With The Midterms Done, Will Republican State Legislators Revisit Electoral College “Reforms?”

After the 2010 elections, several newly Republican state legislatures flirted with the idea of changing the way their state allocates Electoral Votes. The outcome of last weeks elections raises the possibility that this could happen again.

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Among the little reported outcomes of the midterm elections is the fact that Republicans managed to secure majority control of the state legislatures of several more states to add to the list of those that were won in the wake of the 2010 midterm elections. As we saw starting in January 2011 when those newly elected legislatures took office, this proved to be an opportunity for Republicans to enact legislation on a variety of controversial topics that continue to reverberate today ranging from immigration measures in Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona, to a more widespread adoption of Voter ID laws and other changes to election laws that continue to be the subject of Federal Court litigation, to abortion measures in a number of states that are still being litigated in the Federal Court system. Some states also touched on more esoteric topics, though, and one of the more interesting was the brief flirtation that the Republican legislatures in Pennsylvania and Virginia had with adoption of the District Method of allocating Electoral College votes. Under this method, Electoral College votes are allocated not on a winner take all basis as happens in all but two states now, but based awarded based on which candidate wins each Congressional District in a given state, with the remaining two votes representing a state’s Senators awarded to the candidate winning the statewide popular vote. Right now, this is the method that both Maine and Nebraska use to allocate their Electoral College votes, although there has only been a district split in either state once, in 2008 when Barack Obama won Nebraka’s 2nd Congressional District while Mitt Romney won the state as a whole.

After the GOP’s wins in state legislative elections in 2010, some variation on the District Method was considered by state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Michigan, but in each case the plan was abandoned in no small part to negative reaction from the public, and even from some Republican pundits and politicians. Now, with the GOP in control of more state legislatures, and the 2016 election and the prospect of a third loss at the Presidential level, it appears that Republicans may be thinking of reviving the plan:

Pennsylvania and Michigan lead the list of states that might act on their own. Despite near-battleground status, both states have been won by Democratic presidential candidates for a quarter century, frustrating many of the Republicans who run state government. Pennsylvania’s state Senate Majority Leader Domenic Pileggi proposed allocating electoral votes by congressional district in 2011, and now has legislation to allocate his state’s 20 electoral votes semi-proportionally — meaning that a 52 percent to 48 percent outcome would result in 11 electoral votes for the winner and nine for the loser.

Michigan leaders have focused on congressional district allocation, with delegates at the GOP’s state convention in 2013 voting 1,370 to 132 to back that change. Susan Demas, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, recently forecast action on the proposal later this year.

But these proposals to divide electoral votes within states are highly problematic. The first problem is that they inevitably draw charges of partisan conspiracy. If used nationally in 2012, the congressional district plan would have comfortably elected Mitt Romney despite Barack Obama’s win by nearly 5 million popular votes. Romney also would have won electoral vote majorities in five of the states that he lost, including Michigan and Pennsylvania.

National Review’s Jim Geraghty seems to think it would be a good idea:

Starting in January, Republicans will hold state legislative majorities and the governor’s mansions in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Iowa, and Nevada. If some or all of those states passed laws allocating their electoral votes by districts, all of these purple-to-blue states would allocate their electoral votes in a way that would make it extremely likely for Republicans to win at least half of them. And without half the electoral votes in those states, it would nearly impossible for the Democratic nominee to win.

For example, Barack Obama won Ohio twice, and because he won the popular vote in 2012, won all of the state’s 18 electoral votes. Under the district system, if the Republican presidential nominee wins all of the U.S. House districts in Ohio currently held by the GOP, he would get twelve electoral votes and the Democrat would get only six.

In Michigan, Obama won all 16 of the state’s electoral votes; if the Republican 2016 nominee won all the currently GOP-held House districts, he would get nine and the Democrat would get seven.

Of course, by doing this, states would become much less decisive in the presidential race.

