Why Eliminate Electoral College?

Because it would grow campaign map, forcing candidates to campaign in more states.

By - Nov 20th, 2016 11:59 am

It didn’t take long for Donald Trump to change his position on the Electoral College.

Just days after the election this year, Trump had implied he preferred abolishing the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote system selecting the president. In prior years, Trump expressed the same distaste for the current system.

After winning last week, Trump told 60 Minutes’s Lesley Stahl, “I’m not going to change my mind just because I won. I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win.”

But earlier this week, Trump did change his mind…

…and suggested he’d have an easier time campaigning under an alternative, popular vote model:

The argument Trump is making here is a common one made by defenders of the Electoral College, that a system based on a popular vote would limit where candidates would campaign. This line of thinking suggests that candidates wouldn’t travel to other areas of the country that they otherwise do under the Electoral College, opting instead to stay in California, New York, Florida, and Texas, the most populated states.

In other words, the “small” states would lose out, and only a handful of cities would gain the attention of the candidates.

But as I pointed out last week, a popular vote system wouldn’t result in less travel for candidates to engage voters across the country — it could actually require them to travel MORE places to court voters.

To do the absolute bare minimum of campaigning in order to reach a majority of Americans in the most populated metro areas across the country, a candidate would have to travel to these 24 areas:

New York, New York
Los Angeles, California
Chicago, Illinois
Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland
San Francisco, California and San Jose, California
Boston, Massachusetts
Dallas, Texas
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Houston, Texas
Miami, Florida
Atlanta, Georgia
Detroit, Michigan
Seattle, Washington
Phoenix, Arizona
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Cleveland, Ohio
Denver, Colorado
San Diego, California
Orlando, Florida
Portland, Oregon
Tampa, Florida
St. Louis, Missouri
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Charlotte, North Carolina

Those areas are within 18 different states, plus the District of Columbia — so 19 different geopolitical areas within the United States. That sounds like a small amount of travel, but consider these two items:

1. This list is the BARE MINIMUM needed to reach over 50 percent of the nation’s citizenry. Assuming two or more candidates were competing, you could count on them overlapping in their campaign travels. The list above assumes a single candidate wins every one of those cities with 100 percent of the vote. That’s not going to happen, and will likely result in even more travel for the candidates than just the metropolitan areas on this list.

2. The 2016 states map that candidates traveled was smaller than the list above. After the two major candidates were selected at their respective party conventions, the campaigns traveled to just 12 different states 94 percent of the time. They traveled to four states 53 percent of the time. And most of their travels ignored so-called “small states” altogether.

The old adage suggesting that a change to a popular vote for president would result in candidates “camping out” in big cities is certainly false. If anything, the two points I make above suggests a change would expand the campaign map, requiring candidates to travel to more places than they would under the system offered by the Electoral College.

It’s time once and for all that we begin the process of removing the current system, and providing the American people with a system that instead respects their popular vote wishes. If we’re to call our nation a leader in democracy, the least we can do is respect the democratic preferences of the governed.

Chris Walker writes a blog at http://political-heat.blogspot.com

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

12 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Why Eliminate Electoral College?”

  1. Bill Sell says:

    Yes, Dave, the actual campaign map, picked by this year’s candidates is relatively small WITH the Electoral College rules in place. Thanks for coming up with the numbers.

  2. otto says:

    Voters in the biggest cities are almost exactly balanced out by rural areas in terms of population and partisan composition.

    16% of the U.S. population lives outside the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Rural America has voted 60% Republican. None of the 10 most rural states matter now.

    The population of the top 5 cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States
    The population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.
    16% of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities. They voted 63% Democratic in 2004.

    Suburbs divide almost exactly equally between Republicans and Democrats.

    Big cities do not always control the outcome of elections. The governors and U.S. Senators are not all Democratic in every state with a significant city.

    In a nationwide election for President, with every voter equal, candidates would campaign everywhere—big cities, medium-sized cities, and rural areas—in proportion to the number of votes, just as they now do in only a handful of battleground states.

    A successful nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

  3. otto says:

    A survey of Wisconsin voters showed 71% overall support in Wisconsin for a national popular vote for President.

