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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

James Taranto opines on the Colorado proposal to enact proportional allocation of electoral votes:

What would happen if every state adopted the proposed Colorado system? For one thing, "swing" states would be a thing of the past; the difference between carrying Iowa and losing it by a small plurality would be 1 electoral vote (4-3 vs. 3-4) rather than 7. This would benefit large states at the expense of small ones. It's a lot easier to shift, say, 3.2% of the vote in New York (which has 31 electoral votes) than 25% in New Hampshire (4).

It would also increase the importance of third parties, thereby possibly pushing the major parties to extremes. No third-party candidate has carried a state since George Wallace in 1968, but under a proportional system for choosing electors, several would have won electoral votes.

We ran the numbers for the 2000 election, and it turns out that if all states followed the proposed Colorado system, Ralph Nader would have garnered 6 electoral votes (2 from California and 1 each from Massachusetts, Ohio, New York and Texas). Gore would have outpolled Bush, 268-264, but neither candidate would have had a 270-vote majority. If Gore was unable to persuade two Nader electors to break ranks and vote for him--which presumably would have entailed policy concessions to their far-left agenda--the election would have been thrown to the House. We haven't run the numbers for 1992, but it's unlikely that Bill Clinton's 43% popular-vote plurality would have translated into an electoral majority under a proportional system.

In the long run, this initiative would be bad for Colorado as a whole. Even in the short run, it benefits only the candidate who fails to carry the state, and by definition he does not command a majority of voters. So we'd be very surprised if Coloradans were foolish enough to pass this misguided measure.

Of course, this analysis assumes proportional allocation nationwide. Colorado's initiative seems motivated to split the electoral vote in the traditionally Republican state. If largely Republican states began to split their electoral votes, while highly Democratic states did not, the benefit to the Democratic candidate would be obvious.


.: posted by Dave 9:08 PM

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