J.B. Sivanich

(Brent Schwert)

With “presidential” debates already under way, now is as opportune a time as ever to evaluate America’s presidential voting system, which consists of the primaries and the official election in November.
By February 5 of next year, the two presidential hopefuls will have been nominated by their respective parties. This is due to the bunching up of state primaries – 18 states will move up their primaries to join the original six states with their primaries on February 5.
These combined 22 states make up 60 percent of the population, which places more importance on raising as much money as soon as possible, preventing dark horses and late entries from having a fair chance.
Since 1980, 13 of the 14 presidential nominees were the candidates who raised the most money by December 31 of the previous year.
In addition, this plan leaves some voters without any say: In 2004, Montana and New Jersey had their primaries in June – 13 weeks after John Kerry had become the sole candidate.
The recently proposed “American Plan” provides an appealing alternative. The plan consists of ten primaries, each two weeks apart, with small states scheduled at the beginning.
With each primary, the amount of electoral seats would double – the first primary would be eight, the second sixteen, etc. This plan gives the public a larger role in picking its presidential nominees and increases the number of states that have a real say in the election process.
The Electoral College is a severely outdated and flawed system. It allows for the loser of the popular vote to be able to win the election, like Bush did in 2000, which goes against the basic principles of democracy.
Voters in non-battleground states, which are where the majority of the population of America resides, have come to believe – and rightly so – that their votes do not matter.
It also gives more power to voters in smaller states due to the fact that the number of electoral votes a state receives is determined by adding the number of congressional districts and the number of Senate seats.
Every state has two Senate seats. This translates into Wyoming having one elector for every 165,000 people, while Texas has an elector for every 652,000.
The Electoral College needs to be abolished and a popular vote system instated. Only after this happens can citizens be assured that their voices will be heard and their votes will count.
There are downsides that come with replacing the Electoral College with a popular vote system – rural issues would be pushed to the back burner while urban issues would take all the attention.
But even in today’s system, issues of particular importance in battleground states take precedence over issues in safe states.
A good example of this is the increased discussion about using ethanol as a major fuel source by candidates, a topic many Iowans – Iowa is a much fought-over state – strongly support.
However, it is imperative that our voting systems are set up in such a way that every American has as much opportunity to directly elect their President as possible.