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.