Should electoral votes be allocated by congressional district?

It is being considered in Pennsylvania. The idea might have merit in Washington state.


Next year's presidential race is just getting started but it's already garnered a lot of public attention. Folks, whether Republicans or Democrats, are focused on the White House in 2012.

Yet, the campaign itself can be a bit frustrating when most of the actual campaigning is done in big cities in states considered to up for grabs. That's because the president isn't elected directly by the people but by the Electoral College, which gives each state votes equal to its congressional districts plus its two senators. In 2012, Washington state will have 12 electoral votes, one more than it had in the last election because the state has grown in population.

In Washington, like Oregon and just about every other state, the presidential candidate who gets the most votes statewide gets all its electoral votes.

And that generally means that if presidential candidates come to the Pacific Northwest they jet into Seattle (and maybe Portland) and it's off to other voter-rich cities.

That leaves those of us who living in rural Washington state (as well as Oregon) on the sidelines.

Is there a better way to allocate electoral votes?

A movement has been started in Pennsylvania to award electoral votes by congressional districts. A proposal has been made in the Republican-controlled General Assembly (similar to our state House of Representatives) to give an electoral vote to the candidate who wins each congressional district. The candidate who carries the statewide vote would get the two electoral votes that represent the two senate seats.

Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, have such a system. Perhaps they are on the right track.

If the electoral votes were allocated by congressional district, Eastern Washington, now home to two congressional districts, would get more attention than it has in the past.

Sure, it's likely this region would be considered a Republican stronghold, but so what? The more urban congressional districts would be bastions for Democrats. In the end, it would be a wash.

Yet, it would put Washington state in play and force candidates of both parties to campaign here.

It also seems more fair. In 2008, for example, Democrat Barack Obama received 58 percent of the statewide votes and all the state's electoral votes.

But Eastern Washington voters supported Republican John McCain by a wide margin. The 4th Congressional District supported McCain with 58 percent of the vote and the 5th Congressional District, which includes Walla Walla, had 52 percent of voters supporting McCain. All of the other congressional districts went to Obama.

It seems assigning two of the state's then 11 electoral votes to McCain would have been fair or, at least, fairer.

Yes, we know, fair has no place in partisan politics -- fair (with scattered clouds) is only meaningful in weather reports.

Nevertheless, perhaps its time lawmakers in the Northwest -- and throughout the country -- to take a stand that brings some equity to the system.

Shouldn't rural America have a substanial voice in presidential elections?


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