There are stupid ideas and then there’s this.
President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the politicians whose past criticisms of the Electoral College system would draw new scrutiny if there is a split verdict in this year’s presidential election.
National and swing state polls suggest it’s possible Republican Mitt Romney could win this year’s popular vote while Obama triumphs in the Electoral College — potentially marking the second time the rare split in outcomes has occurred in the last 12 years.
The last time it happened was in 2000, when Democratic candidate Al Gore won the popular vote but lost where it mattered. George W. Bush won Florida’s disputed recount, propelling him to 271 electoral votes — one more than he needed to take the White House.
The outcome triggered an intense — if shortlived — debate over reforming the Electoral College. Today, lawmakers in Washington are no closer to agreeing on whether to change the rules of how someone wins the presidency.
Here’s a snapshot of where top lawmakers have came down on a controversial issue that’s once again in the political spotlight.
Why is this so stupid?
Well, to begin with, we’ve only had one candidate win the electoral college while another won the popular vote 4 times in history: In 1824, 1876, 1888 and in 2000. Even if we were to roll snake eyes and it happened again this year, odds are it probably wouldn’t happen again for another 50-100 years.
Additionally, think about what it would mean in practical terms — campaigning across all fifty states. That might sound appealing if you’re in a non-competitive state today, but first of all, it would tend to mean that the candidates would ignore the smaller states in order to campaign in the larger states. But, the state of politics being what it is, the campaigns would eventually want to cover all 50 states. A practically unlimited amount of money, staffs, and campaigning would be needed for campaigns like that. We’re already going to see 1.5 to 2 billion dollars spent on this year’s election. If we moved from 11 swing states to all 50 states being in play, the amount of time and treasure needed to adequately campaign would become practically infinite.
However, here’s the real issue: If we have one of those once in a blue moon elections, where there’s a split between who wins the popular vote and electoral college, currently it comes down to one state. So, we end up having a dogfight over Florida or Ohio. But, let’s say the popular vote is the determining factor. Suddenly, ALL FIFTY STATES become important. In other words, what happened in Florida in 2000 would have happened in ALL FIFTY STATES if the popular vote had been the determining factor.
Why would any sane person want to live that nightmare?