recent/current projects

Check out Aburt's publishing company
ReAnimus Press
  Publishing award-winning and bestselling authors like:

Welcome to
New from ReAnimus Press
Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam   The Box: The History of Television

Some Random Thoughts On "Abolishing" The Electoral College And Its Impact On The Two-Party System

I'd never heard of John Koza and his plan to effectively replace the means of electing the US President by national popular vote, until today when I read that Colorado is strongly considering joining this effort. Apparently this plan has a chance of becoming the law, having been adopted by large states like Illinois and New Jersey, and close to passage in others like California -- some 47 states have bills in progress.

I'm not sure where I stand on it. I downloaded and perused Kota's 748 page book on the matter.

The major issue I see -- and I'm not actually sure if it would be a good or bad thing! -- is that I think his plan could lead to diminished power of the two parties. That is, "third" parties could gain significant power.

He doesn't spend much time considering this consequence. The only reference I found was in his section 10.6.5 where he addresses a tangential issue about "diminished moderation in political discourse."

He begins with a quote from someone else I'd never heard of until today, a Tara Ross, to the effect that "The ... thing [people] would notice is the quick disintegration of the two-party system." Kota dismisses this by changing the focus in what may be a critical way: Instead of saying he think the two-party system will remain in full vigor, he says that "moderation in political discourse" will remain in full vigor. That's a different animal.

It's possible the two-party system would remain as it is. What quirked my eyebrows was that Kota apparently never outright says he thinks the two party system will remain. Possibly he quietly hopes for three or more strong parties -- I don't know.

He also supports his view with one statement that I think is logically incorrect: "there is no reason to expect the emergence of some new and currently unknown political dynamic if the President were elected in the same manner as virtually every other public official in the United States."

Well, yes, there actually is a reason to suspect this: The current electoral college structure makes it nearly impossible for a presidential candidate from a third party to win. Ross Perot, for example, won around 20% of the national popular vote, but receive zero electoral college votes. It was unlikely for him to have won any at all, since winning around 20% in any given state meant that he had no shot at any electoral votes. (Unless there were, say, five roughly equal parties.) Even if a small-party candidate somehow snagged a plurality in one state, that would only give them a small number of electoral votes. In other words, third party presidential candidates currently have no real chance.

This means the Democratic and Republican parties are the only parties with a real shot at producing a president. A third party in today's system has a very slim chance of gaining support because it can't effectively field a presidential candidate.

Thus, yes, there is a reason to suspect a "new political dynamic" could emerge if it became easier for a third-party candidate to become President. That would likely also lead to that third party gaining strength in other races (governors, senators, state legislatures etc.).

It's also possible that leadership from a party other than the Democrats or Republicans could be a good thing for the US. I don't know. Other countries with fully functional democracies have more than two parties.

Duverger's Law says that proportional voting (such as the "national popular vote") tends to lead to more than two parties, while region-based voting (as we have now for nearly all races) tends to lead to a two-party system. This suggests that the US would retain two dominant parties in Congress, but that the President might be chosen from outside the two parties.

So this article is neither a call to action to protect the two party system, nor to diminish it. This is just a comment that such a change could be an outcome of adopting the national popular vote method of electing the President, and this outcome is little discussed. We could find it suddenly in effect, and fairly quietly -- and suddenly discover any consequences the hard way. So it seems like we should analyze this plan more thoroughly before making what could, possibly, be a large change to how the US is governed. It's worth going into it eyes open, and with debate.