COMMENTARY | After the 2000 election, there were calls by Democrats to abolish the Electoral College, and replace it with the popular vote. That’s because Al Gore won more votes.
After the 2012 election, we may see Republicans make a similar push to call for changes in the Electoral College. That’s because while Mitt Romney won 47 percent of the popular vote, he would up with about 38 percent of the Electoral College vote.
Expect some move that reflects congressional districts (like Nebraska and Maine have, plus a winner-take-all). That’s because Republicans control the House of Representatives by a 234-200 margin.
But one of the untold stories in the post-2012 election is where did all the voters go?
Sean Trende with realclearpolitics.com takes a stab at it with his article “The Case of the Missing White Voters.” But his article looks only at popular vote totals nationwide, and in-depth only at the state of Ohio (which, despite its swing-state status, saw fewer voters from 2008 to 2012). Of course, didn’t Ohio lose a congressional district or two? Maybe the population is falling as well.
Trende’s analysis (a good one) is about counties but the numbers on whites pretty much relies on estimates from exit polls. What can we learn about the entire country?
You may think this analysis is out of date, but just because the networks called the race, it doesn’t mean that the state stopped counting the ballots. And we have a better picture of the overall vote than we did on Nov. 6.
My college students and I looked at the numbers toward the end of the semester. And here is what we found. Of the 32 states that saw fewer voters from the 2008 election to the 2012 election, 27 of them were from uncompetitive states. Some of the five exceptions (swing states with lower voter turnouts) there was a concerted attempt to knock voters off the rolls or limit early voting.
Of the 19 states (plus the District of Columbia) which had voter increases between 2008 and 2012, more than half were in competitive swing states, in play until the final days of the campaign.
We still may not know what happened to white voters, but it seems clear that in the overwhelming majority of states, voters saw little chance of their ballot affecting the race, and stayed home as a result. That’s a problem with the Electoral College, which is bipartisan.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.