I’ve moved from Massachusetts to Texas in the last few months and nothing’s changed as far as my vote is concerned. My home has changed, but this year as in 2004 and 2000, my home state still hasn’t gotten so much as a sniff of Presidential campaign appearance. That’s because when I lived in Massachusetts, the Bay State’s electoral college’s votes were a lock for the Democratic Party’s candidate and now that I live in Texas, the Lone Star State’s electoral votes are a lock for the Republican Party’s candidate. When I lived in Massachusetts, I tended to vote Green anyway, in an effort to build not a third party, but a viable SECOND party in what amounts to one-party Democratically run Massachusetts. The need for such has been brought home by the ethics scandals rocking the democratically controlled state house there this fall.
Now, here I am in Texas, having switched my voter registration to unenrolled back in January in MA again here in Texas in August to support Barack Obama, for reasons that are as much pastoral as political (my freind Eric points to as good an explanation as I can offer here). And yet the overwhelming vote here in Texas is probably, although I hope not, going to be for McCain.
dailyKos today points to an informative, although by no means revolutionary post from Nate Silver at 538.com that reminds us that this election, like every other Presidential election is really 50 elections because of the electoral college. And this year it comes down to this:
This is beginning to look like a five-state election. Those states are Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada. Essentially all relevant electoral scenarios involve some combination of these five states…
The victory conditions for Obama involving these five states proceed something as follows:
- Win Pennsylvania and ANY ONE of Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, or Nevada*
- Win Ohio and EITHER Colorado OR Virginia.
- Win Colorado AND Virginia AND Nevada.
(* Nevada produces a 269-269 tie, which would probably be resolved for Obama in the House of Represenatives.)
Now, suppose you think that Colorado is already in the bag for Obama because of his large edge in early voting there. We can then simplify the victory conditions as follows:
- Win Pennsylvania
- Win Ohio
Win Virginia AND Nevada
This graphic from Pollster.com (again a hat tip to dailyKos) puts the race in a linear perspective, sort of an slide rule. Obama needs to grab a light blue state and McCain all the yellow toss up swing states and a bunch of light blue Obama leaning light blue states.
It’s really time to do away with the electoral college once and for all. In spite of Obama’s efforts to make this a 50 state campaign, he’s doing it out of electoral strategy and a mandate to govern, not out an electoral philosphy that argues the POUS should be popularly elected by the people. Popular election of the President requires a constitutional amendment. I stand corrected (see the comments) One way around it is a state law that pledges all the states electoral votes to the popular vote winner. See National Popular Vote for more information on their plan. I’d still rather have a Constitutional amendment (such as the one that supplied popular direct election of senators), but I’d settle for their plan in the interim.
UPDATE – In the Nov. 2 edition of the New York Times, Sarah K. Cowan points out that:
This system (the electoral college), along with the winner-take-all practice used to allocate most states’ electoral votes, creates the potential for an absurd outcome. In the unlikely event that all 213 million eligible voters cast ballots, either John McCain or Barack Obama could win enough states to capture the White House with only 47.8 million strategically located votes. The presidency could be won with just 22 percent of the electorate’s support, only 16 percent of the entire population’s.
With direct election you get the President the most people want. I also want Rank choice voting, also called Instant Run Off Voting (let the muppets explain it to you) so I can vote for my actual policy preferences without the fear of putting my least favorite candidate like Bush or McCain in the White House.
Until then candidate have to have an electoral strategy and I have to have a voting strategy and that’s not what democracy should look like.