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Fire Away! by Dee Jay Gude
Here's something that annoys me: those op-ed columnists that appear in almost every major newspaper in America. What in Heaven's name makes them think they need to explain things to me? Do they think I'm so stupid that I can't figure it out for myself? In fact, you all shouldn't even be reading this column; you should learn to think for yourselves instead of taking my worldview into consideration and letting me influence you. But since you're here...

Someone brought up the subject in the forums about how to get more voter turnout. He/she is currently working in Brazil and said that there they have voting on Sunday so very few people have to leave work. In Brazil, apparently, voting is also a legal obligation -and when you don't vote, you're not allowed to have a bank account nor is anyone allowed to employ you. 

Well, I'm all for that because I think that if more people voted, we'd have better representation in Congress and in the White House. So why don't we do these things in the US? Simple. The powers that be don't really WANT you to vote! Why do you suppose our Founding Fathers created the Electoral College?

For those of you who learned about this stuff in high school, then promptly forgot it, let me give you a little history lesson:

The Electoral College was created by the folks who hammered out the Constitution. They decided that they wanted some control over the Presidential process and were understandably nervous about too much democracy. After all, why entrust some redneck farmer to make that important of a decision? So they came up with the idea that each state would have a number of Electors, equal to it's number of Senators and Representatives in Congress. The Electors could be chosen by whatever method the state decided, but each Elector would vote for two men who were in the running - the guy with the most votes would become President and the runner up would be Vice-President. Obviously this system has changed a bit over the years but one thing remains true to this day: the Electors don't necessarily have to vote for the same guy the people want. They're supposed to, but they don't always.

What our Founding Fathers were really banking on was this: if the Electoral College failed to choose a President by a majority, the election would be then sent to the House of Representatives. The idea being that these "learned men" were more capable of choosing the next President than you or I. When that happens, whatever political party controls the House, that's who becomes President. So far two Presidents have lost the popular vote but won the Electoral vote and became President: Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison. Two more Presidents were decided by the House: Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and John Quincy Adams in 1824.

This is all well and good and you may not care that your vote goes into a partisan melting pot, but here's the real problem with the Electoral College: it makes it almost impossible for a third-party candidate to have a serious chance at the prize. Why? Because Electors are typically chosen as a reward for their work with a political party. So if there are currently two major parties in the US, it will stand to reason that the Electoral College will be composed of primarily members of those two parties. Even if the majority of the population wants a third-party candidate, the Electoral College will vote with it's party and the President will belong to one of those two parties. So the best Ralph Nader of the Green Party can hope for is to siphon off votes from the Democrats, who most closely resemble the Green Party agenda. I doubt this is Nader's goal.

So back to my original topic: the folks in Washington don't really want you to have a say in who becomes president. If they did, the election would be a purely democratic process. Voting would be held on a weekend so that we don't have to take off work to do our civic duty. (Keep in mind that schools close on Election Day. This means that the kids are home and Mom must either get a sitter so she can vote or drag the kids with her and worry about what they're doing when she's in the booth. I know - I've been there.) 

So that's the bad news - what's the good news? You can, in fact, make a difference in national politics, but you have to do it on the local level. Everyone is familiar with who the Presidential candidates are, but do you know who's running for your State Senate? How about who your Congressional Representatives are? This is the stuff you need to pay attention to because these are the guys who decide our national fate. The more of a particular party there is in our State Legislature, the more Electoral votes that party will receive. Here's the logic behind that statement: If a state has, say, 10 Electoral votes and 5 of those Electorates vote for Candidate A, 4 vote for Candidate B, and 1 votes for Candidate C, Candidate A wins all 10 Electoral votes because he has the majority. Never mind that there were just as many against him as for him. Keep in mind that the Electoral College is chosen by their political party. So if a state has mostly Democrats in office, you can reason that most of the Electorates from that state will be Democrats and they, in turn, will cast their vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate.

So now that I've thoroughly muddied the waters in your (and my own) brain, let me make one last point: please bone up on your local candidates and vote for the one that most closely reflects your views - don't be afraid of voting for third-party candidates. Most local elections take a back seat to what's going on nationally. And local politicians are the ones who decide, for all intents and purposes, who gets to be President. 

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