Legislators propose Electoral College reform

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On the day Minnesota’s presidential electors met to cast their votes, supporters of a national popular vote made a case for changing the Electoral College system.

State Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, and state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, announced plans for bipartisan legislation next session that would award Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states, regardless of who Minnesota votes for. Garofalo said the change would guarantee equal value for every vote.

“If you look at the current process, everyone understands that places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, swings states, this is a really good process for them right now,” Garofalo said. “Unfortunately, the rest of the country gets hosed.”

Organizers of the national effort stress that they are not trying to eliminate the Electoral College, and that a constitutional amendment is not needed to make the changes they seek. They say the new rules would take effect when states possessing a majority of 270 electoral votes enact an identical bill. So far, nine eight states and the District of Columbia with 132 electoral votes are on board.

  • Dan Wargo

    How about if the Electoral College is made to be proportional so that, for example, Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes would be given to each candidate according to the popular vote counted…say, 7 Obama and 3 Romney…In this way, candidates would have to electioneer in all the states, voters who are a minority like Democrats in Texas or Republicans in Hawaii would want to vote…electoral winner take all (as it is today) would not discourage them. In this way, the franchise would be energized.

  • toto

    Any state that enacts the proportional approach on its own would reduce its own influence. This was the most telling argument that caused Colorado voters to agree with Republican Governor Owens and to reject this proposal in November 2004 by a two-to-one margin.

    If the proportional approach were implemented by a state, on its own, it would have to allocate its electoral votes in whole numbers. If a current battleground state were to change its winner-take-all statute to a proportional method for awarding electoral votes, presidential candidates would pay less attention to that state because only one electoral vote would probably be at stake in the state.

    The proportional method also could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.

    If the whole-number proportional approach had been in use throughout the country in the nation’s closest recent presidential election (2000), it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. Instead, the result would have been a tie of 269–269 in the electoral vote, even though Al Gore led by 537,179 popular votes across the nation. The presidential election would have been thrown into Congress to decide and resulted in the election of the second-place candidate in terms of the national popular vote.

    A system in which electoral votes are divided proportionally by state would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote and would not make every vote equal.

    It would penalize states, such as Montana, that have only one U.S. Representative even though it has almost three times more population than other small states with one congressman. It would penalize fast-growing states that do not receive any increase in their number of electoral votes until after the next federal census. It would penalize states with high voter turnout (e.g., Utah, Oregon).

    Moreover, the fractional proportional allocation approach does not assure election of the winner of the nationwide popular vote. In 2000, for example, it would have resulted in the election of the second-place candidate.

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.