Winner-take-all strategy needs revamping

PHILADELPHIA (U-WIRE) — If this still-undecided presidential election teaches America one thing, it’s that we need, to quote the editorial from the Nov. 9 New York Times, “(to) devise a system that is both fast and foolproof” to collect and properly count our votes.
But if it teaches us two things, the second is surely that the Electoral College is a flawed system and that we as a nation can do better.
What the Founding Fathers had in mind when they came up with the Electoral College was a system where one state or region full of crazy revolutionaries could not load up the popular vote and put its man in office. In other words, Massachusetts could not decide to unanimously vote for Ted Kennedy and make him leader of the free world. He’d just get the state’s 12 electoral votes.
That doesn’t mean that we should just ditch the Electoral College and decide the presidency by the popular vote. If that were the case, a candidate could make appeals to only big cities or only rural areas and win, despite failing to represent the national interest. What it does mean is that after 211 years of the Constitution, maybe it’s time to rethink the way the Electoral College works.
When all is said and done in this election, the margin of victory in the decisive state of Florida will be less than the size of the student body of this university, maybe even less than the size of the crowd that watched the election at the Hall of Flags on Tuesday night. With such a tiny margin of support for whoever is the eventual winner, why should that guy get all 25 of Florida’s electoral votes and win the White House?
Florida should be able to split its votes, as only Maine and Nebraska can now. Neither one did so on Tuesday, with Maine sending its four electoral votes to Al Gore, Nebraska its five to George W. Bush.
The smart way to do this would be to give every state the ability to split its electoral votes, just as these states do, with one electoral vote going to each congressional district and the two extra votes given to the winner of the popular vote in the state.
This year, Gore would still win New York in a walk, as Bush would in Texas. But the vote would be split in a manner more reflective of the way people actually voted in states like Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire and, of course, Florida.
Sixteen of 50 states in this election were or will be decided by five percentage points or fewer. And in half of those states, neither Bush nor Gore will come away with more than 50 percent of the vote.
That is not exactly a great way to give out the 180 votes of the 16 close states and an especially poor way to determine the 73 election-shaping votes from the states where neither candidate will earn a majority. This is simply not the right way to run an election of this magnitude.
When it comes down to it, a group of voters equivalent in number to patrons of a South Beach nightspot on a slow Tuesday night should not have 25 electoral votes and the key to the Oval Office in its collective pocket.
Jesse Spector’s column originally appeared in the University of Pennsylvania’s Daily Pennsylvanian on Nov. 10. Send comments to [email protected]