IN THE MIDDLE of a story in Friday morning's newspaper was a single paragraph that ought to be enough to do in the electoral college once and for all. The general subject was the quadrennial effort to amend the Constitution so that voters, not electors, choose the President. The immdiate issue was the "faithless elector," who votes for some candidate other than the one who carried his state. And the one paragraph, in case you missed it, said:
During this discussion, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who was Ford's running mate last year, observed casually that "just after the election, we were shipping, not shopping but looking around for electors to see if we could negotiate with two to three.
The senator later told reporters that this was just some "speculative discussion" when it looked like Ford could win in the electoral college with a few more votes. He added that Ford "effectively scotched" any such plan by conceding to Carter the morning after the election.
But never mind that; the fact remains that the impulse was there. Indeed, it must always be there when elections are close, and it is not hard to think of circumstances under which it might be pursued. Think, for instance, of the bitter feelings engendered by the 1972 campaign. The outcome, of course, was safely lopsided in Richard Nixon's favor. Buf if only three or four electoral votes had separated the candidates after so divisive a contest, could the temptation to tamper with electors have been resisted? We would add that it doesn't require tampering by the candidates to frustrate the will of the voters and corrupt the presidential electoral process; out of some misguided sense of mission, individual electors can do it without anybody twisting their arms.
The elcetoral college, in other words, is a time bomb waiting for the right circumstances to explode. Andrew Johnson recognized that almost 150 years ago. Thousands, perhaps millions, of others have recognized it since. But Congress has steadfastly refused to initiate the constitutional amendment that would abolish it. It came close in 1970, after the House had overwhelmingly passed a proposed amendment. But a filibuster in the Senate killed the proposal.
Now, it seems to us, a member of the Senate - one of the contestants in the last election - has provided the kind of evidence that ought to be persuasive even to those who are the most resistant to change. No one ought to be able to "shop" or even "look around" for electoral votes in an effort to reverse the popular verdict in a presidential election.The electoral college should be demolished.