As a habitant of central Illinois, I’ve heard all the complaints. Republicans are sick of Chicago painting the state blue year after year, and Democrats bemoan the Electoral College’s propensity for choosing Republican presidents, despite the popular vote’s dissent. Nobody is happy.
While mutual frustration is often a sign of a fair compromise, this is an exception.
Our current Electoral College, where 48 of 50 states use a “winner-take-all” system for awarding electoral votes, is not a compromise: It’s an affliction.
When an Illinois Republican casts a vote for President, they do so only symbolically. They know the chance their vote will make a difference in how Illinois awards its votes is figmental. For this reason, many people in consistently red or blue states simply don’t vote. I can’t fault them. Why should they?
America is using an electoral system that discourages voting. Is there anything more oxymoronic? Or, for that matter, more moronic?
If voters in solid states feel ignored, then one would expect denizens of swing states to be ecstatic. Well, they aren’t.
Because elections in swing states are, by definition, won or lost by a small margin, only a few votes in the state are truly contested. Those few votes belong primarily to fringe, centrist, or independent voters.
In total, the Winner-Take-All system means that our presidential elections are won or lost on the backs of only a few voters in a few swing states — far from ideal for one of the world’s most influential purported democracies.
Fortunately, there is a solution. The “Proportional Plan” can both reduce flyover states and eliminate swing states, while also closely reflecting the popular vote.
In practice, the Proportional Plan means that if two candidates split the voters in a state 60–40, then they also split that state’s electoral votes 60–40. For instance, in Illinois, a state with 20 electoral votes, the winner of 60% of the vote would win 12 votes, while their opponent gains 8.
Under this plan, low population states still have their two-vote influence boost, so candidates can’t ignore them. There are no longer such things as swing states or solid states, meaning the influence a state has is actually proportional to its true weight as intended by the Constitution. Because of this, the Proportional Plan would force candidates to campaign in every state, to every voter, and on every issue — not just focus on swing states.
If the Proportional Plan is superior to the current plan, how can we adopt it?
Amending the Constitution is one obvious option. It’s unlikely, but theoretically possible.
A more pragmatic approach is using an “interstate compact.” Proponents of the National Popular Vote have leveraged this idea as well, but it is just as possible for the Proportional Plan.
The interstate compact is based on the fact that the Constitution grants states the power to determine how to award their electoral votes. Here’s how it would work: After the voting is done, an agency would calculate the outcome of the election based on rules of the Proportional Plan. For example, the Democratic candidate might receive 261.5 electoral votes, and the Republican candidate might receive 265.4. This is a Republican victory. The interstate compact would demand states give all their electoral votes to the victor of this calculated result. In this case, if Illinois has signed onto the compact, Illinois will award all its votes to the Republican candidate — even if Illinoisans voted for a Democrat. As long as enough states sign the compact so their aggregate electoral votes sum over half of the total available electoral votes, we would have a de facto Proportional Plan.
This would completely revolutionize and re-democratize our presidential elections.
Yes, it’s a big proposal. And yes, it’s often difficult for politicians to agree on even the smallest issues. But this the Proportional Plan helps everyone. Increasing voter turnout, improving representation, and revitalizing our democracy by giving everyone a voice are ideals to which any party can aspire.
-Ben Chapman, August 2017