page updated 2012-10-30

The Electoral College

As I write this, we're one week to the 2012 election. There's speculation that Obama may win in the electoral college but Romney will win the popular vote. If that happens, there'll be a cry to abolish the Electoral College.

The problem is that all except two of the states use the winner-take-all method of awarding electors. Maine and Nebraska award electors in approximate proportion to the votes received by the inidividual Presidential tickets.

With winner-take-all, a candidate who narrowly wins the 10 states with the most Electoral College votes but badly loses all the other 40 states would still win the Presidency.

We've been here before. Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush all became President by winning the Electoral vote while losing the popular vote. We came close to fixing the problem in 1968, not because one candidate won the popular vote and another the Electoral College—Richard Nixon won both—but because the disparity between the two was so great: 0.4% in the popular vote and 20.4% in the Electoral College. However, Congress didn't follow through—Southern senators and conservatives from small states successfully filibustered—and the proposed Constitutional amendment died when the 91st Congress ended.

Given the current and probable post-election partisanship in Washington, I'm not looking for a sensible solution from Congress to Electoral College inequeties any time soon.

There is a movement to address the problem through the States and without the need for a Constitutional amendment. Check it out at nationalpopularvote.com. You can enter your zip code and be presented with the opportunity to sign a petition to your Governor and state legislators to support the plan.

I signed it.