Kill This Crazy Electoral College Plan Before It Leads to Another Crazy Electoral College Plan

by Reihan Salam

Alan Abramowitz condemns Republican efforts to encourage states to apportion their electors by congressional district, which have been endorsed by Reince Preibus, chairman of the RNC. He acknowledges that the idea isn’t likely to spread, yet he suggests that it could take hold in a small number of battleground states and in doing so have a significant impact on the outcome of future presidential elections.

But Abramowitz writes as a critic of the Electoral College, so he doesn’t make the most obvious case against these efforts: politics is an iterative game, and if a sufficient number of states take it upon themselves to change the allocation of electors in such a way as to give one party a structural advantage, other states, in which the other party holds sway, will presumably pursue a different and opposing course of action, e.g., the National Popular Vote interstate compact, which is designed to work as follows:

Under the U.S. Constitution, the states have exclusive and plenary (complete) power to allocate their electoral votes, and may change their state laws concerning the awarding of their electoral votes at any time. Under the National Popular Vote bill, all of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 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).

And though we haven’t seen much coverage of the National Popular Vote interstate compact in the national press, it has actually made far more progress than, for example, the Carrico concept that has become an object of enthusiastic disapprobation:

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States.

The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes — 49% of the 270 necessary to activate it (VT, MD, WA, IL, NJ, DC, MA, CA, HI).

The bill has passed 31 legislative chambers in 21 jurisdictions (AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OR, RI, VT, WA). In the recent 47–13 vote in the Republican-controlled New York Senate, Republicans supported the bill 21–11, and Democrats supported it 26–2. The bill has been endorsed by 2,124 state legislators.

Rather than work to upend the way the Electoral College has worked in the vast majority of states for most of modern American history, we might want to recognize the virtues of our current arrangement as they compare to the National Popular Vote bill, which would obviate the Carrico bill quite neatly. 

This Carrico bill is a little like mischievously toilet-papering your neighbor’s house while she stacks dynamite around yours on a hot and dry day. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.