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Tim Groseclose
Mitt Romney’s Electoral College Advantage « Back to Story

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The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 338–70 margin. It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and various members of Congress who later ran for Vice President and President such as then-Congressman George H.W. Bush, and then-Senator Bob Dole.

Jason Cabel Roe, a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant wrote in National Popular Vote is Good for Republicans: "I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives . . . , and it is good for America. National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome.
It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state – and every voter – to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States.

National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help . . . Republicans. . . . Opponents either have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or don’t fully understand it. . . . We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it."

Former Tennessee U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson(R), former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar (R), and former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) are co-champions of National Popular Vote.

National Popular Vote's National Advisory Board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R–UT), and David Durenberger (R–MN) and former congressman John Buchanan (R–AL).

Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the NPV plan would not help either party over the other.

Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:"A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College."
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc
The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, will not reach out to about 76% of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win. 9 of the original 13 states are considered “fly-over” now. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree, that, at most, only 12 states and their voters will matter. They will decide the election. None of the 10 most rural states will matter, as usual. About 76% of the country will be ignored --including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and 17 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. This will be more obscene than the 2008 campaign, when candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

More than 2/3rds of the states and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That's more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

The number and population of battleground states is shrinking as the U.S. population grows.

Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.
Kerry won more electoral votes than Bush (21 versus 19) in the 12 least-populous non-battleground states, despite the fact that Bush won 650,421 popular votes compared to Kerry’s 444,115 votes. The reason is that the red states are redder than the blue states are blue. If the boundaries of the 13 least-populous states had been drawn recently, there would be accusations that they were a Democratic gerrymander.

Presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections. Voters in states that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group. Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK -70%, DC -76%, DE --75%, ID -77%, ME - 77%, MT- 72%, NE - 74%, NH--69%, NE - 72%, NM - 76%, RI - 74%, SD- 71%, UT- 70%, VT - 75%, WV- 81%, and WY- 69%.

In the lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 3 jurisdictions.
With the current state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, winning a bare plurality of the popular vote in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population, could win the Presidency with a mere 26% of the nation's votes!

But the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five "red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six "blue" states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

Among the 11 most populous states in 2004, the highest levels of popular support, hardly overwhelming, were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
* Texas (62% Republican),
* New York (59% Democratic),
* Georgia (58% Republican),
* North Carolina (56% Republican),
* Illinois (55% Democratic),
* California (55% Democratic), and
* New Jersey (53% Democratic).

In addition, the margins generated by the nation's largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
* Texas -- 1,691,267 Republican
* New York -- 1,192,436 Democratic
* Georgia -- 544,634 Republican
* North Carolina -- 426,778 Republican
* Illinois -- 513,342 Democratic
* California -- 1,023,560 Democratic
* New Jersey -- 211,826 Democratic

To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004 -- larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).
The Electoral College is now the set of dedicated party activists, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates. In the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.

The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution, and enacting National Popular Vote would not need an amendment. State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award Electoral College votes, were eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution. Now our current system can be changed by state laws again.

Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution-- "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

The constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation's first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.

Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. It is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.

The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state's electoral votes.

As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and frequently have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years. Maine and Nebraska do not use the winner-take-all method– a reminder that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not required to change the way the President is elected.

The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes. The abnormal process is to go outside the Constitution, and amend it.
The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud and voter suppression. A very few people can change the national outcome by adding, changing, or suppressing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. With the current system all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud or voter suppression. One suppressed vote would be one less vote. One fraudulent vote would only win one vote in the return. In the current electoral system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.

The closest popular-vote election in American history (in 1960), had a nationwide margin of more than 100,000 popular votes. The closest electoral-vote election in American history (in 2000) was determined by 537 votes, all in one state, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be two hundred times closer than the 1960 election--and, in popular-vote terms, forty times closer than 2000 itself.

Which system offers voter suppressors or fraudulent voters a better shot at success for a smaller effort?
The congressional district method of awarding electoral votes (currently used in Maine and Nebraska) would not help make every vote matter. In NC, for example, there are only 4 of the 13 congressional districts that would be close enough to get any attention from presidential candidates. In California, the presidential race has been competitive in only 3 of the state's 53 districts. A smaller fraction of the country's population lives in competitive congressional districts (about 12%) than in the current battleground states (about 30%) that now get overwhelming attention, while more than two-thirds of the states are ignored Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.
With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.
The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States. Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

Any candidate who ignored, for example, the 16% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote.

