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The Electoral Vote

I'm totally making up numbers here, but in the current electoral system 10 million Californians can vote Republican, lose, and get 0 electoral votes, while 500,000 can vote Republican in, say, Rhode Island, win, and get their four electoral votes.

We already have precincts or districts set up for the House of Representatives: why don't we simply assign one vote to each siding with the majority vote in that region? If you don't want to take two votes away from each state (for their Senators), assign the last two to the overall winner.

That way, instead of losing California 55-0, it might be 39-16 or something a bit more representative of how Californians really voted.

I'm not an electoral scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but the current system is baffling and doesn't seem to do much to affect the overall feeling of the nation. I haven't put a lot of thought into this either, so there's probably a good reason or argument why this hasn't changed.

6 Responses to "The Electoral Vote"

  1. Part of the reason this hasn't happened everywhere (Maine and Nebraska do it the way you prescribe) is that electoral vote allocation is determined at the state level rather than the federal level. Large, partisan states (California and Texas, for example) don't want to switch before the other large, opposite-leaning states do the same, as it would almost certainly give away the election. It's a pretty bad stalemate that makes the nation look much more red and blue than the purple it really is.

  2. Corey Porter said on November 3, 2008:

    (Maine and Nebraska do it the way you prescribe)

    Now that you mention it and the state-level laws, I remember that from high school history classes. Duh.

    What's particularly odd about California is that they seem to like to elect, IIRC, Republican governors. Have any of them tried to change the state electoral law?

  3. CA elects both Democrats and Republicans to the governor position pretty regularly. (Although Republicans have been somewhat more common historically, I'd expect that to change as the state leans more and more Democratic.)

    But the legislature has been controlled by Democrats for nearly 4 decades! The state senate has been controlled by Democrats since 1970, and the assembly has been Democratic since 1970 for all but two years (1995-1996). The state senate currently has 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans, whereas the assembly has 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans.

    There's no way the change you propose will happen in CA. The Republican party has tried to do so, but is always shot down pretty quickly for the reason Corey points out. (Plus the fact that the Democratic majority in CA would like to keep handing >50 electoral votes to their candidate every 4 years).

    I think you'd see CA joining the national popular vote before changing its electoral vote in the way you describe.

    And actually, I think both parties probably like the current situation. If they had to pay to advertise in states like CA, TX, and NY, the cost of presidential elections would skyrocket. A single ad on one Los Angeles television station would probably cost more than a week of ads in Nebraska.

    The way things are now, they can completely ignore the large (expensive) markets and focus on cheaper advertising elsewhere.

  4. Historically, the winner-take-all systems dates back to the 1800 election when Virginia was the first state to make its electoral college winner-take-all in order to favor native-son Thom. Jefferson and deny the Federalists and their candidate John Adams any votes.

    But I agree with you that it would be better if electoral votes reflected districted voting. It would certainly help too if re-districting were taken away from the elected legislatures and given over to non-partisan commissions in all states with more than 1 rep. I'm looking at doing some research to see what impact if any this sort of scheme would have had on past elections.

  5. Interestingly, it is quite likely that Nebraska-02 will go blue this year, splitting its electoral votes for the first time.

    I agree that either this system or 'national popular vote' are both better options.

    A while nother issue is the incredibly broken and unfair 'plurality' vote. The plurality vote is pretty much the worst way to figure out what the voters want. There are lots of better ways to vote:

    - Approval voting (select all candidates you approve of)
    - IRV - "instant runoff" voting (instant runoff between the top 2 if noone gets 50%), preferential voting, Borda Counts, all represent the voters' will better than the plurality vote.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-round_system
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preferential_voting
    - Ranked choice voting (rank 1-10 in order who you prefer)

    etc...

    -Ben

  6. I agree that proportional assignment would be better, but I think it would be much better to do it based on proportion of voting in the state. That way, states like mine (NC), with gerrymandered districting, wouldn't also gerrymander the presidential election.


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