This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about the Electoral College (EC) on this blog. It’s an old idea that has endured the test of time and survived into the modern era where we have had at least two elections now that produced a victor that didn’t win the popular vote. There are two ideas that I am going to float and why I think that one or both of them are valid ideas to overhauling the EC rather than abolishing it. The election comes out different on one plan than it does on the other, however I think the first plan is the most fair and most efficiently removes the stranglehold our current two-party system has on the country. That is the larger problem we face and a change to the EC is one step in eliminating that two-party system.
Option 1 – Electoral Votes by State Popular Vote
Hypothetical 2016 Presidential Result: Clinton 261 / Trump 259 / Johnson 17 / Stein 1
With a change to the EC that awards EC votes based on State popular vote, the difference between Clinton and Trump is much closer to result of the actual popular vote. If this system had been put in place in 2000 during the election of Bush vs. Gore, Gore would have won. I don’t have the actual numbers on that election, however some quick math would back up that statement. Both of the elections with Obama would have also been much closer to the actual popular vote and in this case, he would have won both 2008 and 2012 elections, but by much smaller EC margins. In the spirit of the EC and how it was intended to be used, a change in how the votes are awarded is a small change that doesn’t fundamentally alter its function.
I was not a supporter of Trump or Clinton, but would have accepted this result (as I have accepted Trump) none the less. The main road block I see with this potential change is the current two-party system as a whole. Everything for the last 240 years has been based (and gamed) on having only two parties existing. It would no longer be a race to “270”, rather, it would be a race to see who can capture the most American votes in an election. The Republican and Democratic parties would, for a short time, still hold most of the seats in Congress and capture most of the popular vote, but as more candidates enter in from other parties their control would slowly erode away. As a result of this change, the primaries in each state would have to allow everyone to vote, regardless of party, to choose who will stand in the elections. My belief is that making these changes in the spirit of modernization will better help our country into the future and strengthen our Democratic process and stop it from weakening.
Option 2 – Electoral Votes by Apportioning Congressional Districts
Hypothetical 2016 Presidential Result: Trump (math not given, not verified)
This option wouldn’t necessarily change how the EC works, however would make the population more representative in the House. In short, the 1929 Act that limited the House to 435 seats would be repealed and replaced with a new amendment that changes the maximum size of a congressional districts to somewhere around the size of Wyoming.
By fixing the maximum size of every House district equal to the size of the smallest district—currently the entire state of Wyoming and its 563,626 residents, according to the 2010 census—proportionality would be returned to the House. Under this system, called the Wyoming Rule, the House would grow to 545 representatives, with California gaining 13 new seats. Texas (nine new seats) and New York (seven) would also be among the big winners.
The benefits of this change would be a more representative government based on population:
Rebalancing the House would be healthy for lots of reasons. Among them, urban areas would finally have equal weight, and federal dollars might start flowing in proportion to where more people live.
And while small states would lose some clout, as long as they all send two senators to Washington, they would still have an outsized say in government.
In this scenario, Trump would have still won the EC. This option also doesn’t reduce the reliance on a two-party system as instead of 270 to win, it would require 325 to win. As with the previous option, any change in the right direction is a good change in my opinion. As the system currently exists, smaller populous states have much more power than larger populous states that in 1910 wasn’t a problem, but in 2016 has unbalanced the system of representation.
I think both of these options are necessary to bring balance to the system of representation. An election of President that mirrors more closely the actual popular vote would go a long way in restoring American’s faith in a system that has consistently shown it can and does fail them. As with any proposed amendment to the Constitution, it is important to note that the process is complicated and requires support from at least 38 states. The uphill battle is just starting and this year I don’t think it will fade as it has with previous years.
What are your thoughts?