Electoral College + Voting Reform = Prime Minister

The Electoral College, if combined with voting reform, would essentially mean the USA would have a legislatively elected Prime Minister, rather than a popularly elected President. This is largely because the Electoral College requires that the President receive a majority of electoral votes across the nation; unless one is happy to concede a two-party system, this is unlikely to happen; different third parties might win different states in the country. The Constitution says the House can choose among the top 3 (electoral) vote-getters for President, but that still means a large chunk of decision-making power is taken away from the voters, and thus their incentive to seriously consider who they are choosing as President goes significantly down.
In my opinion, having an elected President is essential, as it gives you an idea of what compromises the people are willing to make. With Proportional Representation in the legislature and an unelected Prime Minister, voters show what they individually want, but give almost no sign of what compromises they are willing to make, leaving the decision-making and thoughtwork to the politicians and the institutions that breed them. I believe this leads to discontent and a desire for populism over time, as if the compromises are not largely decided by the people, they will inevitably trend in some direction that goes away from the consent of the governed, even if those decisions are the “right” ones. I’d be fine if 60% of Congress/Parliament could replace the President at will, but having one allows for a government that much better aligns with the will of the people, since the President has the sort of mandate that allows them to push the legislature in the way that they want. Giving the President power, in my opinion, has less to do with wanting to consolidate power and more to do with giving the voters more reasons/ability to express what governing compromises they can accept or wish to push for. I think a happy mix of President/Prime Minister election is to allow Optional Delegation, so that individual voters can choose to leave it up to the parties/politicians to pick a President if they wish for up to a month or so after the Presidential election.

This is rather interesting, as NPV and state-level voting reform are currently incompatible, and Congress is not allowed to tell states how to assign their electoral votes.

But still, if a candidate was rejected by most people in most states, they would not win enough electoral votes to be in the top 3, right?

Well, only state laws bind an elector to their pledged candidate (and even then not in each state), and the constitutionality of these laws has been questioned. So if no one is projected to win a majority, then in theory the electors could negotiate before the official vote. If such a scenario were likely to occur, then the states might repeal their laws.

Most likely, but it is plausible a third party starts some kind of regional alliance and gets in the Top 3 with a minority of votes. The way I see it, US elections would look an awful lot like Prime Minister elections, except instead of having 3-4 people who are de facto contenders for Prime Minister, the parties must field them before the election, try to get them to win a few states at least to make the Top 3, then hope they get the majority in the House to choose the President. All of which seems unpalatable to most Americans today, and a bit bungled and with chances that some good candidates for President don’t make it by virtue of failing to receive enough states’ electoral votes.

Actually, parties might even be able to get around state laws by running a formally unpledged slate, so that they can negotiate between the election and the EC vote. (Though if they must be listed on the ballot as unpledged, it could make campaigning harder.) Still, this could make it unlikely for an election with no EC majority to actually occur.

It could be a fascinating way to trial out Optional Delegation! Still, it would most likely make the Presidency dominated by the duopoly, since the major parties are unlikely to run unpledged slates. I suppose it would at least mean no 3rd party vote-splitting like in 2000.

They may well not be, but they will still have to compete with them. For example, let’s say that score voting reforms are miraculously enacted in every state before the 2020 election and some Dem primary loser decides to run as an independent. If a state’s Dem slate is pledged to the nominee and this pledge is enforced by state law, someone could run an “anti-Trump” slate that promises to back the challenger with a stronger chance of winning.

I suppose this does open the door for 3rd parties to pick up votes and maybe even surpass the major parties, on the premise that they’d just elect one of the major parties if they themselves didn’t have enough electoral votes. Still, this does entirely preclude compromise 3rd parties, as they would have to pledge to support one of the two sides, turning off all voters from the other side.