There is nothing unconstitutional about the District Method, of course. The Constitution gives individual states the authority to use any method at all to decide how their Electoral Votes are allocated and the methods used have changed over time. For many years in the early days of the Republic, for example, there was no real connection at all between the balloting on Election Day and the selection of delegates to the Electoral College, which was generally done by state legislature in a manner to the way that Senators were selected to prior to adoption of the 17th Amendment. In a post over the weekend, Matthew Yglesias suggested that states still possessed the power to choose electors in this manner. Many conservatives shot back that Section 2 of the 14th Amendment would prohibit a state legislature from picking electors in a manner that didn’t take into account, in some way, the votes of the public. There doesn’t appear to be any direct case law on this issue, but it’s largely an academic point because, as we’ll see, the methods of Electoral College reform that have been discussed by Republicans in the recent past would still take actual votes into account, the change would be in how that would be done.

In addition to the District Method, other methods have have been suggested have included a Proportional Vote allocation that would allocate Electoral Votes based on the proportion of the vote that each candidate received above a certain threshold. Using this method, and placing the minimum percentage of the popular vote at 10% just for argument’s sake, California, instead of giving all of its 55 electoral votes to Barack Obama, would have assigned 33 of those votes to Barack Obama and the remaining 22 to Mitt Romney based on the candidate’s respective percentage of the popular vote. Another proposed reform that has provide popular on the left is the National Popular Vote, which purports to be an interstate agreement that states that each state will assign its electoral votes based on the national popular vote regardless of the outcome in the state itself. This proposal, however, faces serious legal obstacles since it appears to constitute the kind of Interstate Compact that is forbidden by Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution unless it is approved by Congress. Finally, of course, there is the idea of eliminating the Electoral College entirely but that would require a Constitutional Amendment, unlike any of the state-level reforms discussed here.

Of all these methods, though, it is the District Method that seems to be the one that conservatives have taken to advocating in recent years. There has been some brief flirtation with the proportional allocation method, particularly in Virginia after 2009, but that hasn’t lasted very long. In many cases, the motivations for proposing such an idea have been blatantly partisan. Michigan and Pennsylvania, for example, are states that Republican candidates haven’t won since the 1980s, and Virginia has now twice gone for a Democratic candidate in a Presidential election. Changing the way such a state allocates its Electoral Votes would obviously help the GOP overcome the advantage that Democrats have thanks to the fact that California, Illinois, and New York, which make up 95 Electoral votes, or more than one-third of the 270 votes needed to win a Presidential election, are solidly in their corner If such reforms could be implemented in states that go for Democrats in Presidential years, then it would obviously help a Republican candidate and hurt the Democratic candidate. Of course, advocates aren’t necessarily always so blatantly partisan in their arguments. Typically, they argue that the District Method would be fairer to voters because it would more closely mirror the popular vote, In the end, though, the proposals are obviously blindly partisan and, especially in our current climate where Congressional Districts are drawn for political advantage far more than with the intent of being representative of a relevant population group.

When this idea was first proposed in Pennsylvania in 2011, I was inclined to support the idea for many of the reasons that advocates had put forward and, indeed, had been supportive of the idea long before the Republican wave of 2010 More recently, though, I’ve been quite skeptical of the idea, especially given the fact that Congressional Districts are typically drawn for partisan advantage to begin with. What this means, of course, is that the same state legislature that decides how the districts are drawn would then decide to allocate Electoral Votes based on those Congressional Districts.But for the problems with redistricting, perhaps, this might be an idea worth considering, and one that would alleviate many of the problems with the Electoral College that people complain about without having to go through the cumbersome and likely futile process of amending the Constitution to get rid of the Electoral College altogether. That’s not the world we live in, though, and absent some radical change to the way Congressional Districts are drawn, it seems unfair for any state to use them as the basis to allocate Electoral Votes.

