A Reformed Electoral College by Anthony Raisley

Posted in Spring 2022 The Gnovis Blog  |  Tagged , , , ,

What do Presidents Trump, George W. Bush, Harrison, Hayes, and John Quincy Adams have in common? All were elected President of the United States via the electoral college without receiving the majority of the popular vote. Voters will recall the 2016 and 2000 elections as the most recent examples.

The United States’ system to elect the President and Vice President is known as the Electoral College. Electors are allocated to states based on their total Representatives in the House of Representatives in addition to their 2 Senators: making a minimum of 3 electors per state. Many have voiced opposition to this method to elect the President and go further to call for its abolishment in lieu of a national popular vote system. A total abolishment would require a Constitutional amendment which theoretically possible, but highly unlikely as a Constitutional amendment is a massive legislative undertaking. The last time there was a new amendment ratified was the 27th Amendment in 1992. A popular workaround instead of amending the Constitution would be if states join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This joint group of states would pledge their electors to the winner of the national popular vote regardless if their state voted for the other candidate. Others call for the system to remain in place citing it is how the Founding Fathers wanted elections to be conducted. 

Map of states part of the National Popular Vote Compact. Common Cause

Pew Research Center in January 2021 found that 55% of Americans are in favor of a national popular vote to elect the President, and 43% want to keep the current system. A top concern is the increased focus of election cycles and campaigns devoting their efforts to battleground states and not the rest of the country after securing the party nomination. Leaving out the rest of the country in the mainstream campaign. Most of these campaign visits are to states such as Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, and now Georgia as of 2020.

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However, I do believe there is a compromise that would not require a Constitutional amendment, still follows a similar structure to the current system, and finds common ground among voters from both sides. I would call for states to consider proportionately allocating their electors to be pegged to the individual state’s popular vote in that election. This proposal would allow for states to be more competitive, and ensures campaigns reach out to all Americans throughout the country. Not just the battleground states, but in all states. 

Ballot box early voting illustrious
If you are eligible to vote, remember that primaries for the midterms and many state-elected offices will be held throughout the year, depending on your State! 

This proposal benefits both parties. States such as California and Texas where the minority party now has the opportunity to gain electors instead of not receiving any. Using 2016 data, Democrats could have received 16 of the 38 electors in Texas, and Republicans could have picked up 17 of California’s 55 electors. This proposal would accurately distribute each state’s electoral votes based on the state’s popular vote total and would better represent the electorate. If the popular vote margin was close in a state, the result could have been more accurately reflected in electoral vote allocations such as in Florida (D13-R16), Pennsylvania (D9-R11), and Wisconsin (D4-R6) of how voters voted using 2016 data.

Under the current system, in 48 states (excluding Maine and Nebraska), the candidate gains all the electors in that state with a simple majority under the current winner-take-all allocation. This method does not reflect how the entire state votes, causing some voters not to be represented by their electors from their own state.

My proposal will also allow for a third-party challenger the opportunity to gain some electoral votes throughout the country. I would highly suggest that states develop a minimum threshold percentage of votes required for a candidate to begin gaining electors. This additional proposal would minimize the possibility of a candidate not being able to receive the minimum 270 votes nationally to be elected President.

ABC News 2020 Electoral College map results from November 14, 2020.

Total turnout rates in congressional district elections vary within the same election cycle. There was increased turnout in 2020 throughout the United States at 66.8% which is a better reflection of the electorate than in years past. By allocating electoral votes based on the state’s popular vote, the electoral votes will better reflect how that state voted in that election year. This fulfills a key aspect of the Electoral College by accurately representing how the state voted.

Many Americans have lost faith in the electoral process. Prior to the 2020 Election, Gallup released a poll in February 2020 stated that 40% of Americans are not confident the honesty of elections. This apprehension months prior to the 2020 election had likely deterred some from potentially voting later that year.

I do believe proportional electoral votes are a solution to be considered. The right to vote is a civic duty that we only have today because of the devoted efforts of civil rights leaders. This has been affirmed as a key cornerstone of our republic since our independence. Meaningful reforms will likely increase confidence among voters, reassuring them the importance of their vote in our elections, and hopefully to increase voter participation in all elections throughout the United States.

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Congress of the United States. “27th Amendment.” Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, May 7, 1992.https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxxvii.

FairVote.org. “A National Popular Vote for President.” FairVote. Accessed February 3, 2022. https://www.fairvote.org/national_popular_vote.

“Majority of Americans Continue to Favor Moving Away from Electoral College.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, January 27, 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/27/majority-of-americans-continue-to-favor-moving-away-from-electoral-college/.

National Archives of the United States of America. “2016 Electoral College Results.” National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, January 11, 2021. https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/2016. 

Reinhart, RJ. “Faith in Elections in Relatively Short Supply in U.S.” Gallup.com. Gallup, May 20, 2021. https://news.gallup.com/poll/285608/faith-elections-relatively-short-supply.aspx. 

Ruthhart, Bill, and Jonathon Berlin. “Campaign Trail Tracker: Where Trump, Biden and Their Running Mates Have Traveled in Presidential Race’s Final Weeks.” chicagotribune.com. Chicago Tribune, November 5, 2020. https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-viz-presidential-campaign-trail-tracker-20200917-edspdit2incbfnopchjaelp3uu-htmlstory.html. 

United States Census Bureau. “2020 Presidential Election Voting and Registration Tables.” Census.gov. Census Bureau, October 8, 2021. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/2020-presidential-election-voting-and-registration-tables-now-available.html. 

Woolley, John, and Gerhard Peters. “Election Listing: The American Presidency Project.” Election Listing | The American Presidency Project. University of California: Santa Barbra. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/statistics/elections.