Rethinking voter qualifications

March 17, 2005
The passions of the past presidential election are well behind us, so this would be a good time to reflect on the way we elect presidents

, how we pay taxes, and who should be allowed to vote.

The Electoral College. Presidential elections are going to be scary events for both political parties as long as the outcome is determined by the Electoral College. It isn't just the all-or-nothing disposition of electoral votes that is wrong. Another problem is that votes in various states count a different amount toward each electoral vote.

The allocation of electoral votes for each state is determined by population as counted by the U.S. census. The census counts every dog and cat in the pound, so to speak. It doesn't just count registered voters. It doesn't count just U.S. citizens. It counts everybody. That big net scoops up adults, children, the demented, resident aliens, and illegal aliens. Every boatload of Haitians arriving in Florida makes that state more influential in the electoral college. Every Mexican sneaking into California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas gives those states more sway in our presidential elections.

That fact inspired me to calculate a figure that is never mentioned in elections, namely, the number of votes it takes to garner a single electoral vote in the various states. I took the number of votes accorded the winner in each state, and divided it by the total number of electoral votes for that state. What this shows is that there are wide disparities in how much each vote counts.

For example, in Massachusetts, it took the votes of 149,493 people to produce each of the 12 electoral votes Mr. Kerry received. In Alaska, Mr. Bush needed only 50,499 votes for each of the three electoral votes he won there.

Now consider the wide disparity in the two most populous states. Mr. Kerry got an electoral vote for every 98,548 votes cast for him in California. But Mr. Bush needed 132,039 votes to get each of the electoral votes he received in Texas. This phenomenon led to considerable distortion of the results. I totaled the popular vote for each candidate from the largest to the smallest states, and by the time each candidate had racked up just shy of 28 million votes (27,792,223 for Mr. Kerry and 27,877,777 for Mr. Bush), that had netted 227 electoral votes for Kerry but only 217 votes for Bush. Kerry led in the electoral count by 4.6% even though he trailed by 0.3% in the popular vote. Another thing that scares me is that winning just the 11 most populous states gives a candidate the election.

You have all seen the red-blue map of electoral vote by states, and anyone looking at it has to wonder how the last election turned out to be close. If you look at the redblue tally by counties, you have to wonder even more why the results weren't a blowout. The answer, of course, is that large cities dominate the allocation of electoral votes. It takes almost unanimous opposition in rural counties to overcome whichever way the vote goes in urban areas. To make matters worse, massive efforts to register new voters are mainly among the uninformed and unproductive populations who obediently vote as they are told by big-city political machines.

Local Taxes. Financially pressed cities have hit upon a reprehensible way to milk exorbitant income taxes out of people with no ballot-box protection. It works like this. A city council or the local electorate passes sky-high income taxes on people who work within the municipal boundaries. But they also include generous exemptions for people who are residents of the community. As a result, nonresidents pay, while residents don't. And there is nothing the nonresidents can do about it.

Remedial Actions. Three changes could rectify problems concerning both the electoral college and local-tax extortion. It is as follows: The winner of a presidential election should be by popular vote. Only citizens paying a positive income tax should be allowed to vote in a presidential election. In local elections, citizens should get a vote in every municipality in which they are taxed.

Ronald Khol, Editor

Go to: forums.machinedesign.comfor Editor Ronald Khol's new blog page. E-mail response: [email protected]

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