The Short Version: Winner-Takes-All

The Short Version: Winner-Takes-All

The point of it all is to break down the headlines, the week’s most controversial issues, determine why a particular issue is important to you, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story.

By reading Cleo Abram’s The Short Version, you join a vibrant group of people with two simple beliefs: 1) Every important issue can and should be discussed in a way we all can understand; 2) Understanding both sides makes us more thoughtful and our views more informed.

In some of the most recent iterations of The Short Version, Cleo Abram explored the controversy around the immigration executive order. She has looked at sanctuary cities wondering whether or not they should comply with the president’s order. This week Cleo poses a critical question: Is the winner-takes-all rule in effect in most states (except Maine and Nebraska) constitutional?

Note: In general, if you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her blogs will appear.

“I love getting feedback every week—thank you! If you want come hang out, debate a thing or two, and meet other Shorties, check out Short Events,” says Cleo. “Or if you have a topic you’d be interested in guest writing, just let me know! Let’s make it happen.”

Cleo Constantine Abrams of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

Cleo Constantine Abram of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

What’s happening?

In the last five elections, two presidents have won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote. The first, President Bush, lost the popular vote to Al Gore by just over 500,000 votes. President Trump’s loss was much more dramatic: nearly 3 million.

The election reignited a debate about the Electoral College itself. That debate is a continued tug-of-war between a commitment to federalism on one side and ideas of democratic unity on the other. The Electoral College is outlined in Article II Section Iof the Constitution.

But there is another heated debate within this context that is, perhaps, more important. It centers around state-based winner-take-all voting rules.

Why is it important?

If you vote for the U.S. president anywhere but Maine or Nebraska, your vote is counted in a winner-take-all system. Whichever candidate wins the most votes in your state earns all of your state’s electoral votes—one vote for each House representative plus two for your Senators.

While those two extra electoral votes do benefit small states proportionately more than big ones, the winner-take-all rules are the real reason for “swing states”—states that will likely be won by a small vote margin. But no matter the margin, that state’s electoral votes will all go to the winning candidate. In 2016, President Trump won swing states Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania by margins of less than 2% and earned 46 electoral votes.

How a state selects it’s electors is entirely up to that state. In other words, winner-take-all rules are state statutes not prescribed in the Constitution. In fact, some argue winner-take all is unconstitutional.

Debate it!

Are winner-take-all rules constitutional?

Continue reading the pro and the con here.




More about Cleo Constantine Abram:

Cleo Abram 2

Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.

Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.

Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.

She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.

Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.

Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.

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