New Castle News


November 7, 2012

Our Opinion: Presidential selection process poses problems in close contests

NEW CASTLE — As we write this, we don’t know who will win this year’s presidential election.

And it’s possible that by the time you read this, you won’t know either.

Polling data leading up to yesterday’s voting routinely indicated a close contest. Depending on how the results break, and any problems or controversies that may arise, some analysts openly worry that it could be days — if not longer — before the presidential victor is known.

Meanwhile, another worry raised about this year’s presidential contest was the possibility one candidate could win the popular vote, while the other would win the electoral vote.

This has happened before in presidential elections. Most recently, it occurred in the 2000 race, when Al Gore received more popular votes, but George W. Bush recorded the most votes via the Electoral College and was handed the Oval Office.

The Electoral College, of course, is the constitutional requirement that states name electors who then cast the ballots that count for president. The process varies somewhat, but most states have winner-takes-all electoral votes. And if a candidate receives the most popular votes in a given state, that state’s electors are expected to vote for that person.

What this means is that in a close election — as this one will be — it’s possible for a candidate to receive the most electoral votes, but not the most popular votes.

In 2000, many Democrats groused about the results and there were calls to do away with the Electoral College. That, of course, did not happen. This time around, will Republicans be wishing the Constitution had been amended?

This issue involves more than just sour grapes and a failure to accept the language of the Constitution. A president who fails to win the popular vote is open to complaints about lack of legitimacy. The situation poses a political distraction the nation does not need.

So what should be done? Amend the Constitution? That’s a slow, cumbersome process that could run out of steam before results are achieved.

There is, however, another possibility that’s already in the works.

It’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. So far, eight states and the District of Columbia have signed it. This agreement would have states award their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, regardless of who carried that particular state.

Significantly, states are allowed to do this under the Constitution.

The compact would take effect only when enough states with the majority of electoral votes agree to it. Then these states would alter their electoral rules accordingly.

Regardless of what happens in this year’s presidential contest, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this voting compact receive new attention.

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