Yale School of Management

Prof. Edward Kaplan Proposes a ‘Cure’ for the Electoral College

This week, the Electoral College officially selected Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, despite his loss in the popular vote. Professor Edward Kaplan and his colleague Arnold Barnett of MIT say that they have a fix that could prevent such a controversial outcome in the future.

Professor Edward Kaplan

In an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times on December 16, Kaplan and Barnett propose a compromise between a direct election by a popular vote, which is favored by many Democrats but would require a constitutional amendment, and the current system, in which nearly all electors are selected by a winner-take-all vote in each state (and which currently gives an advantage to Republicans).

“We propose instead that electoral votes be awarded in direct proportion to each candidate’s share of the states’ popular vote,” they write. “For example, Connecticut had seven electoral votes in 2016, and 54.6% of its voters opted for Hillary Clinton while 40.9% chose Donald Trump and 4.5% chose other candidates. Under our proposal, Clinton would get 54.6% of seven, or 3.82 ‘electoral vote equivalents’—EQVs—from Connecticut; Trump would get 2.86 EQVs (40.9% of seven), and the remaining candidates would split 0.32 EQVs. The candidate with the largest number of EQVs amassed over the 50 states and the District of Columbia would be declared president.”

Kaplan and Barnett say that their system would shift some power to large states but maintain the importance of small states. Under the EQV system, they calculate, the popular vote winner would have won nearly all U.S. presidential elections, including the election of 2016—but not the election of 2000, in which George Bush’s narrow popular-vote loss would still have translated into an electoral win.

Read the op-ed.

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