Electoral College Reversal

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Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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113 Responses

  1. Avatar Jesse Ewiak
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    says:

    I’m in favor of national PV within an IRV system today, I was in favor of that yesterday, and I will be for that the day after the election, no matter the outcome. Just like I’m in favor of destroying the filibuster, no matter who the President or Senate Majority Leader is. In the long run, both things will be positives for turning America into a socialist nanny-state. 🙂Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I read a fun story this morning (and, for the life of me, I cannot find it now) that discussed the 269-269 possibility. If it’s a tie, the tiebreaker is to go to the House, where each member has one vote.Report

  3. Avatar Wardsmith
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    says:

    A more interesting but less fulfilling discussion might consider why the US keeps finding itself in this coin toss position.Report

  4. Avatar Aaron
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    says:

    I would still favor abandoning the electoral college, even in the event of an Obama win. Now, obviously if that actually happened, since we still have the electoral college, I wouldn’t cry any tears over the EC handing a victory to Obama, even if I don’t agree with it. We should get rid of it, but we have it, and I don’t think that Democrats should not take advantage of it if it happens.

    That being said, any election that results in Romney winning in both Ohio and Florida and losing Virginia and Nevada is not an election that makes any sense. This is a desperately unlikely scenario. I think even 5% is a generous prediction.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Aaron
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      says:

      2008 Results:

      Nevada: 55D, 43R (D+12)
      Virginia: 53D, 46R (D+7)
      Ohio: 51D, 47R (D+4)
      Florida: 51D, 48R (D+3)

      Doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to me.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Ryan Noonan
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        says:

        To affirm: population growth in Clark County, Nevada and in the Beltway communities of Northern Virginia has been skewing heavily Democratic in partisan registration. For whatever reason. While it’s true that both of these states still have substantial rural populations that skew heavily Republican, these urban/suburban areas are beginning to tip the balance of power politically in those states. And Nevada, in particular, is a state that has pretty strong and well-populated local unions, mainly from casino and hotel workers, so that’s another traditional source of power for Democrats coming into its own. These states are not what they used to be in the Eighties and Nineties.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Burt Likko
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          says:

          Yep. According to the 2012 Statistical Abstract from the Census Bureau (which somewhat surprisingly still uses figures from the 2000 census for this particular measurement), Nevada is the third least-rural state, behind only New Jersey and California. In that table, of the 17 states with rural percentages below the national average, one is Texas, six are from the 11 states from the Rockies to the Pacific, and Oregon barely misses the cut. The 11-state American West of today is much less rural than the country as a whole.Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to Burt Likko
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          says:

          Oh Gee! I WONDER why registration for Democrats is on the rise in a “suburb” of DC in a heavily Republican state? Maybe it’s all those tax feeders knowing where their next check is coming from?

          I’m sure it’s the case in MD as well. Both are suburbs of DC, both feed off the largess of gov’t contracts and other programs. Why do you think that Mont. County is one of the wealthiest counties in the country? Proximity to DC is a major factor.Report

  5. Avatar NewDealer
    Ignored
    says:

    Maybe for some.

    I still think we should get rid of the electoral college. It is an outdated and unnecessary system.

    Plus I think a popular national vote (with a requirement of winning plus 50 percent of the vote) could tone down partisanship and discord.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      Obama won w/ 53% of the vote, so nope. To be blunt, to a certain chunk of conservatives, every Democratic win is invalid because of voter fraud or lying by the Democrat, but any Republican win even by one vote is a mandate for far-right policies.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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        says:

        True but I think you would see more campaigning because it would not just be about the swing states.

        The Republican Party would dispatch candidates and/or surrogates to Staten Island and Upstate New York.

        The Democratic Party would try and work magic in blue-cities in red states like Austin and Salt Lake City, etc.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC in reply to NewDealer
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          says:

          What I would like to see is not a ‘popular vote’ per se, but a _divided_ vote.

          All states should do it exactly like congressional districts….everyone votes for one elector from their district, and two state-wide electors.

