Hendrik Hertzberg had an interesting blog post today about faux-objectivity in political journalism. In particular, he quotes Jonathan Chait discussing an article in Politico about changes in election laws:
The story duly produces vast swaths of evidence of Republican legislators attempting to change electoral rules in ways that would benefit the GOP in 2012—restricting early voting, shortening poll hours, clamping down on students voting at their campus, and so on. For the sake of balance, the story must also cite Democratic attempts to rig the 2012 playing field. The sum total of the evidence of rigging on the Democratic side is the ongoing attempt to bypass the electoral college through the National Popular Vote initiative, which hopes to enlist 270 electoral votes worth of states to pledge to appoint their electors to support the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections.
Hertzberg goes on to note how the National Popular Vote proposal (a pet cause for him) is far from illegal “vote rigging” but is actually a non-partisan proposal that has good democratic credentials: what could be more democratic than electing the presidential candidate who has more votes?
I don’t have much to add, except to say that in fact, the Politico article above helps to demonstrate one of the biggest reasons why the National Popular Vote proposal is such a good idea: it’s the Electoral College, with its creation of winner-take-all “battleground” states, that makes the election law of those states such a contested issue. As Hertzberg notes, sixty-thousand votes in Ohio in 2004 could have elected John Kerry despite George Bush garnering three-million more votes.
If the President were elected according to who had the most votes throughout the country, there’d be far less of an incentive for moneyed interests to focus on stopping college students in Ohio from voting or denying the franchise to felons in Florida. As the Politico article demonstrates, it may be the only way: the Fourth Estate seems uninterested in calling Republican vote-rigging what it is–they seem far more interested in drawing false equivalences.