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October 21, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Electoral College can be tweaked

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Each election, there are some who want to change how we elect the president. Specifically, there are calls to do away with the Electoral College.

I believe the Electoral College is a valid and vital concept. What I disagree with is that the electoral votes are awarded on a “winner-take-all” basis per state.

I think it would better serve our republic to award Electoral College votes on a per-congressional-district basis. That is, each vote is awarded to the winner of a congressional district, and the overall state winner gets the two votes represented by the Senate seats. There are a couple of states that already do this.

Changing this would have no impact on the several small states that have only a single congressional district. It is the large states like California, Texas and New York that would see a potentially dramatic change in how their votes are allocated.

It will be difficult to do this on a national level, but we can do it here in Nevada just as those other states have. We might wind up splitting our votes 4-2, but voters in both our rural and urban areas could feel as if their vote mattered.

The author is chairman of the Whig Party of Nevada.

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  1. Jim:

    What you failed to address/comment on is that the inherent inclination and design of the Electoral College [EC] preempts third parties in the US. It's [EC] structure allows two parties to compete well and one to win but not 3.

    CarmineD

  2. For years, I have backed the idea of eliminating the Electoral College and returning to popular vote that represents each voter. The writer, Jim Bacon, has offered a reasonable compromise worthy of pursuing. Change in the system must happen because the power of super PACs have drowned out the singular voices of the People. This is a good start and I truly hope it is possible to make it happen.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  3. This suggestion, in essence, creates 336 "states" instead of 51 (DC included). The electoral college that exists today can already defeat the will of the majority and is already distant enough from "one person, one vote". This suggestion makes it worse. If you want to make room for third parties, eliminate the electoral college completely and remove the House of Representatives from the election of the President by specifying a runoff election of the top two vote-getters if no candidate gets X% of the vote.

  4. Another danger of this suggestion is that the election of the President would be subjected to whatever gerrymandering one party or the other could pull off in determining the boundaries of each congressional district. That reality alone makes this a scary proposition.

  5. It is unlikely that the suggested changes would have any impact on third party success as the barriers to those parties would continue to be promulgated and enforced by both major parties. The current Electoral College is biased in favor of states with low population....Montana, Wyoming, etc. The Congressional District suggestion would further that bias especially in Western states. Much as it seems contrarian in these times I'm in favor of a more republican form of government, not less. Our elected officials run the gamut from genuinely hard workers with intelligence to complete vapid morons, but they are more easily dealt with than the mob of muddy-booted Jacksonians.

  6. I've always noticed that people want something changed only when it suits their purposes. Especially when it deals with politics. And getting into power.

    Leave it alone. It works now. Don't need changing.

    Besides that I like it when I can actually say that the people have spoken after an election.

    Let's not change it to the people have spoken, but the elected officials have decided not to listen to them. Because they're too busy trying to rig the system in order to grab power.

  7. At the extreme ends of the Electoral College Wyoming gets 1 EC vote per 137,000 voting age population [not registered voters or actual voters] while New York gets 1 EC vote per 516,000 voting age population. So much for one man:one vote. Regardless, the system mostly works. Manipulating the EC in the hopes of introducing a third party into the mix is a pipe dream....possibly best argued in Colorado and Washington which recently legalized pot. I agree with the correspondents who note that this could make things worse than they currently are.

  8. So nice of the author to completely ignore the consequences of gerrymandering in his plot to ignore the intent of the founding fathers.

    When you look at the House election in 2012, you see a very clear consequence of gerrymandering. If one were to take the popular vote totals, they were nearly equal. At last count, Democrats held a slight 0.6% edge in the popular vote for the House.

    Yet the House remains firmly under GOP control with a 30 seat margin...

    Jim's scheme to betray the founding fathers vision and substitute a new racket for electing the President would make it MORE likely that the candidate who won the popular vote would lose the Presidency.

    That's the wrong direction for our country.

    If this is the best the Whigs have to offer, maybe they should remain a footnote in history.

  9. Yah, that is what we need, our presidential elections susceptible to gerrymandering! I'll take the current system, thanks!

    If all (wo)men are created equal, our votes should be created equal as well. Whichever candidate wins the popular vote should win the presidency.

  10. The winner-take-all system was not adopted by most states until the 1820s. It is no where to be found in the Constitution, and using the CD system that I advocate (such as what Maine and Nebraska use) is a step closer to what was arguably intended.

    Winner-take-all is undoubtedly a means to enhance party politics.

    As originally practiced, people would vote not for a given candidate for President, but for an elector who favored a given candidate. The results from early elections show how the electoral college vote was split in each state for different candidates (and after 1792, for both President and Vice-president.) The electors were not tied to a CD, only to the number of CDs in a state plus the seats in the Senate.

    Just as the original design was meant to be a compromise between having the House elect the President and having a direct popular vote, the per-CD system is a compromise that retains the Electoral College but moves it closer to the people inasmuch as (gerrymandering notwithstanding) CDs tend to break large states into more regionally similar areas.

    From what I can tell it was largely the Jacksonians who pushed through wiiner-take-all in various states following the 1824 election. Other states had little choice but to follow along in order to retain parity in the process.

    We could of course return to the original system. It might entertaining indeed to see over 100 people campaigning in California as electors. Talk about being a battleground state. :)

  11. Our founding fathers did not envision a system where corrupt leaders gerrymandered districts into ensuring their chosen party remained in power.

    Given the recent election, where Democrats won a majority of popular votes for seats in the House of Representatives, yet are still in the minority by 30 seats, this half-baked plot is a recipe for failure.