          This would cut down on the crazy redistricting, simply because the margins are not exactly the same. I.e., if the Republicans run around making each district 55% Republican and 45% Democratic for Representative votes, they really risk blowing a lot of presidential electoral votes. They’d have to _really_ overpower the districts to ensure a presidential win, which now means there’s less Republicans to go around for other districts. (Please note I am in no way implying that only Republicans gerrymander.)

          Meanwhile, it means that the campaigns would have to pay attention to almost every state(1), simply because there’s usually at least _one_ congressional district they think they can win. (And the campaign ‘splashes’…yes, your specific district might be decided, but if they come to a district near yours, they’re often going to be talking about basically the same issues that people in your district care about.)

          1) Alaska is still screwed, however.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to DavidTC
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            says:

            Of course electoral districts are an extra-constitutional artifact themselves. And a great many are partisanly gerrymandered to an extreme degree. I wonder if it really makes sense to base an electoral vote on such an institution.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to James Hanley
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              says:

              Of course electoral districts are an extra-constitutional artifact themselves.

              I don’t know what you mean by artifact, but, yes, the states could elect all electors by a majority vote. I guess we’re lucky the states have forgotten this.

              I actually think this was a major oversight of the constitution. Yes, yes, it’s all well and good to let states have any form of _internal_ government as long as it is representative, but I really do think that _exactly_ how national offices are filled should be spelled out in the constitution. (Or, rather, the right of the national government to specify that should be spelled out, and then the government should do that.)

              We already specified, and then changed, how we did that for Senators. (Incidentally, I see nothing in the 17th amendment stopping us from having two _Senate_ districts in a state. Interesting idea.)

              Actually, looking at state’s attempt to deliberately fuck it up, I’d really prefer the US government did the actual voting process and even controlled who could vote in it. (Just for national offices, of course.)

              And a great many are partisanly gerrymandered to an extreme degree.

              It really doesn’t make sense to worry about a gerrymandered district when the 2/3rd of entire nation is functionally in ‘gerrymandered-by-accident’ states where their vote doesn’t matter.

              At least if the gerrymandering is _local_, yes, any specific district might be ignored by a candidate, but they can scarcely ignore the entire state, or even an entire section of the country!

              But like I said, introducing _another_ election into the gerrymandering equation means they really have to stop using such tight tolerances for gerrymandering, or they risk blowing one of the elections.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to DavidTC
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                says:

                By “artifact,” I meant districts are just something we devised without any constitutional requirement to do so. We could eliminate districts and have states elect their congressmembers from a multiple-member district. I.e., California could be one 53 member district. I’m somewhat uncomfortable building yet more superstructure on top of something that’s not even constitutionally required.

                As to senators, I would argue the 17th Amendment does implicitly ban having Senatorial districts, in it’s requirement that each state’s senators be elected by “the people thereof,” which would seem to mean the whole people, not just a portion of them. At the very least, given the weight of tradition, I’d wager that’s how the Supremes would interpret it.

                I do get what you’re saying in your final paragraph, and I agree it adds another factor to consider, but I don’t think it would actually carry much weight. It would require a state’s party-in-the-majority to give up a guaranteed majority of electoral votes in favor of only a possibility of getting even more but with the downside potential of actually getting even less. Plus, state legislators can readily conceive of themselves as future congressmembers, and that gerrymandering business will look pretty sweet to them.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Ah, I see what you mean. Yes, we don’t want to actually attach congressional districts to the presidential election, as congressional districts are just something states made up anyway. Valid point.

                I think I’m back at ‘Why the heck is the state is charge of how it elects people to national office?’. I’m sorry, states have demonstrated they are _completely irresponsible_ WRT voting and voting rights. Especially recently.

                There are states that are _deliberately_ screwing up the election in specific ways so that ‘their party’ wins. Look at Ohio, which had a horrible election process in 2004, fixed it for 2008 and, to their horror voted for Obama, so is now attempting to break it back.

