I usually avoid getting into conversations about politics. I am not a political scientist
, nor do not claim to have anything but an average understanding of the detailed workings of our government. My basic opinion of the subject is this: politician
s are going to legislate, execute or judge the laws of our nation in the manner which they believe best serves their constituencies. Unfortunately, most of the REAL decisions of policy happen behind-the-scenes between politicians and lobbyists (who often are out-of-work politicians in the pay of some organization) and the public is largely sidelined until an election, where we get to choose between the BLUE plan or the RED plan.
One of the details about my government's system of elections which troubles me is that, with some regularity, our representatives legislate to re-structure our congressional districts to give a greater concentration of favorable popular votes within a district, to win that district's electoral college vote.
In Illinois, for example, state congressional districts were recently redrawn by Democrat representatives which had the effect of running Republican incumbents against each-other in the last election. A look at any state's congressional map will reveal the effects of these partisan motivated manipulations; improbably drawn districts which look like jigsaw pieces cut by someone on LSD.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has endorsed such an agenda for the Republican party to alter the electoral landscape for the 2016 Presidental election. Recently, Republican state senator Charles Carrico of Virginia has drafted Senate Bill 723 which advanced to committee. The senator drafted the bill for his rural constituents whose, "voices are not heard" in presidential elections.
The Huffington Post published an article which includes some very interesting statistical maps about the 2012 US Presidential Election. These maps illustrate a few facts that are well known and some which are maybe not-so widely known.
Democratic voters tend to be concentrated in urban areas. A majority of the people in Illinois live in or around Chicago or St. Louis and vote democratic. Therefore the electoral college in Illinois casts its votes for the Democrats and the rest of the downstate voters feel marginalized.
Take a look at the deep south, at the illustration which shows all the blue in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. These sparsely populated districts have been referred to, somewhat archaically, as the Black Belts. The majority of the people living there are African-American and vote Democratic. I suspect folks down there have a pretty long history of feeling "marginalized," yet I doubt that the politicians there are going to be redrawing the districts in their favor.
On face value, the Electoral College may seem to be an obsolescence in our technological age. In the 2000 US presidential election, Al Gore carried the popular vote, but lost the pivotal Florida Electoral votes on the weight of thousands ballots originating from Democratic voting urban areas which were ineligible due to "hanging chads," or were otherwise mishandled or lost.
Yet if the Electoral College were abolished and the President were elected based on a popular vote, this likely would dramatically marginalize those areas of low population density even further than they are today. Why would a Presidential hopeful have to visit downstate Illinois or the Black Belt in the deep south when catering to the centers of population would ensure victory?
I used to think that the Electoral College should be abandoned in favor of a straight popular vote, but I now see its value. Yet obviously it can be manipulated, as the Huntington Post has illustrated. "Democracy" is a numbers game with often substantial payoffs. Does manipulating our congressional districts benefit those who are in risk of being marginalized, or are we all just being "played?"