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I'm a Californian, and I want my presidential vote to count too!

September 07, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • The Democratic National Convention wrapped up Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C.
The Democratic National Convention wrapped up Thursday night in Charlotte,… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Now that the dog-and-pony-shows, er, conventions, are over, there’s a certain feeling in the air. After what seems like endless campaigning, the actual election in November is starting to feel real.

Yes, we still have the candidates’ debates coming. As my colleague Jon Healey writes, they are likely to prove more valuable than the conventions in sorting out the strengths and weaknesses of Mitt Romney and President Obama.

But instead of being excited, I’m left sitting here in California with this elephant in the room: My presidential vote won’t count. And that ain't right.

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I hate to say it, because as soon as I type the words “electoral college,” you’re going to stop reading, but the electoral college (wow, double jeopardy!) is killing American politics.

Populous, and Democratic, California is going to be won by Obama. So is populous, and Democratic, New York. And so will other less populous but still Democratic states on both coasts.

Populous, and Republican, Texas will go for Mitt Romney. So will wide swaths of the less populous but still Republican Midwest and South.

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Which means that voters in a very few states -- Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, Iowa, among others -- will actually decide who will be the next president.

Now, it’s not that I have anything against the folks in those states. But if I want to gamble in Vegas, it's going to be on blackjack, not the presidency.

We need to give everyone some skin in the game. We need to elect the president by popular vote.   

VIDEO: Watch the DNC speeches

I first swallowed the bitter pill of electoral college injustice in 1972. It was my first presidential election, and I trudged through the snow at my Nebraska college to proudly cast my ballot for -- George McGovern. (Yes, I know, talk about a snowball's chance -- but hey, who's laughing now?)

Then came the unkindest cut of all. In 1980, living in Hawaii, I awoke eager to get to the polls and vote for Jimmy Carter. But I made the mistake of turning on the TV -- only to learn that Ronald Reagan had already won the presidency. 

Now, in this time of bitter partisan divisions and close elections, the electoral college system is just exacerbating the problem. If Obama loses, as Al Gore did, because of a few disputed ballots in Florida, will the millions of voters in California who voted for Obama accept Romney’s mandate? Or if Romney loses in a similar fashion, will the people in the many GOP states across the Midwest and South feel thwarted again?

VIDEO: Watch the RNC speeches

We need a presidential outcome that Americans -- all Americans -- can accept. Even if it’s a close race, a Republican in California or a Democrat in Texas won’t feel as though his vote didn’t matter.

Yes, I know: It would also mean that California would be swamped by those dreadful political attack ads. And if campaigns are already way too expensive, imagine how much more they might cost if every state were in play.

But one-person, one-vote should mean just that. My vote should mean as much as the guy’s in Florida or Ohio. Accidents of geography shouldn’t make me Mr. Politically Irrelevant.

It’s the American way -- or at least, it should be.


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