                Oh, and let’s not get into electronic voting weirdness. Or gerrymandering.Or voter ID to fight the imaginary crime of voter impersonation.

                And it’s not just that. Why the hell do states get representation for their _prison population_? Or people with stripped voting rights? Or people here illegally.

                The sheer level of dishonesty and manipulation going on at the local level for national elections…no. Just no. The entire situation is competely fucked up.

                As states are indeed in charge of themselves, they can continue to be irresponsible towards their own internal elections. But Representatives and Senators and electors are supposed to be via actual vote of actual people, and at this point we have _decades_ of records demonstrating that states simply cannot be trusted with that.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Jesse Ewiak
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        says:

        Also good at taking what up is most infuriating about the Republican Party.Report

  6. Avatar Glyph
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    says:

    Question: In your opinion, is it primarily the EC that is the biggest ‘variable’ that makes election outcomes so hard to predict in advance?

    That is, in the EC’s absence, and assuming no major world events occurred between now and the election – if we had pretty good polls, could we predict the winner with better accuracy?Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Glyph
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      says:

      If you ask Nate Silver, we’re pretty good at predicting winners now.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Ryan Noonan
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        says:

        Right, but my question is how much uncertainty does it introduce? A lot, or a little?

        When I am considering justifications for keeping it around, one thing that occurs to me is that we may *want* something that increases ahead-of-time uncertainty in the process. If outcomes are basically foregone, you could see a rise in both voter fatalism/disengagement (“why bother voting, my guy is gonna lose anyway”) and/or voting by bandwagonism (“I want to do what the cool kids are doing so I’ll back the strong horse”), instead of people voting their conscience in hopes of affecting the outcome.

        It seems to me that a certain degree of not knowing/unpredictability/randomness may be desirable, and to the degree the EC does this, maybe that’s good.Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Glyph
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          says:

          That doesn’t seem right to me, especially in a close national election. We don’t know who will win the popular vote this year; but we are very good at guessing who will win in Alabama, and most other states. So if anything, voting your conscience would do more good under a popular vote plan.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Glyph
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      says:

      Glyph, I think we do have pretty good polls. Moreover, I think that the EC has caused us to develop good polling at a relatively atomic level — we care intensely about how Ohio, and really about how a handful of suburban counties in Ohio, will vote, so those surely irritated Ohioans must be pestered daily by pollsters hungry for data. I have an amusing vision of papparazzi-like pollsters in those counties jostling and shoving one another aside at tables in front of supermarkets and chasing shoppers out to their cars, peppering people who just wanted to buy a damned quart of milk already with seemingly endless streams of questions about the economy and the candidates’ latest debate performance.

      If we abolished the EC, we would stop caring quite so intensely about marginal districts in marginal states and we could and would rely on national polls almost exclusively. Then, assembling answers to question from something like 35,000 randomly-chosen people would probably give us a fairly good idea of what was going to happen.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    says:

    I almost wrote about this same topic today and it’s extremely interesting as the election is shaping up. I really can’t explain the Romney surge. If Obama wins the EC hopefully we will at least stop hearing about 2000.

    On a different note, to prevent presidents running for re-election I like the idea of giving them one six year-term with a referendum vote for two more years at the end of it. That cuts down on at least a little bit of this nonsense.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      Is what people mostly say about 2000 that’s the slam-dunk demonstration that the Electoral college is perfidious? My experience is that people hung up on 2000 aren’t on about the EC; they’re on about the specifics of what happened in terms of voting counting and the denial of ballot access, etc. – i.e accepting as legitimate on its face the idea that who should have won more votes in Florida rather than the country is what should have decided the election. I’m not sure why a popular/electoral vote split that goes the other way twelve years later should change whether people continue to talk about that history.

      And as to the subset of people who say the 2000 pop/EC split showed the EC is bunk – why would another instance of that happening get them to stop voicing that opinion? Twice in four elections seems like the kind of course of events that you’d make a big deal out of, not make you clam up about your cause.Report

      • Avatar kohler in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        Most Americans don’t care whether their presidential candidate wins or
        loses in their state. . . they care whether he/she wins the White House.
        Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their
        vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their
        candidate. Most Americans think it’s wrong for the candidate with the
        most popular votes to lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in
        our representative republic.

