Electoral College system has its flaws

Mr Ronnie Lee Kok Tong has suggested that the Electoral College system could guard against "freak" election results ("Worthwhile to consider Electoral College system"; yesterday).

But is the Brexit result really "freak"? A sizeable portion of the British population, in particular the less upwardly mobile ones, do feel that they are not benefiting from globalisation and the attendant free flow of trade and workforce.

On the other hand, the upwardly mobile who mainly voted "Remain" are generally tech-savvy. They would be expected to flock online to complain aloud that the vote for Britain to leave the European Union isn't what the people wanted and claim that a sizeable number of Leave voters are now "regretting".

The British people have spoken, and the results should be accepted and respected. Repeated calls for tweaks and re-votes until one gets the results one wants will only make a mockery of the system.

The Brexit result exposed the wide chasm between political leaders and those they are trying to lead, but failed to address their problems. If, instead of addressing those problems, we now try to tweak the voting system to deny the majority their voice, I shudder to think what the pent-up frustrations will bring next.

The Electoral College system is, at best, controversial. It can result in a candidate or party winning an election even though he/it lacks the majority vote. It is a tweak that challenges the sanctity of "one man, one vote", erodes the rights of the average man and, by carving out electoral districts according to certain demographics, can potentially be manipulated by the incumbent to secure the next term without a popular mandate.

In the last presidential election, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam had the support of 35.2 per cent of the population. According to Mr Lee's calculations, Dr Tan would have won 90 per cent of the votes under an Electoral College system.

This is, at best, cold comfort and statistical tweaking, and does not change the fact that only a shade more than a third of the people voted for Dr Tan to be president.

I suggest we tread carefully before wading into something as controversial as the Electoral College system.

Peh Chwee Hoe

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Electoral College system has its flaws'. Print Edition | Subscribe