A movement is underway across the nation to change the way we elect the President. Since the bitterly contested election of 2000, in which Vice President Albert A. Gore, Jr. won the popular vote but lost the election to President George W. Bush, Democrats have been anxious to modify the way in which the President is elected. For many the goal is either to eradicate the Electoral College or make its votes insignificant to the outcome of the election.
Recently, Republicans and Democrats in California have proposed two separate ballot initiatives for the 2008 election that would alter the way California's electoral votes are distributed in the Electoral College. The Republican proposal would replace the winner-take-all system with one in which the electoral votes would be awarded by how Congressional districts vote.
Meanwhile, Democrats have introduced "The National Popular Vote for President Act." This initiative would require States to award their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the most actual votes (i.e., popular votes) nationally. It would take effect only if States representing a majority of the Electoral College votes agreed to the change. Because of California's population and influence, there is a concentrated effort to push this initiative through next year. A Democratic consultant told the LOS ANGELES TIMES that "a lot of people who lived through the 2000 election ...feel pretty strongly that we ought to have a national popular vote. The Electoral College is a vestige of another time period." The presumption behind this statement is that if history conflicts with one's desire for power, abolish history and retain power at all costs.
But the Founders created the Electoral College because they believed it to be most prudent to protect the interests of a diverse nation. They were wary of a central government with too much power, so they established a federal system of government that limited the responsibilities of the national government and left all others to the States.
If this initiative in California and others like it across the country were to succeed our electoral system would change in two ways.