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THE PROPORTIONAL PLAN would break up the winner-take-all state blocks and award electoral votes in direct ratio to popular votes within the states. As proposed in 1950 by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, it became the first electoral reform in 130 years to win the required two-thirds Senate majority, but died in the House a few months later. South Dakota's Republican Senator Karl Mundt has for many years supported a similar plan, under which electors would be chosen by congressional district, thus weakening "the present inordinate power of organized pressure groups in the big-city states." Liberal opponents (J.F.K. among them) have countered both proposals, arguing that as long as rural states can outvote urban ones in the Senate, the big-city minorities need their electoral swing strength as a counterbalance. As Political Scientist Clinton Rossiter wryly notes: "One gerrymander deserves another."
DIRECT POPULAR ELECTION goes beyond the automatic, runoff, proportional and district plans, which are quasi reforms at best. D.P.E. would allow U.S. voters to choose their man without the doubtful screen of electors and the possibility of backroom deals. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, along with the anti-poll-tax amendment of 1964, greatly increased Negro registration in the South (from 12% in 1947 to 57% this year). The result was to leave those states less reason to fear being overwhelmed, under D.P.E., by states with more liberal voting requirements. The leading D.P.E. crusaders are the staid American Bar Association and Birch Bayh, the Democratic Senator from Indiana who successfully floor-managed the 1965 fight for a presidential-succession amendment. Their proposal has backing from a 1967 Gallup poll showing 65% of the country in favor. Though Mundt contends that direct voting would violate the federal principle preserving separate voices for each state, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield notes that the states are already well represented in the Senate and House.
Nonetheless, many authorities believe that the Electoral College is necessary to sustain the nation's bipartisan stability. "The sure way of killing the two-party system is to go to direct election of the President," argues Yale's Alexander Bickel. Every four years, he claims, five or six men would get into the election under a variety of party labels. Some would be eliminated, but in round two the bottom men would sell off their support for political favor. In many ways, it would be no different from having the election thrown into the House of Representatives every year. To meet that concern. Bayh's bill would require the victor to have only a simple plurality but at least 40% of the popular vote. Should no candidate reach that mark, the top two would compete in an immediate runoff. Most state, House and Senate races have been decided in this manner for years, and so strong is the two-party habit with voters that only two PresidentsJohn Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincolnhave ever won on less than 40% of the popular vote.
The Logical Step