End Run Around Electoral College

In the US, the President is elected by the Electoral College (“EC”) system. Essentially, each state gets a certain number of EC votes based primarily upon the population of the state.

Each state decides how its EC votes will be allotted. Most states allocate 100% of the EC votes for that state to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in that state (i.e., “winner take all”). A few states may split the EC votes between multiple candidates.

The “problem” with the EC is that one candidate may win the national popular vote, but may still lose the election because of the way the EC votes are allocated. This happened to Al Gore in 2000 when he lost to Bush. Many people are pissed about that and others just generally dislike the EC as an outdated undemocratic election tool.

The only way to abolish or alter the EC directly is to amend the US Constitution. That’s a difficult process.

These guys came up with a clever end run around that problem. The proposal is to have each state enter into a multi-state compact whereby 100% of each member states’ EC votes will be awarded to the candidate who wins the NATIONAL popular vote instead of the candidate who wins the popular vote within each separate state.

The compact would not go into effect until at least 50% of the EC votes are under the compact.

The California Assembly just passed legislation to join the compact. On the one hand, this may mean that California’s EC votes could go to the candidate that was rejected by California voters. On the other hand, the argument is that the EC will effectively be nullified and California will become a player in Presidential elections as candidates come to California to pump up their popular votes here. California is largely ignored in Presidential election campaigns now (except for fundraising) because the state is heavily Democratic and the candidates know it.

All I can say about the idea at this point is “interesting” and “clever.” Discuss.

I think this is an excellent idea. It’s the first proposed reform of the Electoral College in 200 years that might actually have a chance of passing.

I’m pleased to note that I first proposed it on the Straight Dope on November 16, 2004. I think these guys cribbed the idea from my post!

It’s an interesting idea. However look at who is approving it, California–a state that doesn’t like being ignored in the national polls, New York Republicans a group of people in an overwhelmingly Democratic state who are probably tired of not being heard, and some smaller states.

I doubt that states like Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida will really favor this proposal because they lack any real motivation to go along with it, and thus this compact probably will never come into effect.

Even if it does, the number of times in a given century a person is likely to lose the popular vote and win the EC is rare enough that this will probably never have a meanginful effect in our lives.

Also, I’m not entirely sure these efforts won’t suffer defeat by some federal action or even judicial overturning.

Just curious here.
If this goes the way that these folks want, it will circumvent the Constitution. I’d wager that there will be a lot of screaming about that, and when the appeal goes to the Supreme Court, they are going to flush it.

Like you said, the way to do it is a Constitutional Amendment. Outside of that, I don’t see how you can remove the Electoral College, no matter how antiquated we may think it is now.
Rules are rules. You just can’t come up with smart ways around the ones you don’t like. (Well, you can. I just don’t think this one will hold up to scrutiny.)

Aside from the fact that it might just be better to eliminate the EC entirely, I think it’s a crappy idea.

Richard Nixon in 1968 and Bill Clinton in 1992 both won the presidency with less than 45% of the popular vote. What happens if the electors decide that 45% of the popular vbote isn’t enough to elect anyone as President?

On the other hand, states like Missouri, Illinois and Ohio are heavily contested in presidential elections, so what you’re suggesting is simply that the candiates transfer their efforts from one group of states (the closely contested ones) to another set (the big ones.)

It doesn’t sound like a genuine improvement to me.

To be fair nothing can be gathered by the popular vote. The campaign is planned on both sides according to the current rules, which is the EC vote. You can’t infer that a popular vote win means that person would have still won the popular vote if that was the goal from the start.

Or in other words, lets take a race, best time wins. After we have a winner the comment was made that the looser actually used less fuel - all well and good, but if the contest was to use less fuel the winner and looser would have planned differently.

Popular vote means nothing as long as it’s not the goal.

Yes, but that assumes people are going to vote the same way (and that candidates are going to campaign the same way) without an EC as they do now with one, which I contend would not be the case. Without an EC, people in “safe states” (i.e., ones that overwhelmingly vote for one party) would have much more incentive to vote - whether they are with the majority within their state or not. Those in the minority know the votes “will count”, those in the majority know they’re vote will counterbalance those in an opposite party safe state.