        The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

        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 80% of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

        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 presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

        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 recent 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: AZ – 67%, 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.

        NationalPopularVoteReport

      • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        What bothers me about 200o is that the deciding vote was 5-4 along strict party lines.Report

  8. Avatar MFarmer
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    says:

    Romney – 291
    Obama – 247Report

  9. Avatar George Turner
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    says:

    In a tie it’s actually possible that Joe Biden could be selected as President, because if the House vote is tied the Senate’s VP choice gets the nod. If the Senate was also deadlocked, I think Biden would get to cast the deciding vote – for Biden!Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      If Biden got it, I might have to move to Canada.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      Count states: the House vote won’t be tied.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      In which case:

      1. Biden makes Obama his Veep

      2. Under the “advice and consent of the Senate”

      3. Biden steps down

      4. Obama takes the mantle of the Presidency

      5. Obama makes Biden his veepReport

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to NewDealer
        Ignored
        says:

        But if the Senate had been deadlocked and required Biden’s tie-breaking vote, once Biden is President (until which he can’t actually appoint a VP) he no longer has that tie-breaking vote, leaving the Senate deadlocked once again. He would have to select someone who could pull in an extra vote, probably Hillary.

        Also, why would Biden step down and make Obama President instead of cackling, “Yeah, who’s the bitch now?!”Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner
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          says:

          Biden could appoint a GOP senator to some difficult-to-turn-down post, like SecDef, and then have a majority. It’s not that different from what Willie Brown did when the California Assembly had a 41-40 GOP majority: persuade a GOP backbencher to defect in return for being made Speaker (in name, anyway — guess who really ran things.)Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to George Turner
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      says:

      Not as I understand it.

      The VP election is decided by the _incoming_ Senate, just like the Pres is decided by the incoming House. Which means, of course, that Biden is not part of it, as he has not been elected yet. These seems to be one of those weird paradoxes. The only thing the Senate can ever tie on, without the VP being able to decide it…is the VP selection.

      I actually think in a case of electoral college tie actually happening, the Senate would say ‘You know, we’re just going to wait and pick whatever VP was in the same party as whoever the House picks, because we as a county do not like divided ticket President/VP’. (Of course, if the House misses their window, then it would be a real vote.)

      Another odd fact: While the House is time-limited on how long they can take to select the President, the Senate is not. They can actually wait forever, which raises the question of what happens when a presidential inauguration rolls around and there’s no one there to take office. I _guess_ the Speaker of the House has to take office.

      Although if we’ve got such a fucked up House they can’t manage to pick a President, it’s entirely possible that is because they haven’t managed to pick a Speaker yet!

      And without a President, we’ve got no cabinet either. Hrmmmm…I really have no idea what is supposed to happen at that point.

      We’d apparently be be in a weird position where there is a _race_ to see whoever managed to get their act together (The House in electing a Speaker, the Senate in electing a VP), because their guy to assumes the presidency. (And, ironically, neither of those actually ran for the office. So the actual tied candidates are sitting over to the side, pissed.)Report

  10. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
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    says:

    Are we a Democracy or a Republic? Would the GOP be the Sorelosermen if Kerry gets 60K votes in Ohio gives him 2004—although Dubya wins by 3 million votes?

    Me, I like the electoral college as the way to bridge consensus over a huge geographical area and a helluva lot of people. The parties can choose who they want to be responsive to.

    For instance, in 1976, Carter won Texas and Alabama, and Ford won Illinois and California.

    http://electoralmap.net/PastElections/past_elections.php?year=1976

    Stuff changes.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      I like the EC for this reason too, but I would prefer to see them give electoral votes out based solely on the House representation. Including the Senate skews things too much towards small states.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        True, Kazzy. As it turns out, the biggest distortion, the 3-EC vote states, tend to split 6-6.

        6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC).