Of all of the methods for allocation that have been proposed, the one that strikes me as making the most sense is proportional allocation, where each state allocates its Electoral Votes by the percentage of the vote received by each candidate, with the understanding that no candidate that gets less than, say, 10% of the popular vote will get any Electoral Votes. By my quick back of the envelope calculation that would’ve put the Electoral Vote allocation in 2012 at Obama 279 (51.1%) and Romney 259 (48.15%), which would have been remarkably close to the actual popular vote breakdown which came to 51.1% for Obama and 47.82% for Romney. Another version of the proportional method would allocate two electoral votes to the winner of each state, and then allocate the remainder proportionally and would have resulted in a final total of 272 for Obama and 266 for Romney. (source) Either one would be closer to the actual popular vote than the winner take all method we use today, and would be fairer than the District Method. More importantly, if candidates were aware that they could win Electoral Votes in any state, it would arguably make them more likely to conduct their campaigns differently and not ignore states that they can’t win in favor of a dwindling and often shifting number of battleground states. This system would only really work, of course, if it were adopted in all the states, or at least the vast majority of them, but it’s more likely to be enacted than Electoral College repeal at this point, and it’s fairer than methods that would unfairly benefit one party over the other and make it more likely that the winner of the Electoral College would be different from the winner of the Popular Vote.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Campaign 2016, Politics 101, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Another version of the proportional method would allocate two electoral votes to the winner of each state, and then allocate the remainder proportionally and would have resulted in a final total of 272 for Obama and 266 for Obama.

    I strongly oppose any allocation method that provides any more disproportionate influence to low-population states such as Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas. That method is one that would redistribute electoral power toward under-populated plains and Mountain states.

  2. Rick DeMent says:

    The only schemes that would get the White house for the GOP are those which would end up with them losing the popular vote. I mean I know this is the case for the House and it’s even the case in senatorial elections due to the massive over representation provided by states with no people in them. I’m sure the Republicans will try it though.

  3. kohler says:

    Congressional consent is not required for the National Popular Vote compact under prevailing U.S. Supreme Court rulings. However, because there would undoubtedly be time-consuming litigation about this aspect of the compact, National Popular Vote is working to introduce a bill in Congress for congressional consent.

    The U.S. Constitution provides:
    “No state shall, without the consent of Congress,… enter into any agreement or compact with another state….”

    Although this language may seem straight forward, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, in 1893 and again in 1978, that the Compacts Clause can “not be read literally.” In deciding the 1978 case of U.S. Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission, the Court wrote:
    “Read literally, the Compact Clause would require the States to obtain congressional approval before entering into any agreement among themselves, irrespective of form, subject, duration, or interest to the United States.

    “The difficulties with such an interpretation were identified by Mr. Justice Field in his opinion for the Court in [the 1893 case] Virginia v. Tennessee. His conclusion [was] that the Clause could not be read literally [and this 1893 conclusion has been] approved in subsequent dicta.”

    Specifically, the Court’s 1893 ruling in Virginia v. Tennessee stated:
    “Looking at the clause in which the terms ‘compact’ or ‘agreement’ appear, it is evident that the prohibition is directed to the formation of any combination tending to the increase of political power in the states, which may encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States.”

    The state power involved in the National Popular Vote compact is specified in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 the U.S. Constitution:
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”

    In the 1892 case of McPherson v. Blacker (146 U.S. 1), the Court wrote:
    “The appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the states under the constitution of the United States”

    The National Popular Vote compact would not “encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States” because there is simply no federal power — much less federal supremacy — in the area of awarding of electoral votes in the first place.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    As I noted in comments a day or two ago, doing this only in states that are blue for the prez election but now have red state governments would be underhanded, sleazy, legal, and can be made to sound quite reasonable if you don’t think it through. Right up the GOPs alley.

