I’ve previously posted about my belief that the Electoral College should be abolished. My primary reason is that the archaic institution makes possible the election of a U.S. president by a mere 25 percent of the voters, at least in theory. All it would take is winning 50 percent of the ballots plus one in states representing a tad over 50 percent of the population – and that’s in a two-way race. This time around, with four nominees to choose from, the popular vote could be far less.
The Electoral College also creates an outsized importance for the 11 biggest states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and New Jersey. Win them all and you’re the next president. If you’re following the news these days, you see how that strategy is unfolding.
The existence of the Electoral College is casting other shadows across the current election season. Quite simply, it rigs the contest against third-party nominees and, as a consequence, reinforces the existing two-party system.
How is that? Well, unless a third-party candidate can carry a state, his or her popular votes simply disappear in the Electoral College results. And that’s for starters. In the unlikely event a third-party could drain off enough Electoral College votes to force the decision to be rendered by the U.S. House of Representatives, we can assume the outcome would reflect the majority party there. In this case, the party of Speaker Paul Ryan.
Rely instead on the popular vote and you automatically remove the House from consideration. You might also get a fairer representation of those votes over a majority in the biggest states, especially – under the current system, they’re essentially superfluous.
Third-party campaigns might find it easier to appeal to voters who would otherwise back the loser in a two-way race – especially if they might expect their selection to add to victories in other states in the final tally. It’s a long shot, I know, but it might foster some realignment in a situation like the one we’re facing.
For now, I’m seeing the Electoral College as a wall holding the major parties upright.