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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Election "reform" in Colorado?

How Colorado could help Kerry win
Bruce Bartlett at townhall.com:
One of the great strengths of the Electoral College is that it tends to magnify presidential victories. For example, although Bill Clinton never got a majority of the popular vote in either 1992 or 1996, he won comfortably in the Electoral College, which gave him a mandate to govern even though he lacked majority support among voters.

The reason for this is that almost all states have a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes. Whoever wins the popular vote gets all the state's electoral votes -- even if he wins by a single vote. A state's electoral votes equal the total of its congressional seats plus two votes for its senators. (Washington, D.C., gets three votes -- what it would have if it were a state.) Thus there are 438 total electoral votes, and a candidate must get an absolute majority to become president. . . .

The proposed Colorado system, which will be on the ballot for voter approval in November, is quite different. It would prorate all of the state's electoral votes on the basis of the popular vote. In practice, this means that the loser will always get at least four of Colorado's nine electoral votes.

To see how this system would have worked in 2000, Bush won all eight of Colorado's electoral votes (it received another in the 2000 census) and got 271 nationwide, compared to Gore's 266. If Bush had only gotten five electoral votes in Colorado and Gore had gotten the other three, then Gore would have won the election with 269 electoral votes to Bush's 268. (The total does not add to 538 because one elector from the District of Columbia apparently did not vote.)

Although there are legitimate criticisms to make of the Electoral College, the Colorado effort is nothing but a transparently partisan effort to give Kerry a couple of extra electoral votes. If the election this year is as close as the polls suggest that it will be, it could mean the margin of victory.

UPDATE: Joshua has more here and here - he knows a helluva lot more than I do about this and other state issues.