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Don’t Destroy The Electoral College – Fix It

Electoral College Did It Again

For those who stayed up late on election night back in 2000, the memory still adheres to us to this day. A candidate with more popular votes lost to a candidate due to the Electoral College. The cries to eliminate the Electoral College system, calling it obsolete and outdated, erupted, even if they did not proceed far.

Fast forward to 2016, and once again, we have a candidate who has won the Electoral College with less votes than their opposition. Once more, the cries of foul erupt. And once more, efforts to eliminate the Electoral College begin anew.

However, let us take a moment to review both the 2000 and 2016 elections a moment. In 2000, Al Gore has gained the support of 48.4% of voters, compared to George W. Bush’s 47.9%. This time, Hillary Clinton looks to have gained the support of 47.7% of voters, compared to Donald Trump with 47.5%. In both of these elections, more people voted against the candidates than for them. That means a case can be argued that nobody won the majority support of the voters.

So, given that that they do not have a majority of support from the people, how would we be able to elect presidents, as we regularly run into this problem?

Direct Democracy Leads To Dictatorship

A century ago, whenever anyone discussed the Presidential system of government as found in the United States, they pointed not at the good ol USA, but instead to Latin America. Following the Spanish American War, the United States helped many nations south of our border set up governments based on the same basic system we had. But in most of these cases, one of the few changes was that they used a simple popular vote instead of something akin to the Electoral College.

Of these governments, only 1, Costa Rica, has survived intact through today without coup, or collapse. And when looking at it in more detail, we discover that within Costa Rica’s constitution is a provision requiring that the winner of the election must have at least 40% of the popular vote else forces a top-two run-off election. In other words, it prevents the establishment of a minority control over the executive of the state.

A Solution, American Style

The answer, it turns out, is quite old. In fact, it begins not in the voting booth, but in Philadelphia back in 1787.

The Constitution of the United States is not built around the concept of winners take all. Instead, it is built around a model of compromise, and consensus. If nobody has a majority, they must compromise to reach it.

However, 48 of our states allocate their Electoral College delegates in a Winner Take All fashion. If a candidate wins more votes, no matter if they win a majority or not, they gain all of the Electoral College delegates. Maine and Nebraska are two notable exceptions here, and use a variation of proportional allocation based on the congressional district.

But these Winner Take All allocation of Electoral College delegates gives no room for compromise. Over the past few decades, the situation where someone who did not win a majority of votes yet winning the election has become incredibly normal. Going back 60 years, 15 elections, this is now the sixth election where the winner did not secure a majority of the electorate. 6 out of 15 means that 2/5ths of our elections have been won by someone without the majority will of the voters.

This clearly is not working.

How It Would Work

If no candidate won a majority of support, that is, 50%+1 of the vote, under a proper representative system, no candidate could take office without the support of someone else, a coalition. In other words, a compromise. If we used a Proportional allocation of Electors, where each state (be it by congressional district, direct proportional percentage, etc) issues electors piecemail, so as to better represent the will of the people, no candidate would have sufficient Electoral College delegates to win by themselves.

To take office, they would have to turn to each other, and form a coalition to pool their electors. By the raw numbers, under such a system for 2016, we would have Donald Trump with roughly 266 electors, Hillary Clinton with roughly 267 electors, Gary Johnson with roughly 2 electors, with Jill Stein and Evan McMillan both with roughly 1 electors. For either Trump or Clinton to win, they would need electors from the smaller candidates. This forces compromise, be it in policy, cabinet positions, ambassadorships, judges, etc.

In other words, it would force a more representative Presidency. This approach would prevent any political party from gaining the power to force legislation on people. Instead of accepting third parties as a spoiler, with any support only serving to hurt their supporters, it would empower them to serve a specific role in our politics.

And, the best part is, no need for a constitutional amendment is required. We already have two states which use a similar Electoral College allocation method already. It just would require more states to join them, however the method used.

This approach would serve not only to prevent minority rule, but it would serve as a solid reminder that our government does not serve at the dictates of a minority electorate, but is itself a compromise.

And compromise is what the United States was built on.

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downix2k@gmail.com'/
A former candidate for State Representative in Washington state, Nathaniel is a seasoned political writer who brings an analytical and informed eye to politics. He is currently promoting his newest book, "The People's Constitution," now available in both paperback and Kindle.