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A New Electoral Method for Proportional Allocation of Votes

The winner-take-all and Congressional District electoral methods adversely affect how each ballot is represented in presidential election outcomes. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons
The winner-take-all and Congressional District electoral methods adversely affect how each ballot is represented in presidential election outcomes. PHOTO/ Flickr Creative Commons

By Evan S. Biegel

Published: November 15th, 2017

The Electoral College is an infamous facet of the American democracy because the electoral methods it embodies do not properly represent American voters. The two current methods—winner-take-all and Congressional District—result in the omission of nearly half of the total votes in the United States. In other words, the number of votes that do not contribute to an electoral vote for a candidate equal approximately half of the total votes nationwide. This implies that nearly half of American voters are not represented in presidential election outcomes. Since each state employs the electoral method responsible for the foregoing phenomenon, the underlying issue lies within the states, for they do not properly represent their voters.

A national popular vote has often been considered to be a viable solution for decreasing the percentage of unrepresented voters to zero. Such a solution seems most compatible with the “one person, one vote” tenet established in Supreme Court cases in the 1960s. However, a national popular vote may amplify the effect of voter error, voter fraud, election vulnerability, and scattered campaigning. Additionally, every vote is equal in value but each equal vote is not represented equally, which is the current issue regarding the “one person, one vote” principle. Thus, an optimal electoral method is one that decreases the percentage of unrepresented voters to the smallest possible value, while maintaining compatibility with the national popular vote.

Proportional allocation methods appear to be the most compatible with the national popular vote; however, recently proposed methods result in fractions of electoral votes which in turn introduces the issue of properly choosing electors. The Congressional District method that both Maine and Nebraska employ is a type of proportional allocation system that compensates for differences in votes within each district, but the use of winner-take-all in each district continues to engender a relatively high percent of unrepresented voters. Furthermore, districts have the potential to be gerrymandered and consequently embody the potential to be partisan. Lastly, districts do not contain the same population sizes, so from an apportionment perspective, allocating one electoral vote per district is not entirely representative.

In order to increase both voter representation and turnout, to rule out the complications associated with Congressional Districts, and to abandon the inequity statewide winner-take-all encompasses, a new electoral method within the realm of proportional allocation may be considered. American voters may require such a system to be compatible with the national popular vote, minimize the number of unrepresented voters, and permit a simple way for states to provide each party with an appropriate number of electors (to result in a whole number of electoral votes for each candidate). The proposed electoral method to follow, referred to as Proportional Threshold Distribution, simultaneously considers the voter turnout and population in each state (in the form of electoral votes), thus compensating for the dynamic nature of presidential elections.

The Proportional Threshold Distribution first divides the voter turnout by the total  number of electoral votes in a state to provide a threshold vote for each. For example, in New York, 7,721,453 people voted in the 2016 election, so the threshold vote for New York is 266,257; hence, for every 266,257 votes a candidate received, he or she would have received one electoral vote from New York’s 29 total electoral votes. Subsequent to distribution, a certain number of voters remain for each candidate, in particular, those individuals whose vote did not contribute to an electoral vote for the candidate they cast a ballot for. Upon totaling the aforementioned voters after implementing this method in each state for the 2016 election, the percent of unrepresented voters decreased from nearly 50%  to less than four percent, thus increasing voter representation nationwide.

Additionally, there may be some electoral votes remaining in a state, and this method distributes them in the following manner: Candidates are sorted, from highest to lowest, as per the number of remaining voters they each contain, and the remaining state electoral votes are distributed accordingly. In other words, the candidate with the remaining number of voters closest to the threshold vote receives the first remaining state electoral vote. In such a scenario, the candidate with the majority in a state does not receive all remaining electoral votes since that mirrors statewide winner-take-all.

Ultimately, the Proportional Threshold Distribution method would require the winner to be declared based on the candidate who receives the greatest number of electoral votes, and in the case of a draw, the decision should be made by Congress. Over time, the method may engender an increase in both voter turnout and support for third-party candidates. Furthermore, the issue regarding swing states may be mitigated under a Proportional Threshold Distribution system, in turn causing candidates to homogeneously campaign across the country. With respect to the electors, the method distributes whole-number electoral votes to each candidate which permits a simple way for them to represent their candidates at the meeting of electors. Finally, upon considering the attempt to represent votes of equal value in a more equitable manner, Proportional Threshold Distribution may be one of the strongest contenders among all recent proposals.

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3 comments

  1. Of COURSE, with the presidency determined by the candidate with the most national popular votes, every vote would be equal in value AND each equal vote would be represented equally. One person, one vote, as in virtually every other election in the country.

  2. Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
    The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    There are good reasons why no state awards their electors proportionally.

    A “third party” candidate, like Ross Perot, who got 19% of the national popular vote in 1992, could easily get some electoral votes under a proportional system. That could easily mean no candidate would reach 270 electoral votes, leading to the selection of the president by the U.S. House of Representatives, regardless of the popular vote anywhere.

    Although a whole-number proportional approach might initially seem to offer the possibility of making every voter in every state relevant in presidential elections, it would not do this in practice.

    A whole number proportional system sharply increases the odds of no candidate getting the majority of electoral votes needed, leading to the selection of the president by the U.S. House of Representatives, regardless of the popular vote anywhere.

    It would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote;

    It would reduce the influence of any state, if not all states adopted.

    It would not improve upon the current situation in which four out of five states and four out of five voters in the United States are ignored by presidential campaigns, but instead, would create a very small set of states in which only one electoral vote is in play (while making most states politically irrelevant),

    It would not make every vote equal.

    It would not guarantee the Presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country.

    The National Popular Vote bill is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees the majority of Electoral College votes to the candidate who gets the most votes among all 50 states and DC.

  3. National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by voter error, voter fraud, election vulnerability, and scattered campaigning

    With the current system (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), a small number of people in a closely divided “battleground” state can potentially affect enough popular votes to swing all of that state’s electoral votes.

    537 votes, all in one state determined the 2000 election, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud, mischief, coercion, intimidation, confusion, and voter suppression. A very few people can change the national outcome by adding, changing, or suppressing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. With the current system all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

    National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud or voter suppression. One suppressed vote would be one less vote. One fraudulent vote would only win one vote in the return. In the current electoral system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.

    The closest popular-vote election count over the last 130+ years of American history (in 1960), had a nationwide margin of more than 100,000 popular votes. The closest electoral-vote election in American history (in 2000) was determined by 537 votes, all in one state, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

    For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be two hundred times closer than the 1960 election–and, in popular-vote terms, forty times closer than 2000 itself.

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