Friday, July 27, 2007

Electoral College and NC

This has nothing to do with Latin America, but I can’t resist since I’ve been talking so much about electoral systems in my summer school Intro to Comparative Politics. North Carolina is getting closer and closer to changing the way the state doles out electoral votes. The Senate has passed, and the House soon (maybe even today) will vote on a reform that would grant one electoral vote to the candidate who wins each congressional district (a total of 13) and then the final two votes would be given to the candidate who wins statewide.

In presidential elections, NC goes Republican (the last election was 56%-44%) but there are strong Democratic pockets (with all sorts of gerrymandering disputes) including Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is. Therefore, the reform could grant the Democratic candidate three votes (Kerry won three districts in 2004) and perhaps more, though I haven’t had a chance to look at the outcomes of each district. Since it would go into effect in 2008, the reform would have an immediate impact. As I've mentioned before, NC might even gain an electoral vote after the 2010 Census because of immigration.

Obviously, then, Republicans don’t like it, as it guarantees their candidate will lose a few electoral votes. Democrats say it would bring more presidential candidates to the state because the outcome would no longer be a foregone conclusion. However, I would hope that this generates more discussion about a) the Electoral College; and b) the desirability of winner-take-all within the context of the Electoral College.

So far, though, the debate is entirely partisan, and the larger question—what is the best way to elect a president in this country?—is barely being addressed. In general, the debate is receiving remarkably little media attention.


Anonymous,  6:00 PM  

Granted we've had a couple of extremely close calls in the electoral college, but it takes a rare super-close election for any candidate to care about a few congressional districts when other states swing their entire bloc. It's close to a pointless "reform."

And if it went nationwide, the congressional-district allocation would be even worse than the current prevailing method (awful though that is). There are so few swing congressional districts, and the last thing we need is yet another incentive for parties controlling state legislatures to engaged in gerrymanders.

Let's push for the NPV instead. I agree that anything that gets people talking about the EC is a good thing. But I wonder, is there any talk about the NPV in NC? The movement's website shows some NC sponsors. Is it possible that the congressional-district plan was an attempt to say "reform? we've done that, already"?

Greg Weeks 6:30 PM  

I've not heard of any widespread movement, but even this vote caught me by surprise (and, incidentally, as far as I can tell, they did not vote on this issue Friday).

I agree with your arguments, though at the moment I see it as Democrats wanting more electoral votes for a Democrat in NC, and not as part of a national reform.

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