Originally published 01/29/2013
Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg are professors of history at LSU and coauthors of "Madison and Jefferson," now a Random House paperback. When Virginian Thomas Jefferson provocatively wrote that the tree of liberty would have to be refreshed periodically with the blood of patriots and tyrants, he did not reckon on tyranny arising in the midst of the Virginia state Legislature from a creeping faction of smarmy hooligans primed to convert Democratic districts into Republican ones overnight. It’s in the news this week. But it’s been brewing ever since Bush v. Gore.Someone’s always talking about dumping the general ticket plurality system – the way we have tallied the votes of the states in presidential elections since 1789 – in favor of the district system. By this means we would be tallying electoral votes one congressional district at a time rather than awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to a single candidate. Article Two, Section 1 of the Constitution says that each state legislature determines on its own how its presidential electors (i.e., those who comprise the Electoral College) are to be chosen.