Electoral College Reforms Could Limit Young Voters’ Impact
The voices of young voters could be ignored in the next election if radical new reforms are passed.
Across the country, state legislators are considering changing the way their states allocate electoral votes. 48 states currently use the winner-take-all system, but the reforms being debated would aim to distribute electoral votes like Maine and Nebraska currently do: by awarding electoral votes by Congressional districts.
The reforms have been endorsed by Republican National Committee Chairman, Reince Preibus, early this month. "It's something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at," Preibus said, to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, emphasizing that each state must decide for itself.
A recent Gallup poll showed nearly 6 in 10 Americans want to reform the Electoral College, so these ideas about district allocation may gain support.
Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida all have Republican-controlled legislatures, but were won by President Obama in 2012. In Ohio, President Obama carried four out of sixteen Congressional counties and won the popular vote. Under these new proposals, he would only have received six electoral votes instead of the full eighteen. In fact, had this plan been active during the last presidential election, President Obama would have lost the election, despite winning the national popular vote by nearly five million.
Some plans go even further. In Virginia, Republicans have been pushing to award the extra two electoral votes to whichever candidate won more Congressional districts instead of the popular vote.
Young voters played a major role in 2012, but these plans could limit their voices in upcoming elections. Under many new redistricting maps, colleges and universities have been placed into districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic. Many reports say the youth vote tipped the election to President Obama in many of these states, under these new rules, that would not be the case.
Ohio was arguably the most important state in deciding the 2012 election and provides a clear example of young voters' influence. Ohio State University is the second largest public university in the country with over 50,000 students and has been placed in the third Congressional district. Franklin County, where Ohio State is located, went to President Obama by 130,000 votes, more than half of his margin of victory. The new proposal would have neutralized the impact of these votes, giving the President only one electoral vote.
Though the majority of Americans believe the Electoral College needs reforming, it should be done fairly and in a way that empowers citizens. These plans would greatly cripple the impact of the youth vote on the election. Real election reform should be about making every vote count and that won't happen by limiting the voices of Millennials.
James King is an Online Communications Intern with Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesmuratking
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