the absentee ballot I had requested for the last election never arrived, I decided right then and there to change my registration to my local address.

About halfway through, though, it dawned on me: What's the point of changing it? After all, as a Maryland resident, my vote in the upcoming presidential election is worth about as much as an Iraqi's vote under Saddam Hussein.

Sure, more than one name appears on the ballot in the United States, but in a solid blue state like this one, there is no need to even have the Republican candidate's name on the ballot.

Case in point: In the past four presidential elections, and in all but three presidential elections since 1960, Maryland's electoral votes have gone to the Democratic candidate.

Yes, states do undergo ideological shifts, as exhibited by Virginia's sudden battleground status after years of being a Republican stronghold. But according to an article in The New York Times in May, political observers believe that the election will come down to 14 key swing states. Unfortunately, citizens of these battleground states, not the citizens of every state, will elect our next president.

While supporters will say the Electoral College is an effective system that forces candidates to appeal to a large cross-section of the country, the fact remains that citizens' votes in battleground states such as Florida and Ohio hold much more weight than my vote in Maryland.

It's time to go back to school and rethink the Electoral College.

This state is one of the few in the country taking steps to fix this travesty, and it should be commended for its leadership on this issue. In April 2007, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed the first-of-its-kind bill that would give the state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The catch is, though, that this bill would only take effect once a majority of states -- or, at least enough to rack up the 270 electoral votes necessary to win an election -- enact the same bill. This bill effectively nullifies the Electoral College without going through the painstakingly slow process of amending the Constitution.

Other states have taken notice and followed Maryland's lead. According to National Popular Vote, a group advocating Electoral College reform, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey have also adopted this plan.

According to the same group, "candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, or pay attention to the concerns of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind." Remember the visits by presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Chelsea Clinton to the University of Maryland campus last semester? Those will probably be the last you will see of any candidate in this state.

Under the National Popular Vote Plan, candidates would need to visit states they know they will lose, because every vote in the nation would be equal. Additional states need to follow this state's lead and enact this bill to give every voter in every state an equal say.

We can't control the candidates, the media or anything else that goes on during a presidential election. But we should be able to make a difference in the voting booth: My vote should be worth the same as my grandparents' who live in Florida.

I ended up filling out the rest of the voter registration form. But until the Electoral College system is changed, it probably won't make a difference.