Maryland Passes Plan to Dodge Electoral College

Maryland appears to be the first state to pass a scheme to effectively eliminate the electoral college by getting enough states to agree to give all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote. The measure only takes effect if enough states pass the plan to provide a majority of electoral votes. The plan was passed in California but vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. It has passed in one house in Arkansas, Hawaii, and Colorado.

While there are valid arguments for eliminating the electoral college, such a change in how elections are conducted should be done by Constitutional amendment. There is already enough controversy surrounding close elections, and a back door change in a manner such as this will inevitably lead to court battles should the change affect the outcome.

My previous post on the system, posted at The Democratic Daily after the California legislature passed this plan, is reprinted under the fold.

Changing the Electoral College

Posted by Ron Chusid
May 31st, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

The Los Angeles Times reports on an interesting plan to change Presidential elections:

Seeking to force presidential candidates to pay attention to California’s 15.5 million voters, state lawmakers on Tuesday jumped aboard a new effort that would award electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide.

As it is now, California grants its Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state. Practically speaking, that means Democrat-dominated California spends the fall presidential campaign on the sidelines as candidates focus on the states — mostly in the upper Midwest — that are truly up for grabs.

Under a bill passed by the Assembly, California would join an interstate compact in which states would agree to cast their electoral votes not for the winner in their jurisdictions but for the winner nationwide. Proponents say that would force candidates to broaden their reach to major population centers such as California.

I have mixed feelings on this. I agree with the ultimate goals such as allowing the winner of the popular vote to win the electoral college vote and giving motivation for each candidate to campaign in all fifty states. On the other hand, this is quite a drastic change in our election system to be made by an agreement of a handful of states. They are clearly avoiding going through the process of obtaining a Constitutional amendment to change the electoral college. As the states do have discretion in how they award their electoral votes this may be legal, but I’m not sure it is wise.

In a democracy it is important that supporters of the losing candidate accept the result as legitimate. The valid questions as to the legitimacy of Bush’s elections has increased the unhealthy political polarization in this country. At least in 2000 and 2004 there was general agreement that the winner of the electoral vote should win, even if they lost the popular vote, and the controversy was limited to who really deserved the electoral votes from Florida and Ohio. A change such as this opens new areas of controversy as different states award electoral votes differently and partisans on each side find additional ways to argue that their candidate deserved to win as they question the manner in which the electoral votes from each state was awarded. It would be much safer if any change in how elections are decided was accomplished by a mechanism accepted by all as legitimate, such as a Constitutional amendment.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Gary Michael Coutin says:

    It is very simple. All men are created equal. Therefore, the weight of the vote of all men is equal. Therefore, the candidate with the most votes wins the election. These are the principles behind every election in the United States EXCEPT THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Why is this election different from all other elections???

    Abraham Lincoln said that the Declaration of Independence of 1776 was the supreme law of the land. The Republicans of that time agreed. See the Party Platform of 1856 and 1860. Republicans have led the effort to abolish the Electoral College. Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, Oliver P. Morton, Henry Cabot Lodge, Everett Dirksen, Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon supported an end to the Electoral College. Even George Bush (Sr) voted for direct elections.

    Are the “Republicans” of today even “republican” at all??? The Electoral College is a relic of feudalism. The Electoral College of the Holy Roman Empire was a device of the aristocracy to choose a King.

    Gary Michael Coutin
    gmcoutin2000@yahoo.com

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    The problem is that it is not that simple. This isn’t simply a question of the popular vote versus the electoral college. I support elections by popular vote as opposed to the electoral college, but ideally this should be done by Constitutional amendment.

    There are many flaws with changing the system in a back door manner such as this as I have discussed, however it is also true that the electoral college is both an outdated system and one which is currently used in a manner quite different from what was intended.

    I see both the status quo and changing the vote in this manner as flawed systems.

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