The Electoral College has received increased scrutiny over the last few decades, with the most recent election continuing the contempt for the system. It’s a strange process, but it’s one found in the Constitution, so nothing can be done, right?
As stated in my last post, state election laws are quite powerful, so there are actually many ways to use state election laws against the Electoral College without having to amend the Constitution. One way often suggested is to follow Maine and Nebraska – though most state election laws require that the state’s electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote in the state, Maine and Nebraska each allocate electoral votes based on who won the popular vote in each of their congressional districts. For example, in 2016, the majority of people in Maine’s 1st and 3rd Districts voted for Hillary Clinton, but the 2nd District’s majority voted for Donald Trump, splitting the electoral votes 2 to 1.
Other states could also choose to allocate their electoral votes proportionally, and there would be huge consequences – but generally not positive consequences. For example, in the 2000 election, Al Gore won the popular vote by .5% but lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush by .9%. However, using a proportional system in each state, Bush still would have won, but by a full 8.8%, making the famously deadlocked contest appear to be a decisive victory. In 2012, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in both the popular vote and the Electoral College, but with a proportional system, Romney would have actually won the Electoral College and the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Even in 2016, the proportional system wouldn’t have prevented the Trump victory.
It’s likely that given a proportional system, candidates would campaign differently and none of these outcomes might look the same, but the statistics still show that a proportional system in every state can result in worse correlation between the popular vote and the electoral vote. Perhaps it’s time to look to other ways of changing state election laws to fix this outdated system.