I respectfully wish to differ with state Sen. Bill Ferguson on his position regarding the Electoral College (“Bill would revamp how Md. awards Electoral College votes,” Feb. 26). The creation of the Electoral College was the work of pure political genius on the part of the framers of the Constitution. With the exception of the election of 1860 (when there were four candidates for president), the system has been an astonishing model of stability.
The two-party system exists because of the Electoral College. Without the Electoral College, there would be unlimited numbers of candidates for president and unlimited parties. Remember, there is nothing in the Constitution about political parties. The key word is “majority.” The fact that a candidate for president needs a majority of electoral votes leads to two results: First, it encourages a two-party system with each party nominating one candidate. Second, those candidates have to gather votes from all regions and demographic groups — meaning they have to appeal to the broadest possible audience. The result is that the nation chooses between two essentially consensus candidates who tend to appeal to the middle. There is no other way to win. Throughout American history, fringe candidates lose.
What would the political world look like if elections were decided by majority vote? There would be no stopping dozens of candidates from dozens of political parties running for president. Each candidate would represent one very narrow religious, ethnic, regional or ideological group. Unlike a system that produces two candidates fighting for the middle, a world without an Electoral College has no way limiting the number of candidates. The “winner” would be a candidate who might get less than 20 percent of the vote and would likely represent an extreme fringe of the electorate. To achieve a majority, the nation would be faced with multiple runoff elections which would be totally unworkable. Regardless of how many runoff elections, the ultimate winner would be likely be so extreme as to be an anathema to the vast majority of Americans.
I urge Senator Ferguson to reconsider his legislation on the Electoral College. The abandonment of the Electoral College would inevitably lead to an unimaginable disaster for the nation.