This is not real Electoral College reform

The Republican was right in a recent editorial to condemn GOP efforts in several states to gerrymander the Electoral College by awarding presidential electors to the winner of each congressional district in those states rather than the current winner-take-all method. Such a system sounds like reform, but nothing could be further from the truth. Congressional district allocation (or proportional allocation of electors for slightly different reasons) would not make elections more competitive than the current system—the vast majority of congressional districts are completely safe for one party or the other.  And it wouldn’t ensure that the candidate with the most votes wins.  In fact, it would make the current system worse. Even if these proposals had been adopted in every state in 2012, Mitt Romney would have won the election last fall with 272 electoral votes, despite the fact that President Obama won the popular vote by over 5 million votes.  The fact that legislation for congressional allocation and proportional allocation are being pushed by GOP leadership only in states they control where their party’s candidates have been largely unsuccessful, and not in safe republican states, shows their real motivation: creating an Electoral College hodge-podge that would tilt elections in their favor. Democrats, it should be noted, have flirted with similar electoral vote-rigging schemes in a few states in the past.

But the Republican also underestimates the problems with the current system and the need for real reform.  Under the current system, the vast majority of the states are ignored because it doesn’t make sense for candidates to campaign where they cannot possibly win or where they cannot possibly lose. In 2012, 98% of the money and campaign visits occurred in just 10 states. Other recent elections have been little better. The other major flaw is that the candidate who wins the most popular votes can lose the presidency.  This has happened 4 times out of 57 presidential elections, but was narrowly missed in many more.  For example, if John Kerry had received only 59,393 more votes in Ohio in 2004, he would have won the election, even though Bush edged him nationally by more than 3 million popular votes.

Americans want, and deserve, a popular vote for the presidency. Kudos to our state legislature and those of 7 other states and the District of Columbia that have recognized this fact and adopted the National Popular Vote compact. When states representing a majority of the electoral college follow suit, hopefully by 2016, we will have presidential elections where every vote in every state matters and where the popular vote winner always become President of the United States. In short, real reform.

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About Pam Wilmot

Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts

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