Giving the People a Meaningful Voice

Anyone who is loyal to the spirit of democracy upon which this nation is built must be disturbed by the barriers our current electoral process presents to third parties. A party which represents a significant “swing vote” should be represented as such in the electoral college, but the rules in place today make that nearly impossible.

In Europe, a prime minister needs a majority of votes from the parliament. Our electoral college system requires a majority of electoral votes to elect a president. This forces a national consensus on the choice of our leaders. When no candidate’s party holds the majority, different parties have to work together in sharing power. Deals are made, parties make concessions and compromises with each other, and ruling coalitions are built. The power of leadership goes to the factions who find ways to work together, and each party’s constituents gets a voice in the nation’s future. Democracy succeeds.

The intent of the designers of our constitution has been subverted by a two-party duopoly. The moneyed interests have consolidated their power into the two major parties, who have rigged the rules to shut out third parties, For instance, the winner-take-all system under which most states award electoral votes is an insurmountable obstacle to most new parties. So in every election third-party voters are condemned as spoilers or protest voters. People are discouraged from voting their conscience, and feel forced to opt for the lesser of two evils. Democracy fails.

The election of 2000 has revived interest in abolishing the electoral college in favor of a nationwide popular vote. But if we were to succeed in encouraging new parties, a candidate could be elected in a multi-party election with only 20-30% of the vote. Such a change would also require a constitutional amendment, which is a daunting task. And since it would exacerbate rather than relieve the Republicratic stranglehold on of our democracy, it’s probably an all-around bad idea.

Many people have suggested that more states select their electors as is done in Nebraska and Maine. In these states, each congressional district chooses its own elector, and two electors go to the state-wide winner. While this would be a step in the right direction, it still sets the bar too high for voters to be encouraged to abandon the “lesser of two evils” principle.

What I propose is true proportional allocation of electoral votes. Each state’s electoral votes would be distributed among candidates in proportion to each one’s share of the popular vote in that state.

For example, Florida has 25 electoral votes. Each electoral vote represents 4% of the popular vote. With over 48% of the popular vote apiece, Bush and Gore each get 12 electoral votes. (Had Nader been able to muster 4% of the popular vote in Florida, he would have earned one of that state’s electoral votes.) The leftover vote goes to the overall winner, once we figure out who that is.

Under a winner-take-all system, whether it’s by state, congressional district, or a nationwide popular vote, every vote that is not for the winner is a wasted vote. Under a true proportional system, Democrats in Texas, Republicans in New York, and Greens almost everywhere would have their votes represented in the electoral college. This would make the electoral college more representative of the diverse American population, and it would give millions of previously disenfranchised voters a seat at the electoral table.

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