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Frequently Asked Questions

Reform

Reform Options
FairVote's choice
States vs. Constitution
Two-party system
Congress
Popular support

What are some of the alternative reform ideas?

Direct Election (with and without Instant Runoff Voting)      Congressional District Allocation                                           Proportional Allocation (with or without a percentage limit, say 5%, to be considered)                                                                           National Bonus Plan (gives 102 extra electoral votes to the national popular vote winner)

*Read more about each plan here

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What reform option does your organization support?

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 reasons:                    

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 comfort..                                        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 vote. 

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Is it better to let states change their electoral allocation individually than to pursue a Constitutional amendment that would be hard to pass?

No.  If 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 allocation.  Although 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.  

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If reform is such a good idea, why hasn’t Congress passed legislation to abolish the Electoral College?

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?

Absolutely.  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 College reform.

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.

FAQ Table of Contents

Electoral College Table of Contents


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