Monday, October 13, 2008

Electoral College Reform

Every time there's a Presidential election, I bitch about the Electoral College. Why? Because it's stupid. It defines battleground states, insuring that candidates will spend more time, attention, and money in places like Ohio and Florida, while ignoring either clearly Republican or Democratic states and toss-up states that have very few electoral votes at stake.

Andrew Sullivan links to James Pontuso, who argues that the abolition of the Electoral College would lead to a fracturing of parties and a free-for-all political landscape:

Without the winner-take-all provision of the Electoral College, America would have a multiple-party system, since there would be less reason to support one of the two major party’s candidates. Since the President is the only nationally elected official, it is the prize of the winning the presidency that keeps the two parties from splitting first into regional parties and then into ideological or interest-based parties. It is likely that, without a two-party system at the presidential level, the country would break down to its constituent interest groups. There would be a women’s party, an environmental party, a business party, a men’s party, a Southern party, and on and on. The United States would become ungovernable. The American political landscape would begin to resemble Italy’s where there have been 52 governments – or executives – since World War II.

I don't think this is a logical consequence of the Presidency being decided by popular vote. And if it were, would it be such a bad thing? Do we really want to support the entrenchment of the two-party system?

To his credit, though, he does see the need to reform, suggesting that the winner of the popular vote get an additional 11 electoral votes as a way of making sure that the winner of the electoral vote is also the winner of the popular vote.

Or, we could just do away with the Electoral College. And this year I haven't been following efforts at the state level to distribute their electoral votes proportionally to the popular vote in their state. Anybody seen any news on that?