If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

A nationwide presidential campaign, with every vote equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida.

The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every vote is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

With National Popular Vote, when every vote is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

Candidates would need to build a winning coalition across demographics. Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as soccer mom voters in Ohio.
The RealClearPolitics poll should carry a huge caveat in that it is an average of several polls; some polling registered and others likely voters. The polls also cover a wide variety of time intervals and information concerning each poll's "internals" are not considered. For example, a poll with a breakdown of 40D, 25R, and 35I is treated with equal weight as a poll that more realistically represents the voters (e.g. 31D, 33R, and 36I).
One good benefit of the electoral college system is a candidate cannot win by just running up huge vote totals in just a few large cities, possibly augmented by urban fraud machines. Instead they must have a real national camapign that can win a wide variety of states throughout the country. The only drawback now is many states are so skewed to one party or another, that neither party has to compaign there. I think the way to fix that would be to award electors by congressional district, instead of who takes the entire state (with the 2 senate based electors going to the winner of the state). That way, for any large state that has a lock for one party, they would still have some swing congressional districts, and thus the candidates could not completely ignore the state.
Good analysis. In most of the electoral state polls I have seen, Romney needs to win more of the swng state votes than Obama, but as you correctly point out, most of these swing states lean toward conservatives, so Romneys chances of winning them are pretty good.
Once again, we see the false claim that the Supreme Court gave the election to GW Bush. Rather, he won the election by count and recount, and Albert Gore Jr. didn't like the result, requesting in court that Democrats (1) be told how many votes they needed to change to win, and (2) be given sufficient chance to change that many votes. Bush appealed the Florida Court's grant of a right to change election results to the Supreme Court, which held 9-0 that the Florida court was incorrect.
The electoral college is the brilliant scheme the founders devised to assure that corruption in Cook County Illinois does not affect the electoral votes of Indiana. In 1960 the Democrats, with a minority of the popular votes for Kennedy (not counting the uncommitted Democrat elector votes in Mississippi and Alabama) had to have massive corruption in both west Texas and Cook County to get their candidate elected. Nixon conceded rather than fight in the courts, for the good of the country. When it comes to putting the good of the country over the personal quest for power, "Nixon's the One!"

RM3 Frisker FTN and CptNERD -- I believe the "National Popular Vote" compact doesn't kick in until enough states to represent more than half the needed electoral votes to win an election pass it within their state legislatures. So right now those nine states that have passed it will continue with their old system.

Cpt NERD -- the "National Popular Vote" is essentially a lobbying effort to get each state legislature to pass a bill saying they are part of a compact that will direct their electors to vote whatever way the national popular vote went no matter how the citizens of their state voted. They claim legality because states have the right to determine how their electors vote and it doesn't violate the constitution because the electoral college is still in place. Essentially this group is promoting a scheme that would change the way the US elects presidents that can be passed under the radar during state legislative sessions with little debate and media coverage in order to avoid a transparent campaign to amend the Constitution which would result in much debate and analysis.
The Electoral College was designed EXACTLY for situations like this. I couldn't care less what libs want or how unfair they think the system is. The Electoral College is the law, and it's going to STAY the law. Now if you want to discuss something that would REALLY change the upcoming election, you could talk about Voter ID laws. Put some with teeth in all 50 states and this election becomes a Romney blowout. question.

Does your analysis or forecast take in account the outright fraud, vote buying and other Chicago type tricks that the Democrats are going to make happen this coming election?

Not only in the Presidental election but also in other congressional elections that are almost as important.

Remember it is not just the votes but who counts the votes and the Democrats have been stacking the decks in over a dozen states for the last three years.

People are saying this is going to be the dirtiest election ever. I say it is going to be way more than that.

God Protect our Republic.

Papa Ray
The author's bias shows right from the start with the definition of his "pq" scale. Conservatism is literally given the "short end of the stick" with a score of 0! Moreover, the author fails to square his national average pq score with polls which consistently show voters identifying themselves as conservative by at least a 5 point margin.
Interesting view point. What most people don't understand is that the electoral college was created so that those states that had a large population (then NY, MA, VA, PA, now...CA, NY, etc) wouldn't dominate the many more states.

