From the mid-1860s to the early-1990s, Vermont was largely a Republican majority. The post Civil-War Republican Party that supported Lincoln and fought against the immoral and abusive institution of slavery was the default option for Vermonters. The Republican Party kept the loyalty of generations of Vermonters in presidential elections, and a large majority of gubernatorial and legislative elections.
Now, the pendulum of popular support and Vermont values has swung sharply to the left and the default affiliation of most of those who vote in Vermont is Democrat or progressive. There are still, however, a minority of Vermonters who support the values of the Republican Party.
I have been following the national debate led by Democrats pushing for a popular vote over the Electoral College system in presidential elections. The argument is, every individual should be counted in the democratic process instead of each state giving all of their Electoral College votes to the candidate who gets even the smallest majority of the popular vote in that state. I pondered that argument and it struck me that Vermont could set the example of enfranchising each citizen regardless of their political party affiliation by adopting systems that give proportional representation to all voters.
In our current time, over the last several presidential election cycles, Democratic candidates have received roughly 55-60% of the votes in Vermont. Republicans have gotten 35-45% of the votes in Vermont. Vermont gets three Electoral College votes each cycle matching the number of senators (two) and congressperson (one) Vermont has in Washington, D.C.
I am proposing we move toward a more representative Electoral College vote allocation system by adopting the electoral system Maine currently uses. They split their four Electoral College votes proportionally by using the percentage of the vote each candidate gets. That prevents a portion of voters who don’t get the majority of popular votes from losing their voice in the presidential election. If 51% vote for Candidate A and 49% vote for Candidate B in Maine, they each get two Electoral College votes.
I would further propose each county or legislative district in Vermont should award representation proportionally by popular vote. If Caledonia County voters vote 66% to 33% Republican and they have three senators, they should get two Republican senators and one Democrat. If Chittenden County Democrats get 70% of the popular vote and Republicans get 30% and they have six senators, then Democrats should get four senators and Republicans should get two. This would allow voters with values that are not in the majority to still be heard and represented. A more balanced representative body would, by necessity, be forced to work together, compromise and avoid radical policies that only a super majority could force upon an underrepresented minority.
If Vermont Democrats truly care about enfranchising all voters, they should support the proportional division of Vermont’s Electoral College votes and county and district proportional representation. After all, the pendulum of Vermont voters may just swing back to the right. If that happened, Vermont’s Democrats and progressives would still be sure to have their voices heard in future elections.
Carl Parton lives in Barre.