The presidential campaign we are witnessing today is not a nationwide campaign seeking support from all Americans, but unfortunately it is limited to the number of so-called target states such as Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia and a few others. It is unfortunate that the two party candidates and their surrogates are not visiting the rest of the country, yet both campaigns are spending tens of millions of dollars each and ignoring the rest of the country.
The reason for this is simple. Both political parties can accurately assess their candidate’s strength in the rest of the states. They would conclude that it would not be productive to spend time and money there, either because their candidate will have an easy win or a sure loss. These so-called toss-up states have significant number of electoral votes and the winner of even a small victory such as 1 percent will give to their candidates 100 percent of the electoral, all or nothing.
I have previously written about the high cost of presidential campaigns, which in 2012 will cost over $4 billion. To avoid this high cost I have suggested placing a time limit on the duration of the campaign and thus limit the capacity of the parties to raise money as well as well as limit the capacity to spend it.
The cost of campaign, the "all-or-nothing" electoral vote is another part of the problem, and it is obviously the reason the campaigns are limited to a handful of toss-up states. I suggest a solution is to allocate the electoral votes proportionately to the number of votes cast. Then all states would become battlegrounds. Because, if one of the candidates receives the majority of the popular votes, the opposing candidate could still get a piece of the electoral votes.
In case anyone is worried about the states right to divide the electoral votes proportionately. This is not a legal or a constitutional problem. The states are constitutionally bound to allocate the electoral votes on a date certain and to transmit the count in a sealed document and sent to Washington where a member of the Senate, the House and the president will tally the vote and declare the winner. (See Article II Sec. 1 of the Constitution) There are no federal limitations or directives on how the states and electors shall vote. However, in some states they are bound to follow the popular vote. In 1988, one elector voted for Lloyd Bentsen rather than Michael Dukakis, the party’s nominee; and in 2000 candidate Gore’s delegation from the District of Columbia did not even vote because they were not considered to be "a state."
How states vote is a matter for the states to determine. Therefore any and all states can cast their votes as they pleased, and they are not bound to do so uniformly. So any one or more states could allocate their electoral vote based upon the proportionate number of the popular votes cast, if they so choose.
Many politicians and students of government say, if you can divide the electoral votes proportionately, based on population, why not go one step further and simply have a direct election, by-passing the electoral system.
The problem with that, it would take a constitutional amendment to abandon the electoral system and would conflict with the Founding Fathers and compromise between the large and small state. And that just is not going to happen.
Richard Richards, former National Republican chairman under President Ronald Reagan, lives in Ogden.