Monday, July 18, 2016


I would like to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution:

The President shall, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:

All eligible voters within the Unites States, its Territories, and all its Possessions, may vote by ballot. They shall name in their ballots the person they select for President and who they select for Vice President, and the choice for President and Vice President shall be distinct. The Person with the greatest number of votes for President, shall be President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of votes counted; And, if no person has such a majority, then another election shall take place within 30 days, this election featuring only the two People with the highest number of votes for President from the initial election; and the Person with the most votes for President from this second election shall become President. The Person with the greatest number of votes for Vice President, shall be Vice President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of votes counted; And, if no person has such a majority, then another election shall take place within 30 days, this election featuring only the two People with the highest number of votes for Vice President from the initial election; and the Person with the most votes for Vice President from this second election shall become Vice President. If both the President and Vice President require a second election, the second election for the Vice President shall be held on the same day as the second election for the President.
Please allow me to explain what this amendment would do and why it's important:


Currently, we elect our President via the Electoral College system, which functions like so:
  • Each state gets a number of Electors equal to their total number of Congressmen: their number of Representatives plus their number of Senators. 
  • The District of Columbia gets the number of Electors it would get if it were a state. 
  • When the citizens of that state vote for the President, they're actually deciding how those Electors will vote. 
  • For most states, whichever candidate gets the majority of the popular vote gets the vote of all of that state's electors. So, for instance, if a candidate wins California with 51% of the vote, that candidate gets all 55 of California's Electoral College votes.
  • Maine and Nebraska are currently the only two states that award their electors proportionately.
  • If no candidate ends up with over 50% of the Electoral College votes, the President is chosen by the House of Representatives.

Citizens residing outside of the states and the District of Columbia yet still within U.S. territories currently do not get a vote for the President (or, for that matter, proper representation in the legislature, but that's another discussion) despite being considered United States Citizens. This includes Puerto Rice, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.


The Electoral College is a vestige of a time when our country had no educational system and an unreliable, slow information network. The populace was not expected to comprehend the issues at stake in a presidential election, so the Founding Fathers created a separation between the populace and the power to elect a President. Initially, citizens weren't even guaranteed the right to actually influence the presidential election at all: state legislatures could simply appoint Electors directly, if they wanted to.

Over time, the presidential election process became more democratic, though the Electoral College system continues. States decided to appoint electors according to the results of their elections, as the initial concerns that led to the Electoral College diminished or, at least, the people fought for the right to have a say in the outcome. So, currently, the President is elected via a strange amalgamation of the Electoral College system and the popular vote. However, this system has some problems:

First, because the Electoral College is predicated on apportioning its votes between the states, non-state territories are entirely disenfranchised. In fact, citizens of the District of Columbia, the seat of our national government, were not allowed to vote for President at all until the 23rd Amendment was passed in 1961. However, that still leaves millions of American citizens residing in non-state U.S. territories without any direct influence over who gets to be their President. Puerto Rice alone has a higher population than Montana, Alaska, Delaware, and North Dakota combined, yet none of those citizens have a say in who their President will be.

Citizens in these territories are the people most directly disenfranchised by the Electoral College, but even state citizens face some indirect disenfranchisement.

One of the biggest arguments made in favor of the Electoral College is that it gives states with smaller populations proportionately more influence than larger states. For instance, Montana has a population of about 1 million and gets 3 Electoral College votes, so they get approximately 1 vote for every 334,000 people. California, on the other hand, has a population of about 39 million and gets 55 Electoral College votes, or about one vote per ~709,000 people. So, effectively, every vote in Montana is over twice as influential as every vote in California.

This system is pretty nice in Congress, as it means that the interests of smaller states are not completely trampled by the interests of larger, more populous states. That was, after all, the entire point of the Great Compromise in the Constitution. However, I don't think this argument holds much water in regards to the President and, in fact, it does not give the citizens of Montana as much influence as pro-Electoral College advocates suggest it does.

For one thing, unlike Congressmen, the President is simply not going to represent any one state. Those disproportionate votes will not and do not influence the actions of the President. Individual state interests are not and should not be the business of the President.

Also, the math simply doesn't actually work in the favor of small states, particularly because of the winner-take-all system of allocating Electoral College votes. For instance, let's compare Montana and California in the 2008 Presidential campaign:

In 2008, in Montana, 231,667 people voted for Barack Obama while 242,763 people voted for John McCain. So, McCain got all 3 of Montana's Electoral College Votes.

