Stations, Country Can Benefit From Electoral College Banishment

The country failed to eliminate the farce that is the Electoral College 12 years ago when hanging chads were thrust into the national conversation. It is past time.

The prospect of the GOP's Mitt Romney winning more votes than President Obama, but being denied the White House by the outdated system looms. The specter came up on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week, with former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell referring to it as a “distinct possibility” and host Joe Scarborough saying there was a “growing likelihood.”

There are arguments made about the Electoral College helping maintain a two-party system and the concept of federalism. But, there is a simple case countering any and all of them: how in the world’s greatest democracy could more people vote for the losing candidate?

Hopefully, the American people will stand up and fight for a change starting once this campaign ends. It wouldn’t take the impossible: a constitutional amendment. States could adopt the Maine and Nebraska approaches, where their Electoral College votes can be split. There is also a National Popular Vote plan enacted by eight states – all solidly blue  -- which would simply give the presidency to the popular-vote winner. (The Electoral College would be preserved, but worthless.)

Forget the good of the country, though. Getting rid of the Electoral College would seem to be a priority for the organizations representing local broadcasters (TVB and NAB) and cable outlets (CAB) – as well as the Big Four networks.

The current landscape has it that candidates are battling over just a handful of states. And, those are flooded with ads and enriching the station groups and local cable operators lucky enough to be in markets such as Denver, Tampa, Las Vegas and Cleveland.

Data floating around has it that in 2008, the candidates spent 98% of campaign dollars in just 15 states and two-thirds in just six.

There's a dynamic where Iowa (pop. 3 million) plays a heftier role than Texas (26 million) in determining the election. So, a station in Des Moines can profit from the race more than one in Dallas. But a popular-vote election could spread the wealth or, more likely, grow the pie. It doesn't mean Des Moines would necessarily be left behind.

If candidates felt compelled to advertise even in non-swing states -- California, Texas and many others -- in order to boost their overall vote counts, then more money might need to be raised. And, super PACs might feel they need to find more shadowy big spenders.

In 2008, Obama beat John McCain by about 10 million votes. It's hard to come up with a scenario where McCain could have grabbed enough votes in non-battleground states to overtake Obama. But, it's likely that with Hispanics an increasingly important voting bloc, Obama would spend money in Texas and Arizona this time to pick up votes in the red states if there were a so-called direct election.

By the same token, would more residents in GOP states with oil interests – such as Oklahoma or Louisiana -- turn out to help Romney win by even wider margins? Would Romney buy ads trying to pick off more votes in Democratic strongholds such as New Jersey and even Obama’s home state of Illinois?

Most big station groups have some outlets in swing states, but also operate in large markets left dry where they’d love to pick up presidential cash (that’s not to say they’re not dong fine with statewide races). Some of the biggest winners, though, in popular-vote elections might be the Big Four networks with their cross-country reach.

There have only been four times when a popular-vote winner was denied the White House – three in the 1800s – so the absurd Electoral College is not a national crisis. The issue is likely to subside unless it happens this year, which would be twice in 12 years.

Station groups and other programmers might pull for that "split." Reform might lead to revenue for them.

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4 comments about "Stations, Country Can Benefit From Electoral College Banishment".
  1. Doug Garnett from Atomic Direct , October 22, 2012 at 5:26 p.m.
    Over time, I've become a strong advocate for the value of the electoral college - because it ensures peaceful transition of government. And we need look no further back than 2000 to see why. In that election, I voted for Al Gore and cared tremendously about my vote. Given the legal armageddon that transpired in Florida, the republic benefitted from that hard date in December when electors voted in the new president and it was over - done with. Imagine how horrid the reality would have been had there been no electoral college to cast the actual votes? Yes, every now and then it creates an unusual circumstanced. But as you note, that's only 4 times in our history.
  2. John Grono from GAP Research , October 22, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.
    Statistically speaking, there has been no President in living memory (or longer) that has received a majority of votes. The fact is the majority of US citizens do not vote.
  3. Susan Anthony from N/A , October 22, 2012 at 7:17 p.m.
    The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore's lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes. Presidential elections don’t have to be this way. The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country. The bill changes the way electoral votes are awarded by states in the Electoral College, instead of the current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all system (not mentioned in the Constitution, but since enacted by states). Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in the country would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency. The bill uses the power given to each state in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have been by state legislative action. The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect. NationalPopularVote Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc
  4. Susan Anthony from N/A , October 22, 2012 at 7:20 p.m.
    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win. NationalPopularVote