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Most Random Constitutional Amendment Ever?

Congressman Steve Israel has proposed an amendment to the Constitution to award 29 bonus electoral votes to the popular vote winner.

The Hill (“Dem’s amendment would give 29 more electoral votes to popular-vote winner“):

The head of the House Democratic campaign arm this week proposed a constitutional amendment that would give the winner of the popular vote in the presidential race an additional 29 electoral votes.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) did not offer an explanation in the joint resolution filed in the House for why he was proposing to change the way elections in the U.S. are decided.

[...]

Here’s the text of the measure:

“In an election for President and Vice President, after the popular vote has been counted and electors have been appointed in each of the several States and the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States, each State and the District shall report the total number of popular votes cast for each of the candidates … The candidate receiving the largest percentage of the total popular vote as reported by the several States and the District shall receive 29 electoral votes in addition to those cast by the Electors chosen by the several States and the District. These votes shall not be considered votes cast by Electors and shall not affect the total number of votes necessary to constitute a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed.”

If we’re going to go through all the trouble of passing a Constitutional amendment to make it harder to win the presidency without getting a majority of the popular vote, why not just abolish the Electoral College altogether? And why the odd number of 29 votes? It happens to be the same number the winner of New York and Florida get. That’s a pretty generous award, yet it’s not in any way tied to the margin of victory.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. NickTamere says:

    I don’t think it’s random; note that this wouldn’t kick in for at least a year, so it would have no bearing on the upcoming election. If the republicans come out against the amendment it takes away oxygen from complaints that the electoral college is unfair and Romney got shafted. If they come out for it, they likely “lose” based on long-term demographic trends. Read the comments on The Hill piece, the same party that constantly tried to get flag burning, personhood, and hetero-only marriage amendments passed have the vapors that a democrat is suggesting we amend the Constitution.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @NickTamere: I don’t have any qualms with amending the Constitution and oppose at least 2 of the 3 you mention. I’d be fine with abolishing the Electoral College in favor of a popular election for president. But I think “a bonus random number of Electoral Votes to the national popular vote winner” amendment is, um, odd.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll tell you exactly how I feel about this amendment. Just let me click over to Pollster.com. Let’s see, Romney up by one.

    I am opposed! As a matter of principle!

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  4. @James:

    You beat me to this one. I have made my feelings about the EC pretty clear of late, so obviously I have no problem making the system more tilted towards the popular vote winner. Having said that: this is one weird proposal.

    And, like you, I was struck by the number. Why 29?

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  5. Curtis says:

    At least it is an odd number, which gets rid of the possibility of a tie in our current two-party system.

    If we were looking for a good round number, though, why not 535, enough to guarantee the popular vote winner the win in the electoral college?

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