The electoral college is like some creaky old machine, just waiting to break down. It was devised to keep some power in the hands of small states and it is so convoluted that my crack research staff (Wikipedia) says a candidate could win by carrying just 11 states: California (55), Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15) and New Jersey (14) add up to the necessary 270 votes, which is a majority of the electoral college but not necessarily of the nation. This ain’t right.
The electoral college is one of those compromises layered into the Constitution to protect one special interest or another — slaveholders, small states — or a combination of the two. From time to time, efforts are made at reform, but they invariably fail. A stab was made after Richard Nixon won a narrow victory over Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968 but trounced him in the electoral college. The attempt failed when pro-reform senators could not muster a filibuster-proof majority and Nixon quietly withdrew his support. Any such effort, though, would ultimately require a constitutional amendment, and those are hard to get off the ground.
I appreciate that abolishing the electoral college lacks the urgency of the fiscal cliff or the coming entitlements crackup. But an electoral-college tie or another election won by the loser of the popular vote will do incalculable damage to the public’s faith in democracy.