        I think once we monkey with the EC, it opens the door to so many brilliant ideas and unintended consequences that we’ll never untie the Gordian Knot, so we might as well just keep it or cut it.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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          says:

          I didn’t realize that was the breakdown but, for the time being at least, it mitigates the skewing a bit.

          I think you’re right that any tinkering opens a Pandora’s Box.

          One scenario I’ve thought about (without thinking through all the inevitabilities) is that the House Numbers are split proportionally based on an individual state’s total and the Senate Numbers go to the overall state winner.

          So, if Obama wins California 60-40, he’d get 60% of the House number (rounded up), Romney would get the remainder, and Obama would get 2 “bonus” Senate votes. It’s sort of a both/and proposition… that will probably fall about one someone identifies a glaring issue I haven’t considered.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            That works, and individual states are free to vote that in anytime they want. 😉

            As if. Every such proposal is contingent on everyone else doing it.

            http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/10/13/wisconsin-proposal-would-change-electoral-voting-distribution-pa-mulls-similar-change/

            On the national level, it’s a clean and sensible solution, but again, I doubt such a pure sausage can ever be made.Report

          • Avatar kohler in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            Any state that enacts the proportional approach on its own would reduce its own influence. This was the most telling argument that caused Colorado voters to agree with Republican Governor Owens and to reject this proposal in November 2004 by a two-to-one margin.

            If the proportional approach were implemented by a state, on its own, it would have to allocate its electoral votes in whole numbers. If a current battleground state were to change its winner-take-all statute to a proportional method for awarding electoral votes, presidential candidates would pay less attention to that state because only one electoral vote would probably be at stake in the state.

            The proportional method also could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.

            If the whole-number proportional approach had been in use throughout the country in the nation’s closest recent presidential election (2000), it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. Instead, the result would have been a tie of 269–269 in the electoral vote, even though Al Gore led by 537,179 popular votes across the nation. The presidential election would have been thrown into Congress to decide and resulted in the election of the second-place candidate in terms of the national popular vote.

            A system in which electoral votes are divided proportionally by state would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote and would not make every vote equal.

            It would penalize states, such as Montana, that have only one U.S. Representative even though it has almost three times more population than other small states with one congressman. It would penalize fast-growing states that do not receive any increase in their number of electoral votes until after the next federal census. It would penalize states with high voter turnout (e.g., Utah, Oregon).

            Moreover, the fractional proportional allocation approach does not assure election of the winner of the nationwide popular vote. In 2000, for example, it would have resulted in the election of the second-place candidate.

            A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.Report

          • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Kazzy
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            says:

            I propose that the House-based electoral votes should be _by congressional district_.

            This would neuter gerrymandering. Now there are _two_ boundaries to worry about, with different levels of fuzziness and different voting patterns, and it’s a hell of a lot harder to sit there and make ’10 55%-our-guy districts and one 95%-the-other-guy district’. If you gerrymander to that extent with the presidential election in the balance, a very slight shift in the presidential election might throw them _all_ to the other side, so you can’t risk it. You have to make them 60% or 65% districts…which means now the other side has two or three districts instead of one.Report

        • Avatar kohler in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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          says:

          National Popular Vote did not invent popular elections. Having election results determined by the candidate getting the most individual votes is not some scary, untested idea loaded with unintended consequences. This bill does not eliminate the Electoral College. It does not overlook any state, it does not disenfranchise voters, it does not cancel votes, it does not negate votes, it does not steal votes, nor does it ignore votes. It does not force the U.S. to completely change its government. It gives a voice to the minority party in states where their votes now count only for candidates they did not vote for.

          It adds up votes of all voters in each state and the candidate with the most popular votes from the states wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

          Now voters in the current handful of closely divided battleground states, such as Florida, get disproportionate attention from presidential candidates, while the voters of the vast majority of states are ignored. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 “battleground” states. This year, only 9 states matter.

          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.

          Your vote would count as much as anyone else’s, as it does in elections for other offices.

