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AS I SEE IT

Posted 10/24/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The last time that most of us checked a map of the United States, there were 50 states shown. And when the framers of the U.S. Constitution decided how to ensure that every citizen of the United States was equally represented in Washington, D.C. they did a pretty good job. In determining how many elected officials would represent each state, they decided that each state would be entitled to two senators regardless of the number of residents of that state. And to bring a certain degree of fairness, they decided that members of the U.S. House of Representative would be based on the state’s population. So large states such as California, which has 53 representatives, have a greater say than do  less populated states such as North Dakota, which has but one member in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The system seems to work pretty well. Pretty well by Washington, D.C. standards.
But where the framers of the Constitution may have missed the boat was when they decided that instead of using the popular vote to elect the President of the United States, they created a rather unique system, known as the Electoral College. And it is the delegates to the Electoral College who actually elect the president.
For the most part, the Electoral College has worked pretty well as only four times in the nation’s history has the presidential candidate who received the most popular votes not been elected as President of the United States.
But when the Electoral College was formed there were no political parties. And as everyone has seen in the last two presidential elections, not everyone’s vote is equally important anymore.
Does Obama or Romney care about North Dakota voters? Or for that matter do they care about the vast majority of the voters in most states?
The answer is although they would say, “yes every vote is important,” the truth is they know which states are already in their pockets. And therefore, they concentrate all of their energy and attention in those “swing states” that will ensure them the needed Electoral College votes to get them into the White House.
And it is that battle for the “swing states” that is now starting to make many American voters feel pretty disillusioned and disenfranchised when it comes to presidential elections.
This year, there appears to be only nine states that aren’t already in either Obama’s or Romney’s camp. And it is becoming equally clear that it is the voters in those states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin) who will ultimately decide who is going to be the next President of the United States.
In other words, simply because the vast majority of the voters in the other 41 states have pretty well locked in as going either Democratic or Republican, this year’s presidential election could very well be decided by a very few voters. In fact, according to a recent Associated Press story, those nine states, which represent just 20 percent of the eligible voters in the United States, will in reality be electing this country’s president for the next four years.
When it comes to politics is it fair for nearly four out of every five eligible voters in the United States to be ignored by the candidates simply because the political parties have already determined which states they need to concentrate all of their energy and money in? Unfortunately, that is what is happening in the United States.
Politicians and the political parties have learned that in order to win presidential elections, it is no longer important that they have to persuade as many people as possible to vote for their candidate. Although every president wants to win the popular vote, what is becoming more obvious is that unless the candidate can carry the voters in those “swing states” they will not be elected.
While the founding fathers obviously had their reasons for creating the Electoral College, one has to wonder whether or not the principal of “one person, one vote” will continue to apply in the future when as it becomes more and more clear that the votes of some electorate carry far more weight than that of others.