Editorial: Don't do an end run around the Electoral College


Published Apr 20, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

The Electoral College may not be an ideal way to pick a president. But the bill passed this week by the Oregon House is a lousy way to “reform” it.

House Bill 3077 is a finagle around the electoral college, without the difficulty of amending the U.S. Constitution. It would declare that Oregon will basically pledge all of its electoral votes to the winner of the national vote. Most states, including Oregon, currently have a winner-take-all system, but the electoral votes go to the candidate who won the state, not the nation.

Similar laws to HB 3077 have been passed by states for a total of 132 electoral votes. It takes 270 electoral votes to get a majority. The bill technically gets enacted when states possessing a majority of the electoral votes pass similar bills.

States get electoral college votes based on how many senators and representatives they have. That means Oregon gets 7.

The nationwide effort is called the National Popular Vote. It seeks to guarantee the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes. Of course, that’s a good goal. It’s the solution that’s not good.

The National Popular Vote does get support from both Democrats and Republicans. But if you look at the states that have supported the law, they do tend to vote Democratic.

Think about what it would mean in terms of the campaign for the presidency. Candidates would have even more incentive than they do now to focus on cities with lots of votes, instead of rural areas. Small population states, such as Oregon, might become less relevant. It could also lead presidential candidates to pursue more recounts than they do now, because in the current Electoral College system it doesn’t matter as much if a candidate barely wins a state or wins by 85 percent.

It might be better to just have individual states assign their electoral college votes as close as they can to represent how their voters voted. That’s better than the way things are now, but imperfect, too.