Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Colorado Jones & the Case of the Electoral College

Colorado has on its ballot this year a controversial new measure that would retroactively (read: this year) dole out its 9 electoral votes proportionally, based on the popular vote. In 47 other states, electoral votes are a winner-take-all affair. Whoever wins the popular vote wins 100% of the electoral votes for that state (and hence we have the possibility of a discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral vote). The two states that already don't have a winner-take-all system are Maine and Nebraska, though they do things a bit differently than Colorado is proposing. In Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who receives a plurality of the popular vote in the state at large gets the two Senatorial electoral votes. The remaining electoral votes (2 in Maine, 3 in Nebraska) are decided based on plurality in each voting district. This method does not eliminate the chance for discrepancy in popular and electoral votes, but then again, neither does Colorado's.

FreeRepublic, the self-described conservative news site, has an article on the controversy here. Basically, there is a lot of popular support for the measure, but there's a lot of conservatives (including governor Bill Owens) who oppose it. That's perfectly understandable, seeing as how Colorado has typically been a "red state," pretty firmly in the camp of the Republicans. This measure would only stand to help the Democrats, it seems.

Personally, though it'd help Kerry and he's my candidate of choice, I'm torn about the issue. I don't feel like this sort of measure would necessarily help anything. I've been going over and over the electoral college in my head for some time, and what I've come up with is that it's really a brilliantly designed little institution to balance states' representation with federal representation. It's a little bothersome that there can be a discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral vote, and it's a little bothersome that it's happened in 4 of our presidential elections (three of which were the only three times that a direct descendant of a former president was elected president), but I think that some form of it is a necessary thing. I like Maine's and Nebraska's systems better than Colorado's proposed system, because they give some precedence to the states' rights, but they don't go far enough. In my mind, the way to go would be give the two votes per state to the candidate with the plurality of the popular vote there, but then to divide the rest up entirely proportionally. Not just by whole numbers, but completely. If there were 1 electoral vote left and Kerry got 48%, Bush got 50%, and Nader got 2%, then Kerry would get .48 electoral votes, Bush would get 2.5, and Nader would get .02. That would be a fair balance to me.

Lemme know whatcha'll think. Maybe I'm just retarded.