The Corner

Changing the Electoral College?

A friend sends along this e-mail. I post it, not as an endorsement but to encourage discussion:

It’s clear from Tuesday night that Republicans have a long-term demographic problem. I’m not going to litigate messaging or policy, but I do have one idea that could immediately help: “dump the winner take all by state rule”  and switch to “Winner take all by Congressional district.” From a political perspective, we simply cannot allow the Democrats to have 220 electoral votes in the bag every single election. That’s the road to being a permanent minority party.

Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin alone would have shifted of a ton of electoral votes into Romney’s column last night.

Politically, it’s a no brainer–they each have GOP Governors and legislators. They could do it right now if they wanted.

It makes a ton of sense from a policy standpoint as well. The mechanism would be for states to make the change.

State Legislatures have been given the power by article two, section one of the Constitution to award their electors in the manner in which they see fit. The entire idea of the “winner take all” rule sprang from early 20th century Progressives, that also just so happened to coincide with the passage of the 17th amendment that provided for direct election of Senators.

Bad politics makes for bad policy. Here are a few examples:

-The supposedly pro-free-trade George W. Bush was trying to win West Virginia in 2000 when it was a battleground. He came out for steel tariffs that helped WV. This ran contra to everything else he said on trade, but he did it anyway. Why? Because he wanted to win the state.

-Fast forward to this last term. West Virginia is no longer a battleground, and Barack Obama’s EPA closes the largest coal plant in the state. Why did he do that? Because he was never going to win WV anyway so it didn’t matter what they wanted.

-The Gulf oil spill happened. Obama didn’t go visit Louisiana for the first 32 days. On day 36, oil starts lapping up on the shores of Florida, and suddenly, Obama is down there walking around with Charlie Crist. Why? Because Florida matters and Louisiana doesn’t electorally.

Bottom line: the current system reduces America to 10 battleground states. It allows Washington to ignore the rest of us, and empowers a larger, more intrusive Federal Government that only has to buy off a select few voters.

Finally, the system as it stands now allows urban areas to dominate people who they have very little in common with in rural areas. It’s possible to win only 7 of Michigan’s 83 counties and still win the state. That’s wrong. Why should Detroit and Philly get to dictate to the rest of their states who the President is?

Winner take all could change all this. It’s great politics, it’s great policy, and we don’t need a single Democrat vote to get it done in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin.  We should do it. Like, tomorrow.


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