  5. kohler says:

    The National Popular Vote interstate compact would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In virtually every of the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 70-80% range or higher. – in recent or past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.
    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 250 electoral votes, including one house in Arkansas (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), and Oklahoma (7), and both houses in Colorado (9). The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  6. stonetools says:

    @al-Ameda:

    That method is one that would redistribute electoral power toward under-populated

    That’s why the Republicans want to do this.
    Gotta say that the Republicans are really playing for keeps here. They KNOW they are in a war, and they mean to push it to total victory, using the Supreme Court, state legislatures, gerrymandering, whatever.
    The Democrats-well, Obama is still talking about Reasonable Bipartisan Compromise. He’s like the Man from N.I.A.V.E.T.E.

  7. kohler says:

    Although the whole-number proportional approach might initially seem to offer the possibility of making every voter in every state relevant, it would not do this in practice.
    It would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote;
    It would not improve upon the current situation in which four out of five states and four out of five voters in the United States are ignored by presidential campaigns, but instead, would create a very small set of states in which only one electoral vote is in play (while making most states politically irrelevant), and
    It would not make every vote equal.

    Any state that enacts the proportional approach on its own would reduce its own influence. This was the most telling argument that caused Colorado voters to agree with Republican Governor Owens and to reject this proposal in November 2004 by a two-to-one margin.

    The political reality is that campaign strategies in ordinary elections are based on trying to change a reasonably achievable small percentage of the votes—1%, 2%, or 3%. As a matter of practical politics, only one electoral vote would be in play in almost all states. A system that requires even a 9% share of the popular vote in order to win one electoral vote is fundamentally out of sync with the small-percentage vote shifts that are involved in real-world presidential campaigns.

    If a current battleground state, like Colorado, were to change its winner-take-all statute to a proportional method for awarding electoral votes, presidential candidates would pay less attention to that state because only one electoral vote would probably be at stake in the state.

    If states were to ever start adopting the whole-number proportional approach on a piecemeal basis, each additional state adopting the approach would increase the influence of the remaining states and thereby would decrease the incentive of the remaining states to adopt it. Thus, a state-by-state process of adopting the whole-number proportional approach would quickly bring itself to a halt, leaving the states that adopted it with only minimal influence in presidential elections.

    The proportional method also could result in no candidate winning the needed majority of electoral votes. That would throw the process into Congress to decide.

    If the whole-number proportional approach had been in use throughout the country in the nation’s closest recent presidential election (2000), it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. Instead, the result would have been a tie of 269–269 in the electoral vote, even though Al Gore led by 537,179 popular votes across the nation. The presidential election would have been thrown into Congress to decide and resulted in the election of the second-place candidate in terms of the national popular vote.

    A system in which electoral votes are divided proportionally by state would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote and would not make every voter equal.

    It would penalize states, such as Montana, that have only one U.S. Representative even though it has almost three times more population than other small states with one congressman. It would penalize fast-growing states that do not receive any increase in their number of electoral votes until after the next federal census. It would penalize states with high voter turnout (e.g., Utah, Oregon).

    Moreover, the fractional proportional allocation approach, which would require a constitutional amendment, does not assure election of the winner of the nationwide popular vote. In 2000, for example, it would have resulted in the election of the second-place candidate.

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.

  8. stonetools says:

    This comment thread on Mother Jones is instructive:

    For now, though, it does give the Republicans a big advantage, because the number of people per Congressional district varies widely, and it tends to favor rural and low-population areas, precisely those where Republicans are strongest.

    In essence, a plan to elect by district rather than by state or by popular headcount disenfranchises voters in high-concentration districts; the votes of people in those districts count for much less than the votes of people in thinly-populated districts.

    But of course, this is a general problem, and it goes back to the Grand Compromise, and to the general over-representation of rural (and agricultural) interests in the political systems of ALL large industrial democracies today.

