The Christian Science Monitor reports on a plan to effectively do away with the electoral college:
Picture it: On election day in some future year, a presidential candidate ends up with the most popular votes but not enough electoral votes to win.
It’s a repeat of the 2000 election in which one contender, Democrat Al Gore, took the majority of the national popular vote, while the other, Republican George W. Bush, clinched the most electoral college votes and, hence, the presidency.
But this time there’s a twist: A bunch of states team up and give all their electoral college votes to the nationwide popular-vote winner, regardless of who won the most votes in their state. Then, the candidate who garners the most citizen votes in the country moves into the White House.
Legislative houses in Colorado and California have recently approved this plan, known as the National Popular Vote proposal, taking it partway to passage. Other states, too, are exploring the idea of a binding compact among states that would oblige each of them to throw its electoral votes behind the national popular-vote winner. …
The compact is designed to take effect only if states representing 270 electoral votes approve the compact legislation, giving those states majority control of the electoral college. The result: The “compact” group of states would be able to determine a presidential election.
John Lott says it won’t work:
Some states are moving to get rid of the electoral college. The idea is to have each state’s electoral votes determined by the winner of the national popular vote. Of the six states that are going to be voting on these initiatives California, New York and Illinois are Democratic states and Colorado, Missouri and Louisiana generally Republican in presidential elections. Obviously this represents more Democratic electoral votes than Republican ones. Democrats might think that this will encourage people to campaign in California and New York, but if you campaign in Florida, you get two returns: increase the probability of carrying Florida plus increasing the probability that you will get California’s and New York’s electoral votes. As more states adopt these rules, it will make it more similar to the popular vote determining the outcome of the election. But if only a few states adopt the rules, they will make those states largely irrelevant. Suppose that California was the only state to adopt the rule? There would then be clearly less of a reason to campaign in California than there is now.
It is my understanding that the states who are voting on this have a provision that it won’t go into effect until states with a majority of electoral votes have adopted this, but I have a feeling that even with a majority of the electoral votes this way, there would still be a bigger return to campaign in the states where you would get both electoral votes and popular votes.
Are you smarter than Lott? Answer in comments.