Whoever Wins, We Must Destroy the Electoral College

Let me assent to these posts by Tim Noah, David Dayen, and Paul Waldman. Even if President Obama gets another term by winning the electoral college and losing the popular vote, moving to a national popular vote system will still be the right policy. First, even if we grant that scenario, there is still a good case that Obama would have done better if this campaign had been run under a popular vote system. Huge states full of Democrats like California and New York have been mostly ignored in this election; the president would have been barnstorming all across those areas and cranking up his voter turnout machine.

Second, the deep blue Northeast is one of the worst regions of the country for early voting and voting by mail, which might seriously depress turnout in the event of, say, a hurricane. A national popular vote would give local Democrats (who control most of the relevant state legislatures) a big incentive to fix that system.

But most importantly, the electoral college is an anachronistic boondoggle that serves to disenfranchise most of the country when it comes to presidential elections. As Adam Liptak points out:

In the current election, the battleground has grown almost comically small. Just three states — Florida, Ohio and Virginia — have accounted for almost two-thirds of the recent campaign appearances by the presidential candidates and their running mates. The three are home to an eighth of the nation’s people.

If this keeps up, we may have only one state that decides the election, or even none. Imagine if all states became ideologically unbalanced enough that every one was reliably Democratic or Republican. It’s unlikely, but certainly possible. Would that be fair?

Finally, my parents live in a swing state (Colorado), and as they’ve been reminding me, living through the election there is not fun. It might be nice on some theoretical grounds to know that your vote for president actually matters, but being swamped with doomsaying ads—regularly every single ad during a commercial break will be political—and being called twenty times a day is deeply obnoxious.

Oh, and what happens if there is an electoral college tie is truly preposterous:

One person, one vote. Is that really so controversial?

@ryanlcooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, is currently the Washington correspondent for The Week.