Michael Connelly is a former crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Combining that background with exceptional talent as a writer of fiction, he has produced more than 25 crime novels. He is virtually a permanent resident of the New York Times best seller list.
In addition to three "Lincoln Lawyer" novels, plus half a dozen miscellaneous ones, more than 15 Connelly novels feature as main character a Los Angeles police department homicide detective named Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch. World weary, hard-headed, and healthily skeptical of authority, Bosch follows his own personal code of ethics: "Everybody counts or nobody counts." In other words, despite LAPD politics, city government pressure, or FBI interference, murder is murder. The death of a street prostitute, a homeless man, or a runaway waif is just as important as the death of a wealthy socialite or the son of a prominent politician.
This election season might seem remote from a Michael Connelly novel, but not to me. Over the years I have looked at every angle of our Electoral College system of electing presidents and vice presidents. I have listened to learned people argue in favor of it and other learned people oppose it. I have finally come to my own conclusion: This is the dumbest, most undemocratic system I can imagine of electing someone to what is arguably the most significant office in today's world.
Let's face it: the establishment of a system where citizens could vote for president, but they'd actually be voting for electors, who would then cast their electoral college vote for the candidate who got the most votes in that state, because the winner takes all, is nutty. (Two states don't follow the "winner take all" rule, but their system is even nuttier.)
Like so many things in our government, this strange process is the result of political compromise, done back in the days before compromise was a thing to be avoided.
Maybe in this case it should have been. It was a compromise between the folks who wanted the Congress to elect presidents and the folks who wanted the election to be by popular vote. It also included the "three-fifths compromise." On one side of this one were the folks who wanted slaves in the South not to be counted at all. This would dilute the political power of that region, given that the number of a state's representatives was based on population, and the number of electors was based on the number of representatives. On the other side of this compromise were the Southerners, who wanted slaves to count fully. Allowing them to count as only three-fifths of a person, for allocating representatives, reduced the South's political power, but not as much as her opponents wished.
Surely we are technically advanced to the point that electing our president by nationwide popular vote is not an insurmountable problem. My vote is tiny, but it's my vote.
It's my guess that, no matter which current candidate is elected, the economy is going to improve. And we're probably not going into another war of choice real soon. So it may not matter where the major issues are concerned. But it's my vote. I want to cast it for my choice, not for an elector. And I want it to go to my choice, not become moot because I'm a red guy living in a blue state or a blue guy living in a red state.
Fifty-odd years ago, I listened to Georgia politicians argue about the "county unit" system versus "one man, one vote." (Yes, women voted, but we didn't say so out loud.) The county unit system had been designed by the Democratic Party, overwhelmingly dominant in state politics, to keep rural, lightly populated counties from being overwhelmed politically by the urban areas. So urban counties got six unit votes each, town counties got four, and rural counties got two. Winners in the Democratic primary were usually de facto winners of the election, and winners, under this version of the electoral college system, were mostly determined by rural voters.
The county unit system was eventually abolished, being recognized as undemocratic. The rule of "one man, one vote" replaced it. No longer could the winner of the most votes in a county take all that county's units. Every voter's vote, at last, counted the same as everybody else's.
I think the United States ought to be just as enlightened as the state of Georgia. I agree with Harry Bosch. Everybody counts or nobody counts.
Robert B. Simpson, a 28-year Infantry veteran who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of "Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage."