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Electoral College still requires voter participation

Nov. 3, 2004

By ASHTON ELLIS, guest columnist

For those of you burned out by the constant realignment of Election Day outcomes brought about by political pundits playing with various blue and red coded states, fear not.

Amidst the usual campaign shenanigans, don't give into the temptation to rail against the seemingly anachronistic structure of selecting our president embodied by the Electoral College. I know it may sound trite, but indulge me in a moment of explanation and see if you don't agree that sometimes in politics, less is more.

Consider the case of Israel. Within a two year timespan, Israel saw the rise and fall of three prime ministers: Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. All three came to power on a wave of popular resentment for the incumbent and just as soon, all three (with Sharon now under mounting pressure to either call an election or resign) were turned out. The primary culprit; the necessity of coalition government brought about by elections determined by nothing more than a popular vote.

Due to the emergence and attractiveness of minority parties within a plurality system, the underwhelmed pragmatic voter of yesteryear becomes the special interest zealot of tomorrow. Imagine Al Sharpton, Jesse Ventura, Pat Robertson and Ralph Nader all representing a slice of the electoral pie. In some ways they already do, but at least the two major parties have some bargaining power under the current system. But the take-it-or-leave it approach only works so long. Just ask former President George Bush in 1992. Getting rid of the Electoral College would destroy a party's ability to hold members accountable and craft policies bases on consensus. So why do sometimes wildly dissimilar groups coalesce with one another into either one or the other "major" party? Probably because they realize that under the current system they must come together collectively in order to achieve their individual goals.

There is an implicit understanding among special interests that the greatest harm their group can bring about is to their allies. The biggest harm people can have is to stay home on Election Day.

The great thing about democracy is that you must convince a majority of your peers that your opinion is best. If a group, or a person, is unwilling to put in the time, stay home and watch someone else affect change without you. Democracy means majority and at the end of the day majority means consensus. Without consensus, no leader can lead, no vision can dominate and no real unity can be truly south. So as we continue to wonder what life might be like if every viewpoint had a party, let us also consider that sometimes meaningful change can occur if only those concerned enough to care will get involved.