Don’t misunderstand me. I do not count myself among those calling for the elimination of the Electoral College, a system wisely put in place by our Founders, who understood that protecting the interests of small states was crucial to the implementation of Federalism. Rather, my proposal is to implement a system nationwide exactly like that utilized by Nebraska and Maine.
Did you ever wonder why the U.S. House of Representatives could be so dominated by one party (currently the Republicans) in a year when a presidential candidate of the other party wins an overwhelming majority of the Electoral College vote? The reason is that in the other 48 states, the system is such that the winner of the popular vote wins all of that state’s electoral votes. However, in Nebraska and Maine, the process is much more representative of the will of the people.
In these two states, if a presidential nominee wins the popular vote in a particular congressional district, that candidate wins one electoral vote. Barack Obama did it in 2008, when he outpolled John McCain in Nebraska’s Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District — the first time a Democrat had won an electoral vote in the Cornhusker State since Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater back in 1964.
In a short-sighted, knee-jerk reaction to Obama’s 2008 electoral victory in Nebraska 02, the state GOP tried (and failed) to revert back to the old winner-take-all system, which was in effect until 1991.
Imagine what would happen if the entire country were to adopt Maine and Nebraska’s much more representative system.
Most pundits agree that California, New York and Illinois are some of the most solidly Democratic strongholds in the nation — so much so that Republican presidential candidates hardly bother to stump there during general election campaigns because it is a forgone conclusion that all the electoral votes in those states will be awarded to the Democrat. In fact, one has to wonder why California Republicans even bother to vote for president, so meaningless is their choice toward the ultimate outcome of the election.
But would it surprise you to learn that 19 of the 53 congressional districts in that state are represented by Republicans, and that Romney actually carried most of those districts? Did you know that 8 of the 28 New York Districts are held by the GOP? Or that a majority — 11 out of 19 — of the congressional districts in Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois have consistently elected Republicans to the United States House of Representatives?
Would all of these districts always go for a Republican presidential candidate? Of course not, but a system of awarding electoral votes by congressional district arguably would result in a different outcome in many a close national election.
Could it go the other way in states like Texas, Alabama or Georgia? Certainly, but that’s the nature of a representative republic. In our system, the people choose who will represent them, and Nebraska and Maine are the only two states in the country truly allowing their voters to have a voice in presidential races.
What about the so-called battleground or swing states? Look at a map of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida or Virginia and tell me what you find. A sea of red congressional districts flecked with dots of blue.
I am a staunch defender of each state’s right to run their own elections for local, state and federal officials who will represent that particular state. But the fact is that our presidential elections increasingly are being decided by America’s urban areas, which are dictating policy for the entire nation. The best way to change that is to require — through constitutional amendment, if necessary — that all states adopt the Nebraska-Maine model.