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What We Read Today 15 March 2015

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

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The one – relatively – easy step to make every vote count again in the U.S. (Rob Richie and Claire Daviss, Reuters)  We think of the presidentila election as a national election.  But that is not the case.  It is something like a 12-state election; the other 38 don't count in the campaign equation because they are a lock for one candidate or the other.  Here's how this article put it:

The presidential battleground is shrinking. After the major party conventions in 2012, only 12 states received campaign visits. Even as they ignored other states, Obama, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and their running mates campaigned in Ohio 73 times, Florida 40 times and Virginia 36 times. New studies show that presidents steer federal grants toward swing states as well.

One state, Nebraska has had a formula since 1991 to award electoral votes according to the popular vote in each house district.  But that Republican stronghold state has a movement underway to change back to the winner-take-all formula used in other states.  Why?  Because the state is districted into several safe Republican districts and one safe Democratic district in order to assure Republicans maximize their congressional delegation control of the state.  But in the case of the presidential election the GOP doesn't like having one of the state's electoral votes going to the opposition.

This article doesn't like the congressional district formula for a different reason:

Some four in five districts are locked up for one party’s presidential candidate. A nationwide congressional-district system would make it even more likely to have a “wrong-way outcome.” Our recent report, “Fuzzy Math,” found that Romney would have won the 2012 election by 10 electoral votes — despite winning 5 million fewer votes nationwide.

And, of course the reason that the hypothetical outcome above could occur is a result of the widely used practice of gerrymandering.  How gerrymandering looks to an outsider was exemplified by Australian Paul Hanly's 2010 article at GEI OpinionThe Gerrymander Triumph.

Richie and Daviss suggest that electoral votes be assigned in each state in proportion to the popular vote.  There is a movement underway called the National Popular Vote plan.

The National Popular Vote proposal is an interstate agreement, an exercise of states’ right to form compacts among states and to determine how to award their electoral votes. States commit, as a group, to award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The plan is activated only after being adopted by states that collectively represent a majority of the Electoral College, 270 electoral votes or more.

To date, 11 states have signed on, holding a total of 165 electoral votes. Since Maryland became the first state to pass the National Popular Vote in 2007, progress has been slow but steady. New York was the latest signatory in 2014, when it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Econintersect:  If only states with 270 electoral votes operated under this agreement then election outcomes could become even further from determination by popular vote.  For example, let's say that those states had popular vote strongly Republican by, say, 60/40.  And let's also say the 270 votes would have gone 192 to Republicans and 78 to Democrats under the winner-take-all arrangement but the national popular vote was 55% Republican and 45% Democratic.  The allocation of votes under the National Popular Vote plan would be 148 R and 122 D.  The states remaining with winner take all formulas would be overwhelmingly Democratic and possibly divide 190 Democratic and 78 Republican.  The final electoral vote under winner-take-all would have been 270 R and 268 D.  But under the split the result would be D 322 and R 226, quite out of line with 55/45 R advantage in the total popular vote.

The proposal to implement theNational Popular Vote plan with less than all states participating could produce severe distortion of election results under certain circumstances.    

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