Speaker Proposes Alternative To the Electoral College System

Photo: John Koza, a professor at Stanford University, speaks to UC Berkeley students about replacing the Electoral College system with a system based on the national popular vote.
Chris Chung/Photo
John Koza, a professor at Stanford University, speaks to UC Berkeley students about replacing the Electoral College system with a system based on the national popular vote.

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John Koza at Berkeley

Students and faculty respond to a talk given by Stanford Professor John Koza during Wednesday's Poli Sci 179 lecture.

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Despite a career as a consulting professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, John Koza came to campus yesterday to propose a replacement for what he says is a faulty Electoral College system.

The current Electoral College system functions so that a candidate who receives a majority of the votes in a state is awarded all of that state's electoral votes. This winner-take-all system causes some to believe that not all votes are equal, Koza said.

Koza proposes the system be reformed into one based on the national popular vote, meaning the presidential candidate would have to win a majority of the popular votes of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in order to become president.

"This system would make every person's vote equal throughout the United States; it would make every voter count," he said.

Perhaps one of the best examples of the pitfalls of the Electoral College was the 2000 election, when Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore received about 500,000 more popular votes than Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush, but only received 266 electoral votes to Bush's 271.

Several implications result from the current system, one of which is that candidates only campaign in states where they have a chance of winning, according to Koza.

"When the election is run, the candidates don't organize or care what issues bother the voters in two-thirds of the country," Koza said. "The main implication of the winner-take-all rule is that a candidate has no reason to visit or advertise in a given state if he or she is overwhelmingly ahead or behind."

Koza pointed to the 2004 election, in which 99 percent of funding was spent on only 16 states and 24 states were completely ignored during the election.

Berkeley students said they were divided on the issue of reforming the Electoral College. Junior Serge Sarkissian said he disagrees with Koza and believes that the Electoral College should still stand.

"The Electoral College was first established by our Founding Fathers to eliminate the possibility of demigods coming through and being able to sway the masses easily ... the Founding Fathers were afraid they would destroy the entire infrastructure," he said.

Others, however, agreed that a different method of voting should be used.

"I do think the system should give more attention to other states," said sophomore Fletcher Munksgard.

Some students said they were not completely swayed to either side of the argument.

"I definitely agree that every vote should count equally," said junior Oren Klein. "The one problem I had with (the proposal) was the same problem that the Founding Fathers had which was mob mentality and stopping the election from becoming a popularity contest."


Contact Keena Batti at [email protected]

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