Monday, August 23, 2004

They may have saintly looks, but they're sinners and crooks

Slate's recurring series on swing states continues with Julia Turner in Maine, and an observation on the state's peculiar method of determining electoral votes: Thanks to a quirk in its state laws, Maine does not award all its electoral votes (there are four of them) to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes in the state. Instead, the candidate who wins the popular vote gets two electoral votes. The third electoral vote goes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the 1st Congressional District and the fourth electoral vote to whoever wins the 2nd. In a very close race, the state could split its electoral vote 3-1, which makes Maine the only swing state that can truly swing both ways. [...] At first, I thought this was a brilliant idea. Although vote-splitting sounds bizarre, it actually makes a lot of senseā€”it's a thoughtful way to ensure that the electoral votes Maine casts more closely reflect the wishes of its people. But then I found this Web site, on which sports statistics guru Jeff Sagarin figured out how the 2000 presidential election would have been decided if all states used the Maine method. Turns out Gore would have been whupped. Ah well. Perhaps there's a better way. Let's reform! Let's make the system more accountable! Greater democracy now! Oh, wait...Gore still would have lost? Never mind. A greater degree of democracy is only acceptable if it produces the correct outcome, no? I'm not one to favour wantonly opening up the machines of government to tinker with the gears, but this does seem like an interesting idea - and I'd say that even if it had produced a President Gore. Unlike the editors of Slate, I'm capable of favouring a reasonable evolution of process even if it doesn't necessarily help out my guy. Which is most of what bothered me about the 2000 election debacle, really. Bill Clinton won in 1992 without taking a majority of the popular vote - yet strangely enough, Democrats weren't raging against that particular quirk of the Electoral College system until the moment it wasn't working in their favour. Turner, sadly, seems to have been schooled in exactly the same hypocrisy.

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