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By: inoljt,

The electoral college is one of the lingering undemocratic parts of American politics. Unlike almost every other country in the world, America elects its presidents not via the popular vote but rather via a strange system of “electoral votes” distributed by states. The good news is that this system generally reflects the popular will. The bad news is that it occasionally fails, as last happened in 2000.

Since then there has been a push to reform the electoral college so that all states cast their electoral votes for the winners of the popular vote. Currently half the states needed to implement the reform have signed on.

More below.

The reform is mostly pushed by Democrats. This is because in 2000 the popular vote winner but electoral college loser was the Democratic candidate. As long electoral college reform was only pushed by Democrats, it was likely to fail. It is almost impossible to get enough states to sign on with complete Republican opposition.

In 2012, however, something quite interesting happened. The electoral college helped Obama quite a bit. For the final months of the campaign Obama was often behind in the national polls but still leading in the state Ohio. It was seen as a very conceivable possibility that Obama would lose the popular vote but win the electoral college and remain president because of Ohio. Even after the first presidential debate, Romney led in the popular vote but never in the electoral college.

It should be noted that these polls were wrong; they underestimated Obama nationally and put Ohio as more Democratic than a lot of states (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia) which ended up more favorable to Obama. But the perception, based on these flawed polls, was what mattered.

So a lot of hard-core Republicans got to see the electoral college really hurting them during the most important campaign of all.

Moreover, the electoral college actually has leaned Democratic for three elections in a row. In 2004 John Kerry was 118,601 votes away in Ohio from becoming president while losing the popular vote. In 2008 John McCain would have had to win the popular vote by 1.7% to win Colorado and become president. In 2012 the votes are still being counted, but it’s very certain that Obama could have lost the popular vote and still remained president.

This is good news for electoral college reform. Hopefully Republicans will not forget how polls showed them leading the popular vote but still behind in the electoral college during October 2012. Republicans now are aware that the electoral college hurts them. It would be in their self-interest to shift to a popular vote.

There are several blue or purple states in which the state Republican Party is fairly strong and has prevented electoral college reform. The hope is that in a few of these states some Republicans will now support a popular vote. It is also possible that Republicans by themselves will enact popular vote bills on their own initiative. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, for instance, has publicly made supportive statements on a popular vote. Of course this is pure self-interest, since she (like many Republicans) recognizes that the electoral college now hurts Republicans.

But a popularly elected president looks closer than ever. As long as it was only a Democratic initiative, it didn’t look like the popular vote would be enacted. Now, hopefully, some Republicans will also see that the popular vote is both something that helps a Republican presidential candidate and (more importantly for American but probably not Republicans) the right thing to do.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alizarin Indigo, MichaelNY

    by Inoljt on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 02:42:36 AM PST

  •  National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (4+ / 0-)

    The NPVIC is an interstate compact that would require all of a state's electoral votes to go the winner of the national popular vote.  As of today, states with 132 electoral votes have signed on to the compact and once we hit 270, then we join the world of true democracy.

    The states that have signs on so far are very blue, but if Republicans see it in their interest and red states start to sign the compact, we could have a whole new ball game in 2016.  

    Imagine a world that doesn't know the term "battleground state".  That's a good place.

    •  Amen! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      by Inoljt on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 04:45:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Imagine the irony. (0+ / 0-)

      People come on here to blast the president for giving away a hard won electoral mandate, despite the fact that we only control part of the government, and then come on here to advocate giving away the one part of the government that we control.

      How typical that only Blue States are offering to give away their electoral votes.

      •  And by the way (0+ / 0-)

        I personally resent that my state of Illinois entered into this compact in a very quiet, under the table manner. I didn't and I don't consent to giving away my electoral votes to republicans.

      •  Imagine the turnout (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, Alibguy

        I worked on the Obama campaign in 2008 from California.  Each day we made hundreds of thousands of calls to recruit volunteers, make the case for Obama and ultimately get out the vote.  

        Not one single call went into California.  They all went out of California.  Suppose we gave equal weight to votes in Los Angeles and Greenfield, Ohio.  For progressives, turnout in big cities would explode and that would help us up and down the ballot.

        •  Same (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I ran the online calling stations for the 4th largest Obama phonebank in California in 2012 and we were all calling swing states, nothing going into California. If it were all national popular vote, SF and LA would be targeted like crazy to turnout all those Democratic voters there.

          For more election analysis and redistricting maps, check out my blog CA-2 (former CA-6) College in CA-37

          by Alibguy on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 05:04:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  err (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, R30A, Inoljt

        you do realize that the compact only goes into effect if states with 270+ EVs enter, right?

        Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

        by sapelcovits on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 06:54:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  It can't happen soon enough for me (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deejay Lyn, MichaelNY

      The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a good chance to help save our democracy, particularly since the republican's next go at stealing the presidency will involve getting some swing states like Pennsylvania to start awarding electors proportionally by popular vote, or even better, by (gerrymandered) congressional districts.

      You won't see this push in any reliably red states like Alabama but you will see it in Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc.

      Giving up your state electoral vote to the will of the majority of the nation is the patriotic thing to do and I hope it catches on.  

      It is hard to explain to people though that if a blue leaning swing state awards electors by popular vote that's evil but if every single state did it (or we had the compact) that's good.

  •  I would just like to point out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, wwmiv

    That Iowa, not Colorado, gave Obama the win in 2008 since that got him to a 269 tie and we controlled a majority of the states' house delegations. Meaning of course that McCain had an even deeper hole to dig himself out of.

    NC-06/NC-04; -9.12, -8.62; Yellow Dog Democrat

    by sawolf on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 12:05:38 PM PST

  •  Vote suppression (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for this diary. I hope that you're right in observing that more Republicans are interested in the National Popular Vote Compact now. I just hope they choose to pursue this instead of just figuring they have a better chance if they just more effectively prevent blacks, Hispanics and students from being able to vote or have their votes counted.

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 03:09:18 PM PST

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