January 6, 2005

Chafee and McKay Oppose Electoral College

Marc Comtois
Senator Lincoln Chafee has decided to join California Sen. Diane Feinstein in calling for the abolishment of the Electoral College.
"Under the current system, the only states that get any candidate visits are the battleground states," said Chafee. "As a Rhode Islander . . . I'd like to see the presidential candidates make an investment in Rhode Island. The last election came down to just Ohio and Florida."

What is more, Chafee said, is that a tie in the Electoral College in a presidential election would push the decision into the House of Representatives, where each state would get one vote. That, Chafee said, would not be a representative system.
Apparently, the journalist who penned the piece also opposes the Electoral College. I assume this from the immediately detectable amount of editorialization in Scott McKay's "news" story. In describing how the Electoral College was formulated, McKay wrote
It is an irony of the 21st century that presidential elections in an era of the Internet and international jet travel are decided by the Electoral College, a system established by men -- no women were allowed to vote -- who communicated by quill pen and horseback mail and traveled by clipper ship.

The system was erected by the men who founded the United States in 1789 because they did not trust average citizens. Voting was restricted to white males who owned property. And they only allowed those voters to select one segment of the U.S. government -- the federal House of Representatives.

U.S. senators were chosen by legislatures until 1913, when popular election of senators was established. The founders established the Electoral College -- which in those days was made up of community and political leaders -- to pick the president.
As one familiar with the debate, and perhaps I'll post substantively on that in the future, it is easy for me to detect the anti-Electoral College "talking points" within McKay's prose. The allusion to modern items like the internet and jetplanes provided to accentuate the implied archaic nature of the Electoral College; the true but gratuitous line that "the Electoral College, a system established by men -- no women were allowed to vote"; that it was "erected" because the Founders didn't "trust" the average citizen, which is true but leaves a lot of the context out; and the tiresome recitation of how only white male property owners voted and how this small and exclusive group chose the President.

Now, perhaps McKay intended to convey that it was Chafee and Feinstein's argument that he was presenting. If so, he did a poor job of making that point clear. However, that he started a paragraph with the declarative "It is an irony that..." indicates to me that Mr. McKay has taken it upon himself to editorialize against the Electoral College within a news story. As such, I would urge him to confine his personal sentiments to the editorial pages where they belong.