Only Presidential Election Reform Will Bring Change

by David Schnicke // Published November 4, 2008
Finally, the campaigns are over. Whoever will be the next President of the United States – he looks back on a long journey around the country and a huge amount of campaign events. There has been a tremendous effort to reach as many voters as possible by using the Internet, broadcast and print media, volunteer work, visits by the candidates and even text messaging. Especially the campaign of Senator Obama has been very different to past campaigns as the New York Times points out appropriately in today's edition. It is thrilling to see the effort made by his campaign in order to challenge the Republican Party in states like Virginia that have been Republican strongholds for the last decades. Some states have received more campaign attention than they did in the last campaigns.

However, it is wrong to paint the picture of a presidential race that treated all states more or less equally. It is wrong, for example, to forget about 37 states that have not been visited by Senator Obama since the beginning of September. Even though the campaign of Mr. Obama tried hard to include traditional spectator states, it did not fundamentally change the approach of presidential campaigning. Only a reform of the way the President is elected in this country can bring this change.

Supporters of the current system argue that the National Popular Vote would only shift the advantage of swing states over solid states to an advantage of heavy-populated cities over rural areas. However, the simple but crucial question should remain: Is every vote of equal importance? And in the current system this is clearly not the case, as the distribution of campaign attention among states reveals. Since the national conventions, half of the states have not been visited by any of the presidential or vice-presidential candidates. At the same time over 53 percent of the campaign events took place in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The ten most visited states of the presidential race of 2004 received over 60 percent of the campaign visits. And more than a third of the campaign visits went to three states: Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

There is a difference between a campaign strategy that involves states despite the current election system and an election system that encourages campaigns to treat every state equally. That's why the National Popular Vote Plan is so important.