I owe the following idea to my husband, who handed it to me last night:
The more you think about it, the better it sounds. Here's approximately how it would work. In presidential elections, you have one vote. You can make it positive for a given candidate or negative against a candidate. You can spend it, positively or negatively, only one time. The popular vote for states would still be counted only within a state, as it presently is, and electoral votes would still go to the electors for the winner of the state popular vote, winner take all, as they presently are. So your negative vote could not negate a vote from a different state.
Well, obviously, that can't be all, because with this set-up in place it would be possible in principle, though overwhelmingly unlikely, that all the state popular votes would come up zero for all candidates and hence that no candidate would get any electoral votes. And if even one state came up zero, no electoral votes would be counted from that state, which would doubtless cause some problems somewhere or other, in the form of resentment, if nothing else.
There would have to be a just-in-case set-up in place to deal with the situation in which no one won the election and it had to be done over. The term of office of the incumbent might have to be extended in such a situation. But, again, it is enormously unlikely that all popular votes would be canceled out in all states, and as long as somebody gets some electoral college votes, there will be a new President in January just as always.
It seems to me that this mechanism would encourage the development of additional parties and the courting of disaffected voters. No longer could anyone even try the argument that you must vote for A, as otherwise you are doing nothing to oppose B. Voters who could not in conscience vote for either candidate could indicate their perception of the greater evil by casting a vote against the candidate who represents the greater evil.
Name recognition would be a two-edged sword. The two viable party candidates would be more likely to receive negative votes than relatively unknown third (and fourth and fifth) party candidates.
A positive vote would, in such a system, be more obviously something to be earned than something that falls to a candidate as of right.
There's a lot to like about this idea. What do you think?