Ben Buchwalter

Half-Assing the Electoral College Phase Out
May 7, 2009, 4:46 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, General Politics | Tags: , ,

I just saw this post by Hendrik Herzelberg.

News flash: Last Tuesday, Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington State signedthe National Popular Vote bill, making her state the fifth to officially commit itself to the revolutionary idea of electing Presidents the way we elect other important holders of public office.

With Washington’s eleven electoral votes added to the fifty of Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, and Hawaii, we’re now between a fifth and a quarter of the way to the 270 needed to make living, breathing human beings (rather than “artificial entities,” as Alexander Hamilton called states), the relevant unit in Presidential elections, just as they are in gubernatorial, congressional, mayoral, and dogcatcheral elections.

This is cool! And I think that all states need to move toward abolishing the electoral college system. BUT this doesn’t seem like the right way to do it. If I vote in Washington for a Democrat, and the Democrat wins in WA, but most of the rest of the country votes for a Republican, I don’t want my electoral votes going to the other guy. And look at the states that have the law – Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Jersey and Illinois – all states that reliably send all their electoral votes to the Democrat. 

That said, I don’t think that the winner of the national popular vote should ever lose an election. But even in the cases of 2000 and 2004, there is value in showing accurate numbers of who won the election and how close the other guy was. 

In 2004, for example, George W. Bush won 286 electoral votes (only 16 more than the 270 needed to win) and John Kerry won 251, only 19 shy of the magic number. If this law had been in effect, it would have been an electoral landslide, Bush: 347 to Kerry: 190. (well, not as much of a landslide as 2008.)

This just seems like an all or nothing deal. Either we get rid of the electoral college system altogether, or adhere to the rules that we’ve used for more than two centuries.


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