Monday, January 5, 2015

The Electroal College, Revisited

The Republicans are on to something. For all of the wrong reasons, of course, but at least they are opening up a debate about the Electoral College.

There is a move afoot to manipulate how electoral votes are cast from states that tend to award their Electoral College votes to the Dems. The Republicans would like to imitate the Maine plan that awards Electoral College by Congressional District instead of awarding all of a state's votes to the highest vote getter.

While we have railed against the winner-take-all approach to elections for years, we don't see much value in the Republican model. Partially, because it is a piecemeal plan being presented for partisan gain, only being pursued in places which would benefit the GOP.

Now, if it were being introduced as a national system that would require all states to award their votes in the same manner, we could seriously consider it as a meaningful reform. Except that the other problem with the plan is in its method of allocating the Electoral College votes. As long as we have the current sick method of drawing Congressional Districts (and state legislative and other districts, for that matter), anything based on those districts is beyond questionable. It is downright unfair.

A better method for proportional representation of state's Electoral College votes would be mathematical. A strict ratio of Electoral College votes to votes cast on Election Day, as many states, including New Mexico, instruct the parties to use when voting at a Presidential Nominating Convention.

To take a real life example, we look at the state of Florida in 2000, the aftermath of which involved Supreme Court intervention, the blame game (how dare Ralph Nader run for President?!?), and unmitigated drama. How much simpler if Florida allocated its 25 Electoral College votes proportionally? 12 for Bush, 12 for Gore, 1 for Nader. No lawsuits, no drama, just a fair representation of the will of the voters.

The other option that bears mentioning is a national popular vote plan, advocated by FairVote and other good government groups. Abolish the Electoral College, count the votes, declare the winner. A much simpler and fairer plan, which, using Ranked Choice Voting, would ensure a winner with majority support even in the typically crowded field of Presidential candidates.

The key to success here is not the piecemeal plan advocated by Republicans for their own gain, but a national strategy that ensures fair representation of the will of the voters, encourages voter (and candidate) participation, and is transparent and easily understood. Yes, the Electoral College and winner take all systems need revision. Determining the best improvements is a national dialog that can result in an improved Democracy.


  1. To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    Instead, by state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states.

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founders. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founders in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In virtually every of the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 70-80% range or higher. - in recent or past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.
    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

  2. thanks to "toto", whoever you are, for expanding on the movement for a National Popular Vote.

    By way of clarification, I do not think we should "abolish" the Electoral College, I think we should modify it so that it uses a form of proportional representation. That would not require a constitutional amendment, but could be achieved in the states or by the Congress.