    Special interest money would flood state legislatures, electing well-heeled plutocrats who would rig the game. This scheme is inviting corruption.

    The "modern" Whig party is a misnomer, given their policies are still firmly rooted in the past. The election of the President should remain free from the threat of gerrymandering.

  12. Yes, the Modern Whigs do take inspiration from the Whigs of the past, but look to see how those principles can be applied to the current environment.

    The original intent was that large states could not run roughshod over the smaller ones in the election process and was intentionally designed to give small states an advantage by including seats in the Senate in the calculation. At one point Virginia had 15% of the total electoral vote, but because it could be split the full power of that bloc was not felt.

    The winner-take-all system has concentrated a large amount of power in only a few states such as California, Texas and New York. A direct popular vote is no different in that the large population centers would still be swamping rural regions (Nevada is a case in point.)

    Per-CD voting addresses both those concerns in today's political environment.

    As for gerrymandering, the practice is as despicable as it is pervasive. The only way to stop it is to nominate and elect representatives who value the good of the people above the good of their respective parties. And if you think gerrymandering is bad, look at the new open primary system in California.

  13. "What else should I think if modern day Whigs won't answer my question as to whether they feel about Middle-Eastern and Hispanic immigrants, like their predecessors when they believed the United States was being overwhelmed by the German and Irish Catholic immigrants who were regarded as hostile to Republican values?" - BChap

    Bradley, I don't recall seeing that question before but will take a stab at it (and go badly off topic in the process.)

    The short answer is that the Modern Whigs support a modified version of the Dream Act with emphasis on a pathway to citizenship for those who served their country, i.e. military service (and I could argue by extension the Peace Corps and similar activities.) There is not so much support for students, but then again the party is more in favor of affirmative action based on merit rather than race or ethnic grounds.

    There is no clear consensus as yet other than legal immigration needs to be streamlined while illegal immigration needs to be viewed in terms of what impact it has upon society and the infrastructure. I would point out that there is a diversity among the National Executive Committee including a Muslim (in Texas!) and a Filipino.

    Our concern about illegal immigration is most likely a result of the concern about protecting American markets from undue influence/competition from foreign pressure without regard to anything else.

    I'll put the question to the national Chair and forward his answer to you.

    Jim

  14. The following post should have appeared here but I made the mistake of posting in on another thread....

    Sorry about that....

    The Founding Fathers created the electoral college System not with the small states necessarily in mind, They created the system to keep from giving the people themselves the opportunity to directly elect the president....

    Many of the Founders had serious reservations about giving the vote to the masses. Alexander Hamilton stated that to give the vote to the masses would be a great mistake because the masses would sell their vote to the highest bidder....

    Presently, the Electoral College System favors the large states. Most people don't believe that but it's true.

    A presidential candidate can currently win the White House by carrying a mere 11 of the 50 states.

    Only in a very close election, such as 2000, does the small states figure into the mix. The larger states such as California, Texas, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan. Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wisconsin receive most of the attention from the presidential candidates....

    Of course, that's where the electoral votes are....

    In many of our presidential elections over the year's it's has not been unusual for one or both of the candidates to completely ignore many of the smaller states.

    Nixon made a grave mistake in 1960 when he pledged early on that he would visit all 50 states during his campaign.

    The day before the election Nixon was in Alaska and his opponent, John Kennedy, was having lunch in Illinois with the mayor of Chicago.

    Kennedy carried Illinois , with the help of Mayor Richard Dailey, by approximately 9,000 votes & became the president... An interesting fact about the presidential election in Illinois in 1960 was the fact that Nixon carried 92 of the 101 counties but got beat.

    In this year's election Obama carried 11 of the 14 states that I have listed.

    What did Bill Clinton keep telling us during the recent campaign? I believe he said it's all about arithmetic!

    He wasn't talking about the Electoral College but he could have been and he would have been correct.

  15. "Presently, the Electoral College System favors the large states. Most people don't believe that but it's true." - El_Lobo

    I would disagree with this only in that it is not the system that favors the large states, but rather the current implementation, winner-take-all, that does that. I do agree that large states have a decided advantage, just as large population centers would in a direct popular vote.

    If states were to go to a district system such I advocate (and ironically, so did Andrew Jackson, though his party pushed winner-take-all) then small states have a slight edge, as was the original intent, in my opinion. I submit that this would be the true compromise.

  16. So Jim thinks gerrymandering is "pervasive" yet thinks that elections via gerrymandered Congressional districts are the smartest way to elect Presidents?

    Is this really the best the "Whigs" can come up with? Gerrymandering and fraud, a system which is likely to punish the popular vote champion, and one that... oh, hey... benefits the GOP, who can't compete in the current system!

    Jim doesn't need any Windex, we can see right through him.

  17. Good try, Kevin, but I also decried gerrymandering and said what had to be done to stop it. What have you done to prevent it?

    We deal with what we have until we can change it.

    By the way, what do you think of IL CD4? And what party does it benefit?

  18. BChap,

    Immigration is off-topic for this letter, but I answered you, plus I put the question to the national Chair and sent you a private email on that. As I said, I won't duck a question. I just won't promise (or expect) that everyone will agree with my answer.

  19. Bradley,

    I thought I was being open and honest when I sent the letter in over my title and position. I am sorry if there was a misunderstanding.

    Without regard to third parties, I do feel that our winner-take-all system is doing us an injustice. I also feel the Adams and others were correct in seeking a compromise position between a popular vote and having a system like England to select the President.

    I feel that having a district based system would bring things back in line with what was envisioned.

    Jim