In California, 8,274,473 people voted for Barack Obama while 5,011,781 people voted for John McCain. So, Obama got all of California's 55 Electoral College votes.

So, in effect, Obama heartily won with 55 votes (95% of the votes between the two states) vs. McCain's 3 votes (5%). If we were calculating the popular vote, though, the race looks a lot closer: Obama with 8,506,140 votes (62%) and McCain with 5,254,544 votes (38%). Obama still wins with a clear majority, but saying he won 95% of the vote is quite different from saying he won 62% of the vote. And while this is a particularly lopsided example given that this is one of least populous states vs. the most populous state, this disproportionate representation bore out in the final results from all of the states: Obama won only ~53% of the popular vote nationally but got ~68% of the Electoral College votes.

And, of course, this system sometimes leads to some Presidents winning in the Electoral College even though they lost the popular election, such as in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

That's not even taking into account the negative impact the winner-takes-all system has on voter turnout. Basically, if you're a Republican in a decidedly Democratic state like California, it's hard to justify getting out and voting for President knowing that your vote really doesn't matter; that your vote won't even come close to stopping the state's 55 Electoral College votes from going toward the Democratic candidate. And even Democrats in California have to wonder how important their vote is: again, the Democrat is going to win anyway, so why bother?

Basically, the only places where votes seem to matter is in battleground states: Ohio, Florida, and other states that not only flip from one party to the other from election to election, but also have a significant number of Electoral College votes. And, of course, the campaigns know this, which is why Ohio gets bombarded with campaign ads while solidly Republican Texas does not. After all, why campaign if you're not going to win?

And why bother campaigning in Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota at all, when Ohio alone is worth more Electoral College votes than all of those states combined? The less populous states continue to get trampled on despite their disproportionate representation.

So, the parties get to become entrenched in their strong states while they battle it out in battleground states. They simply remove themselves from the conversation in places where they're unlikely to win, which seems to me like a contributing factor in the polarization of the country.

Finally, the Electoral College and, especially, the winner-take-all system basically ensures that there will never be a viable third party or independent candidate for President; that the established parties (Democrats and Republicans) remain the only viable options to voters. Basically, a liberal candidate can not run for President without risking the possibility of becoming a "spoiler" for the Democratic candidate and ensuring that the Republican candidate wins, and likewise from the other direction. With the current election system, the Democrats and Republicans have a strong case that liberals should vote for Democrats and conservatives should vote for Republicans, because to do otherwise effectively contributes to the cause of the opposition.


The proposed amendment grants all American citizens the right to vote for the President and Vice President regardless of where they live.

Each person's vote is equal in weight.

If there is no clear winner in the initial Presidential election (in other words, if nobody gets over 50% of the vote), then there is a second election exclusively between the two candidates with the highest number of votes.


First, again, millions of American citizens outside of the states would no longer be disenfranchised, at least as far as voting for the the President goes.

Second, every person's vote will count equally, giving voters a greater incentive to vote. For instance, even if you're a conservative in an overwhelmingly liberal state, you have an incentive to vote since your voice will be added to the voices of all of the conservatives of all of the other states.

Third, voters will be able to vote for independent and third-party candidates without as much worry about voting for a spoiler thanks to the run-off election. If, for instance, the Republican candidate gets 27% of the vote, the Libertarian candidate gets 28% of the vote, the Democratic candidate gets 33% of the vote, and the Green candidate gets 12% of the vote, the second election will only feature the Democratic and Libertarian candidates.

In other words, the first vote allows you to vote with your ideals, and the second election (if needed) eliminates the possibility of spoilers.


Step 1: The first and most important step is to get people talking about it: pass it around, get the press involved, generate interest, and start a debate about it. It needs to be a national conversation.
Step 2: The easiest next step is for Congress to approve the amendment and pass it on to the states. (Alternately, the states could request the amendment directly, but no amendment has ever been passed this way.) Apply pressure to Congress to consider the amendment and take the vote to the states.

Step 3: Finally, the states each need to have a vote on whether or not to ratify the proposed Amendment. It would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 of them) to take effect.

This may all sound like a lot, but as an individual you only need to focus on Step One for now. Talk about it. Call your congressman. Mention it any time the presidential election comes up.

Let's improve our system.

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