Fixing the Electoral College

IMG_0551Our method for electing Presidents is a mess. The Electoral College and the rules pertaining to it arose from a somewhat sordid compromise by a handful of bewigged gentlemen centuries ago. One outcome is that the actual rules for selecting electors are essentially up to the individual states. In fact they can invent whatever rules they like subject only to meeting a few Constitutional standards for fairness. Presidents can and have been elected who don’t command the support of a majority of the voters. Voters in states with small populations have a vastly disproportionate influence on the result. This is just wrong!

So, here’s my idea. A group of states could get together and agree that all of their electors would be allocated to whomever wins the total popular vote within their states. Specifically, these could be CA, NY, FL, TX, PA, IL, NC, OH, MI, GA and NJ. Why them? Well, their total electoral allocation is 270, which happens to be precisely what is required to win the Presidency. In other words, these eleven states can just freeze out the remainder! All campaign spending would move to these states and they would gain power, prestige and money from their combination. In all likelihood, no candidate from another state would have any chance of gaining the nomination, and thus they can be confident of having a native son or daughter as President … forever! And where do you suppose each President would target most favorable attention? Other combinations of states would work too, but this is the minimal set.

Could Congress thwart this plan? No it couldn’t, provided the ruling combine stuck together in the House of Representatives. They have a comfortable majority there, so they could block any adverse actions.

It is essential that the Congressional delegations from these states be on-board and committed to the plan. This is because of the obscure rule that any state’s electors can be challenged when Congress meets to certify the election. Members can object to any state’s vote count. A written objection supported by just one senator and one representative will be followed by the suspension of the joint session. After both Houses separately deliberate on the objection, the joint session resumes. A state’s certificate of vote can be rejected only if both Houses of Congress vote to accept the objection. In that case, the votes from the state in question are simply ignored. The votes of Arkansas and Louisiana were rejected in the Presidential election of 1872. Assuming no more than a couple of dozen recalcitrant representatives, these eleven states have more than enough members of the House of Representatives to block any such challenge.

I think the likely consequence of even the threat of this subterfuge would incite a revolt among the other states leading to a Constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college and moving to a true popular vote for President. And a good riddance too!

You might wonder how this could come about, given the power that this eleven-state monopoly would wield in Congress. Well, there is a special method for amending the Constitution that has never in fact been tried. All that is required is for two-thirds of the states to call for a National Convention, where any amendments can be offered, debated and passed. That means 34 states are needed, and recall that there would be 39 states that would be chomping at the bit to join the call.


One thought on “Fixing the Electoral College”

  1. Instead, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes, the National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.


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