Rethinking the Electoral College

I have long been a staunch supporter of keeping the electoral college despite the weaknesses I see in having most states take a winner-take-all approach to their electoral college votes. The calls to abolish the current system in favor of a national popular vote have been growing for as long as I have been interested in politics. Today I started to wonder if we could honor the purpose of the Electoral college while using the support for a popular vote to institute reforms for the weaknesses that have grown in the current system.

The idea that I had in mind would be comparable to the way the BCS chooses a national champion for college football. (Stick with me here, I know the BCS is unpopular.) Consider our current system to be like the pre-BCS method of choosing a champion based on who the polls ranked as #1 at the end of the season. With the BCS, those polls become only part of a broader equation without resorting to a playoff (the equivalent of a national popular vote in my analogy).

My idea would be to implement a national popular vote where every vote counts equally and where the results weigh in as 82% of the final choice. Each state then has two representatives in the reduced electoral college with the electoral college votes accounting for the remaining 18% of the final tally. The reason for the 82% weight for the popular vote is because that represents 441members of the current 541 member electoral college which are supposed to be comparable to the representation in the House of Representatives. The states are represented as sovereign entities with the remaining 100 votes with the ability to apportion those votes as they see fit – winner-take-all or with a representative split (such as one vote for each candidate with more than 40% of the vote or both votes if one candidate exceeds 60% of the popular vote in the state).

The 18% weight from the reduced Electoral College would decide close elections, but it would do so in a way that would virtually eliminate any value in selective recounts for disputed elections. Recounts would not materially affect the 82% weight of the popular vote and would only be able to swing up to one vote of the remaining 18%.

I have not had time to consider all the nuances of this idea but I would love to hear what others thing of such a plan.

2 comments for “Rethinking the Electoral College

  1. Hyrum
    September 16, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    It might work. But it would invalidate a major principle behind US government – that we are a democratic republic on purpose, and not just because it would have been hard to count votes early in the country’s history. I believe that the founders chose wisely when they chose a republican form of government, and would be very hesistant to move from it.

  2. September 16, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I have always been hesitant to move from a republican form of government. I guess the real question is – do individuals have any sovereignty at the federal level, or are states the only recognized sovereign there. I would content that the nature of our two legislative bodies suggests that both are considered sovereign. To go to a strictly popular vote model would truly invalidate the republican structure of our government, but my proposal would be approximately equal to requiring every state to award their electoral votes in a proportional manner – which is how it was generally done at the beginning of our republic. (It was not required, but that is how most states used to do it. We now have 48 states that block-vote.)

Comments are closed.