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Changing the Electoral College

by RonChusid

The Los Angeles Times reports on an interesting plan to change Presidential elections:

Seeking to force presidential candidates to pay attention to California’s 15.5 million voters, state lawmakers on Tuesday jumped aboard a new effort that would award electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.

As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states — mostly in the upper Midwest — that are truly up for grabs.

Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact in which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdictions but for the winner nationwide. Proponents say that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.

I have mixed feelings on this. I agree with the ultimate goals such as allowing the winner of the popular vote to win the electoral college vote and giving motivation for each candidate to campaign in all fifty states. On the other hand, this is quite a drastic change in our election system to be made by an agreement of a handful of states. They are clearly avoiding going through the process of obtaining a Constitutional amendment to change the electoral college. As the states do have discretion in how they award their electoral votes this may be legal, but I’m not sure it is wise.

In a democracy it is important that supporters of the losing candidate accept the result as legitimate. The valid questions as to the legitimacy of Bush’s elections has increased the unhealthy political polarization in this country. At least in 2000 and 2004 there was general agreement that the winner of the electoral vote should win, even if they lost the popular vote, and the controversy was limited to who really deserved the electoral votes from Florida and Ohio. A change such as this opens new areas of controversy as different states award electoral votes differently and partisans on each side find additional ways to argue that their candidate deserved to win as they question the manner in which the electoral votes from each state was awarded. It would be much safer if any change in how elections are decided was accomplished by a mechanism accepted by all as legitimate, such as a Constitutional amendment.

3 Responses to “Changing the Electoral College”

  1. This idea has the smell of be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

  2. I would rather we go to an amendment to do away with the EC and start IVR ballots. Time is not on our side – as the next post makes clear.

    If this is the same bill that Colorado is considering, I think the decision to do this is only made if the EC vote would give the election to a candidate that did not win the popular vote. So, if the vote showed a clear winner, the states would cast their electoral college votes as usual.

    The EC was established to allow a check and balance in case of unforseen errors in the voting process in a given race. The Founding Fathers also anticipated that it could be abolished in time.

    I’m thinking if a group of states does it, the EC debate would be forced and a new system developed that would make this plan unnecessary.

  3. […] id=”more-1312″> Changing the Electoral College Posted by Ron Chusid May 31st, 2006 @ 2:12 pm The Los Angeles Times rep […]