Hoboken, N.J.: The Electoral College is an ethereal American institution much cherished but oft-maligned. Its most serious defect lies in its winner-take-all voting. For example, all of Ohio’s electoral votes in this past presidential election go to the Democratic candidate, meaning that some 2.6 million Ohio Republican votes, 48.2 percent of the state’s electorate, will have no voice in the Electoral College. Many millions of Democratic voters in Republican-dominated states will face a similar situation. However, this failing will disappear when the Electoral College’s functionality is updated and proportional voting is installed.
Currently, the U.S. president is selected by electors from each state and the District of Columbia. The number of electors for each state equals the number of its senators and congressional representatives (D.C. has three electors) bringing the total to 538. According to the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section I, each state determines how electors are chosen and how they function. In 48 states and D.C., electoral votes are cast on an all-or-nothing basis for the candidate who won the popular vote in that state. Only Nebraska and Maine use a type of proportional system.
On Dec. 17, electors will meet in their home states to award their votes to the candidate who won their state.
There have been criticisms, major and longstanding, of the present format and its consequences:
1. Swing states, and their special issues, receive the bulk of attention in campaigns, to the neglect of rest of the nation. In effect, swing states elect the president.
2. Voter turnout is thus suppressed and apathy becomes an ever-deepening problem.
3. The presidential candidate selected by the Electoral College may not be the victor in the popular voting.
These concerns, and most others, can be addressed by states requiring proportional voting in the college. Each candidate gets a share of the vote equal to his or her percentage of the popular vote. Of course, this plan works best when all states participate.
No constitutional amendment is required to effect proportional voting. This nonpartisan plan is gaining traction on the Internet and Facebook (see: www.facebook.com/Count My Vote and www.Experts123.com/a/CountMyVote.html).
The greatest advantage of this plan is that it retains the Founders’ wisdom of the ages, which has installed the United States as the most effective and long-lasting experiment in self-government in world history. It continues their system of checks and balances in government. We do not have an all-powerful central government.
Each state has its own culture, pride, personality and peculiar political and social issues that fit into a national dialogue of pubic policy. With a reformed Electoral College, that dialogue will be strengthened in future campaigns because every vote in each and every state will be consequential. “Swing state presidents” shall be no more.
A second advantage of the reform plan embodies the wisdom of the Founders as set forth in Federalist Paper #10, which addressed the danger of popular pressure in a democracy. James Madison, its author, feared the tyranny of the majority. as well as that of the elites. We should not vote on public policy by national plebescites! Surely we can now do this with computer voting on every important issue, including the presidency. But then the right of states to determine many significant issues, like gay marriage or Medicaid expansion, might be eliminated.
A third advantage would be increased voter turnout, as every vote counts. Proportional electoral voting doesn’t absolutely guarantee popular election of the president. Currently, however, with a typical 60 percent turnout in a presidential election, a majority candidate might win with only 31 percent of eligible voters in his or her favor. This is not election of a president by popular vote; this is a democracy edging toward extinction.
When you factor in the swing-state effect, a very small electorate decides the presidency. That office is the most powerful and important one in the world. There should be many challenges to meet in order to obtain it.
If the reform plan were in effect for this past election, how would the results look? With rounding to whole numbers (other methods may be devised), the electoral count would be Obama 276, Romney 262, much more reflective of the tight race. In the two closest swing states, the results are: Florida, Obama 15, Romney 14; Ohio, Obama 10, Romney 8.
Now examine the effect in the big, currently “safe” states: Instead of winner-take-all, it would be: California 34-21 Obama; Texas 22-16 Romney; New York, 19-10 Obama.
Even in the reliable small states, like Vermont and Wyoming, the loser gets one of three electoral votes.
Do you want a reformed Electoral College? Then petition your state government to enact this reform plan. It gives more power and value to the popular vote while protecting the power of the various states in a presidential election.
Checked and balanced!
Laccetti is a retired professor of social science at Stevens Institute of Technology and a national columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.