Presidential Elections Bring Out Mixed Messages

A mixed message bears both truth and inaccuracy

The New York Times Editorial Board, a usually reliable news source, brought mixed messages to the Electoral College workings in their recent article, Fix the Electoral College – Or Scrap It. Here’s one of the true points:

What really disregards the will of the people is the winner-take-all rule…

Then the article continues with an inaccuracy:

…currently used by every state but Maine and Nebraska.

090219 Mixed Messages

Maine and Nebraska employ winner-takes-all

Sorry, Maine and Nebraska use the winner-takes-all approach as well. First, the winner-takes-all approach is used, in each state, for two electoral votes from the state-wide voting. Then, the remaining electoral votes are allocated on a congressional and winner-takes-all basis. Combining both approaches, effectively making a vote be counted twice, disenfranchises minority voters in a two-fold manner.

Here’s are examples from the 2016 election.

Maine split its four electoral votes three to one, favoring Clinton. Nebraska cast all five of their votes for Trump. Different results would have been realized if the winner-takes-all aspect was removed and voting were done proportionally.

Maine would have split their four electoral votes, giving two votes to Clinton and two votes to Trump. Nebraska would have split their five electoral votes, giving two votes to Clinton and three votes to Trump.

Winner-takes-all disenfranchises voters

The article then continues with another tidbit of truth:

Giving all electors to the winner of the statewide popular vote erases the votes of citizens in the political minority.

The article continues, in a very subtle manner, messes up the message once again by referring to the National Popular Vote (NPV) approach as being elegant. Hardly! While NPV ensures that the nation’s popular vote winner captures the presidency, there are other consequences that need to be considered.

NPV defies the U.S. Constitution and state sovereignty

NPV defies the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution has a built-in remedy to make corrections. It’s called an amendment. If an idea or process is no longer valued or of use to be included in the Constitution, changes can be made. NPV ignores that aspect and defies the Constitution by forming an interstate compact.

The NPV compact bypasses individual state voting voices and ignores state sovereignty. It is this aspect of being a federal republic that is essential to our being the United States of America. Each state receives and deserves an independent voting voice while selecting a president.

NPV disenfranchises voters – making matters worse

What the article totally misses, however, is how NPV disenfranchises voters and can actually exacerbate the current problem. The winner-takes-all approach, as the article rightfully notes as an issue, is ignored by NPV. The problem is not erased but remains and is sometimes enlarged. Here’s an example:

Oregon, in recent elections, has predictably voted for the Democrat candidate. Assuming that trend continues in future elections, the plurality of voters could be disenfranchised if the nation, instead, chooses a Republican. The disenfranchisement aspect of the voting, in this example, is made worse.

But notice that the winner-takes-all malady still exists even if Oregon votes in concert with the rest of the nation. It means that voters who do not vote with the plurality of the state, still do not gain Electoral College representation. The winner-takes-all problem strikes again. NPV cannot solve the problem!

Fulfilling Electoral College goals

The Electoral College essentially sets out to accomplish three goals:

  1. Reflect the nation’s popular vote (though the winner-takes-all approach nullifies those results)
  2. Give credence to the sovereignty of independent states
  3. Provide a check against the dangers of a direct and simple popular vote.

Let’s consider the third goal.

The 2016 election reveals that 49 states and Washington, D.C., combined, cast the most votes for Trump by almost a 1.49 million vote margin. The Electoral College, then, prevented California from tipping the scales, all by itself, in favor of Clinton. Though she captured almost a 2.8 million vote advantage with California included, she did so without a sufficient national coalition – her vote advantage came via one state.

090219 Checks

If you preferred Clinton over Trump, you may not like that reality. If so, flip the names in the above scenario and see if it mollifies your distaste. The point here is that the check provided by the Electoral College worked.

NPV cannot provide any kind of check to our voting system that spans so many voters, so many states, and so many diverse regions. Divergent values and perspectives are difficult to coalesce into one choice that reflects the consensus (sentiment) of the governed.

Equal Voice Voting (EVV), on the other hand, accomplishes all of the above. It effectively removes the winner-takes-all aspect. On a state-by-state basis, it captures the popular vote result, retains the intent of the U.S Constitution, and honors state sovereignty. More, EVV makes all votes matter!

Reporting correct facts

It’s important to get the facts right!

In the spirit of fact-checking, I must retract one mentioned in last week’s blog. There, I said the Amazon rainforest is responsible for about 20% of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Not true! Better science points out that the Amazon rainforest produces about 6% of our oxygen. The larger concern is that, as the forest burns, the additional CO2 wreaks havoc with our climate.

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By Jerry Spriggs & the Equal Voice Voting team