| Electoral vote fosters neglect of most states by candidates

by Jack Santucci // Published February 13, 2006
FairVote Board Chair, former Congressman and 1980 independent Presidential candidate John Anderson discusses the shrinking battleground, falling turnout and direct election of the President in the San Jose Mercury News: | 02/12/2006 | Electoral vote fosters neglect of most states by candidates Today, candidates for the presidency may feel they crisscross the nation in search of votes, but examining their schedule reveals their travels are quite constrained. A recent study by the organization I chair, FairVote, quantified this shift in presidential politics by focusing on campaign activity in the last five weeks of the 2004 presidential campaign. In 33 states, not one of the major party presidential and vice-presidential candidates visited. That lack of interest in the views of most Americans extended to every decision of the campaigns and their allies, from registering and mobilizing voters to airing TV ads. More money was spent on ads in Florida than 45 other states and the District of Columbia combined during the peak season of the 2004 campaign.

The system is so skewed that Matthew Dowd, a top campaign strategist for President Bush, admitted polling in only 18 states for the two years leading up to the 2004 election. The opinions and concerns of Americans in 32 states simply weren't registered with the president's campaign team. No wonder the Bush administration was slow responding to Hurricane Katrina. It didn't know the way, with not a single campaign visit to Louisiana during the fall of 2004, in contrast to 61 visits to Florida and 48 visits to Ohio.

The Electoral College system also creates unequal patterns of voter turnout that in each election grow more pronounced -- particularly among young voters. In 2004 voting was up from 2000 by almost 10 percent in swing states, but only 2 percent in safe states. When we look at voters under 30, voter turnout was nearly 20 percent lower in spectator states than the 10 tightest battlegrounds. More than half of potential young voters in safe states decided there was no point in voting.

[ FairVote's report, "The Shrinking Battleground" ] [ FairVote's Presidential Elections Reform Program ]