Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The "Camp-Out" Theory on Ending the Electoral College Is Just Plain Wrong. Here's the Truth...

WITH THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION having now been decided, it's time to once again say, with complete conviction and truth, that the Electoral College simply has to come to an end, once and for all.

The idea is simple enough: end the Electoral College, and let every vote across the country count equally, no matter what state you live in.

There's no reason why we shouldn't do this. The Electoral College has, on many occasions, thwarted the will of the American people to pick their commander-in-chief by allowing votes in some states to "weigh" more than votes in others. It did so in 2000 and in 2016, and in spite of Joe Biden's win this year, it came dangerously close to doing it again in 2020.

But some have argued that the Electoral College makes less-populous states more relevant — or that candidates for office won't travel to those areas if they can "camp out" in high-population areas to win an election.

There's no evidence to support this idea. Indeed, most, if not all, of the "small" states are ignored even with the Electoral College in place. Swing states that candidates travel to are those that have strategic value, not because the system encourages travel to lesser-populated areas.

The argument itself is laughable when you consider that the 500 most populated cities in the United States only account for a third of the U.S. population. California, New York, Florida, and Texas, the four most-populated states in the country, are similarly only about a third of the nation's totals. 

It would be incredibly difficult to win the election in a popular vote model with only a third of the electorate.

The worries from critics are misplaced. Indeed, if we got rid of the Electoral College and put in its place a popular vote system where instant voter runoff would ensure a candidate had to receive 50 percent + 1 votes to win, we would actually see MORE states get paid attention to than what we currently do under the Electoral College.

To reach that 50 percent + 1 number, a candidate would have to successfully court, at A MINIMUM, residents in the 38 most-populated metropolitan areas of the U.S., representing voters of 31 states plus D.C. That's a large chunk of the geographical area in this country.

For comparison, under the current system in 2020, 19 out of every 20 places traveled to by the presidential or vice presidential candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties was to just 12 states. And lest you think that COVID-19 had something to do with that, the same number of states was traveled to in 2016, too.

In other words, to court the bare minimum needed to win an election, a candidate in a popular vote model for president that requires a 50 percent threshold would have to travel to nearly three times more states to win — and that presumes a single candidate would win 100 percent of the votes in those areas.

That last point will never happen...which means that candidates will likely have to court voters from even MORE areas in order to win.

What about rural voters? Even though pro-Electoral College apologists say they will be ignored, the voting bloc that rural residents represent — a little more than 1-in-5 Americans live in rural areas — is too big to ignore. 

No popular vote win since 1972 has ever reached 20 percent difference between the winning and losing candidates. It would simply be foolish to try to win an election by completely ignoring 20 percent of the United States.


It's far past time we get rid of the Electoral College. The incoming Biden-Harris administration ought to make that a priority — and the debate on the issue should happen right away. 

However, that debate has to be an honest one. Defenders of the Electoral College will make claims that keeping it in place makes the electoral map larger. In fact, as I've noted above, it shrinks the map significantly. A popular vote, with instant voter runoff, actually makes more of the country relevant. Most states are ignored as it is under the current system, and a popular vote system for picking the president would actually fix that problem.

One person. One vote. And more of the country's interests represented. There's really no point in keeping the Electoral College around any longer.

Featured image via Public Domain (edits added)

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