    Oh well. That’s politics. But pretty mild for modern Republicans if you ask me…

    third estate> bleh •3 years ago

    Actually if this plan goes through Democrats will have a massive structural disadvantage in winning presidential elections from this point forward. Democrats are much less efficiently distributed across congressional districts than Republicans. Gerald Ford would have won the 1976 election if every state had done this, despite losing the nationwide popular vote by 2 points – and this was BEFORE minority voters were packed in.

    No, it doesn’t. By allocating electoral votes by congressional district, it more heavily weights the votes of the winners in close districts over those in landslide districts. It also would greatly increase the political power of those controlling the redistricting process.

    Given the way our population and politics have worked out, this would make exurban and rural Republican districts more politically powerful than urban Democratic districts.

  9. wr says:

    The sole purpose of this would be to allow the Republicans take the White House even though they lost the election.

    How can anyone who claims not to be a Republican partisan view this with anything other than complete disgust?

  10. stonetools says:

    @kohler:

    The Republicans are never going to agree to a National Popular Vote presidential election as long as they continue to consistently lose the national popular vote.

    Take that to the bank.

  11. @wr:

    The sole purpose of this would be to allow the Republicans take the White House even though they lost the election.

    As I state, the only way something like this would work is if it were adopted in the vast majority of states. In fact, that’s about the only way I’d support it as a formal proposal.

    In the end, of course, changes like this aren’t likely to happen — and certainly the Constitutional Amendment(s) required to eliminate the Electoral College are unlikely in the foreseeable future — however if there is going to be a discussion of reform I thought it would be worthwhile to throw ideas out there that might actually work better than winner-take-all if adopted nationwide, like a Proportional allocation method.

  12. @al-Ameda:

    Only to a small degree, though. The difference between true proportional allocation and what might be called “proportional with a bonus” would have amount to 7 Electoral Votes and wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

    That being said, I’d prefer full proportional allocation.

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    Another version of the proportional method would allocate two electoral votes to the winner of each state, and then allocate the remainder proportionally and would have resulted in a final total of 272 for Obama and 266 for Obama

    Now that’s what I call a win-win scenario.

  14. Trumwill says:

    @al-Ameda: It’s not clear to me either way that it would do so in a way that is worse than the status quo. Right now, all three of Wyoming’s electoral votes go Republican, and under this plan all three would go to the Republican (ditto Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota). As would Vermont’s and Delaware’s go to the Democrat

    Where it might start siphoning votes are when there are four or five electoral votes. That would include blue states Rhode Island Maine, New Hampshire, and Hawaii as well as red Idaho. Depending on how it’s calculated, most of those would probably go three in one direction and one in the other.

    Since there are more blue states than red states in that group, there may be a partisan advantage. However, it would result in a lot more attention in solid-color high-pop states, so it would be a win for residents of those states (except for the swing ones). California and Texas would start mattering again. Ohio and Florida would be the losers.

    I still favor a NPV, but short of that this might still be an improvement over the EC.

  15. kohler says:

    @stonetools:

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 250 electoral votes, including one house in Arkansas (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), and Oklahoma (7), and both houses in Colorado (9). The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    On February 12, 2014, the Oklahoma Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 28–18 margin.

    On March 25, in the New York Senate, Republicans supported the bill 27-2; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party by 26-2; The Conservative Party of New York endorsed the bill.
    In the New York Assembly, Republicans supported the bill 21–18; Republicans endorsed by the Conservative party supported the bill 18–16.

    In May 2011, Jason Cabel Roe, a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant wrote in “National Popular Vote is Good for Republicans:” “I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives . . . , and it is good for America. National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome.
    It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state – and every voter – to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States [that then existed in 2011].

    National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help . . . Republicans. . . . Opponents either have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or don’t fully understand it. . . . We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it.”

    The National Advisory Board of National Popular Vote includes former Congressmen John Anderson (R–Illinois and later independent presidential candidate), John Buchanan (R–Alabama), Tom Campbell (R–California), and Tom Downey (D–New York), and former Senators Birch Bayh (D–Indiana), David Durenberger (R–Minnesota), and Jake Garn (R–Utah).

