- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2000

Census will reduce electoral votes in Democrat states

The election is over, so attention will shift to the perceived evil that got us into this mess, the Electoral College.

Vice President Al Gore led in the popular vote, but he only carried 20 states, an insufficient amount of electoral votes to win the election. Unfair? Perhaps. If it seemed that the Electoral College was under attack in the past six weeks, just wait until 2001. You will see Democrats with calculators in hand, and they won't like what they see.

There are 538 electoral votes. Each decade, the Census causes these electoral votes to be redistributed. The population has shifted away from the Rust Belt and to the Sunbelt. For example, New York state has lost eight electoral votes, with a corresponding loss in the House of Representatives.

Population trends show that the Republicans will be quite happy with the new Census. Of the 10 states that may lose electoral votes, eight went for Mr. Gore. Of the 19 states that may gain electoral votes, 14 went for Mr. Bush.

The Republican regions get more electoral votes, and the Democratic regions lose. It may be impossible for a Democrat to ever win the White House, or gain control of the House. It doesn't come as a surprise that one senator-elect has voiced support for a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College Hillary Rodham Clinton.

What would happen if we chose our president by popular vote? Remember how many times the candidates showed up in Iowa? No longer. The small states would be ignored. Only high population areas would be visited. The Electoral College is the only thing that makes the candidates act like they care about us.

If Republican states need electoral votes, they aren't coming from Wyoming (you cannot have less than three votes). Sorry, Hillary. And good luck changing the Constitution; it requires ratification by 38 states.

STEVEN PATTON

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Electoral College is no barrier to third parties

During the election, many myths were circulated about the Constitution and the intent of the founders. Now The Washington Post tells us the Founding Fathers designed the Electoral College to "nurture a two-party system with a winner-take-all format that thwarts third parties."

As a Libertarian, I am aware of the hurdles we have to leap over before we can be taken seriously. One of them is not the Electoral College.

The Founding Fathers did not consider that political parties would become as important as they are today. In early America, people voted for a president, and the runner-up became vice president. The two could be of differing political persuasions. In the 1796 election, Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, became vice president under President John Adams, a Federalist. Four years later, Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both Democratic-Republicans, received equal electoral votes for the presidency. The House of Representatives then voted for Jefferson as president. Burr served as vice president, as Jefferson had done previously.

No wonder the American voter is confused. The truth is distorted at every turn.

GAIL KATHERINE LIGHTFOOT

Arroyo Grande, Calif.

GSA defends delay in transition funds

Concerning your Dec. 20 editorial criticizing the General Services Administration (GSA) for failing to accept the Florida secretary of state's certification as the end of the presidential contest ("Welcome to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Mr. Bush"), two facts may have escaped your editorial writers.

First, eight days before the final U.S. Supreme Court decision, President-elect George W. Bush's lead attorney, Theodore B. Olson, stated in a federal appeals court in Atlanta, "No one has won this election, as far as I know. It's still very up in the air," according to a Dec. 5 Associated Press wire story. We were happy to receive news that Mr. Olson supported our reasoning.

Second, former GSA administrator David J. Barram testified in Congress on Dec. 4, at a hearing covered by The Washington Times, that he had looked into supporting both campaigns during this impasse, but was advised that it was against the law, specifically the 1963 Presidential Transition Act.

When it was suggested during the hearing that Congress amend the law to allow parallel funding for this transition only, Mr. Barram said he would welcome that and would continue to work with Congress to ensure a smooth transition. The next day, GSA sent several officials to help Congress draft amendment language, which was then circulated to members of the House, but it went nowhere.

There were some who complained that GSA's strict commitment to the law delayed the transition process, but no one even hinted that we have enough influence to make a bill move through Congress. Thank you for the opportunity to clear the record.

BETH NEWBURGER

Associate administrator

GSA Communications

Washington

Human rights should be priority in Colombia dealings

Political violence in Colombia appears to be worsening, as your Dec. 17 editorial, "Colombia crumbles," notes. But efforts to achieve control are not fortified by The Washington Times, which appears more determined to prod a reckless involvement in that dirty war than understand its complexities and advise wise action.

Human Rights Watch fully supports efforts to find a just peace in Colombia, even if those efforts include establishing a neutral area where negotiations can take place. What we oppose is ceding total control to a force known for executing civilians and captured members of the security forces, kidnapping and the recruitment of children as soldiers, among other things.

We criticized the Colombian government's decision to extend the December deadline, as your editorial noted. But we added, as your editorial did not, a crucial caveat: Such an area can be used for this purpose, but only if the human rights of the people living within are guaranteed. President Andres Pastrana's mistake was not to hold talks with guerrillas, but to fail to ensure the human rights of Colombians who live in the area designated for talks.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pastrana makes the same mistake in areas controlled by paramilitaries, which commit their atrocities with the tolerance and, at times, open support of the military. Most civilians in Colombia live under the threat of violence. Which side it comes from is more a matter of luck and location than anything else.

The United States undermines democracy when it ignores the failure of allies such as Colombia to protect basic rights. What the incoming Bush administration must do is both simple and challenging: strengthen civil society, not the rule of the gun; promote human rights standards, not an abusive military; and solve America's addiction to illegal narcotics at home, not by throwing more billions at the failed strategy of stopping the supply.

ROBIN KIRK

Researcher

Human Rights Watch

Washington

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