Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Electoral College

I know it's April and the next presidential election is a long way away, but a few weeks ago, some crazy Iowans got my attention by trying to bypass the Electoral College.

The way I recall it, the founding fathers didn't really trust the unwashed masses to elect the right people, so they put in place the electoral college so that a group of people with a clue could choose the right President.

My big problems with the current system are
  1. The election is over before it heads out West.
  2. Presidents get inflated sense of mandate when they have a huge electoral college victory, but a narrow victory in terms of votes
  3. The strategy that is mandated by the current system drives politicians to focus on a very small subset of the country. For instance, McCain focused on PA (not successfully) because it was his only hope.
I actually don't like Iowa's solution. I'd rather see one of the electoral college reform options put in place:
  • The Congressional District Method is the method that Kansas and Maine use. Give the winner of your state's popular vote the two electoral college folks that correspond to the Senators, and divide up the rest according to congressional districts. This makes more sense to me than what the other states do, but it has its downsides.
  • The Proportional Allocation Method divides up the state's electoral votes according to how the popular vote breaks down. No state is using this method.
No method is perfect, but the current system is pretty messed up. Folks like those at Fair Vote want to trash the Electoral College completely, but I like the constitution too much to support that. I don't think they have any chance of getting rid of it completely, but changing the way states allocate Electoral College votes is up to the states, makes sense, and is actually possible.

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