Presidential campaigns would change significantly under an estimated popular vote (EPV) system (“Time to reassess Electoral College,” Oct. 28 Opinion). Yes, I mean “estimated,” as reported totals contain errors – both accidental and intentional. For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers proved increased humidity causes expanded ballot sheets to often miss electronic vote choices. And candidates, instead of campaigning in competitive states, would focus on one-party dominant states to run up huge vote margins.
A national EPV would encourage many interests to file candidates and make it unlikely that any candidate could achieve the majority rule principle that popular-vote supporters advocate. Realizing this difficulty, the most prominent EPV proposals settle for a 40 percent vote to win the presidency and provide for a runoff election if no candidate even receives 40 percent.
This runoff provision adds significant additional costs, and undoubtedly results in decreased voter participation. Moreover, it encourages more candidates such as extremists like Pat Buchanan or the Rev. Jesse Jackson to seek bargaining power with a runoff finalist.
Florida’s 2000 presidential contest and its resultant postelection morass would pale in comparison with a nationwide EPV. Moreover, one corrupt state could hold back enough votes to overcome an apparent loss affecting the entire national EPV.
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A very close EPV would likely not limit bitterness to the usual one or two states sometimes in question. Rather, it would produce a nationwide struggle featuring sealed ballot boxes under guard, disputed ballots, controversial vote interpretations, recounts in thousands of precincts, embittered protesters, and hordes of lawyers litigating issues throughout our nation’s court systems. Moreover, this could extend for months – while casting a pall over the presidency.
President Nixon stated the problem: “The orderly transition from the old to the new (administration) might be delayed for months. The situation within the entire federal government would be chaotic.”
Our federal republic was not built on a foundation of pure democracy; witness the amendment process, unelected federal judges, presidential vetoes and a minimum two-thirds vote for treaty ratification. Our Electoral College federal system provides states with a critical role in presidential elections.
For almost 225 years – with rare exceptions – the Electoral College has provided decisive election results and orderly and successful presidential transitions. Why risk a new system with the potential to wrack an entire nation?