Don’t bother going to the polls — or reading news

Newspapers play a major role in conveying to the people this nation’s key decisions.

Newspapers were at the Boston Tea Party. They were at Concord, Valley Forge and Yorktown. They printed the slogan "No Taxation Without Representation" and Franklin’s "Join or Die" cartoon. They first printed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers.

Newspapers reported on both sides of the Civil War, told of Custer’s Last Stand, the sinking of the Maine, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the dropping of the atomic bomb, the bugout from Saigon and the fall of Baghdad.

Newspapers reported on the changes to the Constitution, including the 14th Amendment, which granted suffrage to freed slaves, as well the 19th, giving women the right to vote, and the 26th, giving that right to 18-year-olds.

Newspapers covered all the hard-fought presidential campaigns — Jackson vs. Adams, Hayes vs. Tilden, Harrison vs. Cleveland, Bush vs. Gore — all of which resulted in the person receiving the most popular votes losing in a count of the Electoral College.

When it came to Obama vs. McCain, the Battle Born state was a battleground state thanks to our early caucuses. All the key contenders visited dozens of times — McCain, Clinton, Romney, Richardson, Obama. There was even a nationally televised Democratic debate at UNLV.

Nevada voters played a key role in an historic election, and Nevada newspapers spilled barrels of ink covering every facet and nuance so our readers could make informed decisions at the ballot box.

Come 2012, Nevada may not be so much as an afterthought.

On Tuesday, the Assembly voted to surrender your right to vote for president and vice president. On a straight party-line vote, 27 Democrats in favor and 14 Republicans opposed, they passed legislation that would award all five of Nevada’s Electoral College votes to whoever is the popular vote-getter nationwide, no matter for whom we vote.

They might as well cancel the election entirely. It would be a meaningless sham unless by some statistical fluke Nevada’s comparative handful of votes tipped the outcome nationally. Our votes, essentially, would be delivered by legislative proxy to the 11 most populous states, whose 271 electoral votes constitute a majority.

The Electoral College was set up precisely to protect smaller states like Nevada from being rendered powerless and irrelevant. That is why every state, no matter its population, has two senators. Each state is afforded presidential votes equal to its federal delegation. Thus Nevada has five and California 55. The District of Columbia has three. For a total of 538.

Democrats, still mewling over the 2000 election in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote, have come up with this end-run on the Constitution. If enough states with a majority of votes embrace this plan — dubbed National Popular Vote — it will take effect.

Close the polls and save the money, because someone in California, Texas, New York or Florida will be casting your vote.

And that is where the candidates will be. That is where the coverage will be. There will be no need for Nevada newspapers to apprise you of the issues, of the promises, of the character flaws and voting records, because your vote won’t count. It would be a futile gesture. A folly. A farce. You can stay home, because Nevada’s five Electoral College votes will be determined elsewhere.

If the Democrats want to let someone else cast our votes, they’d be better off putting them up for auction to the highest bidder to help cover the shortfall in the general fund budget.

If the Democrats want to change the Constitution to elect presidents with a popular vote, amend the Constitution. It takes approval of three-fourths of the states, not a simple majority.

It can be done. It has been done. It was in all the papers.

People have fought and died for the right of suffrage. People have marched in the streets and campaigned in the state halls for suffrage — for the unalienable right to choose those who would best represent their best interests.

But 27 Assembly Democrats voted to surrender your right to a meaningful presidential ballot.

Remember that when your vote does count.

 

Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes on the role of the press. He may contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at tmitchell@reviewjournal.com. Read his blog at lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.

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