I found this question and this question but they don't quite answer my curiosity. I'm wondering about what official changes would have to be made to laws/procedures, rather than how people should go about promoting those changes.

What would be required in the US to change the voting system from 'First Past the Post' to some other system? Would an amendment be required, or could it be done with 'less effort'? Could Congress do it? Could a president do it with an executive order?

I'm also asking for both national votes and for state voting. If a single state could change their voting system, what would that state need to do? And if a state were on a different system, how would they report their counts at national votes? (For instance, if NY is using a system other than FPTP but the rest of the nation is using FPTP, how would they report their votes for a presidential election?)

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    In what election(s) are you thinking? Solely the election of the president (which is technically not a national election, it's a series of state elections)? Or elections for state legislatures? Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 18:12
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    Are you aware that Maine already did it?
    – endolith
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 21:34
  • Good point (do you have a URL?)
    – Mawg
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 7:13

2 Answers 2


The Constitution grants the power to determine voting law to the individual states, so long as they are "republic in nature" (The Founders used republic to denote a system without a monarchy head of state AND using what we would today call a representative democracy).

Within those bounds, states have broad powers as to their voting laws and violations of voting laws are largely handled by investigatory bodies of that particular state (usually the state's "Secretary of State", which is more of a department of the interior, rather than the federal branch's which is charged with foreign affairs).

Beyond the requirements for a constitution denoting the relationship of the three branches, you can have Westminster styled republican parliament, a Swiss-style semi-direct democracy (all U.S. states are in fact semi-direct democracies), a unicameral non-partisan legislature (one state does in fact have this) and your elections can be instant-runoff (Maine now has instant-runoff elections for all offices).

Weirder still, there are no rules to determine how to assign elector votes in the Electoral College, and in theory, "The Governor tosses a coin, heads the incumbent party candidate gets it, tails the opposition party gets it. On its side, with head facing away from the ground, Libertarians get it if not the incumbent party, unless the head sees its shadow, then for six weeks of winter, the Green Party holds office instead of the incumbent" are perfectly acceptable guidelines for delegating those (though 48 states are winner take all, with two states designating one to each congressional district and the remaining two are given to the statewide plurality winner.).

So to get a complete shift off first past the post, each of the 50 states would need to independently make the switch to another vote counting metric.

To outright abolish the Electoral College, it would take a constitutional amendment, which requires 2/3rds of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the states (via passing in each state legislature, 49 of which require two houses to vote in some majority. Good luck with this as the Electoral College is a check against mob rule) OR by Constitutional Convention, and no one really knows how those are supposed to work and no one really wants to either (mostly because no one is sure if you can set one to discuss specific amendments or if you are required to allow any amendments from any delegation to be discussed... which is essentially a nuclear option no one wants to press the button on yet. The only thing that couldn't get rewritten is that each state gets two senators).

The above system would also be required if one wants to move the power to change election counting methods from a state power to a federal power... and then you need to get Congress to agree on the new standardized methods.

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    Presidential electors are selected solely in the manner directed by the state legislature. Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution states "Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, ..." The US Supreme Court held in McPherson v. Blacker and affirmed in Gore v. Bush that that legislative power is plenary - it is not subject to review by any authority.
    – Just Me
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 22:44
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    (cont) So, no Governor could do as you stated - determine Presidential electors by coin toss. But the state legislature can - and they could allow the Governor to do the tossing. And the only recourse would be to vote the legislators (and any Governor acting under their authority) out of office - after their electors had already cast the vote for President.
    – Just Me
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 22:45
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    @JustMe This answer didn't actually say that a Governor could unilaterally change the procedure for appointing electors, only that the procedure for appointing electors could be changed to "The Govenor tosses a coin ..."
    – Ross Ridge
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 5:43
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    There is actually a plan going on right now to in essence abolish the Electoral college: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. CGP Grey made an interesting video about it: youtube.com/watch?v=tUX-frlNBJY In essence: States that sign up for the Compact will give their Electoral College votes to the nationwide popular vote winner, ONLY if the states that signed up for the Compact make up a majority of the Electoral College.
    – Nzall
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 10:38
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    Why would the winner of the national popular vote be the unpopular candidate?
    – Nzall
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 11:57

Take a look at the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

It's basically a system that once enough states are signed on by passing state legislature then they will all use all their votes for whichever candidate got the most votes nationwide. This candidate will then win based on the public popularity vote because it will only happen once enough states are signed on to have a majority in the electoral college.

Here is a CGP Grey Video explaining it.

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    I think that system still uses simple majority (first-past-the-post) voting. It's just a scheme to counteract the current vote distribution for the electoral collage, in order to make the popular vote winner the winner. Am I missing something?
    – bobsburner
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 11:38
  • @bobsburner but it's simply a majority across the entire country. So yes you could argue this is first past the post but there's only 1 post.
    – Sam Dean
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 15:11
  • How is it not FPTP? There's only one winner, votes aren't transferable, and each ballot can specify at most one option. The scheme used for counting votes could be changed later. But that'd be a separate issue.
    – bobsburner
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 15:45

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