Making California And Texas Relevant In Presidential Elections

America’s Electoral College system was created to ensure no state in the union could be overlooked. Presidential candidates cannot ignore small states and simply make up for it with huge margins in larger states.

Due to political polarization, however, this system has completely backfired. Most states are either red states or blue states, and only a handful of so-called swing states are ever considered in play. Presidential candidates are therefore free to ignore the desires of states like California and Texas, while Iowa receives absurd corn subsidies.

Efforts to replace the Electoral College with a popular vote seem unlikely to pass. A much simpler plan could at least put California and Texas in play. As our two largest states by both population and economy, and home to unique and important parts of America’s culture, our democracy will be stronger with these two states getting a say.

California and Texas could each assign their electoral votes proportionately instead of through “winner-take-all.”

While most states assign electoral votes in a winner take all fashion, electoral votes are allowed to be assigned in other manners – Maine and Nebraska award some of their electoral votes on a district-by-district basis.

In theory, a (non-swing) state could wield larger influence by allocating its electoral votes proportionately with how the state voted. The downside to doing so is the political party most popular in that state would resultantly be hurt. Imagine if Texas awarded its electoral votes this way. The federal government would have to pay more attention to Texas, but Republicans would be hurt in the Electoral College.

California and Texas could both pass laws to each assign their electoral votes proportionately, in a binding compact that only took effect once both of these states ratified the law.

This would give both of the states a larger voice in Washington, while having only a marginal effect on the Electoral College outcome.

In the 2016 election, California’s 55 electoral votes went Democrat, while Texas’s 38 went Republican. If each of these states instead gave these votes proportionately to the top two finishing candidates, the two states would have given a total of 53 electoral votes to the Democrat and 40 to the Republican.

Democrats Republicans
2016 CA Electoral Votes 55 0
2016 TX Electoral Votes 0 38
2016 Total Electoral Votes 55 38
2016 CA Popular Vote (normalized) 62% (65%) 33% (35%)
2016 TX Popular Vote (normalized) 43% (45%) 52% (55%)
Proposed CA Proportional Electoral Votes 36 19
Proposed TX Proportional Electoral Votes 17 21
Total Proposed Proportional Electoral Votes 53 40

 

The 2 electoral vote benefit to Republicans is small and may even make this approach more palatable. As members of the conservative party, Republicans are fonder of tradition and the couple extra electoral votes to Republicans may be needed to sway them. Democrats in California often feel quite removed from Washington (as calls for California to leave the USA have grown), and Californians often feel that neither political party really represents their interests. California may therefore agree to this plan, despite two or so fewer total electoral votes for Democrats.

In addition to giving a larger voice to important aspects of our country (including Silicon Valley and NASA), this approach would additionally dilute some of the less forward-looking special interests from swing states (such as to corn and coal).

 


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Daniel Eth

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