May 18, 2011

Short-circuiting the electoral college

I always had a rather hazy idea that getting rid of the electoral college would take either a constitutional amendment or changing the voting laws in every state.  I had heard of some proposed state laws that would award electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote, but not thinking about it very hard, I assumed you'd again have to get one passed in every state.

However, looking closer, a grassroots group called National Popular Vote has invented a slick workaround that could deep-six the electoral vote without all that much effort (compared to a constitutional amendment, that is).  It's an agreement among states to award their electors to the winner of the popular vote based on Article II, Section I of the Constitution, which gives the states the right to determine how their electors are selected.

The beauty is that the law doesn't take effect until there is the critical majority of 270 electoral votes represented in participating states, so no state has to worry about possibly giving its votes to an undesirable candidate.  The part I didn't realize was that once that majority is attained, the electoral college is effectively dead—with a winning electoral vote majority committed to supporting the popular vote winner, the electoral college becomes a mere formality.

So far seven states plus DC representing 77 electoral votes have passed the law.  It's currently under consideration in a mess of other states, including California and Texas.  Only 193 more votes to go!  The fact that you can even do something like this doesn't speak well for the electoral college.  What a silly system.

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