Electoral reform in Colorado should be model for nation
On November 2, Coloradans will be given a unique opportunity on a ?second-chance? vote for their candidates for President. Colorado is putting before its citizens a referendum to make it the third state to allow a split of its electoral vote.
Today?s electoral system is an artifact from an era when Congress was careful to maintain a balance between personal rights and states? rights. Because of this, they gave state legislatures the power to select a group of electors for President. In the early years of the country, the legislatures appointed electors without consulting the people. Over two centuries, states changed to give all of the states?s electoral votes to the candidate who won the popular vote in each state.
Because electors don?t actually cast their votes for President until mid-December, Colorado?s new law would be effective for this election. It would give a proportion of the electoral votes to each candidate based on the proportions in the statewide popular vote. In Colorado, where there are only nine electoral votes, the ratio cannot get very exact, though polls say that is likely that the state will split Bush five, Kerry four. This is the so-called ?proportional plan,? which is popular in some areas, but would be nearly equivalent to a direct popular vote if enacted nationally.
Two states, Maine and Nebraska, use a different system to decide their electors. They give an electoral vote to the popular winner of each congressional district and two to the overall winner of the state, mirroring the determination for number of electoral votes. The ?district plan,? as it is known, is one of several methods for reconciling the electoral system and the popular election. Nebraska is firmly in the Bush camp this year, but in Maine, which went entirely to Gore in 2000, it looks more likely that the vote will split. The state?s first Congressional district is Maine?s coastal urban areas and is leaning toward Kerry, while the northern inland parts in the second district are leaning towards Bush in polls.
These up-to-five votes to an otherwise losing candidate could make these states just as important as swing states like Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In Colorado, voters will be wagering on how likely their candidates are to win. If they feel confident about their candidate, they will vote down the referendum. Since Bush is likely to win the state five votes to four if the measure passes, the Republican electorate will probably vote to defeat the referendum.
But Colorado, along with forward-thinking states Maine and Nebraska, is moving in the right direction of creative electoral reform. The winner-take-all system discourages minority party voters from voting. The Constitution gives individual states the right to set their own policy on electoral votes. Though many states close loopholes in the process such as binding their electors to vote for pledged candidates under penalty of law, most have not considered the latitude given their legislatures ? in the case of the District of Columbia, Congress has this power ? to decide how electoral votes are shelled out.
Coloradans should pass this referendum and other states should follow with their own policies tailored to each individual state. Balancing states? and citizens? rights with electoral reform will be a boon to democracy.