Without Electoral College change, state election bill chances improved

The Minnesota Legislature continues to tinker with the state’s flawed election system. This year’s version increases the opportunity for absentee voting by no longer requiring that a citizen give a reason for not voting at the polls. In addition, cities will have more opportunity to hold elections by mail.

Governor Mark Dayton said often during last fall’s campaign that he would not sign any voting legislation that does not have strong bipartisan support. Perhaps that’s why the most controversial provision of this year’s election reforms has been stripped from the bill.

That provision would have required whomever Minnesota elected to serve on the Electoral College to vote for the candidate who received the most votes nationwide, instead of for the candidate most supported by Minnesotans.

The Electoral College has been much maligned over the years, especially those few times when a candidate who failed to win the popular vote (most recently George W. Bush) was still elected president.

However, while it may not be perfect, it does recognize that states are units of government with their own unique rights and responsibilities separate from the federal government. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, understood human nature well. The Constitution was designed to let the majority rule, but not absolutely. Had this provision passed the Legislature, Minnesotans would have given up their share of influence on the presidential election to voters of the other states. Successful presidential candidates not only need to win over individual voters, because of the Electoral College, they also have to have a broader appeal nationwide. As pockets of extremism have grown over the years, this fact forces parties to seek out the political center.

Before the Electoral College is abolished, Minnesotans should not forget that the most populace states would then be in control of electing the president. (In fact, the 11 most populous would have a majority to work their will.) Minnesotans need look no further than the metro-outstate tension over whether state spending is spread fairly to understand some of the passions that would be unleashed.

We expect the governor to hold firm on his demand for broad bipartisan support, and by keeping Minnesota’s presidential electors bound to casting the state’s will, the chances are greatly improved that such support will pass the bill.