    There have been hundreds of unsuccessful proposed amendments to modify or abolish the Electoral College – more than any other subject of Constitutional reform.
    To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

    Instead, pragmatically, The National Popular Vote bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency in 2020 to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The bill was approved this year by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    The bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country


  4. AG says:

    Wow, that “nationalpopularvote.com” website data is horribly wrong, even after they cherry picked what data to use. How can we trust sources that puts together such incorrect information and listen to people who cite those sources as the basis for their entire position?

    (for example, they show Clinton visiting WI 5 times since the primary?? Try zero)

  5. blurondo says:

    The number of times that a candidate visits a place is meaningless. The only thing that matters is that each vote should carry the same value as any other. In the antiquated electoral system, they don’t.

  6. AG says:

    Blurondo, should we eliminate congress as well and move to a true democracy?

  7. Tim says:

    Every step forward, is a step forward. You don’t need to run a mile in a minute to realize that.

  8. otto says:

    Issues of importance to non-battleground states are of so little interest to presidential candidates that they don’t even bother to poll them individually.

    Charlie Cook reported in 2004:
    “Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out yesterday that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [the then] 18 battleground states.”

    Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009:
    “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

    Over 87% of both Romney and Obama campaign offices were in just the then 12 swing states. The few campaign offices in the 38 remaining states were for fund-raising, volunteer phone calls, and arranging travel to battleground states.

    Because of state-by-state winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. . .

    Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    “Battleground” states receive 7% more presidentially controlled grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

    Compare the response to hurricane Katrina (in Louisiana, a “safe” state) to the federal response to hurricanes in Florida (a “swing” state) under Presidents of both parties. President Obama took more interest in the BP oil spill, once it reached Florida’s shores, after it had first reached Louisiana. Some pandering policy examples include ethanol subsidies, steel tariffs, and Medicare Part D. Policies not given priority, include those most important to non-battleground states – like water issues in the west.

    The interests of battleground states shape innumerable government policies, including, for example, steel quotas imposed by the free-trade president, George W. Bush, from the free-trade party.

    Parochial local considerations of battleground states preoccupy presidential candidates as well as sitting Presidents (contemplating their own reelection or the ascension of their preferred successor).

    Even travel by sitting Presidents and Cabinet members in non-election years is skewed to battleground states

  9. otto says:

    Being a constitutional republic does not mean we should not and cannot guarantee the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes. The candidate with the most votes wins in every other election in the country.

    Guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes and the majority of Electoral College votes (as the National Popular Vote bill would) would not make us a true democracy.

    True democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

    Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy.

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution

    The Constitution does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for how to award a state’s electoral votes

  10. Virginia says:

    Otto, Thanks for all your informative comments and statistics.

    Since, as you noted, none of this is enshrined in the Constitution, the voters can eventually enact, through successive initiatives, a system that will ensure that each vote does indeed count.

    It truly is alarming that 2 of the last 5 elections were not decided by the popular vote and give of the total 45. America can do better than this.

    Ari Fleischer: “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.” What a deeply cynical statement about disenfranchisement that merely makes it easier for presidential candidates to have to appeal only to voters in some states!

  11. Steve says:

    There are very good, non partisan reasons for sticking with the electoral college system. The avoidance of turmoil in the event of a very close election is , in my opinion, paramount. Consider the year 2000 election. Instead of the chaos (and potential of partisan manipulation) on a nationwide recount, the uncertainty was reduced to a few precincts in one state. In such a close election, it is hard to justify the idea that one candidate has a vastly greater claim on the Presidency. Stability in the wake of a close election is much more important than who occupies the White House for 4 years.
    A second virtue of the present system is precisely what many are complaining about: states that appear uncompetitive LOSE LEVERAGE in the national scene, thus encouraging a more independent stance. Battleground states (as seen in this election) get more of what they want: attention to their issues. The electoral college functions as a kind of equilibrator, encouraging more independent thinking and a willingness to flip to the other (or a reformulated) party. If these states don’t see the kind of change they are looking for, they’ll flip. In this case, Trump has about 3 years to keep a vast array of wild promises!
    Comparing with other countries is fraught, as most are Parliamentary Democracies-which include many more minority parties in the formation of a governing coalition (or just one-party monopolies which silence said minorities). There are many examples of violence and civil war resulting from closely contested (and often heavily manipulated) elections world-wide. Trumps “the system is rigged rhetoric was rightly identified as dangerous, and shouldn’t now be taken up by this year’s losers. Let’s NOT go that route.
    The ideal of “majority rule” itself is like most things; not such a simple and obvious slam-dunk.

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