Electoral Vote Colorado-style

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What if the electoral vote had been split up within each state the way Colorado was seeking to do (but failed)? Nebraska and Maine, as things currently stand, have laws that allow splitting the electoral vote, but they've never had a popular vote that has led to a split. That's because they do it in less significant ways than what Colorado was proposing. I believe Nebraska just counts each Congressional district and then distributes the votes accordingly, and even though Kerry got about a third of their popular vote he didn't carry a whole district. Apparently that always happens. Maine distributes half of its four electoral votes that way, giving each of its two districts one vote each. Then the remaining two go with the state's popular vote. Its districts have never split, though it was really close in the second district this time. They almost gave Bush another electoral vote. It would take much too long (and information I don't know where to find) to determine how things would have gone if all states had laws like either of those two. It isn't hard, though, to figure out what would happen if every state did it the way Colorado was proposing to do. All you have to do is multiply each candidate's percentage of the state's popular vote by the number of electoral votes of the state, rounding down, then taking whoever has the most remainder for the final vote. So what happens if you do this?

Well, Bush would still have won a clear victory but not by as much. Part of this is because third party candidates have a chance to pick up a vote or two in the states with lots of electoral votes. It turns out that libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik would have gotten one elector in California if they had distributed their votes this way, and Ralph Nader would have gotten one in New York. The rest of the states split proportionally according to the popular vote of Bush and Kerry, and in a few cases do you have a really close fight over the last remaining vote in a given state, but often the results are straightforward.

Final scores per candidate:
Bush 278
Kerry 258
Badnarik 1
Nader 1

Vote for each state (columns: total, Bush, Kerry, Badnarik, Nader)
AL 9 6 3
AK 3 2 1
AZ 10 6 4
AR 6 3 3
CA 55 24 30 1 0
CO 9 5 4
CT 7 3 4
DE 3 1 2
DC 3 0 3
FL 27 14 13
GA 15 9 6
HI 4 2 2
ID 4 3 1
IL 21 9 12
IN 11 7 4
IA 7 4 3
KS 6 4 2
KY 8 5 3
LA 9 5 4
ME 4 2 2
MD 10 4 6
MI `7 8 9
MA 12 4 8
MN 10 5 5
MO 11 6 5
MS 6 4 2
MT 3 2 1
NE 5 3 2
NV 5 3 2
NH 4 2 2
NJ 15 7 8
NM 5 3 2
NY 31 12 18 0 1
NC 15 8 7
ND 3 2 1
OH 20 10 10
OK 7 5 2
OR 7 3 4
PA 21 10 11
RI 4 2 2
SC 8 5 3
SD 3 2 1
TN 11 6 5
TX 34 21 13
UT 5 4 1
VT 3 1 2
VA 13 7 6
WA 11 5 6
WV 5 3 2
WI 10 5 5
WY 3 2 1

The only unanimous vote is the District of Columbia. In every state, if you voted for Bush or Kerry (or if you're in CA and voted for Badnarik or NY and voted for Nader), you have less right to say your vote didn't count than you would under the current electoral college system and lived in, say NY, and voted for, say, Bush. Since I've lived in RI and NY for the only presidential elections I've voted in, and I've voted Republican in all of them, my vote for president has never counted in the national tally. That's why I like this system. I wouldn't propose it unless every state did it, which would require a constitutional amendment, since every state currently has the right to decide how it wants to distribute its electoral votes. It seems unfair to me that some states would split their votes 5-4 Bush-Kerry or 6-5 Kerry-Bush while others in the same position would give all 9 or 11 to one of the two. That's why I'm glad Colorado's proposal failed. Still, it seems a little more concerned about voters in stacked states who are in the minority party whose vote just doesn't count, while still not removing the electoral college system in one of its original intents. (In the end, its main intent was removed when they stopped just voting for electors who could change their mind, because the original intent was to prevent tyranny of the uninformed electorate; Democrats right now are claiming that that's what just happened, just as Republicans did in the Clinton years.)

4 Comments

People have argued that this system would be biased towards the cities. I don't have the link, but a couple weeks ago someone posted the red/blue map (of states) from 2000, and the red/blue map of actual votes (I think by precinct) from 2000; the latter is overwhelmingly red over the vast majority of the country, with blue blips where all the big cities are. (I link to a similar thing, county-by-county, from my daily links on my blog today).

Anyway, the point is that cities would tend to dominate, because that's where the most people are. This may not be bad if you want the president to be selected simply based on the popular vote, but on the other hand, it could be bad because candidates might stop caring about the largest part of the country, and focus the majority of their attention on cities. This could also affect their governing -- maybe they'd divert spending to transportation needs in big cities, at the expense of people in rural areas, etc.

Any state that does this on its own, e.g. if the vote in Colorado had favored it, is basically guaranteeing being ignored in the next election because of the other states that aren't that way.

I don't think that would happen if every state is that way. Take New York as an example. It's one of the most reliably Democratic states and probably won't go red in any election for at least twenty years. Yet its vote was only 59% for Kerry. That means it wasn't really important for Bush to campaign here, except to increase the popular vote, which isn't really what he needed to do to win. California and New York are both generally red states if you look at the counties. It's the current system that leads candidates to ignore these states and focus on states with close popular votes.

If they all did what I've been saying, then you wouldn't have anyone ignoring any state, since just a little more voters might get another electoral vote in any state. It require focusing not just on swing states but on any state. Notice that the two examples I mentioned, NY and CA, have the two biggest cities in the country, so cities have nothing to do with it.

I see that your system would solve the ignoring-state problem. I'm saying it could cause a whole new problem: ignoring everywhere but the big cities, since they're where the majority of the popular vote comes from.

But I just argued that it wouldn't have that effect. That was one of my main points in the last comment. There would be no more reason to focus on cities than there is right now. As things stand, you have to focus on cities to get the popular vote of a state. With the Colorado model, you'd still have to do that if you want to win the overall popular vote of a state high enough to get more electoral votes. In both cases the electoral votes are based on the popular vote, so increasing the popular vote for your candidate will be the goal for each state. More populous states will be more of a focus, but that's already true except when the state is strongly leaning one way, in which case they ignore it. This fixes that without adding any other problems I can think of.

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