In both 2000 and 2016, the Presidential candidate with more votes lost the election. Both of those candidates were Democrats, so naturally we’ve heard the loudest calls to end the electoral college from them. The frustration is understandable of course. But does it need to end? Or could we reform the electoral college to make our Presidential election better?
I believe the electoral college needs to be reformed. As you can see from the map above, that was the final vote count from the 2016 electoral college election. Yes, Spotted Eagle garnered an electoral vote. I think first and foremost you need an amendment to the Constitution that binds electors to the results. That should be a no-brainer.
But how do we make those results more representative of the actual vote? Many (notably Hillary Clinton) call for a popular vote and that’s it. But these people fail to recognize we don’t live in a pure Democracy. We live in a Republic. Yes, there’s a difference.
Remember that our country is made of up 50 sovereign states. The President is not just the leader of the citizens of our country but the leader of the states as well. So it makes sense that both the people should be represented in the vote AND the states represented in the vote. You may be familiar with another aspect of our government that operates this way. It’s called Congress. We have a House representing the people and a Senate representing the states. Our electoral college should do likewise.
That is why I propose a system of awarding electoral votes that gives each state equal representation but also gives the people their representation. How can it be done?
1. Each state gets 2 electoral votes. No more, no less. These are the votes for the states. Whichever candidate gets the most votes in each state wins the 2 electoral votes of that state. That’s it. Very simple.
2. The remaining 438 electoral votes are awarded proportionally to each candidate based on their share of the popular vote. If you win 50% of the popular vote, you win 50% of these 438 electoral votes.
3. A candidate must receive 270 electoral votes to win the Presidency. If no candidate receives 270 electoral votes, the House convenes according to the 12th amendment and chooses between the top 3 candidates.
That’s the whole system. There’s nothing much to it. How would 2016 have played out?
Trump won 30 states and Clinton won 20. So there’s a 60-40 split in electoral votes there. Here is the breakdown of the popular vote:
Clinton: 48.18% – 211 electoral votes
Trump: 46.09% – 201 electoral votes
Johnson: 3.28% – 14 electoral votes
Stein: 1.07% – 4 electoral votes
McMullin: 0.54% – 2 electoral votes
This puts the total of Trump 261, Clinton 251 and Johnson 14. No one has the 270 needed to win. House of Representatives chooses the next President between those three. And this makes sense given that neither major candidate received above 50% of the vote.
How about 2012? Obama wins with 275 electoral votes. And in 2008? Obama wins with 287 electoral votes. And in 2004? Bush wins with 284 votes. And in 2000? Bush has 269, Gore has 251 and Nader has 12. House decides it again. Which makes sense again because neither candidate received above 50% of the vote.
Why is this system advantageous? It makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, this will greatly improve voter turnout. In the non-swing states you don’t see high voter turnout because many voters feel like their state is already decided. This changes that since every vote counts twice- once for winning your state’s electoral votes and once for the candidates share of the popular vote.
Second, candidates will actually campaign everywhere. This ensures that a candidate can get an additional electoral vote for every 0.23% of the popular vote they receive. Now you aren’t just looking for votes to win a state. You are looking for all the votes you can get. Texas might not be a battleground for its 2 electoral votes in this scenario. Neither is California. But there are A LOT of voters in both of those states. Suddenly candidates will be campaigning everywhere.
Third, this maintains a balance between states and the people, just like Congress. Now some people will complain that California’s 2 electoral votes and Wyoming’s 2 electoral votes shouldn’t be worth the same. I say they should be. Both of them are states. Each of them gets 2 Senators, so each of them gets 2 electoral votes. In my system, the states control 18% of the electoral votes and the popular vote determines the other 82%. I’d say it’s pretty stacked to reward the popular vote.
Lastly, unless there is a huge disparity between the popular vote and the state votes, you generally get the President the people want. But in the cases of those big disparities (like 2016) we have the 12th amendment. So states can’t bully the people and the people can’t bully the states. It’s like a built in checks and balances system.
This is how we save the electoral college. We don’t want to elect Presidents by popular vote. This isn’t a pure Democracy. It’s a Republic. And this Electoral College 2.0 reflects that.