As most political junkies know, Colorado has an measure on its ballot that would make it become politically irrelevant to Presidential politics.
The measure would divide up Colorado’s electoral votes so that the majority winner gets the bare majority and the loser, so long as the loser gets a reasonable vote share (I think at least 30%), would get the rest. Present numbers taken, Bush would get 5 votes and Kerry would get 4.
It is very appealing. Voters’ votes would count.1. Currently, if you vote for the loser in any state (with two varying exceptions) your candidate gets nothing in the electoral college. At least, under this scheme instituted by partisan Democrats, the loser would still get something.
The problem with this is that it would, in effect, reduce Colorado’s electoral college vote to one. Why? Well, the Republicans and Democrats would both know that they will, at a minimum, get four votes — barring a landslide, which is not likely in a divided nation. The candidates would, under any logical scenario, ignore Colorado, presume to get four votes, and move on to a state like New Hampshire where the winner will get all four of its votes.
Colorado would marginalize itself because the Democrats want to help Kerry. Then the Republicans would do the same in California to get a share of its 55 electoral college votes and the system would spin out of control.
The current system is archaic, but it serves the purpose of making little states competitive while not denying big states a significant voice in the selection of the President. It is never popular when the losing candidate, like Gore, wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college. But, this is a country that requires the winner to represent various demographic and regional groups, not just a bare majority. The electoral college helps build consensus from differing blocks of voters nationwide.
Remember, Al Gore may have won the popular vote, consisting largely of votes from coastal, urban areas, but Bush captured more square feet of the nation in his votes. The county by county breakdown from 2000 dramatically illustrates the point.2.
The point is simple by looking at that map. For Bush to govern based on the votes he got, he has to respect the needs of Plains States, Southern States, Midwest States, Mountains States, and cities. If Gore won, he could, based solely on where he got his votes last time, ignore large swaths of middle America in favor of the big cities, which no nothing about the needs of farmers in the plains. Of course, red states did pick up some votes in the Electoral College.
To find out more, read Chris Floyd’s piece.
1. The measure, if successful, would probably be challenged in court. The measure would, if passed, be retroactive to the day of the election, thereby dividing up the Electors chosen on Election Day, even though the picking of Electors and the voting on the measure would happen simultaneously.
2. What is really amazing about the map is to look at those states where Bush or Gore won every county in the state, see e.g. Massachusetts and Utah.