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Journal Article

"The Contemporary Presidency": Do Nebraska and Maine Have the Right Idea? The Political and Partisan Implications of the District System

Robert C. Turner
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Mar., 2005), pp. 116-137
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27552662
Page Count: 22
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"The Contemporary Presidency": Do Nebraska and Maine Have the Right Idea? The Political and Partisan Implications of the District System
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Abstract

After the 2000 presidential election, twenty-one states considered legislation to award their presidential electors using the district system, wherein one elector is awarded to the popular vote winner of each congressional district and the two state electors are awarded to the popular vote winner statewide. Historically, the district system is viewed as the politically feasible alternative to direct elections because it removes the distortions of the winner-take-all system and can be enacted by state law rather than constitutional amendment. However, the ultimate desirability of the district system lies in how it would change the conduct of presidential campaigns, not the counting of electoral college votes. Under the district system, presidential campaigns would shift their priorities from battleground states to battleground districts. The complexity and uncertainty in targeting these districts would force candidates to contest a larger and more geographically diverse percentage of the population than the current system. Moreover, the changes in presidential campaigns would increase the likelihood of presidential coattails and the prospects for unified government by increasing the competitiveness of congressional elections in swing presidential districts. Finally, the district system has a conservative bias because the swing battleground districts favor Republican presidential candidates and have fewer minority residents and recipients of public assistance than the nation as a whole.

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