    Supporters include former Senator Fred Thompson (R–TN), Governor Jim Edgar (R–IL), Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–GA)

    Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the NPV plan would not help either party over the other.

    The Nebraska GOP State Chairman, Mark Fahleson.

    Michael Long, chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State

    Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:”A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College.”

    Some other supporters who wrote forewords to “Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote” include:

    Laura Brod who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the ranking Republican member of the Tax Committee. She was the Minnesota Public Sector Chair for ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and active in the Council of State Governments.

    James Brulte the California Republican Party chairman, who served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.

    Ray Haynes who served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002

    Dean Murray was a member of the New York State Assembly. He was a Tea Party organizer before being elected to the Assembly as a Republican, Conservative Party member in February 2010. He was described by Fox News as the first Tea Party candidate elected to office in the United States.

    Thomas L. Pearce who served as a Michigan State Representative from 2005–2010 and was appointed Dean of the Republican Caucus. He has led several faith-based initiatives in Lansing.

  16. kohler says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The sole purpose of this would be to allow the Republicans take the White House even though they lost the national popular vote.

    This could work for the GOP if it were adopted in just one or a few states that vote Democratic in presidential elections. That’s the point.

    Adopting a congressional district or proportional allocation method nationwide would need a constitutional amendment.

    A constitutional amendment could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    “An analysis of the whole number proportional plan and congressional district systems of awarding electoral votes, evaluated the systems “on the basis of whether they promote majority rule, make elections more nationally competitive, reduce incentives for partisan machinations, and make all votes count equally. . . .

    Awarding electoral votes by a proportional or congressional district [used by Maine and Nebraska] method fails to promote majority rule, greater competitiveness or voter equality. Pursued at a state level, both reforms dramatically increase incentives for partisan machinations. If done nationally, a congressional district system has a sharp partisan tilt toward the Republican Party, while the whole number proportional system sharply increases the odds of no candidate getting the majority of electoral votes needed, leading to the selection of the president by the U.S. House of Representatives.

    For states seeking to exercise their responsibility under the U.S. Constitution to choose a method of allocating electoral votes that best serves their state’s interest and that of the national interest, both alternatives fall far short of the National Popular Vote plan . . .”
    -FairVote

    Instead, by state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In virtually every of the 39 states surveyed, overall support has been in the 70-80% range or higher. – in recent or past closely divided battleground states, in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.
    Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  17. kohler says:

    @stonetools:

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls

    By state (Electoral College votes), by political affiliation, support for a national popular vote in recent polls has been:

    Alaska (3) — 66% among (Republicans), 70% among Nonpartisan voters, 82% among Alaska Independent Party voters
    Arkansas (6) — 71% (R), 79% (Independents).
    California (55) – 61% (R), 74% (I)
    Colorado (9) — 56% (R), 70% (I).
    Connecticut (7) — 67% (R)
    Delaware (3) — 69% (R), 76% (I)
    DC (3) — 48% (R), 74% of (I)
    Florida (29) — 68% (R)
    Idaho(4) – 75% (R)
    Iowa (6) — 63% (R)
    Kentucky (8) — 71% (R), 70% (I)
    Maine (4) – 70% (R)
    Massachusetts (11) — 54% (R)
    Michigan (16) — 68% (R), 73% (I)
    Minnesota (10) — 69% (R)
    Montana (3)- 67% (R)
    Mississippi (6) — 75% (R)
    Nebraska (5) — 70% (R)
    Nevada (5) — 66% (R)
    New Hampshire (4) — 57% (R), 69% (I)
    New Mexico (5) — 64% (R), 68% (I)
    New York (29) – 66% (R), 78% Independence, 50% Conservative
    North Carolina (15) — 89% liberal (R), 62% moderate (R) , 70% conservative (R), 80% (I)
    Ohio (18) — 65% (R)
    Oklahoma (7) — 75% (R)
    Oregon (7) — 70% (R), 72% (I)
    Pennsylvania (20) — 68% (R), 76% (I)
    Rhode Island (4) — 71% liberal (R), 63% moderate (R), 35% conservative (R), 78% (I),
    South Carolina (8) — 64% (R)
    South Dakota (3) — 67% (R)
    Tennessee (11) — 73% (R)
    Utah (6) — 66% (R)
    Vermont (3) — 61% (R)
    Virginia (13) — 76% liberal (R), 63% moderate (R), 54% conservative (R)
    Washington (12) — 65% (R)
    West Virginia (5) — 75% (R)
    Wisconsin (10) — 63% (R), 67% (I)
    Wyoming (3) –66% (R), 72% (I)
    NationalPopularVote.com

