October 29, 1999
To the Wall Street Journal editors,
You contend that the fact that the U.S. Presidency is elected through the Electoral College rather than direct election "requires any third party candidate to approach a majority of the popular vote" (editorial, October 27, 1999).
Hogwash! More than a third of presidential elections have been won with a mere plurality of the popular vote, including four winners with less than 44% of the vote. Abraham Lincoln won a convincing Electoral College victory as a third party candidate with less than 40% of the vote. Bill Clinton won more than two-thirds of the electoral college vote in 1992 with only 43% of the vote.
The fact remains that the Presidency is the only office of any significance in the nation where a candidate can win with fewer votes than an opponent. With a steady rise in minor party and independent candidacies at a state and federal level, it's time once again to consider replacing the Electoral College with direct election. To assure a real majority winner, a much better solution than a simple plurality vote or keeping the Electoral College would be to adopt instant runoff voting, a majority vote system used to elect the Australian parliament, president of Ireland and, next year, mayor of London.
Rob Richie is executive director of The Center for Voting and Democracy