States vs. Constitution
What are some of the alternative reform
Direct Election (with and without Instant
Runoff Voting) Congressional District
Proportional Allocation (with or without a percentage limit, say 5%,
National Bonus Plan (gives 102 extra electoral votes to
the national popular vote winner)
more about each plan here
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What reform option does your organization
FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy supports abolishing
the Electoral College and replacing it with instant runoff (IRV)
direct elections. With
IRV, voters would rank their ballot choices, awarding their favorite
a ‘1’, their second favorite a ‘2’, and so on.
Also, IRV permits a one-time vote that ensures a winning
candidate to get a majority (at least 51%), instead of just a
plurality, of votes. It does so without requiring voters make more than one trip
to the polls and costing taxpayers and campaigns more money and time
to hold a second election.
Why doesn’t FairVote support the Congressional District allocation of a
state’s electoral votes or proportional allocation, especially
since they are both easier to accomplish at a state level and
wouldn’t need a Constitutional amendment?
Although many people think that both of these
systems are better than what we have now, FairVote continues to support a complete reform of the Electoral
College by way of a Constitutional amendment for the following
Congressional District Allocation:
There are a few reasons to bypass this proposal as a reform
solution. One reason is
that out of the 50 states, usually about 10 are considered
battleground states during every presidential election.
Therefore, candidates end up spending all of their time at
the end of the campaign in these battle states.
However, if electoral votes were dependent on Congressional
districts, there would be even less attention to the majority of the
country. This is
because there are roughly 40 competitive districts in the country
that would then get all of the candidates’ attention, leaving out
even more of the country than our system already does.
Second, this district-dependent system would promote even
further gerrymandering than already exists to win districts for a
certain candidate’s party. (Gerrymandering
is the political term that refers to redistricting voting areas in a
way that gives one party an unfair advantage over another).
Third, this system may even turn out a more unreliable
result, being that in 2000, if the nation distributed its electoral
votes in this manner, George W. Bush would have beaten Al Gore by 44
electoral votes while still losing the popular vote, a result that
is a bit too distorted for
Proportional Allocation: Although this method is
a greater step towards a fair system than the current structure, it
is still faulty and impractical.
For example, say two candidates were running in a state with
50 popular votes cast and five electoral votes.
If Candidate A wins 33 popular votes and Candidate B wins 17
votes, a proper proportional allocation of the five electoral votes
could not be calculated by rounding the values up or down, since
doing so would cause one of the candidates to lose votes that they
earned. Instead, a more
correct solution would render 3.3 electors for Candidate A and 1.7
for Candidate B, which would turn vote totals into fractions and
decimals, and force an explanation of how one splits an electoral
Is it better to let states change their
electoral allocation individually than to pursue a Constitutional
amendment that would be hard to pass?
this were the case, each state could make its own, and not
necessarily timely, decision about the issue and some awful things
could happen. Say, for example, that despite no amendment to the
Constitution, California decided to switch to proportional
allocation (like Colorado is planning to do in 2004), but Texas
decided to keep its traditional method of winner-take-all
the outcome of elections in California would distribute its
electoral votes more properly, Texas would still be awarding is
massive number of votes in a winner-take-all style.
The only way for this plan to work, that is, for states to
change their allocation on their own without an amendment, is for
them all to do so in a uniform manner at the same time, which is
even less likely than a federal amendment.
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What if we got rid of the two-party
system? Would that make
the election process more balanced and fair?
Yes, it most likely would. However, the problem of the Electoral College favoring some
votes over others would remain and continue to create an imbalance
in the electoral process. Rather,
by abolishing the Electoral College, the process would eliminate the
Electoral College problem and eventually the two-party system would
reform itself. Because
voters will be given a natural confidence when voting for a third
party candidate (as many do anyway, despite the lack of confidence),
third party candidates will slowly but surely begin to emerge with a
growing recognition and chance of victory.
This is a very important and positive effect of reform,
considering that over the past half century, more and more voters
decide to choose a third candidate, voting outside of the
traditional two-party system. The
two major political parties no longer have to ability that they used
to to connect the voter to his everyday political concerns and
beliefs. As a result,
over the past four decades, the American public has been drifting
from the two major parties, leading to the most important phenomenon
of the past 40 years in American politics: the rise of the
independent voter. We
should definitely recognize this as supporting the fact that several
Americans no longer identify with Republicans or Democrats.
In order to keep our democracy alive and thriving, we need to
follow the trend of the public, letting all voices be heard by
abolishing the Electoral College.
If reform is such a good idea, why
hasn’t Congress passed legislation to abolish the Electoral
Reform would introduce new parties, undermining
the long-standing and confining two-party system and would most
likely require the well-adjusted parties to amend their presidential
campaign strategies, among other things.
Not to mention the lack of self-interest necessary to
institute a system to promote equal representation via one-man,
one-vote. There is no
reason to believe that either party would be willing to exchange a
nearly exact campaign science when that exchange would mean a
necessary modification of that science.
Also, reform would mean a possibility that either party would
lose control of the presidency to a third party for four or more
years. Perhaps this is
what J.F.K. was referring to when he called reform an issue in which
“there is obviously little to gain but much to lose by tampering
with the Constitution at this time.”
With Congressmen working so hard to avoid
Electoral College reform, is it really such a good idea?
Remember, Congress has considered more bills concerning the
Electoral College (over 700) than on any other subject.
All of these bills are introduced by Congressmen.
Plus, there continues to be very high support for Electoral
College reform from both the public and prominent representatives.
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If there has been high popular support
for the movement, how has it been successfully ignored?
By our Congressmen, and effectively by our
neglect to hold them responsible for their actions.
We have to take our duty to hold our elected officials
accountable to us more seriously.
If we disapprove of our representatives actions and votes, it
is up to us to write letters, call and, if necessary, vote out of
office those that neglect our concerns.
Congressmen, and all representatives, should feel and know
that by ignoring public concern, they risk their jobs.
Additionally, committees in Congress often turn into graveyards for
reform bills. Oddly
enough, committee assignments are a matter of seniority, placing the
most politically powerful Congressional leaders in committee roles.
Therefore, these politicians have an even more well-developed
reason to (and chance for success in) actively blocking Electoral
How can the grassroots reform movement
gather enough momentum to be effective?
By bypassing the desire to push a certain type
of reform, the movement can transform from a fractioned one to
become more united. If
reformers focus instead on their collective desire to better our
arcane voting procedure, we can get a bill passed to abolish the
Electoral College first and focus of considering all the different
replacement options afterwards.
We have to concentrate on putting the pressure on our
representatives and holding them accountable for their actions if
they fail to respond to public dissent of the Electoral College.
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