Tuesday, January 31, 2012

State and Presidential Elections, and the Electoral College

So I was watching the news (CNN again today) and I noticed something about the delegate votes for the Republican Primary and how they were split between the candidates. Other than the silliness of the voter choice not being legally binding on the delegates (seriously) they were split rather unevenly given the actual spread of the vote numbers. How is it that with an 8 point spread in the votes Romney managed to pick up twice the number of delegates compared to Santorum? Vote numbers aside the districts themselves were pretty evenly split between the two candidates. This shows an inherent flaw at the very beginning of the election process, at least to me.

Different states have different rules, as per the Constitution they are free to do so, but I honestly believe this is one thing that needs to be amended, especially given the demographic changes compared to the late 18th century. The way it is set up now State Senators, Congressional Senators, and Governors are decided almost entirely by the major population centers in the State effectively making the opinions and needs of the rest of the state null and void. This is especially harmful in states that have multiple industry types, Washington being a prime example with its technological industries centered around Seattle-Tacoma, the farmland (largely) on the eastern side of the state, and the decently sized cattle industry mashed mostly betwen the two. The eastern side of the state has Spokane, but even that is dwarfed by the number of people on the western side of the Rockies. It's near impossible to compete with Olympia and Sea-Tac; that is the part of the state that makes 90% of the state decisions.

When it comes to statewide elections (Senators and Governor) and laws, they need to split the state up by the various districts, assigning each of them an equal number of electoral votes, and use the popular vote of that district to determine who gets the electoral vote for that district. This would work at the state level because generally something that affects one part of the district will have an effect on the rest.

For this same reason during the primaries and general election for the President the popular vote giving a candidate all of the electoral votes for that state is a horrible idea (so is popular vote overall). You get the same thing only at a position that affects the entire country, and with certain states having population centers so large they dwarf the rest of the state in numbers (California with its massive amount of farm and ranchland with lower population is also affected by this) you negate the votes of a huge portion of those states.

At the country level I propose it should be done as follows:
  • First, each state has their number of electoral votes based on population, the number only changing with the Census as it does now.
  • Next you look at the total number of people who voted
  • Then you assign a number of electoral votes to the candidate based on the percentage of the total voters that person got
  • For example: California has 55 electoral votes
    • Democrat gets 56% of the votes collected
    • Republican gets 37%
    • Independent gets 7%
  • The Democrat in this situation would get 30 of the electoral votes (stay with me here)
  • The Republican would get 20
  • The Independent would get 3
  • Then, the person with the highest percentage would get any votes left over to prevent people from getting decimal values of votes, so the Dem would end up with 32 of the electoral votes.
  • Using this method every person in the state would have their vote actually count, because you wouldn't have a winner takes all issue with the large population centers deciding for parts of the state with completely different concerns
The reason I propose the above instead of just a straight popular vote is for the same reason as the state level. You would end up with the large population centers being the primary determining factor for the entire country. "Flyover Country" would cease to matter in determining the President. This would give equal representation to people across the state regardless of whether they were the political minority in their area, and it would allow each state to determine what issues were most important to it without large cities making the decision for the rest of the country.

Do I think this would work perfectly? No, no system is ever perfect, however I believe it is better than the system we now have in place with citizens of some states feeling essentially useless in determining the course of the country just because they are outnumbered in their area. Ask a Democrat in Texas or a Republican in California if they truly believe their vote for the presidency matters the way things are now.

One more thing *best old man voice*, the order for the party primaries should be random every year. None of this same order every year where Iowa and NH are first. NH with their state law requiring them to be first every year disgusts me. What gives them the right to decide for the rest of the country that they get to go first? I have to give them credit, that's some serious cajones from a state with FOUR electoral votes. Really though, assign each state a number, toss them in a computer, and hit the random button a year before the national election. Tradition has its place, but Kingmaker status to two of the smallest states in the country, effectively having a larger hand than most to determine who the nominee is, is total bull.

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