What is the Easiest Way to Replace the Electoral College?

NYU Professor Steven Brams gave a talk at Amherst tonight on alternative voting schemes. The most readily implementable alternative to the Electoral College, Brams believes, is the national popular vote plan. Brams writes:

As happened in 2000 and three 19th-century elections (1888, 1876 and possibly 1824), the electoral-vote winner might well be different from the popular-vote winner.

The cleanest way to prevent divided verdicts is to abolish the Electoral College and substitute direct popular vote for the president. (Allocating electoral votes in each state in proportion to the popular votes for each candidate will not always succeed.) But direct popular vote would require a constitutional amendment.

An ingenious alternative solution is the national popular vote plan, whereby states mandate that all their electoral votes go to the national popular-vote winner. Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed such laws, which become effective once states with a majority of electoral votes support the plan (the plan has about half the 270 electoral votes needed). Then the popular-vote winner will be assured of also being the electoral-vote winner.

It is not just the popular will that may be flouted. Voters in most states, including the three largest (California, Texas and New York), will largely be ignored in the 2012 campaign, and probably later, because the outcomes in these states are essentially decided.

(Brams was most enthusiastic about approval voting, a system which he discovered. Unfortunately, approval voting is far from replacing the current system, but is highly recommended for use in decisions on where to eat.)


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