The Electoral College

Marc Ambinder raises the possibility of Obama winning the popular vote and losing the electoral vote.  But unlike 2000, it might end up being several million votes.  My call is that if that happens, McCain might end up president, but there would be no way that the electoral college would last until 2012.

A peculiar side note is that there may be some ways in which the electoral college disadvantages some red states that have rapidly growing populations.

I can’t get upset about the electoral college, but it does seem oddly unmotivated, and the potential to create controversy is too great to justify retaining it.  One side effect might be that electoral fraud would become a nationwide issue instead of being isolated in close-fought states.


One response to “The Electoral College

  1. Senator Birch Bayh (D–Indiana) summed up the concerns about possible fraud in a nationwide popular election for President in a Senate speech by saying in 1979, “one of the things we can do to limit fraud is to limit the benefits to be gained by fraud. Under a direct popular vote system, one fraudulent vote wins one vote in the return. In the electoral college system, one fraudulent vote could mean 45 electoral votes, 28 electoral votes.”

    In Illinois in the 1960s, accusation of vote fraud by both political parties were commonplace. In 1960, a switch of 4,430 votes in Illinois and a switch 4,782 votes in South Carolina would have given Nixon a majority of the electoral votes. However, 4,430 votes in Illinois were only a focus of controversy in 1960 because of the statewide winner-take-all rule. John F. Kennedy led Richard M. Nixon by 118,574 popular votes nationwide, so 4,430 votes were not decisive in terms of the national vote count. Of course, if Nixon had carried Illinois and a state such as South Carolina in 1960, Nixon would have won a majority of the votes in the Electoral College, despite not receiving a majority of the popular votes nationwide.

    For more details, see section 9.2 of the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote.