The Instant Runoff Amendment It is time for America to stop choosing its president by an archaic, confusing, and undemocratic method. As the 2000 election has shown, using the Electoral College lets a candidate win the Presidency even if a larger number of voters prefer and vote for someone else. Getting rid of the Electoral College may be very hard, but by writing a 28th amendment, it will definitely get rid of them for sure, but there is a long process for this abolishment and writing an amendment.
The Electoral College must be abolished so that the “election” must be fair. The process of creating a new amendment is found in Article Five in the constitution which describes the process necessary to amend the Constitution. It establishes two methods of proposing amendments by Congress or by a national convention requested by the states. Under the first method, Congress can propose an amendment by a two-thirds vote (of a quorum, not necessarily of the entire body) of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.
Under the second method, two-thirds of the state legislatures may convene and “apply” to Congress to hold a national convention, whereupon Congress must call such a convention for the purpose of considering amendments. To date, only the first method (proposal by Congress) has been used. Once proposed, whether submitted by Congress or by a national convention. Amendments must then be ratified by three-fourths of the states to take effect. Article Five gives Congress the option of requiring ratification by state legislatures or by special conventions assembled in the states.
The convention method of ratification has been used only once (to approve the 21st Amendment). Article Five currently places only one limitation on the amending power—that no amendment can deprive a state of its equal representation in the Senate without that state’s consent. Back in the “day” we learned that if the president had been chosen by popular vote, only the slave owners would have had the risk of being outvoted. The free and slave-based areas of the country were roughly equal in level of development and population density; ut since slaves could not vote, there were more voters in the “free” states. But the Electoral College is not apportioned by the number of voters; it is based on the size of each states representation in Congress. Under the infamous “three- fifths rule”, slave states got to increase their representation by three-fifths of the number of slaves in their state. Think how horrible it must have felt, not only to be disenfranchised, but to know that they who claimed to “own” you were just using your vote to keep you in slavery!
With direct elections, a state’s influence on the outcome would be increased as more people voted. But under the Electoral College system, a state gets the same number of Electoral Votes even if no one votes. Consequently, a state’s power structure has a strong incentive to try to prevent voting by the oppressed. Defenders of the Electoral College make two arguments both of them are not distinct reasons. First, they say that it is appropriate because it is a “federalist” institution, and the US is federalist.
No one can even say what this argument means. The presidency is the same office, with the same powers and role, however the president is elected. The only impact of the Electoral College is not to make the presidency federalist, but to make it undemocratic. Second, it is claimed that the Electoral College helps small states. Small states will never accept direct elections, we are told, so an amendment will not be able to win the required approval of three-fourths of the states, and we should not waste our time trying.
This is just plain wrong. Under the Electoral College system, small states are ignored. With direct elections, a vote in Wyoming and a vote in California have exactly the same value; but under the Electoral College system, a vote in California is worth as much as fifteen votes in Wyoming, so candidates conclude that campaigning in Wyoming would be a waste of time. However, the big states do not have it so good either.
In 2000, the Gore campaign spent no money on TV advertising in New York or California, because they believed that they would win those states anyway. (www. ontheissues. org). They had no incentive to increase turnout there, because the extra votes would not have affected the outcome. Under the Electoral College system, the only states that count are those that are both large and competitive. There is only one potential disadvantage to direct election of the president, and this problem is easily fixed.
If we chose the president the way we do governors, by plurality vote, a president could be elected without any majority, either of the voters or of the Electoral College. This system would encourage the cynical and corrupt strategy (by candidates) of placing “straw” candidates in the election to take votes away from your opponent, and the equally cynical practice (by voters) of “strategic voting” (voting for the candidate you think will win, rather than the candidate you believe in. The answer to this problem is to require election by a majority of the votes. This could be done expensively, by having a second election, limited to the top two candidates, a week after the first. But it could be done cheaply by using the Instant Runoff Vote. ( www. instantrunoffvoting. us) With the Instant Runoff, used in Australia, for example, voters mark their first, second, third, etc. choices on the ballot. A candidate with a majority of first-choice votes is elected.
If no candidate has a majority, the lowest-ranking candidate is eliminated, and his or her votes redistributed to whoever was the second choice on those ballots. (This can all be done electronically and fast). This process continues until one candidate achieves a majority, and is elected and everyone knows that an absolute majority preferred that candidate to whoever finished second. Let’s do it! Amending the Constitution is not easy, but if the US is to retain any semblance of democracy, it has to be done.