You know, I've done enough research on the Electoral College, voting behavior, issue framing, campaigns, and the American political system to last me a lifetime of content-neutral agonizing over elections.
What I've really developed, though, is a healthy disdain for the winner-takes-all electoral system. The reasons I have are threefold:
- A long time ago, a President's personal background and heritage were highly touted, and voter interests were often tied to their particular state of residence. This is no longer the case; we vote on a President for federal and international issues, not regional ones. Thus a state voting as a bloc is archaic.
- The system has, in effect, been gamed for maximum value. The swing states have been clearly identified and are routinely overexposted, while clear Republican and Democratic states get ignored. Thus a state voting as a bloc is disproportionate.
- In addition, the system creates artificial discrepancies in the popular vote by discouraging minority party members from voting in solidly red or blue states. Thus a state voting as a bloc is disenfranchising.
There are of course, merits to the system, which I will attempt to discuss, but ultimately, a system that is archaic, disproportionate, and disenfranchising must be replaced in the age where the President of the United States is considered "leader of the free world."
The obvious solution to this is the one-person, one-vote system. There are many reasons to support this method:
- This method is feasible. Despite recent ado over faulty voting machines and stolen elections, we have the technology, capital, and capability to allow every American citizen 18 years or older the opportunity to cast a vote for the President of the United States.
- This method is proportionate. Every citizen's vote is just as valuable to the campaign, and is ignored at the candidate's peril. In a completely evenly-divided zero-sum game, both power and weight are equal. The system is impossible to "game" via swing states or ignoring "gimme" states.
- This method is efficaceous. One vote, one person, one result.
- This method is enfranchising. It will not only empower every voter, but also encourage them to take part in the process, and become an informed voter. Increasing discourse, debate, and thought in any society is always a good thing.
Now, there are two major complaints against the one man, one vote system, which I will now address.
- One argument is that this system is biased towards urban areas. This argument itself is somewhat specious for two reasons. First, representation in Washington is to be achieved by legislature, not the executive branch, and secondly, suggesting that large tracts of land should be entitled to any sort of benefit in voting for the President is disingenuous.
However, even if we accept this hypothesis, it fails to stand up to critical reasoning. The top 50 cities in the United States have approximately 55 million people living in them. This includes such "metropolises" as Omaha, Nebraska; Las Vegas, Nevada; Arlington, Texas; Minneapolis, Fresno, and Tulsa. It covers 29 states and Washington, D.C., making it much more expansive than the current campaign tours. The smallest city on the list, St. Louis, has about 320,000 people. So the top 50 towns have roughly 18% of the United States population. So even if a candidate managed to get 75% of the urban vote - and that means getting votes in both Oklahoma City and New York City, both Denver and Boston - he or she would still need roughly 50% of the rest of America to vote for them to ensure victory.
Even if they won 100% of all votes in cities over 100,000 - which represents 45 states, including South Dakota, Alaska, Delaware, Utah, Rhode Island, and Idaho - a candidate would still need to win over a third of the rest of America to guarantee a 50% majority.
- The second complaint, and perhaps the most valid, is the potential for runoff elections when a plurality split occurs. This might prove costly and particularly ugly given current campaign tactics and negative advertising. On the other hand, runoffs would force compromises and moderation among the parties to ensure victory - something which the current system vehemently rejects. The word mandate might even gain some actual meaning in a system where voters come together in a unified stand at the end of the election.
Additionally, currently if there is a tie in the Electoral College, a runoff moves to the United States House of Representative, which would presumably vote on straight party lines. If we used some sort of instant runoff voting (or, preferably, approval voting) then the end tally would consistently fall in the jurisdiction of the citizens of the country. A win-win.
In the 1960s and 70s Senator Birch Bayh (father of current Senator Evan Bayh) presented a direct election amendment resolution into Congress every session, but he was ridiculed as trying to change the system our forefathers had wrought. In essence, we have become a "warts and all" people in a world where direct democracy seems to be a simple and desirable step forward in American politics.
/msgs with comments and the like would be appreciated.