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Saturday, July 29, 2006

How Should We Hold Elections?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an interesting editorial today on the idea of either a Constitutional Amendment to remove the electoral college, or various other schemes for trying to get a national popular vote for President.

One group trying to achieve such a goal is called "National Popular Vote", but instead of trying to get the Electoral College disbanded by the Constitutional way, they're looking at an end run through the states.

Their goal is to get enough states to pass legislation (states equalling 270 electoral votes) that the popular vote would have to elect the president. The way it works is the states pass a law that says all electoral votes from the state go to the person with the most popular votes nationwide, regardless of how the state voted.

The Journal brings up a good question though, what if you state votes for the loser in the election? For instance, if this group had gotten their way in 2004, California and New York, would have had to give their electoral votes to George Bush, even though Kerry won both.

If people think the court fights after 2000 were bad, imagine the number of lawsuits about "equal protection" of voting rights will pop up if a state votes 75% for the losing candidate, and the state gives it's electoral votes to the winner. It could end up being months before it was sorted out, and an actual result would be determined.

While folks complain of the electoral college's disproportionate represenation for smaller states, elections without the college would give all attention to probably 10-12 large states, and ignore the smaller ones. That reason alone will keep the constitution from ever being amended to remove the college. There are enough small states to keep it from ever getting out of Congress with the two thirds majority required. Even if by some small chance it did, Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and other small states would balk at the loss of any ability to influence elections.

A better way of doing this is what Colorado tried to get passed in 2004. A proportional division of the states electoral votes based on the popular vote. Right now only a few states have such a rule, 48 give the winner in the state all of their electoral votes. The problem is that some states that vote either for the GOP or Democrats regularly will balk. Again, the California Scenario, where they'd have to give up a bunch of electoral votes to right's candidate, or Texas giving some to the left. I don't see either state's legislature jumping on this idea anytime soon.

That being said, I think we should just keep what we've got. Yes, it's a flawed system, that doesn't deal well with close elections like 2000 (Contrary to the Journal's Editorial belief, 2004 wasn't that close). However, getting a true popular vote won't happen anytime soon, and groups like National Popular Vote have come up with oddballs solutions that probably won't stand up in court.

Oddly, I used to be for abolishing the Electoral College, and going to a straight popular vote. Then I realized that we'd end up with "coastal elections", with the west coast and eastern seabord deciding who's elected, and everyone in the middle left to live with what they got. Having lived on both coasts, I think it's good candidates spend a lot of time in the "flyover states", as the intellectual elite call everything between New York and California.

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6Comments:

Blogger shoprat said...

Those who complained about Bush winning with 49% of the vote didn't mind Clinton winning with 43%.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

No kidding. Remind them of that once in a while.And since over 80% of the Perot voters in '92 were pissed Republicans, it's not like Slick Willy would have won a run off.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I agree with you about the Electoral College. The 17th Amendment - electing Senators by popular vote - was also a mistake.

1:12 PM  
Blogger ablur said...

It may need a little tweaking such as Colorado's solution but it is far more fair then the flap it takes.
I get pretty tired of 6 states making all the decisions. (CA, NY, TX, FL, MS, IL) These states with their high population density and low common sense seem to slant everything. TX & IL are the only hope of the six and it just isn't enough.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Crazy Politico said...

PJC, getting rid of the 17th would be pretty tough, especially with the majority of the State Houses controlled by those evil Republicans :)

Ablur, You forgot PA in the equation, and I think you meant Michigan, not Mississippi, but I do understand what you mean. The thing is, NY and CA really don't matter, they vote pretty reliably for the Democrats, while Texas and Florida are generally GOP leaning states. That ends up with a few smaller states (Wisconsin, NM in 04) being more important than they should be.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Denny said...

I still love the term 'cut and run' or 'cut-n-run' to describe the new Democrat Party. They love to cut and they love to run whenever confronted with unpopular decisions concerning foreign affairs. Clinton at least bombed kosovo and an asprin factory. These guys just want to hide out in Okinawa, Japan where the locals are trying to get rid of the U.S. presence there.

11:46 AM  

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