Governor was correct to veto bill abandoning Electoral College
FOR MORE than two centuries, the Electoral College has been serving American politics very well. But recently, due to close elections for the U.S. presidency, some members of the Democratic Party at both the local and national levels have been advocating a change in the way we elect our nation's chief executive.
You might have seen television commercials advocating a so-called popular vote initiative. Locally, our state Legislature passed Senate Bill 1956, a bill aimed at enabling the winner of the presidential election to be determined by national popular vote rather than the Electoral College.
After surviving 19-4 and 35-12 votes in the state Senate and House, Senate Bill 1956 moved upstairs where it was vetoed last week by Gov. Linda Lingle. The governor did the right thing in vetoing this misguided effort. Now, it's important that the Legislature listen to common sense and not the newest television ads trying to stir up the idea of overriding that veto.
Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of small states and the ugly potential of large, populous states overwhelming the national presidential elections. Hawaii, although small in numbers and isolated in the middle of the Pacific, has shown its importance in the national election process as recently as 2004 when Vice President Dick Cheney and former Vice President Al Gore traveled to Honolulu because the election was too close to call.
DO WE AS CITIZENS of Hawaii want to give up that kind of empowerment? Of course not.
The federal Electoral College is the name of the group of presidential electors who came about because of the presidential election of 1800; when the electors of the Democratic-Republican Party gave Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr an equal number of electoral votes. The tie-breaking decision was made in the House of Representatives resulting in the election of Thomas Jefferson. To prevent a tie from occurring again, the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, requiring each elector to cast only one vote for the office of president and another for the office of vice president. The presidential electors are chosen every four years by the state's political parties in the summer before the national election.
There have been about 700 failed proposals in Congress to change the Electoral College, according to the Office of the Federal Register. The latest try started with legislation nicknamed Every Vote Counts, which was introduced by Rep. Gene Green of Texas in 2004, and once again in 2007. Leaders in both the local and national Democratic Party, still upset with the results of the controversial 2000 presidential election, have been rallying state legislatures to introduce measures to decide our presidential elections by popular vote. This method would effectively remove the Electoral College without having to amend the Constitution.
THE CURRENT ELECTORAL College strengthens the status of minority groups because the votes of small minorities within a state might make the difference between winning all of a state's electoral votes or none of them. It enhances the political stability of the nation by promoting a two-party system that protects that presidency from impassioned but transitory third-party movements, and forces the major parties to absorb the interests of small states and minorities; and it maintains the federal system of government and representation. Each state is allocated a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. representatives, plus its two senators, so Hawaii has four electoral votes. All states have at least three electoral votes, no matter how small they are.
Finally, the Electoral College makes certain that Hawaii's real voice is heard. Whether Hawaii votes for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate, all its electoral votes go to the candidate who gains the most votes here in Hawaii. If the current legislation is overridden, all of Hawaii's votes would go to the national popular vote winner. You don't have to be a historian or a political genius to figure out what that means.
IT'S IMPORTANT that we stand behind the fair and thoughtful concepts of the Founding Fathers of this great nation. Don't let a few disgruntled members of the Democratic Party change something that will make Hawaii's votes irrelevant forever.
Let your legislators know that an override of Senate Bill 1956 isn't in your best interests, isn't in the state's best interests, and isn't in the best interests of anyone in Hawaii who votes in future presidential elections.
The governor's veto makes sense. Don't be fooled by slick TV ads that try to sway you another way.
Bob Hogue, a Republican, represented Kailua and Kaneohe in the state Senate. In 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives.