Monday, January 14, 2008

Proposed Change to the Electoral College

According to an article on today, New Jersey has become the second state to enter into an agreement that would dramatically change the allocation of Electoral College votes. If a sufficient number of states sign this proposed compact, the allocation of these Electoral votes in U.S. Presidential elections would be cast based on the overall national vote, not each individual state's popular vote.

By casting Electoral votes based on the national popular vote rather than the individual state’s popular vote, it is hoped that smaller states, those with less Electoral votes, would have a more equal voice in the election. Within each state, the goal of such a compact is to guarantee that each individual’s vote is important.

If such a compact does become effective, the issue that arose in the 2000 Presidential election would not be an issue. Although the popular vote had been won by Democrat Al Gore, Republican George W. Bush won the election due to obtaining a greater number of Electoral votes. Under the proposed system, states would cast their Electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote, even if that state’s returns favor the opposing candidate.

As states recognize the importance of the Electoral votes, at least one state, California, is seemingly attempting to re-allocate their vote in order to potentially allow more than one candidate to receive their apportioned fifty-five Electoral votes; as the system stands now, all of a state’s Electoral votes are allocated to a single candidate. With the proposed change, alleged partisan-based movements such as the one in California would not be an issue, as each state would have to abide by the overall national popular vote.

So far only two states, New Jersey and Maryland, have approved the compact. Other states such as Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina have had the compact pass in at least one house; California and Hawaii have already vetoed bills to join the compact. In order for the compact to become effective, the compact must be passed by enough states which would constitute a majority of the Electoral votes. With those that have passed the compact, the current count stands at 25 (10 for Maryland and 15 for New Jersey); for those who have had the compact pass at least one house, the count could add potentially another 51 votes (6 for Arkansas, 9 for Colorado, 21 for Illinois, and 15 for North Carolina). Even counting all these potential votes, the 76 votes falls short of the 270 Electoral votes required to constitute a majority.

While Democrats and Republicans argue about the merits of this compact, each party apparently feeling differently about their chances to garner a larger amount of Electoral votes v. popular votes, it seems that this idea is one that would ensure that America’s voice is heard and increase voter participation. After the previous two elections, the first where the apparent popular choice, Al Gore, lost out due to the Electoral vote and the second where a single state, Ohio, apparently swayed the entire election, it would seem that people may no longer feel that their vote counts; this would seem to be especially true in smaller states which hold fewer Electoral votes. Should Electoral votes be cast solely based on the national popular vote, a single state, no matter how many Electoral votes it holds, would not have such a disparate impact on the overall election. Additionally, knowing that America’s overall popular choice is the one leading the country would seem to add to people’s confidence in and support of our leader.

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