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Electoral College on the Road to Irrelevance

April 17th, 2009 by Steven Gardner

That headline might ultimately be dead wrong, but it is the intent of the Legislature. Perhaps the current method of electing presidents will survive this movement.

On Wednesday the state House of Representatives voted 52-42 to have Washington join a compact with other states on a measure that would essentially make the electoral college nothing more than a symbol. The Senate approved the bill 28-21 in March. I was going to write that the “yea” votes have come mostly from Democrats. But then I wondered if they all came from Democrats. I’m moving on to other things. Anyone else here is invited to check to see if any Republicans in either chamber voted for this.

On three occasions the popular vote winner of the presidential election ended up losing the electoral college vote. The move approved this week would become effective once enough states representing 270 electoral votes, the number of electoral college votes needed to win a presidential election, also join the pact.

With Washington joining Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii, that’s 61 electoral votes so far. Other states have at least considered the move, as Washington did in Legislatures past.

Brad Shannon at the Olympian writes that the governor is expected to sign the bill.

Here’s how your electeds voted:

23 Rep. Sherry Appleton, (D-Poulsbo) Y
23 Rep. Christine Rolfes, (D-Bainbridge Island) Y
23 Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) Y
26 Rep. Jan Angel, (R) N
26 Rep. Larry Seaquist, (D-Gig Harbor) Y
26 Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) Y
35 Rep. Fred Finn, (D) Y
35 Rep. Kathy Haigh, (D-Shelton) Y
35 Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) N

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9 Responses to “Electoral College on the Road to Irrelevance”

  1. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    I wonder what the only (R) “No” vote reasoned before voting against it?

    Why, specifically, didn’t she want it?

    Curious… Sharon O’Hara

  2. Marvin Says:

    The reasoning is this: This country is a REPUBLIC composed of STATES who, in theory, have an equal say in running the NATION. The Senate was once elected by the State legislatures as an equal partner to the House, but, of course, that has been totally destroyed.

    IF this goes through, what this will do is allow a few high population states to ALWAYS elect the President regardless of what low population states want. This means New York and California and Florda and a few others will control all the rest of the country in terms of national representation. Urbanites will rule. Washington State is the one that will become irrelevant in the process.

  3. mvymvy Says:

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 “battleground” states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
    Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

  4. mvymvy Says:

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The Constitution gives every state the power to allocate its electoral votes for president, as well as to change state law on how those votes are awarded.

    The bill is currently endorsed by 1,512 state legislators in 48 states.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado– 68%, Iowa –75%, Michigan– 73%, Missouri– 70%, New Hampshire– 69%, Nevada– 72%, New Mexico– 76%, North Carolina– 74%, Ohio– 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware –75%, Maine — 71%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire –69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas –80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi –77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 73% , Massachusetts — 73%, New York — 79%, and Washington — 77%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 26 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  5. mvymvy Says:

    National Popular Vote has nothing to do with whether the country has a “republican” form of government or is a “democracy.”

    A “republican” form of government means that the voters do not make laws themselves but, instead, delegate the job to periodically elected officials (Congressmen, Senators, and the President). The United States has a “republican” form of government regardless of whether popular votes for presidential electors are tallied at the state-level (as is currently the case in 48 states) or at district-level (as is currently the case in Maine and Nebraska) or at 50-state-level (as under the National Popular Vote bill).

  6. mvymvy Says:

    The small states are the most disadvantaged of all under the current system of electing the President. Political clout comes from being a closely divided battleground state, not the two-vote bonus.

    Small states are almost invariably non-competitive, and ignored, in presidential elections. Only 1 of the 13 smallest states are battleground states (and only 5 of the 25 smallest states are battlegrounds).

    Of the 13 smallest states, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska regularly vote Republican, and Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC regularly vote Democratic. These 12 states together contain 11 million people. Because of the two electoral-vote bonus that each state receives, the 12 non-competitive small states have 40 electoral votes. However, the two-vote bonus is an entirely illusory advantage to the small states. Ohio has 11 million people and has “only” 20 electoral votes. As we all know, the 11 million people in Ohio are the center of attention in presidential campaigns, while the 11 million people in the 12 non-competitive small states are utterly irrelevant. Nationwide election of the President would make each of the voters in the 12 smallest states as important as an Ohio voter.

    The fact that the bonus of two electoral votes is an illusory benefit to the small states has been widely recognized by the small states for some time. In 1966, Delaware led a group of 12 predominantly low-population states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania) in suing New York in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that New York’s use of winner-take-all effectively disenfranchised voters in their states. The Court declined to hear the case (presumably because of the well-established constitutional provision that the manner of awarding electoral votes is exclusively a state decision). Ironically, defendant New York is no longer a battleground state (as it was in the 1960s) and today suffers the very same disenfranchisement as the 12 non-competitive low-population states. A vote in New York is, today, equal to a vote in Wyoming–both are equally worthless and irrelevant in presidential elections.

    The concept of a national popular vote for President is far from being politically “radioactive”in small states, because the small states recognize they are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system.

    In small states, the National Popular Vote bill already has been approved by a total of seven state legislative chambers, including one house in Maine and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. It has been enacted by Hawaii.

  7. mvymvy Says:

    The 11 most populous states contain 56% of the population of the United States and that a candidate would win the Presidency if 100% of the voters in these 11 states voted for one candidate. However, if anyone is concerned about the this theoretical possibility, it should be pointed out that, under the current system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in these same 11 states — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.

    Of course, the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely act in concert on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five “red” states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

    Moreover, the notion that any candidate could win 100% of the vote in one group of states and 0% in another group of states is far-fetched. Indeed, among the 11 most populous states, the highest levels of popular support were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
    * Texas (62% Republican),
    * New York (59% Democratic),
    * Georgia (58% Republican),
    * North Carolina (56% Republican),
    * Illinois (55% Democratic),
    * California (55% Democratic), and
    * New Jersey (53% Democratic).

    In addition, the margins generated by the nation’s largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
    * Texas — 1,691,267 Republican
    * New York — 1,192,436 Democratic
    * Georgia — 544,634 Republican
    * North Carolina — 426,778 Republican
    * Illinois — 513,342 Democratic
    * California — 1,023,560 Democratic
    * New Jersey — 211,826 Democratic

    To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 votes for Bush in 2004.

  8. Electoral College Map With Numbers | frequents Says:

    [...] Kitsap Caucus » Blog Archive » Electora&#108&#32&#67ollege on the Road to … [...]

  9. Elliott Says:

    Marvin,
    Do you know how the electoral votes are allocated among the states now? They’re allocated to the states the same way as our House of Representatives seats are allocated; based on population (plus two). That’s why this state has eleven electoral votes – because we have nine US Representatives, and two Senators. California has 55 electoral votes.

    So the most populous states already have a bigger say in elections. This doesn’t change that at all.

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