Enough With Superdelegates, What About the Electoral College

Slate's blog on legal issues.
June 6 2008 4:43 PM

Enough With Superdelegates, What About the Electoral College

Here's an interesting post laying out a quite troubling scenario (at least to me): McCain loses the popular vote by more than 1 millon, but wins the election due to the electoral college. Perish the thought.  But what if?

Obviously, one solution for the future is to scrap the electoral college altogether, something Senator Nelson of Florida proposed today

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But as it happens, I came across this news while reading Arthur Schlesinger's updated version of The Imperial Presidency.    There, he sets forth a plan for avoiding such a problem that seems to have been lost to history (or at least, came as news to me) and that seems preferable to dispensing with the electoral college altogether. 

Schlesinger calls it "The National Bonus" plan. The idea is to keep the electoral college, but then augment it with additional "electors" for the winner of the popular vote.  His proposal was to award a total of 101 bonus electors to the winner of the popular vote, which strikes me as at least 50 too many. After all, if the bonus is too big, the college gets wiped out for all practical purposes; candidates need not really compete very hard outside their natural bases of support.  The arguments for keeping the college -- many of them are actually laid out nicely by Schlesinger himself -- seem compelling.  But so too does the concern about general elections repeatedly trumping the popular will. If the bonus is sized right, however, then the popular vote becomes another swing state, and probably a decisive one so long as the canddiate wins enough other swingers.  In other words, we keep a system that ensures state by state competition without risking outcomes in which the popular vote and the electoral college are likely to diverge.