Suppose in 2020 there is a three-way split in a pivotal state that determines the Electoral College winner: Say, 38 percent for a Democrat, 37 percent for a Republican and 25 percent for a third-party candidate. Suppose, further, that if the third-party candidate were not on the ballot, the Republican would have pulled ahead, achieving a 52 percent majority, with the Democrat ending up with only 48 percent—because the third-party candidate’s 25 percent support split 15-10 in favor of the Republican. Letting the Democrat become president according to the winner-take-all system would be exactly the kind of minority victory that the Jeffersonians so adamantly opposed.
In 2020, either the Republican or the Democrat could be the one with only 37 percent—the one who would have achieved a majority in a two-way race. Which means both parties have an incentive to avoid this kind of un-Jeffersonian disaster.
How to do so? It is the states that have the power to restore the Electoral College to its original intent—and to ensure that it better represents the will of the American people. To do so, they must commit themselves to this majority-rule principle: No candidate receives all of a state’s electoral votes unless the candidate gets a majority of the state’s popular votes.