The passage of time tends to make me reflect on some long-held positions, reconsider them and possibly look for avenues of change.
That seems to be happening with my long-standing support of the Electoral College system of electing presidents. Momentum for a change seems to be building, according to The Hill newspaper.
The Hill reports that 11 states have enacted legislation ending the winner-take-all provision for doling out electoral votes.
Proponents of the change say that the 2020 presidential election might be the first to pick a president that relies on the popular vote rather than the current method.
This is a huge deal. I’m still officially undecided on whether I want it to change, but I am ready to keep an open mind on it.
The Hill reports: “Criticism of the current Electoral College system stems from its ‘winner-take-all’ approach, which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote in that particular state. Winner-take-all systems generally mean presidential candidates ignore the states they know will go red or blue and focus their campaign efforts on battleground states instead.”
If a candidate wins a state, he or she wins all of that state’s electoral votes. Texas boasts 38 such votes. It’s a big prize. However, given that the state is so reliably Republican, candidates in recent years rarely have ventured here to compete for our state’s electoral votes. They concentrate instead — almost exclusively — on the “swing states,” such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. As The Hill reports: “In the 2012 presidential election, for example, two-thirds of campaign funding went to four states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Aside from other events in handful of states, the majority of the country was ignored.”
I can recall a trip my wife and I made to Greece in November 2000. I was attending a series of meetings sponsored by the Greek press ministry. That year’s U.S. presidential election was not yet decided. Vice President Al Gore won more votes than Texas Gov. George W. Bush and the candidates were fighting over a recount of ballots in Florida. The winner of that battle would win the presidency.
The question kept coming at me from my Greek hosts, who are quite sophisticated about these matters, given that their country gave birth to democratic government as we’ve come to know it: How is it that someone can get more votes than the other guy and still lose an election? I had difficulty explaining how the Electoral College system works. Frankly, the more I tried to explain it, the less I began to believe in it.
Well, Bush won the battle with a razor-thin Supreme Court decision over Florida’s ballots and became president despite losing the popular vote.
Now the tide to fundamentally reform the presidential election process may be turning in favor of those who want to change it.
Something tells me this discussion is just now picking up steam.