News Release

Electoral Equality: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

JULIE BROWN
Brown is the campaign director for Make Your Vote Count, a Colorado group supporting Amendment 36, which would proportionally allocate Colorado’s nine electoral college votes. She said today: “In 1893, Colorado defied the critics and became the first state to give women the right to vote. On Nov. 2, Colorado has the opportunity to take the next step by becoming the first state to actually enshrine the principle of one person, one vote into the presidential election. Amendment 36 would change the way Colorado allocates its electoral votes for president. The outdated ‘winner take all’ system would be replaced by a proportional system based on the popular vote. … Amendment 36 is not a radical idea. It is an old idea that seeks to restore representative government to the people.”
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ALEXANDER KEYSSAR
Keyssar is Matthew W. Stirling, Jr., Professor of History and Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government and the author of The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. He said today: “In the 2000 election, an elector in South Dakota represented 230,000 people while an elector in New York represented 550,000. George W. Bush won the election without winning the popular vote because he was victorious in three-quarters of the states that had fewer than ten electoral votes.”

VIKRAM AMAR
Amar is a law professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law. He said today: “We’re set to pick a chief executive via an electoral college system that was designed in part to cater to slavery and to accommodate the disfranchisement of women. … Conventional wisdom holds that this system was originally aimed at giving smaller states a boost. … [However] in a system in which each state awards electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, large states loom, well, large. So do swing states, where each side focuses its campaign because it has a realistic chance to win a statewide majority and thus the state’s entire electoral bloc. If helping small states does not really explain the electoral college, what does?”

Amar continued: “At the founding of the country, the deepest schisms ran not between large and small states but between North and South. … At the Constitutional Convention, when Pennsylvania’s James Wilson proposed direct national election for the president, Virginia’s James Madison countered that such a system would enable the North to outvote the South; under direct election, the South would get no credit for its half-million slaves, none of whom, of course, would be able to vote. The electoral college system that ultimately emerged gave the South partial — three-fifths — credit for its slaves. … The founders’ system also encouraged the continued disfranchisement of women. In a direct national election system, any state that gave women the vote would automatically have doubled its national clout. Under the electoral college, however, a state had no such incentive to increase the franchise; as with slaves, what mattered was how many women lived in a state, not how many were empowered. Even today, a state with low voter turnout gets precisely the same number of electoral votes as if it had a high turnout. By contrast, a well-designed direct election system could spur states to get out the vote. … Colorado, this November, might become the third state to depart from the winner-take-all system for allocating electoral votes.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167