This would force a politician to build an organization that would gain a MAJORITY of the states, and thus have a countrywide appeal instead of having merely having a smaller geographic power centre.

In other words, in 2000, with a very close election, states like RI, DE WY had far more influence on the outcome of the election than they would ever have if it were a direct election.

Think about it. No presidential candidate would ever campaign outside of the top 10-15 population centres. With the Electoral College, candidates are forced to build a national coalition.

Rich Vail
Pikesville, Maryland
-Which could be countered by complaints about our Senatorial system, which grossly distorts the value of an individual's vote, depending on the state in which he resides. Either pipe down about the failure to have a pure popular vote system, or agree that Texas should have ten Senators, and Rhode Island, one. -Or whatever the number is, the proportionate number.
RM3 Frisker, are you saying these states will ignore the popular vote of their citizens, if the total of the country is different? That doesn't sound legal or (state or federal) constitutional, but what do I know about Constitutions, these days?
RM3 Frisker FTN July 07, 2012 at 7:27 PM
What impact would the nine states that have implemented "National Popular Vote" bills have on the election? The way these bills work is that the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States also "wins" the electoral votes of the state that has implemented such a "National Popular Vote" law in that state. Supposedly 132 electoral votes are currently covered by such laws.
I imagine that we'll start again to hear more about the "ungovernable" state of the union if it looks like a Republican administration is on deck...
Loved your book Tim. Should be required reading for libs and conservatives alike. No more denying the liberal bias.
Wmarkw is distorting the 2000 election. It was not a tie. Bush won Florida, seven recounts and Bush won each time. Therefore it wasn't a tie. Only reason it went to the SCOTUS was Gore tried to change the rules during the contest. The court upheld the existing rules and that meant Bush won. The SCOTUS did not pick a winner they just ruled on the law. Liberals lie, it's what they do.
Thanks for the pick-me-up. I need it.
Unfortunately, with a tight election in prospect, the opportunities for chicanery are manifest -- and Democrats are much better at that sort of skullduggery than hidebound, ossified Republicans. With Holder's full-court press to invalidate voter-I.D. laws, and with city machines well oiled to count ballots in their own special way, a level playing field is too much to hope for. Republicans will need to win by 2-4 points in order to nullfy such thievery and prevail.
We can only hope. It baffles me that anyone could be so blind as not to see not only how corrupt the Democrats are, but how their method of governing simply doesn't work. I'll leave off the tirade. My own view is that it shows the power of the Democratic media to shape perceptions - and when you point out all of the contradictions inherent in being a liberal Democrat you quickly get anger - sputtering anger. It's weird.

"Thus, according to my analysis, if the election produces a split decision, with a majority of the electorate picking one candidate and the Electoral College picking the other, Romney would win the Electoral College and become president."

Mr. Groseclose's forecast is based simply on his analysis of the political leanings of the states. No polling data or any other data goes into it.

Nate Silver's algorithm that was so eerily accurate in 2008 has been improved by tweaking due to the 2008 data and by including economic indicators. As of today, Silver forecasts Obama winning the popular vote but losing the electoral vote at 1.9% of all possible outcomes and Romney winning the popular vote but losing the electoral vote at 2.9%

Absent any data, why should anyone lean toward Grosclose's forecast except for wishful thinking?
Intresting viewpoint and i hope you are right
And suppose we have another 2000 Bush v Gore election and it ends up in the SCOTUS?
Is CJ Roberts going to consider it his personal responsibility to protect the Court's reputation and let the Dems have it this time?
"You Picked A Fine time To Leave Us, John Roberts", sung to the tune of same title... "Lucille".
In 2000, Gore won 50.25% of the two-party popular vote and 21 states (counting DC), to Bush's 49.75% and 30. We all know how that turned out -- it was essentially a tie decided by the Supreme Court who made Bush the 271-267 winner. The Republicans have the lead in small states, so they begin with about 15-20 advantage in "Senator" electors. The Democrats need a little more than an 0.5% popular vote advantage to even things out on "Congressmen" electors.