  18. Grewgills says:

    Of all these methods, though, it is the District Method that seems to be the one that conservatives have taken to advocating in recent years.

    Take a look at the House and it is obvious why.

  19. steve says:

    Either all states do this or none. The fact that this is being promoted solely in large states that have sent their electoral votes to the Dems tells you the real motivation of this plan.

    Steve

  20. stonetools says:

    @kohler:

    Support for universal background checks for gun purchases is similarly strong among all groups, so we should be in our second year of life under the Universal Background Check Law. Oddly enough, we’re not.
    Look, you are fighting the Good Fight. But there’s what we’d like to see happen in an ideal world, where political advantage doesn’t matter, and then there’s the real world.

  21. JWH says:

    I’ve seen a couple versions of the District Method floating around — and those two versions could make a significant difference in the electoral college. Doug writes of one method:

    Under this method, Electoral College votes are allocated not on a winner take all basis as happens in all but two states now, but based awarded based on which candidate wins each Congressional District in a given state, with the remaining two votes representing a state’s Senators awarded to the candidate winning the statewide popular vote.

    Meanwhile, Geraghty writes:

    Under the district system, if the Republican presidential nominee wins all of the U.S. House districts in Ohio currently held by the GOP, he would get twelve electoral votes and the Democrat would get only six.

    Does Geraghty want the two “Senate” votes allocated by the winner of the popular vote, or by the winner of a majority of congressional districts? It’s not entirely clear to me.

  22. Tony W says:

    in 2008 when Barack Obama won Nebraka’s 2nd Congressional District while Mitt Romney won the state as a whole.

    Hmmm….wrong year or wrong candidates?

  23. Barry says:

    Doug: “I’ve been quite skeptical of the idea, especially given the fact that Congressional Districts are typically drawn for partisan advantage to begin with. What this means, of course, is that the same state legislature that decides how the districts are drawn would then decide to allocate Electoral Votes based on those Congressional Districts.”

    I’ll also bet that the overwhelming majority of GOP legislatures which are considering this are in states which go Democratic in presidential elections.

    The motherf*cking GOP cheats like motherf*ckers.

  24. It is amazing the strange mental hoops people will jump through to avoid the obvious: it makes more sense to elect the president in a direct popular vote (and by “people” I don’t mean anybody in particular in this thread, but mean the way we often discuss this issue in the US).

    The only reason anyone defends the EC, ultimately, is because a) they hold the constitution is such high esteem that they think the EC must be a good idea (even though it works nothing like was intended or assumed by the Framers), and/or b) they are Republicans who realize that the EC slightly favors their party. (Most arguments that attempt to defend the EC are based on rationalizations that assume that the Framers knew what they were doing and consciously created the system at hand).

    Certainly, as @Grewgills noted above: support for the district method specifically is a GOP no-brainer if one is more concerned with winning that with actual representative democracy.

  25. Trumwill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The urban/rural is the defense I hear the most. That if we had a NPV it would lead to candidates spending all of their time in large cities, or moreso than they do now.

