Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Electoral College - Abolish, Keep, or Reform?

Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the Electoral College.  I hear some people saying abolish it.  I hear some say keep it the way the founding fathers intended.  The problem is that neither of these opinions show an understanding of the intent or the history.

The Continental Congress was concerned that the states with the largest population centers would dominate the selection process and the uninformed voters would make unwise choices.  The system they set up was not the electoral college and was entirely different from what exists today. It has been changed a number of times in the past and it is in need of changing again.

In the original system, there were no parties and no primaries to select nominees.  The population had no say in the matter. A select few educated men from each state recommended candidates for PresidentThe candidate selection was based on a count of the nominations by a combined meeting of the House and the Senate.  If one candidate was the overwhelming choice, he would become President. If there was no clear choice the deciding vote was made by the House of Representatives who would select from the five top nominees.
I doubt most people would be happy with that.
If we were to abolish the Electoral College, the 21 population centers around the country which comprise 50% of the nation’s population would have a disproportionate say in who is elected. Rural voters would be disenfranchised. 

The problem with today’s system is this. If a state like California is decided by a single vote, the winning candidate gets 55 electoral votes. That means 50% of the voters will be unhappy and feel their votes counted for nothing and heaven help anyone who says they didn't vote.  Friendships could be lost or worse.

If we abolished the system and just go with an overall popular vote. It would just be a different 50% who are upset.  Any way you look at those solutions, there will be many people who feel their vote was wasted. That has negative impact on voter turn out

There has to be a way to create a system that takes into account the popular vote and allows every voter to feel their vote is important. It must take into account the concept of majority rules, while at the same time accounting for population density.

Consider this. The winner take all system is flawed, because it can disenfranchise up to 50% of the voters in each state. Mind you, I haven’t thought this through carefully or run simulations, but I feel it is a good starting point. If it is actually workable, without question, it will need tweaking. 

  1. Get rid of electors. We are in a technological age. Award electoral votes according to the suggestions below.  The decision should be made on the bases of the votes cast.
  2. Evaluate the current allocation of electoral votes based on today’s population and make adjustments if necessary.
  3. Get rid of winner take all and allow for one of the electoral votes to be split in half based on rounding up (no other fraction).  Using California as an example. If the popular vote is 50-50, each candidate would be awarded 27.5 electoral votes.
  4. Give each state one additional electoral vote. Call is a super vote or whatever. It will be cast for the candidate who wins the popular vote. Staying with California, if the state is decided by one vote, that vote would be given to the winning candidate. Thus the candidate winning by a single vote would get 27.5 votes and the losing candidate would get 26.5. (More about this below)
A system like this takes into account population centers, gives more weight to the popular vote, and provides incentive to get out to vote because in a close election, because a single vote does count!
In terms of feeling that each vote counts, let’s stay with California.  At this point in time 9,922,340 people voted in 2016. Let’s just say that the impossible happened and each candidate got 4,961,170 votes. Then each candidate would get 27 electoral votes, but a single vote would change that to 27.5 for one candidate and 26.5.

Of course a dead heat is nearly impossible.  However, winning by only 49,613 votes is definitely  much more possible.  In that case, the result is exactly the same.  One candidate gets 27.5 and the other 26.5 and the one vote could flip those numbers. That puts tremendous importance on every single vote.

So there it is. Just my two cents. What do you think?