More Math on the Electoral College

Yesterday, WTL posted about North Carolina potentially splitting it’s Electoral College vote by districts. As I wrote a couple of days ago, a national movement on this front would ensure that NO DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE would win in the foreseeable future.

The idea of splitting a state’s EC vote is quaint, but still ignores the impact of states whose distributions are 5 or less. Currently there are 17 states and DC that have 5 or fewer Electoral College votes for a total of 69 electors (note: this also includes Maine and Nebraska who currently split their votes according to district though they have largely gone with the entire state). Of these states, 6 and DC voted Democratic for a total of 25 Electors, or just over 1/3 of the available vote in this category. All of these states are located in highly Democratic regions, with the exception of Hawaii. The remaining 11 states that voted Republican are in the Mountain West (except for W. Virginia).

Splitting these states would do nothing to the final EC distribution. Because these states are so small, any single pickup would do little to help a “minority” candidate, be they Republican or Democrat.

If we look at states with distributions between 6 and 10 votes we find a similar situation. There are 14 states with a total of 112 EC votes. Of these 14 states, 5 voted Democratic (CT, MD, WI, MN, OR) for a total of 44 or 39% of the available electors. Splitting the vote in these states would likely result in a wash, with many rural areas going to Republicans and Urban areas go to Democrats. There is a possibility of some pickups (AR01, AR02 for example) but when you consider the losses to gains, Democrats may actually lose.

The issue gets more complicated in states with 11-20 electors. Of the 131 available electors in these 11 states 64 or 49% went to Democrats. However, Kerry won 5 of these states (NJ, MA, MD, MI, WA). Sure, Kerry may have picked up single votes in TN-09, and Cuyahoga Co. in Ohio, and several other urban areas, but he would have also lost a couple in WA, NJ, and MD. This probably would have again, made it a wash.

In the remaining 6 states with 21 or more electors we see a similar pattern. Democrats would lose some 20 electors in CA, as well as a couple in rural PA, NY and IL, gain some in FL, OH, and TX and still lose the election.

According to Polidata as reported by the Cook Political Report, Kerry won a mere 180 of 435 congressional districts, that’s 20 fewer than the number of Democratic House members in 2004. If you add 2 electors for each state won that makes his total 216, well below the 252 that he received. Clearly, in the 2004 election this would have actually given Bush his mandate. (NSFW)

Let’s go back to the 2000 election for a moment, which was far closer than the ’04 election. If Florida had electoral plurality in place, Gore would have likely picked up 11 electors, and won the election. Unfortunately for Kerry in ’04, the loss of Iowa and New Mexico, along with the redistribution of electoral votes in IL, MI, NY, and PA further hurt his chances of winning.

The Electoral College is a relic of 18th century technology and rural fear. Were it not for smaller and rural states, the Electoral College would never exist. Additionally, since the inception of the Electoral College, and the inclusion of the 3/5 rule for population calculation (slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person to pump up the populations of rural and southern states) the Electoral College has sustained a tyranny of the minority in the selection of the nation’s executive.

There are several national efforts to effectively dismantle the Electoral College including National Popular Vote. This would effectively create a national voting bloc upon the adoption by a a group of states with a majority of the electors. This has about as much chance of passing as a renewed attempt at prohibition.

Abolishing the Electoral College has even less chance of passing. In order to do so we would need an Amendment to the Constitution. This would require 30 states to make happen. Since 17 states stand to lose the most electoral power, and another 14 states could lose a small percentage of that power, it seems highly unlikely that this would pass.

A solution would be to work for Electoral College plurality in states that trend Republican statewide, but have concentrations of Democratic representatives. FL, TX, and OH come to mind immediately. These three states alone could have brought as many as 29 additional Electoral College votes to Kerry in 2004, without taking any away, giving him 281 Electoral College Votes, and the White House.

The Republican Party is currently doing the EXACT SAME THING with it’s attempt to enact Electoral College plurality in California, giving as many as 20 solid votes to Republican candidates and weakening our single largest distribution of Electoral College votes in the nation.

Another solution would be selecting candidates that are compelling nationally. Kerry, while a fine Senator, was not compelling in the flyover states as evidenced by his success in those states. Kerry was the last refuge of the establishment in 2004, a safe place for those who were and largely still are scared of Howard Dean. Should Hillary Clinton become the candidate, we can expect the same level of success nationally if the Republicans find a candidate that will motivate their base. As of this writing, this has not happened, but there is plenty of time between now and the election.

My greatest fear going forward is that we will select a candidate that will affirm Republican talking points (ala HFJ) against Democrats, constantly apologizing for being a Democrat or worse, trying to run to the right of the Republican. This has to stop. I am encouraged that the DLC, one of the largest apology groups in the nation, is apparently losing strength. Still, should Hillary become the nominee, I have no doubt that there will be a resurgence of DLCers on the Sunday Morning windbag shows, backhandedly eroding any chance of a Democratic President in 2008.

We can work to rig the Electoral College to our favor all we want, but ultimately it is our candidate’s failure to own our policies that hurts us. Clinton won 12 more states in 1996 than Gore in 2000, and 13 more in 1992. Say what you will about Clinton but he made no apologies for who he was or what he believed. Neither Gore nor Kerry can say that in their campaigns. People expect strength in their Presidents. Strength of conviction and the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what is right, even if it seems unpopular. In order for us to win in 2008, Electoral College be damned, that’s exactly the image we have to project. We can win as soon as stop beating ourselves. Hopefully, 2008 will be that year.

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