m a r k a n d e y a

What is fair?

Posted by Brian on December 4, 2007

Here’s part of a letter that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer yesterday:

Joel Connelly (“Electoral College is past its prime,” Friday) has decided that the most envied, well thought out, enduring and fairest form of government is outdated and unfair. Poor Joel. He didn’t get his way in 2000 or 2004, and he is obviously feeling as if it’s going to happen again in 2008. Well, guess what? The system as designed brings fairness to all people, not just those living in large pockets along the liberal sea borders of the country. It has worked for more than 200 years.

It’s part of a response to yet another reasonable and well-argued critique of our nation’s (broken) electoral college system.

One word in the above graph stands out to me: “fairness.” The writer’s view of what is fair and what isn’t is slightly off-kilter, as nothing can be fairer than simply counting up the votes for candidate A and counting up the votes for candidate B and determining the winner that way.

Apparently,  “fairness” in the eyes of the author involves crippling the larger states in terms of their voting power and giving a disproportionate amount of influence to the smaller states. That’s why an individual vote from someone in Wyoming is worth four times more in the electoral college than a similar vote by a Texan. Does this sound “fair” to anyone besides a person from Wyoming or someone who values the inflated voting power of such states?

And it’s a common tactic to attribute the complaints from disgruntled critics of the elctoral college to some lingering partisan anger over the 2000 election. Viewed in such a light, it’s easy to dismiss calls for change as nothing more than partisan rhetoric from the “unhinged left.” In all honesty, I’m more than willing to live under a republican president for the rest of my life if that is what a plurality of American voters wanted.

It’s time for change.

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