Virginia politics, policy and entertainment from the Greater Richmond-Washington Metro Area perspective.

A Counter-Proposal To Those Wanting The Popular Vote To Elect The President

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Prior to the presidential election, a number of people once again made noise about junking the Electoral College in favor of electing the president by national popular vote.  If anything, the magnitude of damage and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy should offer them pause on this.  All it takes is one natural disaster hitting a populated region like the Northeast to impact the outcome of the presidential election if it is decided by the national popular vote.  Due to demographics and geography, such a disaster would more likely negatively impact the Democratic candidate (hurricane hitting NY/NJ, earthquake hitting CA, etc.)  By the way,the FEMA offices in NJ are closed today [heck of a job, Barry] because of the incoming Nor’easter.  (It’s now snowing in Atlantic City and Ocean City.)

I’d like to put forward a counter-proposal that somewhat addresses what they are trying to accomplish while protecting voters from such scenarios as those painted above.  The great thing is that this proposal is already in effect in two states, Maine and Nebraska, and has been around for quite some time.  Award Electoral College votes by congressional district.

In those two states, whichever presidential candidate carries a congressional district picks up the vote from that district.  Whoever wins statewide picks up the two at-large votes.

We saw the two candidates for president this year focus heavily on Virginia, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and a handful of other so-called “swing states.”  As a result, large swaths of America are ignored.  That wouldn’t be the case if a Republican could pick up electoral votes in Upstate New York or a Democrat could do so in urban areas of Texas.

If this method were in place in Virginia for the 2012 election, Obama would have picked up the two at-large votes and votes in the congressional districts that he carried while Romney would have picked up the rest.

Right now, Obama has carried 25 states and Romney 24 with Florida still up for grabs.  Makes you wonder, given that the GOP has maintained its House majority, if Romney might have emerged the winner if this system were in place in all 50 states.

So I’d like to suggest to Virginia legislators to change the method by which the commonwealth’s electoral votes are awarded from winner take all to the district-based method.  If we’re going to be a target swing state from now on anyway, we may as well make it worth the while for both candidates.

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6 Responses to “A Counter-Proposal To Those Wanting The Popular Vote To Elect The President”

  1. Frederic L Boisseau

    I actually have been thinking that this is the way to go with one slight addition to your suggest, but this addition would involve the buy in of all the states. I would have the actual electors on the ballot and not the candidates. I would then send the winning electors to Washington to vote for President and Vice-President. Once there they would setup a vetting committee, take nomination, vet the candidates’ qualification to hold the position based on the Constitution and then cast their ballots. If no candidate got a 50% + 1 of the votes the top vote getters, whose total votes exceeded 50%, would be put on the next ballot and another ballot would be taken. This would continue until a candidate got 50% + 1 vote.

    In answer to the question you posed about who would of won the election if we used your method. I just did the number for 2008, 2004, and 2000, and can send you the spread sheets. But in summary here are the totals.
    2008 – Obama 298 McCain 231
    2004 – Kerry 214 Bush 314
    2000 – Gore 231 Bush 298

    • Riley

      Very interesting. Would be interesting to see this for 2012 once that is available as well. Just think about how that would have changed 2000. Florida wouldn’t have mattered at all.

  2. Ken Reynolds

    I ned to give this soome thought, but Jim , did i hear you say you are blaming “Barry” for the upcoming snow storm? Maybe we should impeach him if there are any blizzards tomorrow? You said it, not me!!!

  3. matt k.

    Scraping the Electoral College for a Popular Vote would likely benefit the Democrats.

    Obama did not spend a lot of time in solid blue, heavily-populated states (e.g., CA, NY). It’s reasonable that many Dem’s in CA & NY aren’t on average as motivated to vote in a ‘blue’ state where the electoral votes are going to the Dem prez candidate [compare avg VA or OH voters in both parties, who are extra-motivated to turn-out b/c these states are battlegrounds. Obama surely could’ve increased Dem turnout in CA or NY if he devoted more campaign resources there, but he didn’t need to under Electoral College system.

    With a Popular Vote system, the Dem candidate woulld pay extra attention to these highly-populated states and Dem efforts in CA & NY would hit numerous more Dem voters, in camparison to the Repub candidate having to spread himself/herself thin but campaign efforts in the many, many Red states (which thend to be less-populated and more spread out geographically).

    Just my hypothesis…

    • Frederic L Boisseau

      Matt,
      You are correct which is why the Progressives want to get rid of the electoral college and go to the popular vote. That is not what is proposed here and what we are discussing.

      What we are discussing is actually closer to what the Founders intended. Think about, if they had intended all the state electors to go to one candidate, then why have them in the first place. That method was put in place by the two main parties, to remove the influence of the third parties and to help the garner national power. By splitting the electors by congressional district, with only the senatorial electors going to the person who wins the total vote for the state, you make that power less of issue. You also force the candidates to look at all the states and congressional districts. For example there are districts in California that went to the republican candidates.

      This system also gives a slight advantage to the more conservative candidate, as shown by the number above. So far it has not been enough to change an election, but then again I do not have enough data.

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