Electoral College Followup

I got an email from someone who read my blog today, so I thought I’d reply to it here. I was planning on doing a follow up like this anyway, so this lets me do both at once. I don’t know if the reader wants to be identified, so I’ll remain anonymous. The points made in the email were that the Electoral College is beneficial because it produces stability and benefits third party voters by making candidates take them into account in swing states.

Here’s my reply:
I’d agree with you on some of the points. I’d prefer EC reform over totally throwing it out. If we changed to a system where electoral votes were distributed based purely on population instead of population plus statehood, then we could still get the beneficial stability without sacrificing equal say (the stability comes from having to count far fewer votes at the national level). I can’t say that the US Constitution is unconstitutional, but I believe that the distribution of electoral votes is in contradiction with the the spirit of the 1st and 14th amendments. I don’t know what the populations of the different states were back when the constitution was written, but I bet they were a lot closer than they are today.

As far as winner-take-all systems helping third parities, I don’t think it helps them as much as a proportional split of electoral votes would help. I think going into the election, Bush knew that he didn’t have a chance at winning California or New York, the two states with the largest urban population. Since he didn’t have a chance, he didn’t have any incentive to appeal to third party voters like the Greens. The same is true of Kerry. He knew he had California in the bag, so he didn’t need to listen to third party voters either. Winner-take-all really only helps voters in swing states. Proportional voting would make every state a battleground state. The other benefit is that we might actually end up with third party candidates winning some electoral votes. It would probably not enough to win an election, but it would bring them into the spotlight and put their issues on the table.

It might seem like proportional voting would lead to more instability. This is probably true, but I don’t think it would be enough to cause problems. It’s no where near as bad as the instability from a pure popular vote. I think the benefits of the above two changes far outweigh any draw backs. If we have a lot of problems with “local voting errors”, then we need to fix the system, not hide it.

UPDATE: By the way, it was Gordon who sent the email. Check out his blog sometime.