Change to Electoral College could change presidential elections - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Change to Electoral College could change presidential elections

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Fast-forward one year and we'll be voting for President of the United States. The election of 2012 could be the last year we use the Electoral College system in its current form.

The system has been around for more than 200 years and has been responsible for the election of 44 different presidents.

It is one of the few votes in America where the person with the most votes is not guaranteed a victory. But the mood of the country is changing, and it might not be long before the term "swing state" will be something left for history books.

In the waning days of a campaign for president, excitement is reserved for a select few states that lead to the white house.

But while the hop scotching from "swing state" to "swing state" leads to great political theatre, it's something that one time presidential candidate Fred Thompson believes doesn't work.

"If a state is traditionally heavily republican or traditionally heavily democratic, nobody pays attention to them," said Thompson. "And it affects policy." 

And the American public is starting to take notice. A recent Gallup polls reveals that 62% of Americans say it is time for the Electoral College to go.

"It is an indication, that we can do better than what we are doing right now," said Thompson.  

You would think something so entrenched in American culture would be hard to change. Not so fast says billionaire Tom Golisano who is racking up electoral votes of his own. But these votes would be promised to the winner of the popular vote.

"It brings everybody in the country on a totally equal basis," said Golisano a former independent candidate for governor of New York.

Golisano has successfully convinced big states like California, Massachusetts, Maryland and others to pledge all their electoral votes, not to the winner of their state, but the winner of the popular vote. If he can rack up enough states to get past the 270 mark, the way we elect presidents will fundamentally change.

"The action would shift mainly to large population centers and states that have a lot of people in them," said University of Richmond political professor, Dr. Dan Palazzolo.

That means no more swing states, that could be bad news for Virginia, which has received plenty of attention because it is a state that could go either way. 

"There wouldn't be as much advertising in the state, candidates wouldn't visit as much, there wouldn't be as much of an organizational push because it wouldn't be as central to the outcome," said Palazzolo.

But even if the Golisano and Thompson can't get all the way to 270, other states have talked about distributing their votes differently. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are among states considering splitting up who wins their electoral votes.

No matter what the outcome, a system that has been in place since the 1700's would be fundamentally altered, and so to could be the way we elect the most powerful person in the world. 

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