Purple states unite

By Brett Berry
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 20, 2004

No one in their right mind can argue the degree to which our country has been polarized over the last few years. We have been unapologetically and unfairly divided into explicit ideological cohorts, like it or not.

The United States themselves are no longer that. Ever since the 2000 election, when George "I'm a uniter, not a divider" Bush was awarded the presidency despite garnering fewer actual votes from U.S. citizens than his opponent did, the country has been more divided than at any point in recent memory. Our polarization problem, though, isn't simply rooted in sharp philosophical differences. The United States' archaic Electoral College system of state-by-state, winner-take-all electoral votes has had a considerable effect on the current political atmosphere.

Today, nearly all of the states in the union have essentially been split into two separate nations-red states and blues states-with each waging nonstop ideological war. The target of this fight for more territory is the poor people of the swing states.

If you're lucky/unlucky enough to be a resident of one of the swing states, you have been the unfortunate subject of incessant campaign bombardment from both sides, each clamoring for your vote. You can't watch TV for five minutes without seeing a ridiculous campaign ad. But, hey, at least you're actually getting some attention from candidates who otherwise would readily dismiss you as unimportant. You feel some political efficacy; however, you have to deal with all the BS.

On the other hand, it's just as bad to be a "red" voter in a blue state, or even to be a "blue" voter in a red state. If you're an outcast in a shoo-in state, what is your vote really worth? As the 2000 election proved, the national popular vote doesn't matter one bit. If your vote doesn't sway the electoral votes, it doesn't really matter. And if you're guy is a sure bet to win in your state, then neither candidate will really care about you since your state's fate is already sealed. Either way, your vote really doesn't matter, and it's because it's all about the Electoral College. But what can be done?

In Colorado, they're trying to do something about this problem. "Amendment 36" is an initiative that would change the state's constitution, altering the way that the state's nine electoral votes would be divided. If passed, those nine votes would no longer be a winner-take-all system; the candidates would receive electoral votes proportional to the popular vote.

In principle, I love this idea. It actually makes your vote count no matter what. It'd be nice to never have another president elected who actually received fewer votes than his opponent. Plus, it would mean one less swing state!

The measure, though, has some stiff opposition. A political group calling itself "Coloradans Against a Really Stupid Idea"-not to be confused with the group "Blunt Coloradans Pissed Off by Politically Correct Euphemisms"-has led a strong campaign against the amendment. They have argued that Colorado would lose its importance in the election cycle, saying that the nine votes would likely be split five to four every time, essentially reducing the votes to be gained from winning the state to a single vote. The political clout that Colorado's swing-status wields may very well vanish.

If Colorado were the only state to do this, this definitely could be the result. But what the opposition (mostly Republicans) and the supporters (mostly Democrats) seem to not want to acknowledge is what this amendment, if passed, would do to next month's election. If approved, the change would be immediate, likely giving Kerry four electoral votes he would not have received otherwise. If nothing changed in the red-blue split in this election from 2000 and if the amendment were passed, Kerry would win.

I'll admit it, that's not fair. Plus, it may be true that it would be detrimental to Colorado to lose its swing-state clout.

However, I think the principle of portioning out electoral votes instead of the winner-take-all system is one that has great merit. Why not amend the entire Electoral College in this way?

If the whole system was changed to represent each state's popular vote, the election process would become much more inclusive and democratic. Never again would a state be ignored because it is considered "safe." A vote in a red state would count just as much as in a blue state. Swing states would be a thing of the pass. In fact, the country's red-blue divide would be no more. No more separated red and blue-we'd be united again: The United Purple States of America.

Brett Berry is a regional development senior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.