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.
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.