One person, one vote (and one that counts)
by Bill Lewis
November 11, 2012 12:22 AM | 2355 views | 2 2 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Well, for a while there on Election Night it looked as if we might have something of a repeat of 2000. Not only was it possible that Florida would be the deciding factor in the race, but for most of the evening, it seemed entirely plausible Mitt Romney could win the popular vote. As you may recall, in the Bush/Gore election, Al Gore actually got more votes than George Bush, but Bush prevailed in the Electoral College tally and ended up president. I’m guessing that to this day, Gore can tell you exactly how many more votes he got than “W.”

I can’t say I blame him for having that etched into his memory banks. And no doubt if Gov. Romney had continued to amass more popular votes than Obama, yet still lost the election, he too would have forever retained the knowledge that more American voters wanted him in the White House than the guy who actually made it there.

Every four years, we all get a refresher history class on the Electoral College. While those who chose to skip school the day the lesson was taught and still prefer to watch the Andy Griffith marathon on TV Land, every election night continue to think the Electoral College is an actual building covered with ivy somewhere in New England, most of the country knows the truth. The EC was basically a compromise the Founding Fathers came up with to placate those who wanted the president to be chosen by Congress versus those who preferred a direct popular vote of qualified citizens.

(Please note the use of the word “compromise” in the above explanation. It means, “a settlement of a dispute in which two or more sides agree to accept less than they originally wanted.” It’s kind of an archaic term not much in use today, but it served the country well in the 18th century.)

Today, as then, states are allocated Electoral College votes based on their population. While states automatically get two EC votes (one for each U.S. Senate seat), they also get one per congressional seat. Thus, the most populous state, California, gets 55 Electoral votes while Alaska gets only 3.

As much as the concept of compromise is needed today in various and sundry matters, I’m wondering if it’s time to amend that earlier historical conciliation and divvy up the EC prize in a more equitable way.

Alas, totally abolishing the Electoral College would require an amendment to the Constitution. Because both houses of Congress, the president, and 37 states would have to approve, it’s a good bet it would take several years, if not decades, to achieve that goal.

But, there is a shortcut to change. Both Maine and Nebraska have already taken it. They divide their states by districts with the winner in each district getting one EC vote. The winner of the overall statewide vote gets the extra two votes (via the Senate representation factor).

That’s worked for those states for several elections now. But it really doesn’t quite totally address the main issue. How do we make every single vote count?

To digress just a bit, it should be noted that many people don’t vote because they don’t think it makes a difference. And they’re probably right. If you happen to be a rock-ribbed conservative Republican in Massachusetts (yes, I know I’m dealing in fantasy here) or an extreme liberal Democrat in Mississippi (ditto), you might as well stay home.

So, how about this as a way to make every vote mean something: Apportion Electoral College votes based on popular votes. If your state has 10 Electoral Votes and a candidate gets 60 percent of the vote, he or she gets six EC votes. The candidate with 40 percent candidate gets four. (We’ll work out the fractional details later.)

That way, every vote really does count. And it pretty much ensures that whoever wins the national popular vote wins the presidential prize. Plus, it no longer tilts the balance of power to the most populous states. Candidates would have to appeal every bit as much to the voter in Minot, N.D., as the one in Miami, Florida. There’s just something amiss when you consider that the winner of California automatically receives more than 20 percent of the national Electoral College votes required to be elected. That’s kind of like spotting a college football team three touchdowns and then taking 12 minutes off the clock.

What I’ve just suggested is nothing new. But in this age of equality for all, the idea of one person / one vote does seem to make sense, doesn’t it?

Ah, compromise. What a novel concept. I wonder if Al Gore would agree.

Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.
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November 11, 2012
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.


November 11, 2012
An analysis of the whole number proportional plan and congressional district systems of awarding electoral votes, evaluated the systems "on the basis of whether they promote majority rule, make elections more nationally competitive, reduce incentives for partisan machinations, and make all votes count equally. . . .

Awarding electoral votes by a proportional or congressional district [used by Maine and Nebraska] method fails to promote majority rule, greater competitiveness or voter equality. Pursued at a state level, both reforms dramatically increase incentives for partisan machinations. If done nationally, the congressional district system has a sharp partisan tilt toward the Republican Party, while the whole number proportional system sharply increases the odds of no candidate getting the majority of electoral votes needed, leading to the selection of the president by the U.S. House of Representatives.

For states seeking to exercise their responsibility under the U.S. Constitution to choose a method of allocating electoral votes that best serves their state’s interest and that of the national interest, both alternatives fall far short of the National Popular Vote plan . . ."

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