Nice meeting on various ideas for changing how we hold elections and even what we vote on, I thought. We had only 10 participants, but well-informed ones, IMO. For follow-up:
- The official National Popular Vote website. This is the interstate compact that would effectively abolish the Electoral College, ensuring that the winner of the national popular vote becomes president. As we discussed, if just one more state adopts the measure, it takes effect!
- Instant Runoff Voting: IRV explanation and advocacy, from Fairvote.org. More detail, comparisons to similar systems in other countries, from Wiki.
Finally, an illustration of the complexity and unintended consequences involved in amending the Constitution’s election-related provisions. We all know that Al Gore would have won the 2000 election had there been no electoral college, right? The guy got more votes, after all.
Well, maybe not. This is because, without the electoral college, the way campaigns are run would change, which could affect the outcomes. With the Electoral College, 3/4 or more of presidential campaign spending and legwork is done in just 6-7 swing states — and 98% is done in just 15 or so states. But, with no College, candidates would be free to concentrate on whichever states could get them the most votes. Gore might have put more resources into gettign more votes in CA, or Bush might have tried to maximize votes in Texas. Here’s an analysis that crunches some numbers and concludes that Gore may have lost the popular vote to Bush had both campaigns’ goal been to simply maximize votes, not state-level victories.
Anyway, the point is that one impediment to altering our electoral system is simple inertia. Our political parties prefer the devil they know over an uncertain future in an unfamiliar election system. I think that pretty much the only way major changes (of the type we talked about) could be enacted would be if both sides are firmly convinced that they would benefit way more from the new system. Since that can’t be true, one side would have to be flat-out mistaken.