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Electoral College Concerns

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Note: The Electoral College has become an issue of late. This editorial will discuss the need for it and how to address of people's concerns without making a major (Constitutional) change. Howard Cary Morris


For the most part, there has been little argument who won the Presidential election with the Electoral College. With only 538 Electoral voters currently, the vote is easy to count. Going to direct elections would make fraud more likely. If there were hanky-panky in just 6 states, we may never know who really won the election. It has been a long time since anyone won the majority of the poplar vote. Should we have a runoff system or just send the vote to the House for President and the Senate for Vice President (ugh).

Changes that could be made

People would like the Electoral vote to align more closely with the popular vote. The current winner take all for each state does not seem fair. The winner in California gets 55 votes, the winner in Texas gets 36 votes. It is unlikely the outcome for those two states combined is anywhere near proportional to the actual votes cast. Below are alternatives that do not require a Constitutional change..

Suppose we elected one voter in the Electoral College for every Congressional district. That would make the final vote more proportional. That would leave two additional voters to appoint per state. While the state could could give the other two to whoever received the most votes in that state. it would be better to use the other two votes to make the distribution of votes close to the population vote. Suppose one candidate won the vote in 5 districts, another won the vote in 3 districts, and a third didn't win any districts. Take the number of votes the first candidate got in the state and divide by 6 (= 5 + 1), the number of votes the second candidate got in the state and divide it by 4 (= 3 + 1), and the number of votes the the third candidate got and divide it by 1 (= 0 + 1). Whichever candidate has the highest ratio gets the first extra vote from the state. Then repeat the process for the second extra vote. (Whichever candidate got the first extra vote would have to divide by one more this time.) This method is the same as Daniel Webster's method for apportioning the number of representatives each state gets. This would also make the map of 'red' versus 'blue' more checkerboard.

One problem with the method can occur if the Congressional districts in a state are gerrymandered. There are various restrictions the US government can require to minimize that. First, all districts have to be contiguous. Next, all district boundaries need to be natural boundries, like rivers, mountains, and county lines. For metropolitan areas, could be zip code boundaries or even block by block if need be. The smallest district should have at least 95% of the the population of the largest district. Metropolitan (mainly) districts should have at least 99% of the population of the largest district because the metropolitan areas are easy to break up. If you can move one county to another neighboring district and make the two districts closer in population, it should be done. Similarly for swapping two counties between districts. Both with the proviso that the both districts stay contiguous.

Another problem with the proposed problem, it is theoretically possible for one candidate to get more Electoral votes from a state even if he got fewer popular votes in that state. While that is unlikely, one way to avoid that is to use the Daniel Webster method for all the states Electoral votes. It would also be OK to give each state a choice of which of the two methods to use.