[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Revolutionizing Presidential Elections
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] Potentially the most significant issue affecting this and future presidential elections is receiving almost no attention in the media. In Colorado, on November 2nd, voters will do much more than choose between Bush and Kerry. The ballot will also contain a proposal to replace the state’s winner take all approach with a new procedure to divide up Colorado’s nine electoral votes in proportion to each candidate’s popular vote.

If this measure passes, it may very well be outcome determinative on who wins the presidency. In the 2000 election, George Bush was awarded all of the eight electoral votes Colorado then had. But Al Gore received 42 percent of the popular vote. Had the proportionality system called for in the referendum been in effect, Gore would have received three of these eight votes. Since Gore lost the vote in the Electoral College by 271 to 266, a swing of these three votes would have reduced Bush to 268 and given Gore 269.

Consistent with votes cast in the 2000 election, the standard political wisdom is that Colorado can be expected to vote Republican in this presidential election. As a result, it is the Colorado Democrats, not surprisingly, who are pushing for proportionately dividing the state’s electoral votes. Republicans are leading the opposition with the argument that passage of the referendum would diminish Colorado’s importance in the election. The intriguing question is how many voters for Bush, the perceived winner, will still vote for the proposal because they believe that proportionality among Electors is a fairer system?

From a legal standpoint, the system being proposed in the Colorado referendum is perfectly lawful. Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution provides that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the Whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress…” Thus, it is in the hands of each state to determine how their Electors shall be chosen. Since this is in the Constitution, neither Congress nor the Supreme Court will be able to nullify the decision of the Colorado voters if they pass the referendum.

Nevertheless, at the present time, only two states—Maine and Nebraska—divide up their electoral votes by a formula that takes into account the popular vote. All other states have winner take all rules.

A much deeper political question is raised by Colorado’s referendum than simply what happens in that state in November. The United States is now sharply divided between (1) states which almost certainly will go Democratic in this and most other presidential contests in the near future; (2) states which will go Republican; and (3) a group of swing states like Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Even astute and well informed high school students can shade the United States’ map to reflect this tripartite division.

In Maryland, my home state, people frequently say: “why bother to vote? Kerry will receive the larger popular vote and hence all of Maryland’s electoral votes.” But if the provisions of the Colorado referendum were the law in Maryland, there would be a greater turnout. Both Bush and Kerry supporters would know that their votes would make a difference in the allocation of electors.

The intriguing question is why is Colorado alone having this referendum? Why aren’t the Democrats, who have found a way to obtain some of those nine votes which would go to Bush in Colorado, launching similar movements to change the voting system in all other states where the Republicans have a likely majority, such as Georgia and Montana? Similarly, why aren’t the Republicans doing the same thing in states, such as Maryland and New York, which are solidly in the Kerry camp?

A referendum may not work legally in every state. However, there will be some mechanism to achieve this result perhaps an act of the state legislature. So why aren’t both parties mounting an intensive effort in their weak states?

Is the explanation that the leading political thinkers in both parties are so bogged down in designing and opposing “attack ads” that they’re failing to see a larger and potentially more significant issue? Or are both parties afraid to release this “proportionality monster” for fear that it may come back to bite them?

Regardless of the reason, one thing is clear. If the referendum passes in Colorado and the division of Colorado’s electoral votes has an impact on the election, you can be certain there will be a groundswell to make this change in other states. We may be on the verge of revolutionizing American presidential elections.