Opinion

Washington should apportion electoral votes

The United States is immersed in one of the most interesting and important presidential elections in years. It’s too bad that in Oak Harbor your Republican vote for president will literally count for nothing.

Nobody is cheating, that’s just the way the system works. Oak Harbor is a predominately Republican community, but it’s located in a predominately Democratic state, at least when it comes to presidential elections. No Republican has carried this state since Ronald Reagan did it back in 1984. We might ridicule pollsters, but the fact is they’re usually right when predicting which candidate will carry a state. It’s safe to say that every pollster in America has Washington in Barack Obama’s column on election day, Nov. 5. That’s the reason you won’t see John McCain or Barack Obama spending much time in Washington, other than a fly-through fundraiser, perhaps. They have to worry about the contested states where pollsters aren’t sure who will win. There are only half a dozen or so, and that’s where the candidates will be spending their time and money. The rest of us are a statistical sure thing.

Ultimately we can blame the electoral college, in which voters don’t directly elect the president. Instead, they vote for electors who do the voters’ bidding. In Washington and and almost every other state, the electors all vote for the winning candidate. If Obama gets 2,000,001 votes in Washington and McCain gets 2,000,000, all 11 electoral votes go to Obama. All those people who voted for McCain will have nothing to show for it.

There is no chance that the electoral college will be replaced through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. An entirely popular vote has its detractors, and many states would lose influence, so such a proposal would never get the two-thirds support it needs from the states.

However, states can change how they apportion their electors. Washington, for example, doesn’t have to give all 11 electoral votes to the winner. It could apportion them by percentage. If Obama wins 60 percent of the votes, he gets 60 percent of the electors. But McCain would still get 40 percent, which would make his campaign much more interested in this state. With every electoral vote so precious, candidates would be fighting for them in each and every state.

More importantly, proportional electoral votes would make the individual votes of Oak Harbor Republicans count for something.

Of course, Washington’s heavily Democratic Legislature wants nothing to do with this idea. That’s why an initiative from the people is the only way to change an unfair system. Too late for 2008, but it could happen in time for the presidential election in 2012. Why let Hillary Clinton get all our electoral votes when so many people like Sarah Palin?

A big boost

for the arts

The city of Oak Harbor and its Arts Commission deserve accolades for making possible the first piece of public art ever to be commissioned in our island city by the bay.

Last week an $11,000 sculpture titled “Release” was installed at Fort Nugent Park as a smiling crowd of city officials looked on. Made by Kentucky artist Don Lawler, who was flown in for the occasion, it’s an outstanding piece of public art for its location. Kids can climb on and crawl over the big hunk of carved limestone, but its aesthetics are such that adults can ponder over its meaning. The artist gives us a heavy hint by saying it’s a seed pod bursting to release seed sprouts in flower form, but as they say, art is in the eye of the beholder. Take a look at it; it can be anything your imagination wants it to be. It could even be controversial. Why spend all that money on a giant seed pod when what we really need is a nice bronze cow, symbolizing our lost dairy farms? Such thoughts are OK too, because art should be fun to talk about.

Credit for the project goes back to former Mayor Patty Cohen and the prior council for adopting the 1 percent for art program. The $11,000 for the art project represents 1 percent of what was spent on the latest phase of the park. It showed foresight and courage to adopt such a program in Oak Harbor, not known until now as a leader in the arts on Whidbey Island.

One percent for the arts is a great idea. Congratulations to everyone involved for carrying it to fruition.

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