A modest electoral proposal

Dr. James E. Sayer is a professor emeritus at Wright State University.

The 2016 Presidential election was notable for several factors, not the least of which was the acrimony that so filled both the primaries and the general election. It was a political campaign that made many people both sick of the process and very happy that it finally came to a conclusion.

However, the most striking aspect of Election 2016 was not just the acrimony but the splits in this country that the general election made so apparent: Voters in rural areas overwhelmingly voted for Mr. Trump, while urban voters overwhelmingly preferred Secretary Clinton; male voters selected Trump, while female voters selected Clinton; and voters aged 18-45 voted for Clinton, while people over 45 voted for Trump.

But those splits do not compare to the split in the actual voting itself: Mr. Trump won the election with 306 electoral votes, but Secretary Clinton won the national popular vote, thus becoming the fifth Presidential candidate to win the popular vote but lose in electoral balloting.

As with Mr. Gore’s electoral loss in 2000, there immediately arose cries for the elimination of the electoral vote process, to be replaced by the national popular vote as being more representative of national political preference. As in 2000, these cries will prove to be unanswered, and we shall move along as we have — until the next electoral vote/popular vote schism.

The existence of electors came about for two reasons: a fear of direct democracy by the Constitutional framers, and political protection for smaller populated states. If the national popular vote was all that mattered, then no national candidate would be concerned with states like Wyoming, the Dakotas, etc., campaigning fulltime instead in the more populous states like California, New York, Florida, Texas and Ohio.

I would submit that our current situation is not caused by the existence of the electoral system but by the way it is administered. In 48 states, the winner of a given state’s popular vote receives all of that state’s electoral votes, no matter how small that margin of victory. In November, the difference was less than 5 percent in 12 states.

This “winner-take-all” approach does not accurately represent the will of the people by completely shutting out the losing candidate, no matter how close the voting actually was. For example, in California, Mr. Trump received one-third of the popular vote, but Secretary Clinton claimed all of that state’s 55 electoral votes. Similarly, in Florida, Clinton received 48 percent of the popular vote, but Trump received 49 percent and thus got all 29 electoral votes.

One-third of the voters in California and nearly half of the voters in Florida were effectively disenfranchised by the present system. And it occurred in every state.

What is needed is a federal law that mandates states distribute their electoral votes by the percentage of popular votes. Thus, if candidate “A” received 60 percent of the popular vote, then he/she would receive 60 percent of that state’s electoral votes. The other 40 percent would be given to the runner-up, thus allowing his/her voters to have an actual impact in the election and not be effectively disenfranchised, as under the present system.

What if my proposal has been in effect this past election? Well, proving that the election really was close, regardless of how the final popular and electoral votes were tallied, a percentage-based electoral vote system in 2016 would have given Secretary Clinton 275 electoral votes and the White House, only five more votes than the minimum required.

My proposal keeps both the popular vote and the electoral vote, and it finally allows every person’s vote to mean something.

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