Proposed Constitutional Election Amendment

Ann Althouse althouse at FACSTAFF.WISC.EDU
Wed Jan 31 12:32:12 PST 2001

Hybrid plans, such as Greg offers below, have been proposed in the past. If
you're interested in the politics of piecing together different plans to
solve some of the problems with the simple direct vote, I would, again
harping on the circa 1970 period of attempted reform, recommend THE
Braun (Yale University Press, 1972). Here are three of the big ideas that
had real support at the time:

The Tydings-Griffin plan required a candidate to amass either forty percent
of the popular vote or a plurality of the popular vote plus a majority of
the electoral vote;

The Spong plan required a majority of the electoral votes plus a plurality
of the popular vote. If no one got that, a joint session of Congress (with
each member of Congress having one vote) would decide.

The Eagleton-Dole plan (AKA "the Federal System Plan") provided for a
winner who could win a plurality of the popular vote plus either
pluralities of the votes in a majority of the states or pluralities of the
votes in a group of states that together represent a majority of the
voters. If no one performs that feat, then the winner would be calculated
according to the old electoral vote allocation. If there is still no
winner, the electoral votes received by any third party candidates would be
divided up between the two frontrunners in proportion to the percentage of
the popular vote won by each. This plan had the virtue of eliminating the
need for either a runoff or a congressional contingency and balancing the
importance of the overall popular vote and the demand that the winner have
geographically dispersed support.


>Let me propose something pretty much off the top of my head, but that
>strikes me as a worthwhile idea for consideration:  As long as we're
>going about amending the Constitution and as long as we're
>contemplating the possibility (perhaps even the regularity) of
>run-off elections for president, why not preserve the electoral
>college together with a popular vote requirement in a hybrid approach.
>My suggestion is this:  For a candidate for president to win in the
>first round of balloting and avoid a run-off, he or she must both win
>the popular vote (either a plurality or a majority, we can separately
>debate which) *and* a majority in the electoral college.  If no
>candidate wins both the popular vote and the electoral college, a
>second round of voting would be held between the top two candidates
>in the electoral college, with the winner of the popular vote in that
>run-off being elected president.
>The beauty of this proposal, or so I see it, is that it maintains the
>electoral influence of the smaller states whose support would be
>necessary to successful ratification of an amendment and it ensures
>that candidates strive for cross-regional appeal so that they can
>achieve not only a popular vote win but also the necessary electoral
>college majority to avoid a run-off.  While thus preserving the
>primary force of the electoral college in round one, the provision
>for a direct election run-off would ensure that the ultimate winner
>has full democratic legitimacy.
>Gregory Sisk
>Richard M. & Anita Calkins
>   Distinguished Professor
>Drake University Law School
>2507 University Avenue
>Des Moines, Iowa  50311-4505
>greg.sisk at
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