The GOP Opportunity in Electoral College Reform
There is a pre-groundswell mutter coming from the Democrat media right now about calling a constitutional convention to get rid of the electoral college -- with the not so hidden agenda of removing a few other impediments to their policies, including the Second Amendment, term limits, and the constitution's "stupidest clause" (the one Obama does not meet requiring the American president to have two American parents).
The electoral college, which meets on Monday the 17th to ratify Obama's election, consists of one member for each congressional district, one member for each senator, and three members from the District of Columbia. As things stand, almost all states award electoral college votes on a winner-take-all basis -- all of Florida's 29 votes will, for example, go to Obama despite the 4.1 million (49.6% of major candidate votes counted) Romney earned there.
The exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, which select two electors based on the statewide vote and the remainder on the vote in each congressional district.
In most cases, the people who will actually cast electoral college votes are nominated by state-level party organizations -- thus, Idaho's 4 delegates will all be Republicans, and Pennsylvania's 20 will all be trusted Democrats.
As I've noted in a previous American Thinker essay, Obama won his majority (and the Senate) despite losing nearly two thirds of the country to Romney by counting overwhelming majorities in a relative handful of densely populated precincts largely unreachable by GOP campaigners.
In local contests, however, and in states without densely populated enclaves of the very rich or very poor, the GOP generally won -- nicely holding the House while making gains at the state level.
Reinforced state-level GOP reach offers the opportunity to head off attempts by those in control of the federal Democratic party to create and use public distaste for the electoral college as a lever to open the Constitution to change. More subtly, however, there may also be an opportunity to achieve something positive by jumping on the bandwagon being put together by the Democrats long enough, and hard enough, to gently lead it where they won't want to go.
Specifically, the GOP can recognize that choosing who votes in the electoral college and making the rules on how that vote is allocated are state, not federal, responsibilities -- and therefore launch a national campaign to leave the Constitution alone while eliminating electoral college inequities by having every state adopt a minor modification on the Maine/Nebraska model: one in which each state assigns its electoral votes to the most recent winners in House and Senate races.
The electoral effect would be to greatly reduce the number of people whose votes don't count in the electoral college. For example, under the new system, Florida's 29 electoral votes would be split 18:11 in Romney's favor instead of going wholly to Obama -- and the number of Florida voters whose choice is not represented in the electoral college would drop from over four million to a few hundred thousand.
The political effect, of course, would be to very nearly guarantee that an incoming president and the House majority represent the same party.
The Democrats will argue that this reduces the value of an individual presidential vote in their most densely populated enclaves, while increasing the value of a presidential vote cast by a bitter clinger -- and they'll be politically right, because that is exactly what would happen, but morally wrong because this is actually good, not bad, for democracy.
The reason is because a fair election requires the electorate to listen to both sides and make an informed choice between them. Anything else is unfair -- an electoral sham disenfranchising the voters involved by turning them into puppets who nominally vote but have neither the information nor the freedom to make informed decisions.
In that context, most House races seem fair, as does the 2012 presidential race outside those areas where Obama won nearly unanimous support -- in those communities, whether rich or poor, Hollywood or academia, questioning Democrat orthodoxy can be severely career-limiting or even physically dangerous.
As a result, surveys conducted for John Ziegler after the 2008 elections showed that only about 2% of Obama supporters could correctly answer at least 11 of 12 pretty basic questions about the man and the policies they voted for -- but 35% of McCain voters got all 12 right.
The reason Democrats build and enforce conservative no-go zones in densely populated precincts is because the massive majorities counted there will overwhelm statewide counts to give them the Senate and White House. The proposed reform takes the White House out of this calculation and, by doing so, both drives enormous improvements in the informational content of the presidential vote and dramatically undermines the Democrat political incentive to isolate voters from the mainstream of American life.
Bottom line? A successful nationwide effort to have states allocate their electoral college votes to their own senators and newly elected representatives would produce significant improvement in overall electoral fairness without risking constitutional change -- while contributing, at least in the longer term, to the empowerment of key democratic communities by weakening the political incentives driving the Democratic Party's de facto disenfranchisement of its own most loyal constituencies.