Should Iowa join a compact to instate the popular vote in Presidential elections?


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Revamp our electoral system? It might be better than you think.

Eleven years after an election that went with the electors (and ultimately, the Supreme Court) instead of the popular vote (and gave us years of George W. Bush), Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, and a national group are seeking to add Iowa to the popular-vote bandwagon.

National Popular Vote, a nonprofit group seeking to reduce the impact of the Electoral College on elections, called on Iowa Tuesday to commit to only certifying its presidential electors on the basis of a popular vote. This provision would kick in once 270 electors’ worth of other states have passed the legislation, and it would effectively dismantle the Electoral College.


While some prominent figures such as Ron Paul have spoken out against the popular vote, claiming that it instates a regionalism that concentrates electoral power in the hands of an urban majority, the Electoral College is undemocratic and undermines both voter turnout and third-party legitimacy.

Under the current system, certain states — Iowa included — are considered “swing states”: states that disproportionately influence election outcomes and could go one way or the other. If states receive the same number of electors regardless of how many people in them vote, there is really only an incentive to turn out the vote in these “swing” states.

In other words, this winner-take-all system encourages apathy in all but the most contentious states.
It also results in the marginalization of third parties, which can either split the vote Nader-style or — and this has never happened — completely destroy the chance of any candidate acquiring a majority (which leaves selection to the House of Representatives).

The shift away from the Electoral College is not a partisan issue. The spokesman of National Popular Vote is a registered Republican (even if he labels himself independent), and defining this issue along partisan lines is ruthlessly cynical. Even if Iowa becomes less coveted as a result, the Legislature should approve the bill sponsored by Bolkcom.

It might not be good for Iowa, but it would be good for the country as a whole.

— Shay O’Reilly


The electoral presidential vote process has been in place for more than 200 years, so why change it now?

Well, many politicians are still haunted by the events that took place during the 2000 presidential election. People didn’t clearly understand how Al Gore could take the popular vote, yet George W. Bush held more electoral votes and, therefore, won the presidency. This situation only happened one other time in our nation’s history. The events that followed in Florida and the interrupted recounting also contributed to the country’s uneasiness about the election.

Now, politicians are trying to ensure that such events won’t happen again, and the presidency won’t be lost because of an electoral-vote fiasco. Their solution is to create a compact by which states agree to give their electoral votes to the national popular vote, instead of the state’s individual popular vote. But small states should be worried about this compact proposition. If small states are in an agreement to give up their electoral votes on the basis of the national vote, why would politicians want to go to visit them? Political campaigning wouldn’t be necessary in the small states. Their issues would go unnoticed and unaddressed.

For Iowa in particular, our significance — as the state to hold the first caucus and as a swing state — would dwindle. Attention would be focused on California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, and any other state whose popular vote would determine the electoral votes for the rest of the country.

As UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle eloquently put it, “Regionalism [would become] too important. The Founding Fathers didn’t want swinging toward one region.”

The Electoral College was set up so that the votes are evenly distributed across the country. The proposed compact negates the whole notion of state populations and state votes. It even negates the Electoral College process. If politicians are proposing the said compact, then why not go all the way and just eliminate electoral votes?

Our current system should stay in place, with large and small states alike contributing to the outcome of presidential elections.

— Emily Inman

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