The excitement of the last few days in the British elections has been great for me because I’ve been able to learn a lot about their electoral system (see Chris Lawrence’s post here and Steven Taylor’s post here). In addition, James Joyner has covered the politics of the British election here and here. Given that, I would like to go into fantasy land and think about how I would reform federal elections in the U.S. if I were king for a day (this is a hobby horse of mine).
The main thing that reformists in this country are latching on to seems to be the national popular vote. They’re pursuing agreements in individual states to get them, through legislation, to promise to apply their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote across the country. It’s hard to imagine this happening, as with any other meaningful reform.
What I would like to see instead is reform of the electoral college. Specifically, I would like to see the electoral votes allocated the way Maine and Nebraska do it: by giving the winner of the state the two votes represented by the Senators, and have each congressional district’s vote allocated based on the winner of the vote in that district. For instance, in a state with four congressional districts in 2008, if McCain won the state he would get two electoral votes for that. If he won in two of the districts, he would win the two electoral votes for those and Obama would win the other two.
I see two big advantages in this: one, the parties would become less regional and less beholden to a narrow section of the electorate; two, it would maintain the electoral college and presidential elections would still be molded to our federal system of government. It should be pretty obvious that I’m currently thinking of the Republican Party, but I favored this six years ago when I was still blogging on my own and recent events hadn’t narrowed the Republican Party to down to a core of southern voters (this was in progress, to be sure, but the process has gone off the rails in recent years).
One other thing I would like to see is the removal of the physical electoral college so that the issue of faithless electors is dead and gone.
My final reform would be to have all federal elections use either the instant runoff voting method or the Condorcet method. With either method, the voter would rank the candidates by preference and there would be no votes that are “thrown away.” With IRV, a majority requirement would be necessary and if no candidate got a majority in the first round, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be removed from the election and the first “runoff” would begin. I like this because it would allow third parties to emerge, which is the obvious reason that the Democrats and Republicans will never go for it.