Saturday, November 12, 2011

Electoral College Injustice

This is a great tutorial on how the Electoral College just makes absolutely no sense in a democracy that values fairness . Remember that when the founding fathers of the United States wrote the electoral college into the Constitution, they did so from an unabashedly elitist perspective. That perspective is anachronistic.



The electoral college needs to go.

7 comments:

Eric said...

The trouble isn't necessarily that the electoral college gives smaller states unfair influence over national affairs(disproportional influence for smaller states is purposefully built into our Constitutional system, with good reason, and should stay). For me, it is simply a question as to whether Presidential elections are a good mechanism for applying that idea. I think there is a good argument to be made that they are not. The Founders did not seem to see the Electoral College in that light (or at least it wasn't described that way in the Federalist Papers). The Senate and its structure works much more efficiently at creating the balance that is needed to protect smaller states from being steamrolled by larger ones, and in fact was designed to do just that. Since the office of the president is representative of the entire nation as a whole, it makes sense to me that a popular vote makes the most sense for elections to that office. I just think it is important to qualify that the problem isn't with the idea of disproportionate representation (an idea that actually needs to illuminated more often), but with applying said representation to the office of the President.

With that said, it is a very low priority issue for me, mostly because our government has strayed so far from the limits and principles laid down by the Constitution, that I don't actually mind (being from a smaller state) getting a little extra protection from the Electoral College. It may not be completely fair, but neither is the way our federal government operates.

toto said...

Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes). They are almost invariably non-competitive,in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

When and where votes don't matter, candidates ignore those areas.

Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group. Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK-- 70%, DC -- 76%, DE --75%, ID – 77%, ME -- 77%, MT – 72%, NE -- 74%, NH --69%, NE -- 72%, NM -- 76%, RI -- 74%, SD – 71%, UT - 70%, VT -- 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%.

In the lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers and been enacted by 3 jurisdictions.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC), without needing to amend the constitution.

To abolish the Electoral College would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate.

With National Popular Vote, elections wouldn’t be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states. The political reality would be that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes– 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

NationalPopularVote

Eric said...

"With National Popular Vote, elections wouldn’t be about winning states."

No, they'd be about winning big population centers, which would be just as annoying and divisive. Win the two biggest cities in each state and you probably win the election.

But I pretty much agree with everything else you said.

toto said...

With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.
The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States. Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 16% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote.

If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

A nationwide presidential campaign, with every vote equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida.

The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every vote is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

The National Popular Vote bill would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 16% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

Eric said...

I think you overstate the impact this would have on how the political process works. Candidates would still have a limited amount of money to campaign with, and as such they would mostly pick large population centers to spend that money, because that is how you get the most bang for your bucks. It would make perfect sense for them to completely ignore rural areas (but they tend to do that now anyway in Presidential contests, so again, not a big change).

The main reason to support a National Popular Vote bill is because it just makes sense for votes to be equally representative when we are electing a President whose job is to represent everyone equally.

toto said...

The main media at the moment, TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. Candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

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