I can’t say I blame him for having that etched into his memory banks. And no doubt if Gov. Romney had continued to amass more popular votes than Obama, yet still lost the election, he too would have forever retained the knowledge that more American voters wanted him in the White House than the guy who actually made it there.
Every four years, we all get a refresher history class on the Electoral College. While those who chose to skip school the day the lesson was taught and still prefer to watch the Andy Griffith marathon on TV Land, every election night continue to think the Electoral College is an actual building covered with ivy somewhere in New England, most of the country knows the truth. The EC was basically a compromise the Founding Fathers came up with to placate those who wanted the president to be chosen by Congress versus those who preferred a direct popular vote of qualified citizens.
(Please note the use of the word “compromise” in the above explanation. It means, “a settlement of a dispute in which two or more sides agree to accept less than they originally wanted.” It’s kind of an archaic term not much in use today, but it served the country well in the 18th century.)
Today, as then, states are allocated Electoral College votes based on their population. While states automatically get two EC votes (one for each U.S. Senate seat), they also get one per congressional seat. Thus, the most populous state, California, gets 55 Electoral votes while Alaska gets only 3.
As much as the concept of compromise is needed today in various and sundry matters, I’m wondering if it’s time to amend that earlier historical conciliation and divvy up the EC prize in a more equitable way.
Alas, totally abolishing the Electoral College would require an amendment to the Constitution. Because both houses of Congress, the president, and 37 states would have to approve, it’s a good bet it would take several years, if not decades, to achieve that goal.
But, there is a shortcut to change. Both Maine and Nebraska have already taken it. They divide their states by districts with the winner in each district getting one EC vote. The winner of the overall statewide vote gets the extra two votes (via the Senate representation factor).
That’s worked for those states for several elections now. But it really doesn’t quite totally address the main issue. How do we make every single vote count?
To digress just a bit, it should be noted that many people don’t vote because they don’t think it makes a difference. And they’re probably right. If you happen to be a rock-ribbed conservative Republican in Massachusetts (yes, I know I’m dealing in fantasy here) or an extreme liberal Democrat in Mississippi (ditto), you might as well stay home.
So, how about this as a way to make every vote mean something: Apportion Electoral College votes based on popular votes. If your state has 10 Electoral Votes and a candidate gets 60 percent of the vote, he or she gets six EC votes. The candidate with 40 percent candidate gets four. (We’ll work out the fractional details later.)
That way, every vote really does count. And it pretty much ensures that whoever wins the national popular vote wins the presidential prize. Plus, it no longer tilts the balance of power to the most populous states. Candidates would have to appeal every bit as much to the voter in Minot, N.D., as the one in Miami, Florida. There’s just something amiss when you consider that the winner of California automatically receives more than 20 percent of the national Electoral College votes required to be elected. That’s kind of like spotting a college football team three touchdowns and then taking 12 minutes off the clock.
What I’ve just suggested is nothing new. But in this age of equality for all, the idea of one person / one vote does seem to make sense, doesn’t it?
Ah, compromise. What a novel concept. I wonder if Al Gore would agree.
Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta.