The Constitution asks us to elect a president of the United States, but what we get is a president of Ohio and Florida. There's an easy way to fix that.
Since Donald Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by three million votes, the Electoral College has once again taken a thorough public flogging. Democrats, in particular, are enraged that the loser of the popular vote has now won two of the past five elections, first by a few hundred votes in Florida in 2000, and then in 2016 by fewer than 80,000 combined votes in three Rust Belt states.
But there is an even deeper problem with the Electoral College as it operates today, even when the popular vote winner and the Electoral College winner are the same. In every presidential election, the voters in all but a handful of states, and their concerns and views, are ignored by the campaigns and later by the administration of whoever is elected. This affects both Republicans and Democrats, voters in small states and voters in big states. As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, then a serious contender for the Republican nomination, put it in the fall of 2015, "The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are." The Constitution asks us to elect a president of the United States. What we get is a president of Ohio and Florida.
This problem is actually not the Electoral College itself. The Constitution lets each state legislature decide how to award its electoral votes. Two states, Nebraska and Maine, award votes by congressional district, while the remaining states award all of their Electoral College votes to the winner of that state's popular vote. It's these state-level winner-take-all laws that make the votes of millions of Americans effectively meaningless.
The good news is that, just as states were free to adopt or not adopt a winner-take-all approach, they remain free to change their laws to ensure that the popular vote winner becomes president. The way to do this is simple: pledging to award all their Electoral College votes to whoever wins the national vote. A project to make this happen is already under way. It's called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Ten states (and the District of Columbia, which has three Electoral College votes) have already passed legislation to take this approach, with a proviso that the law kicks in only when the number of Electoral College votes of the enacting states reaches 270, the number necessary to win the presidency. So far, 165 electoral votes have been pledged. Twelve more states (with ninety-six votes) have passed the law in one legislative body. If these states, plus just a few others, pass the law, then the Electoral College will function as most Americans want it to: it will award the presidency to the winner of the popular vote. More importantly, presidential campaigns will finally start paying attention not just to the very few voters in "battleground" states, but to all voters, everywhere.
If your only knowledge of U.S. geography came from watching presidential campaign appearances, you would be forgiven for thinking that the most powerful country in the world is a pretty small place. Clinton and Trump, and their running mates, made a total of 399 campaign appearances after officially winning their party's nomination. Of these appearances, over two-thirds were in just six states: Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan. If you add in the next six states considered competitive, that accounts for 375 of the 399 visits. In other words, the candidates campaigned almost exclusively in only twelve states. (Three or four of these are true battlegrounds every four years; the others...