A Simple Way to Fix the Electoral College That No One is Talking About
The Electoral College was front and center in the 2016 Presidential election. Republican Donald Trump, who received less votes than Democrat Hillary Clinton, would triumph in the Electoral College and thus won the Presidency. That’s not news to anyone.
The same thing happened in 2000 as well, and so calls to abolish the Electoral College have never been louder. Proponents of the current system say it’s a safeguard to ensure smaller, less populous states get a voice in Presidential elections. Critics will argue it was only implemented by the framers because they feared direct elections and the system has run its course for being useful.
Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue, one thing is clear- the Electoral College was included in the Constitution, so reforming it or removing it would require a Constitutional amendment. There’s no getting around that. And given the division surrounding it, that’s not likely to happen.
But what if there was a way to reform the Electoral College that would be favorably viewed by everyone? Can such a compromise exist? The talking heads sure don’t seem to think so as one idea that seems so simple has yet to gain any kind of traction.
And yet, both sides of the debate would readily accept this compromise as a way to improve the electoral process. So what is it?
For clarity, we need only look at the electoral process for Congress. If you passed high school civics class, then you recall that Congress is comprised of two chambers- the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House represents the people while the Senate represents the States. Because of this, Representatives are elected directly by the people wherever they live in the country while every State elects two Senators.
This system works well as a way of checks and balances. Each chamber has its role and function, but legislation must be passed in both chambers in order to become law. In essence, Congress equally represents the people and the States.
Why doesn’t our Executive Branch of government do the same? Perhaps it’s time to make this change.
Here’s how it would work:
There are 538 electoral votes right now. This won’t change. That number represents 435 Representatives, 100 Senators and 3 electors for Washington D.C.
Each state will be awarded two electoral votes just as each state has two Senators. Equal representation for every State. Whichever candidate gets the most votes in each State wins it’s two electoral votes. Washington D.C. will also receive its two electoral votes.
This means the state by state races will determine 102 of the 538 electoral votes awarded on election night. Each state will have an equal say in who becomes President.
The remaining 436 electoral votes will be determined by the vote of the people, just as the members of the House of Representatives are chosen by the people. So each individual Congressional district will receive one electoral vote. Win the district and you win the electoral vote. Washington D.C. will be given one electoral vote, meaning whoever wins Washington D.C. will receive three total (the same as all states with one Representative).
Should no candidate receive the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the Presidency, then the 12th amendment kicks in just as before.
But what about gerrymandering?
That’s the obvious problem given the current state of affairs. Many states suffer from gerrymandering, and if districts are manipulated in a way to give one party an advantage over another, then this electoral reformation doesn’t work.
Since an amendment is required to reform the Electoral College anyway, that amendment must contain language that creates a bi-partisan commission in each state to create Congressional districts. This would probably be a good idea on its own anyway, but making it official would be required. Once gerrymandering is neutralized, or at least minimized, then this electoral process will work just fine.
So what would have happened in 2016?
Trump won 30 states and Clinton won 20 plus Washington D.C. That would have started each of them at 60 and 42 electoral votes. Trump won 230 districts while Clinton won 205 plus Washington D.C., bringing their final tallies to 290 and 248. But what if Republicans didn’t enjoy a big advantage in gerrymandering in 2016? That’s anyone’s guess.
The point is that under this new system, the final results were closer to even as the vote totals reflected. Of course, a different system would have result in different campaign strategies, but that’s hard to speculate.
The fact of the matter is that in a deep red state like Utah, a Democrat won a Congressional district in 2018. In a Presidential election, Democrats in Utah hopelessly cast their ballots knowing full well that it won’t matter since the Republican candidate will always receive all of the electoral votes in the State. If that changed, voter turnout would change as well. Suddenly a lot more voters have a reason to head to the polls on election day.
Critics might point out that this system would work against more densely populated districts. For example, there are districts in Texas and California with over 800,000 residents while Wyoming and Vermont, themselves just a single district each, have more like 600,000 residents. Technically, residents in less densely population districts would wield more voting power than those in more densely populated districts.
In rebuttal simply look at the current system. The disparity is much, much worse. Wyoming has 192,000 residents per electoral vote. California has 719,000 residents per electoral vote. This new system only improves upon a disparity that already exists and minimizes it.
In response to this system, candidates would finally be enabled to campaign across the entire country, not just a handful of swing states. Democrats would visit the larger cities of Texas, Utah and Oklahoma while Republicans would visit the rural areas of California and New York. Candidates would need to address the concerns of all citizens, not just a portion of the country holding the swing votes.
Candidates would run better campaigns, voter turnout would increase, gerrymandering of districts would cease, and electoral votes would be handed out more fairly. Populous states wouldn’t bully smaller states as each would have an equal number of electoral votes just as each has an equal number of Senators. Everyone has their voice heard, everyone gets to participate in selecting the next President, and the Electoral College is preserved.
All it takes is a Constitutional amendment to make this happen. We ratified three amendments in the 1960’s so this is a process that can and does work. What are we waiting for?