Joyce Arnold is a liberal Independent activist whose weekly column “Queer Talk” appears on Saturday.
Every four years, at some point in the presidential election cycle, and on a slow news day, stories and explanations about the Electoral College show up. This is probably a bit early in the current cycle, but it’s something I’ve been following, primarily through Fair Vote. There is a huge amount of material and research available at Fair Vote. I’m primarily going to focus here on their take on the Electoral College, but that’s not their only issue. For some context, Fair Vote describes itself as “a catalyst for reforming our elections to respect every vote and every voice through bold approaches to increase voter turnout, meaningful ballot choices and fair representation.”
I’m one of those who thinks we need some fundamental changes in our two party front for the monopoly political, and election, systems. The projects at Fair Vote at least provide a way to think about what that could mean.
One key project, directly related to the Electoral College, is the National Popular Vote Plan Legislation. The NPV plan
is legislation to guarantee that the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will be elected president. Once enacted by enough states, the NPV plan will govern our next presidential election. It will ensure every vote is equal no matter where it is cast (no more talk of “˜swing states’ and “˜safe states’) and will always elect the candidate with the most popular votes.
To this point, eight states have passed the NPV plan legislation: Arizona, California, Michigan, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Delaware and New York.
Fair Vote supports a direct election for the president “” one person, one vote “” and wants to abolish the Electoral College. “Preferably a replacement system would require a candidate to gain an outright majority of votes cast (50%+1) and have an instant runoff mechanism to be sure the leader with majority support is elected.”
You can find details about all of these, but here are some of the key arguments made by Fair Vote, for ending the EC:
— Grossly unequal distribution of campaign resources
— Unequal voting power depending on where you live
— The winner-take-all method of distributing electoral votes
— Unbound electors
— House of Representatives can choose the president
— Enforcement of a two-party system — A bit of detail about this one:
Because of our two-party system, voters often find themselves voting for the “˜lesser of two evils,’ rather than a candidate they really feel would do the best job. The Electoral College inadvertently reinforces this two party system, where third parties cannot enter the race without being tagged as “˜spoilers.’
— Presidency can be won without a majority of the popular vote
— Most votes don’t count “” A few details / examples:
To win the Electoral College in 2000, Bush needed only 21,835,615 votes out of a total of 105,396,641 votes.
To win the Electoral College in 2008, Obama needed only 39,908,351 votes out of a total of 131,338,626 votes.
Percentage of votes that did not factor in determining the winner in their respective years:
79.28% in 2000
70.39% in 2008
The idea of Electoral College reform is, of course, not new. According to Fair Vote, “there have been at least 700 proposed amendments to modify or abolish the Electoral College – more than any other subject of Constitutional reform.”
1969: This proposal came to be after the 1968 Presidential election, in which American Independent candidate George Wallace managed to obtain 46 electoral votes, generating concern over the possibilities of contingent elections and electoral vote-trading for political concessions. …
1979: After the close election between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in
1976, Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN) introduced a proposal in the 96th Congress to abolish the Electoral College and replace it with direct election. The measure failed the Senate by a vote of 51-48 in 1979. ..
2004: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) introduces a proposal for Electoral College reform. HJR 109 proposes a majority direct election of president, and is currently residing in the House Judiciary Committee. …
This is a very cursory overview, but I figure if you want more, you can check it out. I agree with abolishing the Electoral College, as I am convinced of the need for third parties. It’s the up-mountain kind of climb I’ve mentioned before, but to this point, I see no other way to break out of the two party stranglehold. So I started climbing. Playing by the rules imposed by the current system and structure, at least to this point, is mostly getting us more and more “stuck.” I’d guess both Republican and Democratic Party Electeds and Elites are quite happy with the “nowhere else to go” framing.
( “Coporate Flag of America” via Watching Frogs Boil )