Our system for electing the president is a broken one. Winner-take-all laws for allocating Electoral College votes produce presidential elections in which the candidates only focus on the handful of states in which the outcome is not certain. This inequality between swing and safe states has become greater in recent elections. In the post-convention campaign season of the 2012 election for example, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney only held public campaign events in 10 states, and spent 99.6% of their advertising money in those same states in the final seven months of the campaign. Our current rules are also vulnerable to partisan manipulation. Each week FairVote identifies three news stories or commentaries that provide particularly revealing insights into what's wrong with our current Electoral College rules and the best way to reform them. Here are our highlights from the past week.
1. "GOP Must Alter Message, Not System"
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Editorial Board, February 13, 2013
This Florida editorial refers to recent proposals to allocate electoral votes by congressional districts as "sour grapes" and "rigging the system". It mentions the opposition of Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, who has stated his preference for going to direct election of the president The editorial concludes that, due to the unpopularity of current Electoral College rules, "Changing the election to a popular vote is something worthy of discussion."
2. "'Vile Plans to Cheat the Electoral College'"
The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg, February 12, 2013
The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg has been the nation's best blogger on the National Popular Vote plan. Here he takes on the headline writers of Seth Lipsky's New York Post op-ed, which overstates Lipsky's equation of attempts to alter swing states' Electoral College vote allocation with support for the National Popular Vote plan. Hertzberg rightly explains that the National Popular Vote plan is not partisan and that its guarantee of electing of the popular vote winner removes any doubts about what states in the NPV compact will do: "In other words, no do-overs. No wiggling out if you don't like the outcome."
3. "Geography as a Failed Unit of Representation: Why Fifty Equal Population States Is No Solution for Presidential Elections"
FairVote, Rob Richie, Andrea Levien, and Devin McCarthy, February 19, 2013
FairVote takes on the myth that what is wrong with the current Electoral College rules is uneven allocation of electoral votes between big and small states. We discuss an innovative map that has has drawn praise from the likes of The Atlantic's James Fallows as a better means to elect the president. The map shows 50 states of equal population, but population inequities are a minor detail of what is wrong with the current system. The fact that this map would likely have elected Mitt Romney despite his popular vote defeat and would have left most Americans in "safe states" underscores that the real problem is dividing Americans into separate geographic units, using a winner take all rules. Instead, we need one-person, one-vote -- where ever vote counts the same wherever it is cast.