Electoral College reform; would it work in Illinois?

Illinois is one of 48 states that give all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate that wins all of the state's electoral votes. Because of widespread discontent over the occasional  loser having a bigger popular vote than the winner, various kinds of reform have been offered.

One that appears to be gaining steam, according to this report by the National Council of State Legislatures ("The Electoral College: New Attention to an Old Idea," second item in the link), is a system in which one electoral vote is awarded to the candidate who wins the popular vote in each congressional district, with the two remaining going to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote. Sounds fairer to me than the winner take all system.

The other reform is the National Popular Vote. Under it, each state pledges to give all of its electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationwide. The pledge takes effect only when states with a majority of the electoral votes sign on to the system, which hasn't yet happened, and which might be losing steam. Eight states and the District of Columbia have enact NPV legislation, but bills have either stalled in other states or have been rescinded.

Illinois doesn't appear to be a player in either proposal.


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  • Illinois has enacted the National Popular Vote.


  • In reply to toto:

    Strange, but true. Public Act 095-0714.

    The catch, and there always is one, is

    This agreement shall take effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have enacted this agreement in substantially the same form and the enactments by such states have taken effect in each state.

    Also, a state may withdraw, but not within 6 months of the end of a presidential term.

    However, I don't see that if the bill gets the other 51% of the electoral vote it needs for it to become effective by 2012, Illinois is going to pull its electoral vote for Obama and give it to Cain (for instance). You know that if it came down to that, someone would challenge the constitutionality of that law under Article II, and then if you think Bush-Gore was a mess...........

    Maybe the states can come to their own arrangement, but I think something like this would need at least Congressional approval. What would happen if some elector said "I'm voting my conscience, not according to this law?" Would an enacting state have the power to do something about that, obviously, federal question?

  • In reply to jack:

    Congress? Article 2, which you mentioned says: :Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors..." Sure, someone will sue (someone always does), but it sounds like it's a state's decision.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    I'll give you that, which appears to eliminate the Article II question. You probably do agree that once the scenario I suggested arises, there will be some bloody battle, such as that depriving the Illinois Democratic Party base of the direct result of its vote violates the Voting Rights Act, or the like, if "electors for president" rather than "presidential candidates" are on the ballot. I'm not going to predict the outcome of that hypothetical, in that I can't even predict the outcome of whether states with 50% of the electoral votes will ever sign on, nor whether if that ever happened and it were exposed in the general media that Illinois had signed on, whether that decision would stand. Too many variables.

    Maybe such a compact (which is what it says it is, and Art I. sec. 10 cl. 3 says that no state shall enter into a compact with another state without the consent of the Congress, but maybe this is not really a compact) might have changed the Bush/Gore result, but obviously not because of Illinois's sewed up electoral vote. However, that's probably why the Illinois GA passed it.

  • In reply to jack:

    Congressional consent is not required for the National Popular Vote compact under prevailing U.S. Supreme Court rulings. However, because there would undoubtedly be time-consuming litigation about this aspect of the compact, National Popular Vote is working to introduce a bill in Congress for congressional consent.

    The U.S. Constitution provides:

    "No state shall, without the consent of Congress,… enter into any agreement or compact with another state…."

    Although this language may seem straight forward, the U.S. Supreme Court has method, in 1893 and again in 1978, that the Compacts Clause can "not be read literally." In deciding the 1978 case of U.S. Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission, the Court wrote:

    "Read literally, the Compact Clause would require the States to obtain congressional approval before entering into any agreement among themselves, irrespective of form, subject, duration, or interest to the United States.

    "The difficulties with such an interpretation were identified by Mr. Justice Field in his opinion for the Court in [the 1893 case] Virginia v. Tennessee. His conclusion [was] that the Clause could not be read literally [and this 1893 conclusion has been] approved in subsequent dicta."

    Specifically, the Court's 1893 ruling in Virginia v. Tennessee stated:

    "Looking at the clause in which the terms 'compact' or 'agreement' appear, it is evident that the prohibition is directed to the formation of any combination tending to the increase of political power in the states, which may encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States."

    The state power involved in the National Popular Vote compact is specified in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 the U.S. Constitution:

    "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…."

    In the 1892 case of McPherson v. Blacker (146 U.S. 1), the Court wrote:

    "The appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the states under the constitution of the United States"

    The National Popular Vote compact would not "encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States" because there is simply no federal power -- much less federal supremacy -- in the area of awarding of electoral votes in the first place.

  • In reply to jack:

    There have been 22,000 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 10 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. The electors are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

    If a Democratic presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state's dedicated Democratic party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. If a Republican presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state's dedicated Republican party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. The winner of the presidential election is the candidate who collects 270 votes from Electoral College voters from among the winning party's dedicated activists.

  • In reply to jack:

    The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).

    The Founding Fathers left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution-- "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

  • The word and the concept "reform" simply does not wear well in any politician's world. Who in power wants to reform anything...? And so the wheels of justice continue to grind the ever so slowly. If at all

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    Here is one suggestion: Scrap the Electoral College altogether. Candidate receiving most popular votes is elected. No more pandering to vast areas of land with no inhabitants.
    Here are some figures from 2008 election:

    Calif. 11.9 10.2 677,345
    Texas 8.0 6.3 739,575
    New York 6.2 5.3 625,100

    North Dakota 0.2 0.6 224,197
    Vermont 0.2 0.6 208,580
    Wyoming 0.2 0.6 187,875

    Four Texans' votes are worth one Wyoming vote.
    Most votes=President-elect. Simple, honest and fair solution.

  • To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

  • The National Popular Vote was just a typical scam for politicians to say they favor changing the election process without fear of anything really changing. Illinois should modify its allocation of electoral votes to allocate them by percentage of popular votes in Illinois. I believe Illinois has 21 electoral votes. If two candidates split the popular vote 55% to 45% the 55% candidate would get 12 electoral votes and the 45% candidate would get 9 electoral votes. This ensures everyones vote is meaningful. Illinois legislators could do this without any other state or Federal intervention. Of course this assumes Springfield really wants to implement change.

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