Monday, November 17, 2008

Electoral College reform

The debate about electoral college reform has never really gotten off the ground. Sure there was outrage when Al Gore lost the Presidency even though he won the popular vote. But that quickly dissipated, and the John Kerry debacle four years later meant that George Bush won another election but this time with a lead of some 3 million votes.
And thats how its usually going to be the guy who wins the Electoral College, likely gets the popular vote, so why bother changing it?
The one reasoning I have heard in the past for having an electoral college is that the smaller states(population wise) would not get the short shrift from the Presidential candiadates.
And its a reason I'd be willing to accept if it was not for the fact that even larger states get the short shrift currently from one candidate or the other or sometimes from both.
I have'nt gotten figures, but it would be safe to say That States like Texas, New York and California, did not get the attention that was heaped on Swing States, from eithe candidates. If you were Obama, why waste precious resources on a states thats already been sewn up. And if you were McCain, why waste prescious resources on a state that you did'nt have a prayer of winning.
The winner takes all approach is responsible for this state of affairs.
What it has done effectively is render republican votes useless in a state like California, that almost always goes Democrat, and a similar story unfolds in Republican states. From media reports it would seem that a record voters came out for the first time to cast their votes. Part of this is due to Obama's magnetic appeal, part of it a desire for change. But surely one has to ask the question, how many of these people did not vote in past elections , since they believed(quite rightly) that their vote would not affect the final outcome.
If I have made the nature of the problem apparent, Id like to suggest a potential solution.
There are currently 2 states which allow their electoral colleges votes to be divided proportionally between the candidates. Extend this to all the 50 states.
What are the chances, that McCain would have taken his message to California if he knew that he had a shot to pick up 20-25 electoral college votes there or that Obama would have made his views known in the Republican South?
My guess , pretty good.
As Obama rightly pointed out , he was elected to be President of all Americans. So next time , let a few more American's have a genuine say.


Anonymous said...

Great point of view. Couldn't agree more.

Noam said...

Were you aware that California tried to pass such a bill, but that Governor Schwartzeneger vetoed it? The bill said California votes go proportionally if and when enough other states do the same thing for it to make a difference. (The fear being that, if California does this but not Texas, then Republicans get extra votes that Democrats don't get making things even more unfair.) I'm all for it, don't know why he vetoed it.

Better solution: just go by the popular vote. And require an absolute majority, or hold a runoff like they are doing in Georgia -- or better yet, use Instant Runoff Voting so that people can choose their runoff vote at the same time as their first-choice vote, to avoid having to hold a whole nother election.