As for the OP, the problem with it is its voulantary. There’s notining to prevent the states that are in the compact now dropping out in the future to get political some political advantage. That’s why an ammendment is required- everyone plays by the same rules.

I’ve always thought the best way toget rid of the EC is to tie it with other “electoral reform” that red states want in the same ammendment that drops the EC: e.g., dropping the 2 term presidential limit and/or “Natural Born” citizenship requirement.

I don’t like the idea, but I don’t see how it is unconstitutional or how a federal law could prevent it. The Constitution gives each state the power to decide how to choose its Electors.

I think Congressional redistricting reform is more important than EC reform.

The reason for the EC is that the people don’t elect the President; “The Several States” do. Else we’d only have to let New York and California vote. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure how the implementation of this would work. Now, when I vote for a slate of Democratic electors, I feel confident that they will vote for the Democratic candidate; and vice-versa for my neighbor voting Republican. However, the electors are not bound to do so; it is the fact that they are loyal party figures that keeps them in line.

A state would need separate slates of neutral electors, and even then, they could (and as neutrals, would be more likely to, in my opinion) vote for anyone their little hearts desired.

I think this proposal introduces the potential for serious chaos. Maybe I’m missing something.

It would not circumvent the Constitution. There is absolutely no provision in the Constitution as to how a state’s electors are to be chosen. At one point they were selected by the state legislature. Now, 48 states award their electoral votes, en bloc, to the candidate who wins a popular vote plurality, while two states operate on the “Senate+House” choice: two electoral votes to the candidate taking the state as a whole, the remainder to the candidate(s) winning each Congressional district. But this is custom and state electoral law, designed to maximize each state’s influence on the election, not anything cast into Constitutional or Federal law. If Pennsylvania solemnly agreed by majority vote of its state legislature to give its electoral votes to the candidate who won Idaho’s popular vote, it would be completely legal, if bizarre as hell.

This is the solution I would like to see implemented, not the Compact. It would make sure that my vote means something, and would make every state important.

I should add that the “Compact” idea only works if all states particpate, not just 50%. People are not going to change their voting habits if some states still use the “winner take all” , especially those voters in the state that don’t join. In fact, those in the compact states might not vote, knowing that EC votes in non-compact states might be likely to decide the election (it really depends on the relative sizes of the states particpating.)

For this idea to work at all, those in Compact states should award their EC votes to the winner of the popular vote among just the Compact states (I don’t know, maybe the proposal states this, I didn’t read the link) essentially becoming a “Super State” for EC purposes. But even this probably wouldn’t work , as other states might form competing compacts to countermand it, at which point, everyone would probably agree a constitutional ammendment is in order.

It would circumvent the purpose of the Electoral College, though, which was set up in part to make sure that the President wasn’t selected by popular will, but instead by gentlemen of wealth, education, and culture.

Unless you’re one of the tiny minority of Americans who hasn’t been gerrymandered into a Congressional district that’s safe for one party or the other, your vote wouldn’t mean jack.

I totally agree. But the perfect need not be the enemy of the good.

No, they wouldn’t. They could have competing partisan slates, just like today. The only difference would be that the winning slate would be determined by nationwide vote, not state vote. The winning electors could be counted on to vote for their party’s candidate just as reliably as they do today.

No, that’s the beauty of it–once the compact kicks in, the president is determined by nationwide popular vote, period. Everyone will know this. At that point, it won’t make any difference whether you live in a “compact state” or not. A citizen of Wyoming will be in exactly the same position as a citizen of California–casting one of 130 million votes which will determine the presidency.

Things like the Voter’s Rights Act being constitutional makes me pretty liberal in my guesstimations as to just how much the federal government can involve itself in how states conduct elections. While obviously the Voter’s Rights Act is more about voter registration, I do think it shows the country and the courts are willing to give the federal government some “significant” freedom of action in this area.

Good point. I was missing something.

If the states in the compact control 270 (or more) electoral votes, they control the election. Those 270 votes are necessary and sufficient to win. All the other state’s electors become irrelevant.

But, the voters in those states are not. The compact state’s electors are pledged to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. The end result is as if the Electoral College were not there at all. Winner of the popular vote becomes President.

It’s ingenious, if there’s a chance of getting enough states to join the compact and all the potential loopholes can be foreseen and closed.