ELECTORAL COLLEGE OR A TRULY NATIONAL ELECTION? | 2000-11-11
One thing that the present electoral college does is to limit each state's influence on the presidential contest. That is, if a political machine in Chicago manufactures votes, the votes it influences are the property of the citizens of Illinois in the first place. So each state conducts its elections with a great deal of independence. The fight over Florida, though it affects us all, is still mostly a matter of Florida law and jurisdiction.
Because of the electoral college, there has never been a truly national election in the United States. Even the ratification of the Constitution proceeded state by state. So, while abolishing the electoral college seems like a routine step, it isn't. With a truly national election, direct control of elections would move inevitably to Washington. After all, what is done in New York would affect me as directly as much as a vote in Columbia.
Abolishing the electoral college would have been a lot harder in the past, when states actually had rights. On the upside, such abolition would soon remove much of the distinction between the Deep South and the rest of the country under the Voting Rights Act, which puts us under special Federal regulations.
The first truly national election now would not be nearly the revolutionary move it would have been just a few decades ago. But it is still a much more radical step than most people think. An intermediate step would be to keep the electoral votes assigned to each state, but get rid of the human electors, who, in a very close election like this one, could theoretically wreak havoc.