“An Idea for Electoral College Reform That Both Parties Might Actually Like”

Ned Foley in Politico Magazine (based on his forthcoming Oxford UP book, Presidential Elections and Majority Rule):

Americans have heard for years that the Electoral College is broken—just look at the presidential elections of 2000 and 2016, when the winner earned fewer votes nationally than the loser. We have also heard that, despite its flaws, this system won’t change anytime soon. Republicans generally oppose a national popular vote, which would both undermine them electorally and violate the Founding Fathers’ desire for the presidency to reflect America’s federalist structure as a union of separate states.

But here is an argument for Electoral College reform that might actually appeal to conservatives: Simply put, the way we currently elect presidents would horrify the early American authors of the U.S. electoral system, as defined in the 12th Amendment….

How to do so? It is the states that have the power to restore the Electoral College to its original intent—and to ensure that it better represents the will of the American people. To do so, they must commit themselves to this majority-rule principle: No candidate receives all of a state’s electoral votes unless the candidate gets a majority of the state’s popular votes.

There are many methods states can use to comply with this principle. They could have a regular runoff between the top-two candidates, held in late November, if no candidate received a majority in the initial popular vote. Alternatively, states could hold a preliminary vote—perhaps on the Tuesday after Labor Day—to clear the field of third-party and independent candidates, so that only the top two finalists appear on the November ballot. (This option would function similarly to the “top two” system that California and Washington state currently use for nonpresidential elections.) Or, states could adopt the kind of “instant runoff voting” procedure that Maine recently employed successfully for its congressional elections: Voters can rank their preferences among multiple candidates, so that a computer can tally which of the top two finalists receives a majority once all lower-ranked candidates are eliminated.


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