Thursday, June 17, 2004

Colorado might start to break the winner-take-all rule in the Electoral College

This is great news.

There might be an initiative on the November ballot to allocate Colorado's 9 electoral votes by proportional representation. That is, for every 11% of the statewide vote a presidential candidate earns, the campaign is assigned 1 elector.

Now, of course, whichever candidate earns the most votes gets all 9 electoral votes. And that's bad for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it distorts the results. 55% of the vote should not mean 100% of the electoral votes. That's just not fair.

Anyway, here are a few links about the proposal: MakesMeRalph and the Denver Post and Outside the Beltway and a columnist in the Rocky Mountain News named Mike Rosen.

There are a few really fascinating wrinkles. One is that the initiative will be on the same ballot as the presidential election itself. So the rules of the Colorado election will not be known until after election day. The incentive with a swing state with a winner-take-all allocation (like Florida or New Hampshire) is to spend a lot of resources, because if just a few people change their mind and vote for your candidate, you get the whole enchilada. In a proportional state (and there aren't any right now -- Maine and Nebraska allocate by district winner for their 'house' electors and by statewide winner for their 'senate' electors), there isn't much incentive to campaign unless you think you can beat 55% (because that would mean you could get 6 electors instead of 5).

Another is that the initiative is funded by some wealthy Democrats who are keeping quiet (no website, no comments in the press). That suggests that they, at least, think that Colorado is likely to vote for Bush again (how could they!), so if they can implement a proportional allocation of electors, then Kerry gets 3 or 4 of those 9 Colorado votes. Which can matter quite a bit.

And you've got to believe that anyone who likes third parties (which is about a third of the electorate, I think) is going to absolutely vote for the initiative. It's not inconceivable that an independent or third party candidate could earn 11% of the statewide vote, and that would be enough to earn 1 of the 9 eletoral votes. Which, again, is only fair.

Of course, if no candidate earns a majority of Electoral votes, Congress decides in a special session. Why can't we just eliminate this ridiculously outdated relic? (And yes, I know. . .underpopulated parts of the country that like their affirmative action won't let go of their clout).

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