By Carl Hendrickson
The Electoral College has been a topic of discussion ever since the 2016 presidential election. Donald Trump won with a majority of the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. To many this seems unfair.
The Electoral College is a body of electors established by the U.S. Constitution, constituted every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president.
Each state has a number of electors equal to the state’s membership in Congress. Missouri had two senators and eight House members in 2016, for 10 electors. Most states, including Missouri, give all their electoral votes to the one winning candidate.
Proponents of a popular vote are pushing the National Popular Vote bill. NPV asks state legislators to approve an interstate compact – a simple contract among states. Signatory states agree to award their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how the electorate of the state votes. Thus, if in effect in 2016, Missouri’s electoral votes would have gone to Hillary Clinton. To many, this approach also appears to be unfair.
What do I think, having served four terms in the Missouri General Assembly? Every two years I had to obtain the approval of most of the popular votes in my legislative district to retain my seat in the Missouri House.
There is another way, however.
Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have proportional representation. The winner of the popular vote in each congressional district is awarded one elector and the winner of the statewide vote the remaining two electors.
In 2016, the Republicans won the statewide popular vote in Missouri and a majority of votes in six of the eight congressional districts. If the Maine/Nebraska method of allotting electoral votes was in place in 2016, only eight (not all) of the state’s 10 electoral votes would have gone to President Trump.
Proportional allocation of electoral votes allows the majority voters in each congressional district to have a vote, unlike in 2016, when the 1st Congressional District was won by Democrat Lacy Clay, but those voters got no Electoral College vote.
Is proportional representation a better way? I leave that to the judgment of each reader. However, when the Electoral College versus popular vote comes up in discussion, you can show what an erudite you are and explain that there is another way.