Politics Magazine

More on the Electoral College

Posted on the 05 June 2011 by Erictheblue

I sent a version of my recent post on the Electoral College to the Star Tribune, which published it as a letter to the editor earlier this week.  My letter (you'll have to scroll past the first one) includes a link to the op-ed, by Andy Brehm, that I was attempting to rebut, and many of the online comments amplify points I made.  I mentioned, for example, that the states (and citizens) of New York, Texas, and California, which together have more than a quarter of the country's population, are ignored by presidential candidates during the general election campaign.  The commenter known as "mvymvy" elaborates:

The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, do not reach out to all of the states and their voters.  Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.  The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all method (not mentioned in the US Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.  Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters.  In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree already, that, at most, only 14 states and their voters will matter.  Almost 75% of the country will be ignored--including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX.  This will be more obscene than the 2008 campaign, when candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI).  Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA).  In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in just 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.  2/3rds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. . . . 

That was at 9:27 a.m. on May 16, the day Brehm's piece was published in the print edition.  Sixteen minutes later "mvymvy" weighed in again, this time to demolish Brehm's contention that, in a national popular vote presidential election, a candidate could prevail simply by running up big margins in the country's major cities.  The demographic and electoral arithmetic just does not add up.  Moreover, by the logic of Brehm's argument, states should adopt some sort of Rube Goldberg machine, along the line of the Electoral College, to give some clout to voters in small towns and rural areas in statewide elections, such as for Governor or US Senate.  But no one is calling for such a "solution" because the problem does not exist. 

Brehm's argument is so weak that one searches for hidden motives.  Another commenter, willysand, wonders how all this ink can be spilled over the Electoral College without a single mention of the election of 2000, when George W Bush, having lost the national popular vote by more than a half million ballots, nevertheless became president after the Supreme Court awarded him Florida's electoral votes.  When the Electoral College is up for discussion, that "election" is the elephant in the room, and Brehm, a Republican party activist, may feel obliged to defend the indefensible.  A vote for Bush counted more than a vote for Gore, and if you don't like it, you are an "orthodox majoritarian."  Horrors! 

One more time, louder: support National Popular Vote


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