Q: Findlay and Hancock County have demolished buildings north of the Main Street bridge.

Yet, on the northeast side of the bridge, on the northern side of the river, there’s an old brick building very close to the river that seems to pose a more serious impediment to the flow of water down the Old Millstream than does the old Sour-Flour Trading Post and other buildings north of the river.

Why doesn’t that old, long brick building get torn down? Does it hide a deep, dark secret?” — Kelton K. Smith, Findlay.

A: The building once stood on the river’s south bank before the river was straightened. It started out after the Civil War as a stable and livery. After the 1900s, it became a used car lot and then a garage. Later it housed small businesses for many years, including a plating plant, then became a storage building. It has withstood 69 floods since 1831 without any major structural damage, which cannot be said about many other buildings in Findlay.

Co-owners Bert Rayl and Bob Nichols use it as “a storage site for stuff.” They have not been approached to sell it, and have not sought a buyer for fear of complicating public flood-control plans.

In fact, the men have worked with the Hancock Park District to allow walking/bicycling paths nearby.

County Commissioner Brian Robertson said officials cannot comment on property acquisition because the topic is reserved for closed “executive session.”

But, he said, “All structures along in the floodway that would impede the flow of the Blanchard River continue to be of interest to our community’s flood-mitigation efforts.” — Robertson, Rayl; Mark Donaldson, Hancock Historical Museum.

Q: Why does the U.S. have an Electoral College? How do we know that a state’s electors will vote for the presidential candidate who won that state? — Several readers

A: The framers of the Constitution didn’t trust direct democracy. When U.S. citizens go to the polls to “elect” a president, they are in fact voting for a particular slate of electors. In every state but Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who wins the most votes (a plurality) in a state receives all of the state’s electoral votes. The number of electors in each state is the sum of its U.S. senators and its U.S. representatives. Ohio has 18 electors. The electors meet in their respective states 41 days after the general election. There, they cast a ballot for president and a second for vice president. A candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes to be elected president.

The reason the Constitution calls for this extra layer, rather than direct election of the president, is that most of the nation’s founders were actually rather afraid of democracy. James Madison worried about what he called “factions,” which he defined as groups of citizens who have a common interest in some proposal that would either violate the rights of other citizens or would harm the nation as a whole.

The idea of the Electoral College was that electors could preserve “the sense of the people,” but could overrule the popular vote if voters had made a terrible mistake.

In modern practice, the Electoral College is mostly a formality. Most electors are loyal members of the party that selected them. Ohio is one of 31 states with a law that requires electors to vote in accord with the popular vote. Although an elector could, in principle, change his or her vote, doing so is rare.

In November 2012, Donald Trump tweeted: “The electoral college is a disaster for democracy.” But Trump will become president because of the Electoral College vote. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the general election. It is the fifth time in U.S. history that the popular vote winner has lost the election — Annenberg Public Policy Center, Los Angeles Times, other sources

You can ask Just Ask, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839, or news@thecourier.com

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