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Monday, October 15, 2012

All States Should be Battlegrounds

Is anyone else as tired of the talk of battleground states as I am?  Or tired of the existence of battleground states for that matter?

It's a sad fact that roughly three quarters of the states in this country are spoken for when it comes to the presidential election.  So a handful of states get the vast majority of the love come election years.  Ironically, this is exactly what the Electoral College was supposed to help prevent.  Our founding fathers chose this way to elect presidents to keep very large population states from dominating the elections; under this system the 3 electoral votes low population states get gives them a greater influence on the election of a president than they would normally have.

There are many people (usually disappointed over the winner) who want the Electoral College to be abolished in favor of a straight popular vote.  I think there's a better solution; one that wouldn't require a change to the Constitution.  Elimination of the winner take all mindset for electoral votes that has dominated our elections.

All but two states award all their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.  If a candidate gets 60%, 55%, or even 51% of the vote, he gets 100% of the electoral votes.  Those who voted for the other candidate be it 10%, 30%, or 49% are, in effect, disenfranchised.  Even Nebraska and Massachusetts, adapt the winner take all mindset to different extent.  They award electoral votes to the winner of each Congressional district and two votes to the overall state winner.

My idea is each candidate is awarded electoral votes proportional to the percentage of votes they win.  For example, in 2008, McCain won 54% of the popular vote and Obama 45% in my home state, South Carolina.  Under the current winner take all system, he received all 8 electoral votes SC then had (due to the census SC will have 9 this year).

Under the proportional system, each of those 8 votes would have been given for every 12.5% (1/8) of the votes.  Being over 50% would have gained 4 votes for McCain; being over 37.5% would have gained 3 for Obama.  The last vote would have gone to whoever had the largest share of the remaining votes.  In this case of the unaccounted 12.5%, Obama had 7.5%, McCain 4%, with other candidates splitting the last 1%; so Obama would have ended up splitting the votes 4 to 4 with McCain.  by the same token, California's 55 votes which all went to Obama would have been split, with 20 going to McCain.

(To use a historic example, in the 1984 presidential election, what was a 525 to 13 devastation in favor of Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale would have been a still decisive 320 to 218 victory more in tune with the 57%-43% split of the popular vote, and not have given the impression that everybody was behind Reagan.  Perhaps some of the "we can do no wrong" excesses of the second term like the Iran-Contra affair could have been avoided.)

Under the proportional system, every state in 2008 would have contributed at least 1 electoral vote to each candidate (only the District of Columbia would have gone wholly for Obama).  Every state would have been a battleground!  Obama still would have won, but the resulting victory would have been 290 to 248, not 365 to 173.  Mandates would be much harder to come by.  Sweeping changes less easy to justify.  The notion of "red" state and "blue" state would fall before the opportunities to 'steal' votes from formerly 'enemy' territory.  And third party candidates would have a chance for legitimate candidacy.

The proportional elector system would not require amending the Constitution.  The states are responsible for the awarding of electoral votes.  If a few states, either 'solid red' or 'solid blue' were to do so, the attention the candidates for president (and others) would pay them could very well drive widespread adoption of this system.

Maybe all it needs is a catchy name.

Proportional
Elector
Allocation
System

For fair presidential elections, we all need to have our PEAS.

(Don't make that face.  It'll stick that way.)

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