M.V.Hansen and R.Allen once said “All problems are opportunities in disguise. Every problem is a prospective opportunity.” When the 2012 election finished, once again, Americans asked questions about the future and the eligibility of the Electoral College System, and the popular question was asked – whether to replace the Electoral College with a straight popular vote. The founding fathers set up the Electoral College because they wanted to strike a balance between the interests of big and small states. They wanted to avoid the big powerful states controlling the elections, but at the same time, wanted to avoid the smaller states having all the leverage to decide. However two hundred and twenty three years after the first election, Presidential elections are dominated by the “Swing States.” Safe havens like California and New York are rarely visited by democrats (except for fund raisers which rarely include public visits), and the South with the exception of Florida are safe havens for Republicans, while “Swing States” like Iowa, Ohio, and Florida get the majority of the politician’s time and resources.
In the 2012 election, eleven of the fifty states were “Swing States” – Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. So, is it possible to change the Electoral College to ensure the smaller states are heard but not at the expense of the larger states and vice versa? I would like to offer a solution which, while far from perfect, might ensure a better election cycle with more attention being paid to more states than simply just the “Swing States.” The plan keeps all states with under 10 Electoral College Votes as winner take all, and the remaining states would be proportional delegates where no candidate received over 60% of the vote, however if a candidate received 60% or over of the vote, they would receive the full allocation of delegates.
The first group of states with over ten electoral votes (California (55), Texas (38), Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Georgia (16), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), New Jersey (14), Virginia (13), Washington (12), Arizona (11), Massachusetts (11), Tennessee (11), Indiana (11), Minnesota (10), Missouri (10), Wisconsin (10) & Maryland (10). In the 2012 election, winners of the state’s New York (62.62), Maryland (61.29), and Massachusetts (60.76) would have surpassed the 60% of the vote needed to win all the delegates. There were also states like California (59.16), Tennessee (59.48), New Jersey (57.95), Illinois (57.52), Texas (57.2), and Washington (55.81) which were won within at least 55% of the vote making them within reach of the 60% needed. However the other states like Michigan (54.30), Wisconsin (52.8), Virginia (52.73), Minnesota (52.65), Pennsylvania (52.01), Ohio (50.29), Florida (50.01), Indiana (54.33), Arizona (54.12), Missouri (53.88), Georgia (53.35), and North Carolina (50.46) which would be proportional. This new method would ensure these states would always be in play with both campaigns because not only would a candidate be trying to win those states, but they would be trying to receive more than the 60% of the vote and the other might be trying to avoid them receiving the 60%.
The second group of states fewer than ten electoral votes would be winner take all states. Colorado (9), Alabama (9), South Carolina (9), Louisiana (8), Kentucky (8), Oregan (7), Oklahoma (7), Connecticut (7), Nevada (6), Utah (6), Kansas (6), Iowa (6), Arkansas (6), Mississippi (6), New Mexico (5), Nebraska (5), West Virginia (5), Idaho (4), New Hampshire (4), Maine (4), Rhode Island (4), Hawaii (4), Montana (3), Wyoming (3), South Dakota (3), North Dakota (3), Vermont (3), Delaware (3), DC (3) & Alaska (3). By letting these states stay winner take all states, it ensures they still have a place at the table.
While 379 of the proposed electoral votes go to the proportional states, we also have to look to history and note that from 1992 election till 2012 election a candidate has only received more than 60% of the vote twelve times. The fact so few states have been won by more than 60% (even though the potential is high for more clear wins if instituted because placed like Illinois which is a Democratic stronghold are never canvassed by either as its considered a waste of time and resources) means the smaller states are equally important and would also have to be canvassed. We also have to note that the chances of a mass win within the proportional states and making the smaller states irrelevant would be highly unlikely and states like Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, and New Hampshire would still be critical to either side winning and it also might bring other states into play.
However, it should be noted that while I believe a system like this would be a vast improvement on the current model, it is far from perfect. The first problem is states like North and South Dakota, DC, and Delaware would still receive little to no attention because they are considered extremely safe to the party they vote for, and unless you increase the number of Electoral votes (which would reduce the power of other states) they cast will likely remain unless there is a massive shift in population and/or political thinking.
While the first problem is far from ideal, this solution does require an answer to another key scenario. The above solution is calling out for a third party to run and would then give rise to what happens if no candidate has the majority? Do Americans feel the winner of the Electoral College has to receive a majority of votes to be President? Would you do a transfer system of the delegates from who came third and below in the election? Or could the person who receives the most Electoral College votes be President – and hope that like the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln who received only 39.65% of the popular vote but won the Electoral College and turned out to be one of the finest Presidents in the history of America be a way forward?
(Authors note: This proposal is far from perfect, and would require serious discussion over the 12th amendment but the aim is getting people thinking about the current system and ways of improving it.)