10 reasons why North Carolina should abandon the current state-by-state winner-take-all Electoral College System
- Presidential candidates ignore most states (including North Carolina, one of the most populous states). Since Presidential campaigns can write off most states as either “red” or “blue” under the current system, campaigns do not waste resources or attention on voters within these states. Only 13 states were considered competitive (could not be written off as either “red” or “blue”) in the 2004 election, therefore, presidential campaigns ignored most states, including North Carolina, and most voters. The last time presidential candidates actively campaigned in North Carolina, not considered a competitive state, was 1992. In August 2004, President George W. Bush’s campaign strategist Matthew Dowd boasted that the campaign had not polled outside of the 18 closest states in more than two years. Despite having the richest campaign in history, Dowd knew his candidate did not need to waste a dime on learning the views of North Carolinians and most Americans. Both George Bush and John Kerry visited Florida and Ohio a combined 52 times in the peak season of the 2004 campaign, but neither visited North Carolina even once. Both Presidential campaigns spent more than $64,000,000 on ads in Florida in 2004, yet only a paltry $431,000 in North Carolina. Hardening partisan voting patterns, sophisticated campaign techniques, and high-tech tools will make it easier for Presidents and Presidential candidates to continue to ignore North Carolina citizens and citizens of most other states based on where they happen to live.
- The current system does not increase the electoral power of smaller states. In 2004, the current system made it easy for presidential campaigns to give small population states and medium sized states the least amount of attention. Only one of the smallest thirteen states was competitive in 2004, presidential campaigns ignored almost all of them. The election was dominated by the three competitive states with the largest populations (Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). A majority of TV advertising dollars were spent in these three states and 45% of candidate visits during the campaigns’ peak seasons were in these three states alone. Of the 18 smallest population states, 11 received absolutely no attention.
- The purposes for creating the current system are outdated. The current system, where Presidents are elected without receiving a majority of citizen votes throughout the nation, is a relic of a time long gone. It was created before the Civil War when Americans identified with their state more than with the union, rarely traveled beyond their state, and only an elite group of male landowners were allowed to vote. The College enabled the Founding Fathers to more easily incorporate the three-fifths compromise (during a time when the nation was divided over slavery) into the election of the President. In early presidential elections, most states in fact did not hold presidential elections, instead allowing their state legislature to decide. Today, most Americans can vote in presidential elections and Americans more strongly share interests based on factors (socioeconomic status, age, religious or moral values, healthcare concerns, etc.) other than the geographic proximity of living in the same state.
- The current system is a draw. In upcoming elections, one could just as well flip a coin as use the current system to decide the winner if the popular vote margin is inside a still-comfortable half million votes. Al Gore lost the 2000 election despite that winning margin, and George Bush almost certainly would have lost even with a comparable popular vote edge in 2004. State-by-state election results where small shifts often change who wins the national election are sure to lead to controversies and legal disputes where the courts must intervene, as they did in 2000, in the near future.
- The current system is not mandated by the Constitution. The Constitution only requires (under Article Two, Section One) that “Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.” It makes no mention of how a state may choose its electors, buts falls short of requiring the current system of election, used by most states, where states ignore thousands of voters within their state and casts all of their electoral votes for one candidate.
- The system creates “red” and “blue” states where many voters who are not of the dominant party are discouraged from voting. “Red” voters in “blue” states, and “blue” voters in “red” states, independents, and third-party voters are discouraged from voting. In the 12 most competitive states in 2004, voter turnout rose from 9% to 63%. In the 12 least competitive states, voter turnout rose only from 2% to 53%.
- A candidate who most Americans voted against can win under the current system. The Electoral College already has elected one out of every twelve second-place finishers since the Civil War, and a shift of less than 1% of the vote in several additional elections would have handed the presidency to candidates losing the popular vote. George Bush would have lost the 2004 election if he had won the national popular vote by less than 425,000 votes. A shift of just 20,417 votes would have given the country an Electoral College tie. An even smaller shift would have thrown the 2000 elections into the U.S. House. No winning presidential candidate has reached 51% of the vote in the four elections since 1988.
- The votes of racial minorities are disproportionately weakened under the current system. A White person is 50 percent more likely to live in a competitive state than is a person of color. More than 30 % of Whites live in competitive states, in contrast to only 21 % of African Americans and Native Americans, 18% of Latinos and 14% of Asian Americans. In other words, three out of every 10 white Americans live in a competitive state, but less than two of every ten people of color share this opportunity. Therefore, under the current system, racial minorities are being used for the purposes of creating electoral power (their population within a state increases the number of electors for that state), yet treated as less than equals as participants in our democracy because their vote is not equally meaningful. For African Americans, this stirs up memories of the three-fifths compromise in the South. In 2004, only 17% of African Americans lived in highly competitive states where African Americans made up at least 5% of the population.
- Most Americans support a nationwide popular election of the President. For more than fifty years, the Gallup poll has shown that a large majority of Americans wants to abolish the Electoral College and adopt a straight, one-person, one-vote system of electing the president. Seventy percent (70%) of people, in recent polls, support electing the President by a national popular vote.
- The need for recounts would be less likely if the President were elected by the total national popular vote rather than by the current system. The winner of the total number of nationwide citizen votes is more likely to have won with a decisive result than with the current system where changing a few votes in one swing state can shift the entire election. The closest margin in a national popular vote was far outside what might change with a recount. Since the 19th century, John Kennedy was the only popular vote winner to receive fewer than half a million more votes than his opponent. With 51 separate contests deciding the presidency, however, the odds are increased that in every close election there will be narrow votes in enough states that the conduct of election will be controversial—and end up in courts. Many voters lost confidence in the system and never gained confidence in the Presidential winner after the seemingly never-ending recount battle in Florida in 2000. The 2004 election was again historically close. The serious problems with Ohio’s elections— featuring battles over voter registration, provisional ballots, partisan observers in polling places and the shockingly long lines experienced by many voters— led to expensive litigation and suspicions that the election was decided unfairly. The narrow national division that has existed between the major parties since the end of the Cold War shows every indication of continuing.