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Should the Electoral College be replaced?

Discussion in 'Jurisprudence and the Constitution' started by imreallyperplexed, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. imreallyperplexed

    imreallyperplexed Council Member

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    Given that the U.S. may be facing the prospect of another close election and (God forbid!) a close election with a Bush v Gore type result, I think that a strong argument can be made to amend the U.S. Constitution and replace the Electoral College with a result determined by the vote of the a plurality or majority of American voters. (I actually think that there should be more than two candidates with the President being selected in a run off if no candidate receives over 50%. But I am sure that there are other schemes.

    There are several major problems that I see with the electoral college. First, the Electoral College mimics the two chamber legislature where there was population-based representation in the House and equal representation in the Senate (so "small" states and big states were equivalent in one chamber). The structure of the electoral college preserves that. Over time, the electors have ceased to be "independent." A slate of electors is chosen through the popular vote for candidates in a state. It was precisely problems with the vote in Florida that ultimately threw this case into the Supreme Court and resulted in Bush v Gore where the person who won the popular vote wsa not elected President. In fact, it is arguably unfair because the votes of individual Americans were not equally valuable. The voters in small states - because of their over representation in the Electoral College - had votes that "counted for more" than voters in larger states (because the ratio of electors to voters was much greater in small states (population wise) than in large states. Though this might have made sense in 1789, it no longer makes sense in my mind. And it creates the possibility of hazards like Bush v Gore and Presidential decisions made by politicians in Congress or unelected judges in the Supreme Court.

    Now, I expect that some folks will argue that the Electoral College is a bulwark against popular democracy and the "tyranny of the mob." I think that this argument is patently silly. But I expect that the same folks that want to repeal the 17th Amendment would want to keep the Electoral College. Not me. That is one amendment to the Constitution that I think is long overdue. Hopefully, it will be gone by 2016.
     
  2. Cerulean Mutt

    Cerulean Mutt Mayor

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  3. trapdoor

    trapdoor Governor

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    And therein you answer your own question. Today, the votes in Missouri and Florida have more influence than they would under the "modified direct democracy" rules you seem to favor -- they are swing states, and as such the presidents and the presidential campaigns care what voters there think, and care how they vote.

    Los Angeles alone has more voters than the state of Missouri -- replace the electoral college and you give large urban areas more political influence than the rest of the country. The presidential candidates will campaign in those areas for the same reason that bank robbers rob banks -- that's where the money is.

    This will mean the concerns of small state rural voters will receive short shrift, or be of no concern at all, to presidential candidates, and indeed, they will have no real role in electing the president as for statistical purposes they simply don't count. You could win all of the votes in the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico, and still not outvote California and New York on a "one-man, one-vote" basis.

    But fear of the tyranny of majority is silly? Only if you haven't thought through the implications, as the people who wrote the Constitution did.
     
  4. imreallyperplexed

    imreallyperplexed Council Member

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    trapdoor,

    I understand your logic but I disagree. I think that everyone's vote should count the same when it comes to the Presidency. The President is the Chief Executive Officer of the entire country. The interests of the smaller states are sufficiently represented by the structure of the Senate and the relationship of the House and the Senate. It does not need the "extra protection" of the Electoral College and impedes the basic logic of "one man/one vote" and the idea that all citizens have equal rights. In voting for President, the vote of a single voter in Los Angeles should count exactly as much as a single vote in Missouri. No more and no less.

    What currently happens in the United States Presidential elections is that we have red states, blue states, and purple states. Some large states are purple. Some small states are purple. But voters in a red state like Wyoming should not have more voice than voters in a blue state like California. And a blue state like Vermont should not have more voice than voters in a red state like Texas. As it stands, Presidential candidates focus their attention on purple states. I think that going to a popular vote system would actually encourage a more genuinely fifty state strategy on the part of candidates (and might make small state and red state officials more attentive to urban issues.)

    Finally, none of the governors of the fifty states is selected through an "electoral college." The President is like the "governor" of the entire country and should be selected the same way in my opinion.

     
  5. trapdoor

    trapdoor Governor

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  6. oldgulph

    oldgulph Council Member

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    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the primaries.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    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 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote
    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via nationalpopularvoteinc
     
  7. oldgulph

    oldgulph Council Member

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    With National Popular Vote, every vote would be equal. Candidates would reallocate the money they raise to no longer ignore more than 2/3rds of the states and voters.

    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.

    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.

    With National Popular Vote, when every vote is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

    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. 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.
     
  8. oldgulph

    oldgulph Council Member

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    Now, presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win. 9 of the original 13 states are considered “fly-over” now. None of the 10 most rural states will matter, as usual. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree already, that, at most, only 12 states and their voters will matter. They will decide the election. About 76% of the country will be ignored --including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and 17 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX.

    Now 19 of the 22 smallest states are politically irrelevant in presidential elections.

    Now presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are 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. Voters in states that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

    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 nine state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 3 jurisdictions.

    Of the 22 medium-lowest population states (those with 3,4,5, or 6 electoral votes), only 3 have been battleground states in recent elections-- NH, NM, and NV. These three states contain only 14 (8%) of the 22 medium-lowest population states' total 166 electoral votes.
     
  9. oldgulph

    oldgulph Council Member

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    With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency -- that is, a mere 26% of the nation's votes!
     
  10. oldgulph

    oldgulph Council Member

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  11. imreallyperplexed

    imreallyperplexed Council Member

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    One man, one vote. When it comes to state boundaries and the Presidency, it should not matter. In the age of the Internet, saying that people in rural areas will not be heard is silly in my opinion. I would definitely support an amendment eliminating the Electoral College. I think that the hazards of another Bush v. Gore result are worse than the potential abuses that you see. The fact that Bush was elected by a minority is a real problem.

    As to what happened with governors, I think that it was appropriate. And I think that the country did better with popularly elected governors and popularly elected Senators. I think that we should have a popularly elected President and let the structure of the legislative branch provide protection for smaller states.

    I hope that you are not for the repeal of the 17th Amendment and going back to a time when Governors were not elected by popular vote. The next thing you know, you will want property restrictions on who can vote. :argue:

     
  12. imreallyperplexed

    imreallyperplexed Council Member

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    oldgulph,

    You made the case more strongly than I did (or could). Thanks!

     
  13. trapdoor

    trapdoor Governor

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  14. imreallyperplexed

    imreallyperplexed Council Member

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  15. oldgulph

    oldgulph Council Member

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  16. oldgulph

    oldgulph Council Member

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  17. trapdoor

    trapdoor Governor

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  18. trapdoor

    trapdoor Governor

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  19. imreallyperplexed

    imreallyperplexed Council Member

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  20. imreallyperplexed

    imreallyperplexed Council Member

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    Can you provide any empirical evidence to support this argument? Or are you just theorizing?

     

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