It's that time again: The Democrats making the big push to do away with the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is A Good Idea. It's part of the Federal design of the government, and means that the States, not the people, elect the President.
Here's a good expose' on the matter.
Messing With The Electoral College.
Messing With America-
You may have heard earlier this year about plans to change the way California (and other states) award their Electors to the Electoral College. California, with its 55 Electoral Votes, went 54% for Kerry and 45% for Bush. And all 55 Electors were awarded to Kerry. The same goes for nearly every other state. It's winner-take-all. It encourages Risk-inspired conversations like, "we're gonna take Wisconsin this year, which will leave the Democrats vulnerable and force them to defend Oregon and Washington."
In Nebraska and Maine, however, Electoral Votes are awarded based on a district-by-district basis. That's their prerogative. It was also once the prerogative of Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Let's just say that every state adopted the district-by-district plan. How would that have impacted elections over the past half century, and how would it impact future elections?
Generally, the winner, regardless of party, would do worse:
President Bush, interestingly, did much better in "blue state" Congressional districts than Senator Kerry did in "red state" Congressional districts.
Now, clearly, campaign tactics might have been different under these plans. There are plenty of toss-up districts in solidly partisan states (like California and Texas) that would have seen advertisements, volunteers, and other campaign resources considered a complete waste under the winner-take-all rules. Who knows what could have happened under a national district-by-district system.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in California over the next year. It has certainly been declared dead emphatically enough by lefties, and resuscitated by serious enough people on the right, to warrant some attention. In 2004, California would have been worth more than the equivalent of Illinois, Ohio, or Pennsylvania to President Bush under the Congressional District plan:
If California wants a more "progressive" system of awarding Electors, more power to them. If a handful of other states want to join them, fantastic. If anyone wants to impose this on every state or otherwise undermine the Electoral College and replace it with a direct vote, however, they are crossing the line.
The Electoral College actually prevents a lot of election fraud, number one. Imagine how much more meaningful those dead and other fraudulent voters in Chicago and in other political machine cities would be to a national popular vote. Instead of a few hanging chads in Florida, we would have had "missing" votes suddenly found all over the country in 2000.
Secondly, the Electoral College helps maintain America's federalist nature. Ultimately, we're a nation of states. While the states have ceded quite a bit of power and responsibility to the national government (the Civil War had a lot to do with that), there's a reason the Founders established this nation as a Federal Republic. Indeed, there is a big reason why Federal Republics protect liberties better than direct democracies. The Electoral College is a safeguard against the tyranny of the mob.
The Electoral College also forces candidates to have more than mere regional appeal; it demands some consensus-building.
As candidates assert their cross-partisan appeal and pundits debate the merits of reforming the Electoral College, one can't help but laugh at some of the transparent partisan reasons people support or oppose these changes.
Ultimately, as long as the rules in place before the election are adhered to after the election, and as long as each state determines how it will award its own Electors to the Electoral College, I am not sure that the California plan, applied nationally, would have significant consequences one partisan way or another over the long run. Indeed, in 2012, solid "red states" will gain Electoral Votes at the expense of solid "blue states" due to reapportionment following the 2010 Census. Regions change. Suburbs change. Inner cities change. Political realities change, domestically and internationally. Crises happen. Economies boom and bust. Parties change.
Projecting out to 2012, 2016, 2020, and beyond, it's difficult to imagine a national district-by-district plan helping either party. In 2008, however, California making the move alone would give the GOP nominee a bit of breathing room in his cruise to victory.