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Electoral College Reform

Big Picture


The Electoral College really gets tempers sizzling. Most of the general public would like to get rid of it, but such a reform would never gain enough support to be passed in Congress. Swing states staunchly support the Electoral College because it gives them increased importance and attention during elections. They'd never allow a fundamental change in our presidential election system. The most practical solution is to reform the Electoral College in a way that addresses some of the public's concerns without jeopardizing the interests of small states.  


Operative Definitions


  1. Gerrymandering: When a political group tries to manipulate the boundaries of a voting district to create results that will benefit them.

  2. Popular Vote: Votes that are cast by citizens in a presidential election. The popular vote rule refers to the candidate with the most votes from citizens winning the election. 

  3. Electoral College: The process by which the American president and vice president are elected. A panel of individuals pledged to vote for a specific candidate and select the winners.

  4. National Popular Vote Interstate Compact: A contract that states sign where they agree for their electoral college points to be awarded to the candidate that won the popular vote 

  5. Congressional District Method: Where the state is split into congressional districts that all vote for their candidates. Points from the electoral college are distributed based on results in those districts. The candidate that “wins” the state gets two extra electoral college votes. Nebraska and Maine are the only states that use this method. 


Important Facts and Statistics


  1. On five separate occasions, the winner of the presidential election was not the same as the candidate who won the popular vote. 

  2. Two states (Maine and Nebraska) have already strayed away from the “winner takes all” system. They follow the congressional district method. Maine split electoral college votes in 2016 and 2020. Nebraska had the same in 2008 and 2020.

  3. More constitutional amendments (over 700) have been proposed to eliminate or alter the Electoral College than any other subject.

  4. 61% of Americans support abolishing the Electoral College. 

  5. 63% of adult Americans believe that the way the president is elected should change so that the winner of the popular vote nationwide wins the presidency.

  6. 89% of Democrats and 23% of Republicans favor the popular vote rule. 


Three–Point Plan


(1) Congress passes an amendment getting rid of the human voters in the electoral college. 

The Supreme Court has ruled that electors in the Electoral College are constitutionally accountable for voting according to their state's wishes. By this logic, electors are essentially following the popular vote — meaning that there is no need for human electors and each state can simply have their own electoral votes which are distributed based on the state laws and popular vote.


(2) Another Constitutional amendment ending “winner takes all” electoral votes for a state should pass.

This is the root cause of most problems associated with the Electoral College. The system neglects major populations in some states and it gives swing states too much authority during presidential elections. Voters in states that are consistently Democratic or Republican often feel their vote is not important. Whether they are voting for the candidate of the supported party or the other, they know that their vote will not make a difference. Ending the "winner takes all" system would ensure that all states and voters are equally significant and impactful in the election. 


(3) Electoral College votes should be awarded proportionally based on how the population voted.

For example, Missouri has 10 electoral college votes. If in the upcoming presidential election 45% of their state votes for the Democratic candidate while 55% votes for the Republican candidate, then for the electoral college 4.5 of their votes will go blue white 5.5 go red. These points will be distributed with one decimal point, no further. With this reform, everyone is encouraged to vote — even in consistently Democratic states, like New Jersey and New York, and consistently Republican states, like Texas and Alabama. This would resolve the problems of the "winner takes all" system without basing our presidential elections on the popular vote (and thereby utterly neglecting the interests of small states). Instead, states still receive the same number of electoral votes: these votes are just split in a way that reflects the true desires of a state's population. 


Why This Initiative is Important


Over the years, the Electoral College has been highlighted in the media for its many shortcomings. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and Congressional District Voting are some popular solutions. 


However, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact's slow progress and lack of bipartisan appeal are significant. As of July 2023, it only has 205 electoral votes from 16 states including Washington DC. To this day not a single Republican state has signed, which leads professionals to question its feasibility—and believe that if it compact were ever to be enacted, it would exacerbate political polarization. 


With Congressional District Voting, Maine and Nebraska have done away with the “winner takes all” system. Of course, their system leaves room for gerrymandering, as it is based on district voting. This may allow for entire elections to come down to several districts dispersed across some states. These undecided communities are where politicians will heavily focus their campaigns while the rest of the country in more predictable districts will continue to be ignored. 


The reforms proposed in this piece can resolve each of these problems. Electoral votes within each state are allocated based on real voting splits, ensuring that votes in states that consistently lean towards one party are still important. And unlike the District Voting Method, this proposed reform isn't susceptible to gerrymandering. The reforms would appease both parties: for Democrats, the popular vote becomes more important, and for Republicans, every state, especially the smaller ones, still matters. It keeps the pros of the electoral college system while addressing the cons, making it more fit for today’s world.


Changes need to happen. Citizens need to feel like every vote matters. 


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


“ABA Legal Fact Check: Can the Electoral College Be Abolished?” Www.americanbar.org, American Bar Association, Oct. 2019, www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/publications/youraba/2019/october-2019/q--the-electoral-college--is-it-open-for-interpretation-by-the-c/.

Brenan, Megan. “61% of Americans Support Abolishing Electoral College.” Gallup.com, 24 Sept. 2020, news.gallup.com/poll/320744/americans-support-abolishing-electoral-college.aspx.

Klein, Christopher. “8 Surprising Facts about the Electoral College - HISTORY.” Www.history.com, 4 Nov. 2020, www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-electoral-college.

National Archives. “2016 Electoral College Results.” National Archives, 5 Nov. 2019, www.archives.gov/electoral-college/2016.

---. “2020 Electoral College Results.” National Archives, 5 Nov. 2019, www.archives.gov/electoral-college/2020.

“National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.” Ballotpedia, ballotpedia.org/National_Popular_Vote_Interstate_Compact.

Salzer, Rebecca, and Jocelyn Kiley. “Majority of Americans Continue to Favor Moving Away from Electoral College.” Pew Research Center, 5 Aug. 2022, www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/08/05/majority-of-americans-continue-to-favor-moving-away-from-electoral-college/.

“To Fix the Electoral College, Change the Way Its Votes Are Awarded.” Www.governing.com, www.governing.com/now/To-Fix-the-Electoral-College-Change-the-Way-Its-Votes-Are-Awarded.html.


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