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The Electoral College is an accident waiting to happen

Switching less than 1% vote would have changed the outcome in 7 of the last 25 elections

If you’ve been reading my Constitution series, you know that I am no big fan of the Electoral College System. If you want to read a heartfelt defense of the ECS, I commend you to this piece by my buddy Doug Tice, Commentary editor of the Strib. Although I don’t think the ECS is the worst problem facing America, I don’t agree with him on this.

On the other hand, for reinforcement of the argument that the ECS is an accident waiting for excuse to happen, there’s this one by Andie Levien of “FairVote.” It starts with the calculation that,  although Pres. Obama won the popular vote by about 3.5 million, a switch of fewer than 200,000 votes in the proper states (out of a total of more than 122 million) would have changed the identity of the president-elect. That’s a switch of less than two-tenths of one percent of the total.

Thanks to the ECS, this is not remarkable. In fact, it’s a pretty big number compared to many others. The FairVote piece describes how few votes would have had to switch in seven of the previous 25 elections to change the result. It starts, of course, with the Gore-Bush cliffhanger in 2000, where a switch of 269 Floridian votes that were counted for George W. Bush to Al Gore would have changed the result, and, as you know, there are many ways to dispute whether than final count was correct. and, of the seven cases  Levien reviews, it’s the only one where the switch would have caused the popular vote winner to win the electoral vote. The other six, in which a relative few switched votes would have enabled the overall national popular vote loser to win, and the number of votes that would have been necessary to bring this about were:

  • 2004, a switch of 59,393 votes in Ohio elects Kerry over Bush.
  • 1976, a switch of 9,246 elects Ford over Carter.
  • 1968, a switch of 77,000 would have thrown the Nixon-Humphrey-George Wallace election into the House of Representatives.
  • 1960, 9,200 switches would have elected Nixon over Kennedy.
  • 1948: 46,389 switches would have elected Dewey over Truman.
  • 1916, a switch of fewer than 1,900 would have elected Charles Evans Hughes over Woodrow Wilson.