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If you eliminated the electoral college candidates would devote resources to places where you could shift significant numbers of persuadable or mobilizable voters. That's not just big dense cities.
Under the Electoral College, no presidential candidate from either party has any incentive to do GOTV organizing in the deep south. Under a NPV they would. So yes, they'd campaign in Mississippi.
One thing about people who like to talk about how the Electoral College is good: They tend not to have given much thought to the workings of the Electoral College. Or elections. Or math.
Oversimplifying slightly, under a national popular vote each candidate's calculus for allocating resources would be "Where can I shift or mobilize the most votes for the least money?" And as you devote resources to a specific region, the marginal utility of devoting more drops.
Under the Electoral College, your incentive is to pound the few close states over and over, whatever the cost, because they're all that matters. Under a popular vote, you scramble for votes wherever you can find them, because a vote is a vote wherever you get it.
Under the Electoral College, any presidential candidate who devotes resources to Mississippi is posturing. It's symbolism. Under a national popular vote OF COURSE you'd devote resources to Mississippi, because they have voters there.
Mississippi voters would get more attention from presidential candidates in a national popular vote than they do under the Electoral College. There is no "irony" in a candidate calling for eliminating the EC in Mississippi. Period.
And not for nothing, but Warren was speaking at a historically black college. The Electoral College gives all the state's presidential votes to the GOP, no matter how much organizing the state's (overwhelmingly black) Democrats do internally.
The idea that a Mississippi Democrat has no cause for complaint that their state is represented in the EC as 100% Republican every cycle, no matter what they do, is... Well, I'm polite, so I'll just say it's not thoughtful.
And since I'm now getting a bunch of EC defenders in my mentions, a few thought experiments...
First: If one candidate for president spent all their resources in NY and CA, where 18% of the population lives, what do you think the other candidate would do? Try to match them in those states? Or spend their time trying to win over the other 82%?
Second: If candidates for president would only campaign in the densest, most vote-rich cities under a national popular vote, why do candidates for governor of New York spend so much time campaigning upstate now?
Remember: There's a diminishing marginal utility to campaign spending. The second million you spend in a particular place nets you fewer votes than the first million. And big cities are expensive media markets. You don't win New York State if you don't go to Elmira and Utica.
The idea that presidential candidates would only devote money and resources to a few huge cities under a popular vote is contradicted by the most cursory look at any big-state gubernatorial or senate election ever. It's just obviously false.
When you have to win a majority of votes, you go looking for votes wherever you can find them, which means building up campaign infrastructure everywhere and spreading your resources around.
One last thought: The core argument for the electoral college is that it's better for a presidential race to be won by the candidate who has the support of a minority the population, but only where that minority is demographically appealing to the person making the argument.
The argument for the electoral college is "I like majority rule, but not if THOSE PEOPLE constitute the majority." Who "those people" are changes in different iterations of the argument, but the structure of the argument remains the same.
There are legitimate mechanisms for protecting minority rights in a democracy—civil rights, civil liberties, even supermajority safeguards. But none of those mechanisms involve handing governing power to an electoral minority because the majority is repulsive to you.
The people of the Bronx don't have a lot of power or influence or money, but I've never seen an electoral college defender arguing that the Bronx should be made a state and given electoral college votes and seats in the senate.
Why not? Because the electoral college isn't about protecting minority rights as a principle. It's not about blunting the power of majorities generally over minorities generally. It's about entrenching the power of specific minorities over specific majorities.
You want to protect minorities against the power of the majority? Me too. But your defenses of the electoral college aren't that. They're arguments for giving minorities—minorities you find convivial—power OVER electoral majorities.
And if you're a member of such an electoral minority, I can see why you'd like that system. But I don't see why you'd expect me to like it, or expect it to indefinitely maintain the support of the electoral majority it's designed explicitly to disenfranchise.
And yes, candidates would devote more resources under a popular vote system to non-swing small states than they do now. They'd buy radio and TV ads. They'd send out mailers. And that's not all.
In a state like Wyoming, the candidates would send money to the state parties, to be used to supplement their already-existing vote work. Volunteers door-knocking for local candidates would have more resources, since the presidential candidates would invest in their campaigns.
No, presidential candidates wouldn't visit Wyoming much. BECAUSE THERE AREN'T A LOT OF PEOPLE THERE. They wouldn't visit the Bronx much, either. But that's okay. That's how democracy works.
Update: If you're going to try to sell "it makes it harder to steal elections" as a selling point of the electoral college, you might want to try it out on someone who wasn't a grown-ass man in November 2000.
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