FairVote's Top Three Electoral College Stories of the Week: January 29 to February 5, 2013

by Andrea Levien // Published February 6, 2013

We all know that our system for electing the president is a broken one. Winner-take-all laws for allocating Electoral College votes produce presidential elections in which the candidates only focus on states in which the outcome is not certain. This inequality between swing and safe states has become greater in recent elections. For example, in the post-convention campaign season of the 2012 election, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney only held public campaign events in 10 states, and spent 99.6% of their advertising money in those same 10 states between April 11 and Election Day. In addition, our current rules are vulnerable to partisan manipulation.

Each week, FairVote will identify three news stories or commentaries that provide particularly revealing insights into what's wrong with our current Electoral College rules and the best way to reform them. The media has been providing a great deal of coverage to Electoral College reform, focused on proposals to divide electoral votes. Here are our highlights for the past week.

1. The GOP's Bad Fixes to the Electoral College, Washington Post Editorial, February 3, 2013


This lead editorial in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post explains that recent Republican proposals to allocate electors by congressional districts in Republican-controlled, Democratic-leaning swing states "would destabilize the already imperfect Electoral College," because it would heavily favor one party over the other. In addition the method "would create more potential for recounts, as electoral votes would be awarded based on very narrow margins in some congressional districts. For more on recounts, see Mollie Hailey's blog "Statewide Recounts Remain Scarce: Zero in 2012".

2. The Ramifications of Changing the Electoral College, Governing Magazine, Lou Jacobson, January 31, 2013


In this article, Jacobson discusses in detail the various impacts that switching to a congressional district method of allocating electoral votes would have on presidential elections, such as increasing the likelihood of a wrong-winner election and increasing incentives to gerrymander congressional districts even further. (He briefly addresses the National Popular Vote plan, with some inaccurate assumptions -- partisan electors will have no reason to be "faithless" and the nation will be focused on the national popular vote outcome rather than state outcomes.)

3. A) Pennsylvanians Shouldn't Be Fooled by Electoral Hijinks, New Castle News, February 4, 2013


B) Republicans Lost Popular Vote Twice, Now Want to Ignore It, New Jersey Star-Ledger, January 28, 2013


Commentaries in two newspapers (one in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey) criticize attempts to divide electors within states and instead urge state legislators to support the National Popular Vote. Mitchel Olszak, editorial page editor of Pennsylvania's New Castle News explains why proposals to divide electoral votes in Pennsylvania would harm the state and calls on legislators to support the National Popular Vote plan. He ends with "This is a reform that takes no sides and favors no party. Anything else is a gimmick." The Star-Ledger editorial board also comes out strongly in favor of the National Popular Vote plan. It closes with "It's a simple ideal: The person who gets the most votes should win."