I am officially sick of the media drumbeat for dumping the Electoral College after Hillary Clinton’s loss.
A one-time divergence between the popular and Electoral College votes of a couple million is not a reason to dump an institution that has insured the peaceful transfer of presidential power for more than two centuries. http://www.reimagineamerica.org/2016-electoral-college-worked-as-designed/
The actual difference turns out to be a 2 percent advantage for Mrs. Clinton nationwide in a total of 126 million votes cast — concentrated in Southern California.
Coincidentally that’s the margin of victory Mr. Trump enjoyed in the 13 so-called “battleground” states.
These facts do not make a compelling case against the continuing utility of the Electoral College.
Dragging Electoral College into 21st Century
Amending the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College won’t happen. It is obvious that the small states in the country’s center would not ratify any proposed constitution amendment.
Modernization must retain the original rhythm written into the Constitution –checks and balances
Happily there’s a lot of room for improvement – changes — the large and small states can agree to.
First, we must minimize the ability of state legislatures to interfere with the voters’ freedom to directly select the electors from their state.
Second, we can increase voter participation by showing each voter how their individual vote matters.
Third, a revitalized system may encourage better candidates to run by re-engaging the center of the American body politic – which is turned off by expensive media campaigns dominated by negative advertising and fear mongering.
Let’s Have a 50 State Election
The Electoral College is made up of 538 members:
Each state is awarded a number of electors equal to the number of their House members. Based on the most recent national census, each House member represents 720,000 people – or less.
Additionally, each state is awarded the same two additional electors.
The total electors representing the 50 states total 535. The remaining three electors represent the District of Columbia.
Currently, the states’ electors are “block-granted” to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote in that state. The votes cast in one or two large urban areas in the state drowning all other voters in the state. This tends to decrease the incentive of suburban or rural voters to go to the polls.
What if –
State officials apportioned their state’s Electoral College votes – one elector to each House District in that state. The elector would be awarded to the candidate who won the most votes in that House District. The last two electors would be awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote.
For example: California would apportion our 55 electoral votes 41D/14R based on the votes cast in 2016.
- 39 urban votes to the Democratic candidate
- 14 suburban/rural votes to the Republican candidate
- 02 statewide Democratic majority popular vote
The Democratic candidate would need to make-up 14 votes from another state. Perhaps they would come from – predictably Republican – Texas (11 Democratic House Districts)?
One of the lessons learned from the 2016 election is that nothing is guaranteed. In Michigan at least one district re-elected their Democratic House member even though her district voted majority Trump in the Presidential race. Voters do “ticket split”.
Winning would require a 435 district campaign — the 21st century version of the Truman whistle stop campaign of 1948.
Like 1948, the 2016 election defied all polls and predictions for the same reason – President Truman and Donald Trump both “went over the heads” of the political and media elites with a direct appeal to voters.
The heart of America beats in what coastal elites deride as “flyover country” while rushing from one big donor meeting to another – New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco to Washington.
The “30 thousand foot candidate” should not be surprised when these states’ voters don’t embrace him/her.
Reaching the Voter through Retail Politics
The more suburban political culture in the United States depends less on Facebook and television and more on retail politics – the Jefferson Day or Lincoln Day dinner, the Town Hall meeting, etc..
The folks who attend these events are not big donors to the party – Hollywood movie stars or Wall Street bankers.
The people who attend these functions are middle class Americans who worked — all day before coming to the event –to earn the $100 it costs to buy a ticket.
The presidential candidates themselves – not their surrogates — would need to convince a lot of individual voters they care about the individual and not just the statistic –less black or white or Hispanic, male or female –more as a three dimensional human being with real dreams, fears, and possibilities.
To win the Presidency, a candidate would have to be a great retail politician with high energy as well as 21st century media skills. Relative youth would be a distinct advantage.
Policy positions and proposed solutions might change as a result of meeting the people they’d impact.
Better government could be one potential result of this modernization.
Leveling the Playing Field Will Increase Voter Participation
The Constitution places no limit on the number of Presidential candidates who can compete for Electoral Votes.
The limitations are imposed by the cost and infrastructure required to mount a campaign based on the current major media market, winner-take-all model.
The 50 State Electoral College Model could, over time, level the playing field for third party candidates who lack the $1 billion available to our current political duopoly.
Retail politics are less costly to conduct. Don’t need big hotels or stadiums or celebrity “opening acts” – just a Facebook post, a few Tweets and a corner Starbucks.
Reporters for local media will show up to cover the story free – “earned media” is just that – earned by action not paid for as advertising.
Citizens inspired by a handshake could grow into an army of volunteers to post on Facebook, share on Instagram, knock on doors, recruiting their friends and families.
Inspiration would lead to higher rates of voter participation – perhaps bringing back balance between the unofficial popular vote and the official Electoral College vote.
Photo Courtesy JeffersonheritageTrail.com