    How “They’ll spend all of their time in California and Texas” differs from “They’ll spend all of their time in Ohio and Florida”, I’m not sure. Well, I could construct an argument, and while it wouldn’t be completely without merit, I would not be close to being convinced by it. I might, though, if we didn’t have a Senate.

    Another argument I hear is “Imagine Florida 2000, except nation-wide.”

  26. @Trumwill: I hear those arguments, but the rural/urban divide argument is counter to the essence of representative democracy: that each voter is co-equal. (Indeed, it is interesting that many who make this argument also are the same folks who like to talk about liberty and the importance of the individual, yet would privilege mere real estate over human beings in choosing the president).

    And yep: the current campaign patterns do not indicate a lot of attention to small states/rural centers. Rather, the focus is on competitive regions and/or where the votes are (which is what we should actually want: office-holders who have to appeal to voters en masse to win).

    In re: Florida 2000: a simple answer, although a more complex one could be given, is that unique case make for bad laws. (And, quite frankly, Florida should not have been such a mess–and wouldn’t have been with better rules and procedures in place).

    If Mexico and Brazil can pull off national elections for president, I expect we can as well.

  27. Trumwill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It might be counter to the notion of representative democracy, but while the EC didn’t turn out like the framers thought it would, the disproportionate electorate aspect of it turned out less disproportionate than originally thought. It included the provision about votes going to the house on a one-by-one basis, and that was expected to happen more regularly than it has. It went out of its way to skew the electorate, though, in favor of less populated states.

    To use and slightly alter your favorite phrase, “We’re not solely a democracy, but also a federal republic.”

    (That said, I don’t buy it as something we particularly need to hold on to in this case. Regardless of what was intended, and regardless of my other views on states vs people, it nonetheless seems to me that the presidency ought to represent the people and not the states. The states have the Senate.)

  28. kohler says:

    @Trumwill:

    With National Popular Vote, every voter would be equal and matter to the candidates. Candidates would reallocate their time, the money they raise, their polling, organizing efforts, and their ad buys to no longer ignore 80% of the states ( including TX, NY, CA, and IL) and voters.

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.

    16% of Americans live in rural areas. None of the 10 most rural states matter now.

    The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

    Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

    If big cities always controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

    A nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

    Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don’t poll, organize, buy ads, and visit just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don’t control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn’t have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

    In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

    Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

    There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

    With a national popular vote, every voter everywhere will be equally important politically. When every voter is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

    Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as waitress mom voters in Ohio.

    With National Popular Vote, every voter, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Wining states or (gerrymandered) districts would not be the goal. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states.

    The main media at the moment, TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. Candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

  29. kohler says:

    @Trumwill:

    Among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

    In 2004, among the 11 most populous states, in the seven non-battleground states, % of winning party, and margin of “wasted” popular votes, from among the total 122 Million votes cast nationally:
    * Texas (62% Republican), 1,691,267
    * New York (59% Democratic), 1,192,436
    * Georgia (58% Republican), 544,634
    * North Carolina (56% Republican), 426,778
    * California (55% Democratic), 1,023,560
    * Illinois (55% Democratic), 513,342
    * New Jersey (53% Democratic), 211,826

    To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

  30. kohler says:

    @Trumwill:
    The current presidential election system makes a repeat of 2000 more likely. All you need is a thin and contested margin in a single state with enough electoral votes to make a difference. It’s much less likely that the national vote will be close enough that voting irregularities in a single area will swing enough net votes to make a difference. If we’d had National Popular Vote in 2000, a recount in Florida would not have been an issue.

    The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

    No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

    The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.
    “It’s an arsonist itching to burn down the whole neighborhood by torching a single house.” Hertzberg

    The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes); no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

    Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state by-state winner-take-all methods.

    The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

    The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

    We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

    Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years with the National Popular Vote. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

    The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

    The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. With both the current system and the National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their “final determination” six days before the Electoral College meets.