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Aug 11, 2004 6:15 pm

Electoral College Reform

For those who missed it, an interesting op-ed in this morning's Times by Northwestern Law School professor Robert Bennett.

Bennett notes the possible dangers inherent in a tied Electoral College (269-269), which would throw the election into the House. To preempt the possibility, he urges expanding the membership of the House by one member, to 436, thereby producing an E.C. of 539 members (with D.C.'s 3 votes) and ensuring that, at least in a case where all electors cast ballots, there could be no tie.

Bennett's proposal, however, would create a far more likely problem than a deadlocked Electoral College: a House in which both parties had the same number of Members. We're not that far removed from a House in which neither party had a majority--the 64th Congress (1917-1918)--and in which third-party Members decided which party would have the Speakership. (The mostly left-wing independents from the Upper Midwest sided with the Dems.) If I had to guess, a tied House is much more likely than a tied E.C. Better to keep the system the way it is, or abolish the E.C. altogether.

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Robert KC Johnson - 8/12/2004

I like the idea of DC getting 4 electoral votes.

The real fiasco, I agree, would be if the election ever got into the House. That Wyoming and California would have the same vote on the next president is obviously anti-democratic.

Andre Mayer - 8/12/2004

When the House chooses a president (as in 1824)it votes by state -- each state delegation gets one vote. Giving DC representation (amending the Constitution to treat it as a state) would give us an odd number of votes, decreasing the probability of deadlock. But the real danger of deadlock in the House is within evenly-divided state delegations.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/11/2004

...give DC another vote in the EC. It would eliminate the mathematical possibility Bennett notes without creating the mathematical possibility you note.

I thought Bennett's article contained just a bit too much naive horror at the thought of 'politics' going on in the House. That's what it's there for, after all. If we don't want it to be a political process, we could just turn it over to the Supreme Court..... never mind.