[EM] making the electoral college obsolete without a constitutional amendment

James Green-Armytage jarmyta at antioch-college.edu
Wed Sep 15 23:23:54 PDT 2004

Dear election methods fans,

	So, in case anyone hasn't heard, there is a VERY interesting situation in
Colorado this fall. On the November ballot there will be an amendment to
allocate their 9 electoral votes proportionally rather than via
winner-take-all. Not only would this be a substantial boon for the loser
in the state (probably Kerry); it could also prove to be a turning point
in the struggle to get rid of the electoral college. Actually getting rid
of the EC via a federal amendment would be extremely difficult, but
gradually undermining it on a state-by-state basis is quite feasible.
	The remaining question is this: what do we do about heavily-one-sided
states like California, New York, Texas, and the rest of the South
(excepting Florida)? If California suddenly shifted to a proportionally
allocation, with none of the "red" strongholds following suit, then the
Democrats might not win another election for the next 20 years. Likewise,
if a handful of big southern states like Texas, North Carolina, and
Georgia switched over on their own, then the Republicans would be at a
huge disadvantage.
	So, is this measure just going to be for the swing states, or what? Could
California strike a deal with a handful of Southern states such that they
both switch over at the same time? Sounds pretty unlikely. Here's one idea
which I had, though, and you can all tell me if someone has proposed it
	What if California (or Texas, or any other state) wrote it into law that
they would award all 55 electoral votes to the winner of the popular
vote?? In this proposal there is no drastic disadvantage for the
Democrats. There is a slight loss of advantage, but it seems acceptable.
And the point is that enough other states would eventually follow suit
that the popular vote would be the only real determinant of the election.

	Okay. So, the next question is, how do you incorporate alternative voting
methods into the proposal? Well, let's keep using California as our
example state. Instead of tallying the popular vote according to
plurality, they could tally it according to a pairwise method. Of course,
most or all of the data coming from other states will not be in ranked
form, but nevertheless, California can interpret it as such in its popular
vote tally.
	For example, if some voter in Kansas votes for Bush, then California
could interpret this as a vote for Bush>Kerry=Nader=Cobb=Badnarik... etc.
Perhaps, if California got really wild and wanted to use a
cardinal-weighted pairwise tally, they could interpret the Kansas voter as
Bush 100 > Kerry 0 = Nader 0 etc.
	In the meantime, of course, California could adopt a ranked ballot or a
cardinal/ordinal hybrid ballot, and work that into their tally, so that
people could vote for third parties in California while still supporting
their favorite major party candidate in the pairwise comparison against
the other one. And, when other adventurous states adopted a ranked ballot
(or a rankings+ratings ballot, or an approval ballot, or something else),
California could work this into their nationwide pairwise tally. 
	The different states who adopted this plan would not have to use the same
tally method for the national vote. Also, there might be other ways in
which the states could differ in the way they count the votes. 

	Well, that's my idea. What do you think?

my best,

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