As it happens, while I’m Kentucky Dana on RedState. I currently live in Pennsylvania. I have already noted that my vote won’t count, because Hillary Clinton will carry the Keystone State easily, and thus take all twenty of the state’s twenty electoral votes. The votes of everyone who casts a ballot for someone other than Mrs Clinton will mean exactly nothing, zero, zilch, zip, nada.
But that is because Pennsylvania is, like 47 other states, a winner-take-all state when it comes to the electoral college. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, do things differently. The statewide winner takes the two electoral votes which correspond to the two Senate seats, and beyond that, the electoral votes are awarded to the winners of each of the state’s congressional districts. Until 2008, the statewide winner also carried all of the congressional districts, but Barack Obama carried Nebraska’s second congressional district, and thus took one of the state’s five electoral votes.
Were all of the states to adopt that system, it would come close to eliminating the “red state” vs “blue state” concept, as the candidates would have to fight it out by district, rather than campaigning so heavily in the major urban areas. Mrs Clinton will carry Pennsylvania easily, but Donald Trump might well have a chance to carry the 17th congressional district, in which I reside.
But this is about more than Mr Trump; I am not voting for him anyway. Third party candidates have virtually no chance to ever carry a state, but by concentrating their campaigns, could win in several congressional districts; Evan McMullin has a good chance to win some districts in Utah this year, and Gary Johnson, who believes that he can actually carry Alaska,¹ could carry a couple of districts in the Western states.
There is also a down side for third party candidates. I can safely vote for Mr Johnson, knowing that it won’t make a bit of difference in Pennsylvania. However, if we used the Maine-Nebraska system here, it’s possible that Mr Trump could win my congressional district, which means I would have to put a lot more consideration into voting for Mr Trump, to try to stop Mrs Clinton from winning the election.
Of course, it isn’t all a help to the Republican candidate. My real home state of Kentucky will be carried easily by Mr Trump, but Mrs Clinton could easily win the third congressional district, which contains Louisville. Mrs Clinton will carry a congressional district or two in that reddest of red states, Texas. This system would force the candidates to really address the issues of all of the states, and not just the supposed “battleground” states.
Best of all, this could be accomplished without the need for a constitutional amendment; the state legislatures set the systems by which their electoral votes are distributed.
This is not quite a direct popular vote, but it is actually better. Any very close districts might have to be recounted, without the need to recount districts won by significant margins, without the need to repeat Florida in 2000. The electoral college has one very important feature: it takes plurality winners and converts them into majority winners, which does depress the impact of third party candidates, and establishes true legitimacy for the person elected President, but the Maine-Nebraska system could make it better.
It would be nice if my vote actually counted. Realistically, the last time my vote counted was 1996, when my vote for Bob Dole helped him carry Virginia, where I lived at the time. Since then, my votes for George Bush — twice — John McCain and Mitt Romney didn’t count, because the Democratic candidate carried the states in which I lived.
Maybe your vote should count, too?
Cross posted, in slightly different form, on The First Street Journal.
¹ – Alaska has only one congressional district, so even under the Maine-Nebraska system, it would be winner-take-all.