Monday, June 19, 2006

Holy Constitutional Amendments Batman

No, I'm not talking about the Flag Desecration Amendment or the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. Actually, I'm not even discussing an actual amendment before Congress. What we've got here is a bonefide shadow amendment.

Here's the scope... a bunch of folks (Rs and Ds) are going around trying to convince Legislatures to adopt a different distribution system for their Electoral College votes. Remember from civics class that every state gets two votes in the EC just for being a state and an additional vote for each representative in the House. To become President you need a majority of the EC or else the much despised 12th Amendment is activated and the killer robots come out of the Appalachians and replace all of our elected leaders. Most states (actually, it could be all states) deliver their electoral votes in a winner takes all strategy. Thus, if I were to win California by 52% I would receive all 55 electoral votes (of a total 538).

The result of the system, as currently designed, encourages a candidate to do just enough to win a state and nothing more. Thus Washington State, who has voted D every time since Roland Regan in 1984 (where Mondale took only Washington, D.C. and his home state of Massachusetts), is rarely visited by either national party. The state is not "swing" and thus the votes are already secured to one party.

Enter in our friends at the National Popular Election of the President and their crazy ideas about popular sovereignty. The idea is for states representing a majority of the EC votes to enter into a compact whereby they will award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. So, if a candidate wins 53% of the popular vote he is assured to win the Electoral vote because all of the states in the compact will assign their votes to him.

It's clever, to be certain, but the website doesn't answer some of my questions... like, what does the system do when a candidate only wins a plurality, like Clinton in 1996? From the sounds of it, he wins, no questions asked. Hmmm...?

Regardless of whether you think it's a good idea (and that's a whole other blog post) it certainly is a neat way of going about making changes to the Constitution without having to go through the big lengthy process. Given the current system favors small states, which hold more than the 1/3rd of the votes in the Senate to stop such an amendment, this seems like a good approach to accomplish the otherwise impossible.

You can see their progress on their Wikipedia entry.

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