The Bigger Picture

Changing the Electoral College would make NH voters less powerful

illustration by peter noonan

To say the 2016 presidential election was weird is an understatement. But to suggest that New Hampshire should amend the critical role it plays in the election, as some locally have suggested, is absurd.

In Concord, the four members of the state’s Electoral College gathered inside the Statehouse to take part in a ceremony that had lots of pomp — and, for this year, a lot of consequence.

In December, the Electoral College members voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. As they did so, one of the Democratic electors suggested that the state look into stripping power from the body. Days later, three Republicans proposed state legislation that would bring about the biggest change in how the Electoral College runs since 1880.

Both ideas are not in the best interest of the New Hampshire voters.

As it stands, New Hampshire voters are probably more powerful than residents of any other state. There are three reasons for this: the state’s even political split between the parties, the first-in-the-nation presidential primary and the Electoral College.

To recap, under the Constitution, voters on Election Day don’t actually elect a president. They elect 538 presidential electors nationwide to the Electoral College, whose members meet roughly a month later. It is then, if one candidate reaches a majority of the vote, that a president is elected.

The Electoral College system means that the presidential election is actually 50 different state elections, some more interesting than others.

Lately, there are about a dozen states where the presidential campaign is very interesting. New Hampshire is the smallest of those dozen swing states that are viewed as up for grabs for either political party every four years.

This means that, on a per capita basis, New Hampshire voters have more power than any state in the nation.

Yet the Democratic elector Dudley Dudley looked at the results of the 2016 presidential election and didn’t like the final outcome. Donald Trump became the fifth person to lose the popular vote but win the presidency due to the Electoral College.

Since Clinton won the national popular vote, Dudley wants state lawmakers to consider tying the state’s Electoral College votes to the national popular vote. (Legally, every state can decide for itself how it wants to allocate their Electoral College votes.)

Three Republican state representatives, led by David Murotake of Nashua, saw the 2016 election results differently. Clinton narrowly won New Hampshire overall, but she lost one of the state’s two congressional districts. Under New Hampshire’s current winner-take-all rules on the Electoral College, she was awarded all four of the state’s Electoral College votes.

Murotake’s bill would have the Granite State join Maine and Nebraska in awarding two electoral votes for the statewide winner and then one per congressional district. If this had been in place during the last election, Trump would have received one vote in the state.

Changing how New Hampshire conducts its Electoral College is not something that should be undertaken just because of the outcome of a particular election. There is a bigger picture.

For us, it’s live with the Electoral College or die in irrelevance.

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