“Rigging” Elections

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.


2 thoughts on ““Rigging” Elections

  1. meh.

    national popular vote wouldn’t be non-partisan, it just shifts the political battleground to the national level. The party trailing behind in the national vote, if already elected, would still attempt to pass national, seemingly constitutional legislation that limits voting by appealing to The Integrity of Democracy. Like National ID cards.

    Maybe we should ask if it would be worse for large groups of Americans to be disenfranchised nationally, or some to be disenfranchised locally. Personally i think the “non-partisan” answer isn’t national popular voting, it should be for americans to wake up and realize their model is shit and no one uses it, like the Imperial measurement system. Bring on the parliamentary, single district system.

    and the metric system.

  2. Election by popular vote seems to make a lot of sense. It would eliminate a whole bunch of partying by the delegates of the electoral college, maybe save some taxpayer money?

    As for each party trying to sway the rules to favor their cause… it’s all about getting your party in power, no matter what. Kinda like the Democrats wanting to grant voting rights to illegal immigrants knowing that immigrants by and large vote Democrat.

    If we could get term limits and real campaign reform passed, then abolish the excessive salaries, health and retirement benefits and make elected representatives live by the same laws that they pass for the rest of us then we’d have a good start toward having people elected who would looking out for what’s best for America instead of their own political party.

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