          The National Popular Vote bill guarantees that the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states will win the Presidency. Adding up votes of all voters and winning with the most popular votes is the method that is used in virtually every other election in the country.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to kohler
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            says:

            But that’s a strong argument against the popular vote. Nobody wants to get bombarded with political ads or have their airport shut down and traffic tied up with Presidential visits. We try to limit the damage to the tiny handful of battleground states instead of letting politicians afflict us all like a plague.Report

            • Avatar kohler in reply to George Turner
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              says:

              The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

              Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

              During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

              Compare the response to hurricane Katrina (in Louisiana, a “safe” state) to the federal response to hurricanes in Florida (a “swing” state) under Presidents of both parties. President Obama took more interest in the BP oil spill, once it reached Florida’s shores, after it had first reached Louisiana. Some pandering policy examples include ethanol subsidies, Steel Tariffs, and Medicare Part D. Policies not given priority, include those most important to non-battleground states – like comprehensive immigration reform, water issues in the west, and Pacific Rim trade issues,

              “Maybe it is just a coincidence that most of the battleground states decided by razor-thin margins in 2008 have been blessed with a No Child Left Behind exemption. “
              WSJ

              Six current heavily traveled Cabinet members, have made more than 85 trips this year to electoral battlegrounds such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a POLITICO review of public speeches and news clippings. Those swing-state visits represent roughly half of all travel for those six Cabinet officials this year.
              PoliticoReport

    • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      Many Republicans are sorelosermen about Al Franken, and he got the majority of votes cast.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to MikeSchilling
        Ignored
        says:

        And you’ll see that kind of drama in every precinct in the country if we pitch the EC.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Tom Van Dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          Exactly. In a close election every podunk, corrupt, unsupervised precinct would be finding boxes of uncounted ballets in the back of pickup trucks. If would be a nationwide fraud contest.Report

        • Avatar kohler in reply to Tom Van Dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

          The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes); no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

          Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state-by-state winner-take-all methods.

          The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

          The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

          We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

          The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.

          Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years with the National Popular Vote. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

          The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

          No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 56 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

          The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. With both the current system and the National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their “final determination” six days before the Electoral College meets.Report

        • Avatar kohler in reply to Tom Van Dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          National Popular Vote does not “ditch” the Electoral College.

          The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ Electoral College votes from the enacting states. That majority of Electoral College votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      Are we a Democracy or a Republic?

      Both. There’s no clear cut distinction between the two.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Well, there’s a case working its way through federal district court in Colorado regarding the difference. Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendments to the state constitution require a vote of the people in order to increase tax rates. That requirement is now being challenged on the grounds that the ability to set tax rates is one of the key powers of the legislature in a republican form of government, and that by removing that power, TABOR violates the US constitutional requirement that states be republics. The only thing of any moment that has happened so far is that the judge has ruled that the plaintiffs who are current members of the legislature have standing, and that the case can’t be simply dismissed under the “political question” doctrine.

        The distinction may not be clear, but there’s a chance that over the next couple of years, we’ll find out whether the courts are willing to draw some sort of line between the two.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Michael Cain
          Ignored
          says:

          What’s the case name? I’d love to follow that one.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Cain
          Ignored
          says:

          Michael,

          That’s interesting, in a “let’s see what far-fetched types of arguments lawyers can come up with” kind of way. But whatever the Courts may decide, they won’t determine the broader philosophical question about democracy v. republic.

          As to the case itself, I see multiple problems. One is that tax rates are only one part of the legislature’s traditional authority, and to say that shifting just one of the legislature’s powers to control of the public destroys the state’s republican nature seems like some pretty arbitrary line-drawing. Another us that the Supreme Court has already ruled that the Guarantee Clause is within Congres’s purview, not the Courts (Luther v. Borden, 1849). Then there’s the problem that republic really seems to have meant little other originally than not being ruled by someone with arbitrary power, so that power ultimately rested with the demos–all republics have some degree of demos kratia, so the very idea that there is any kind of categorical distinction is false. Essentially the issue is about the consent of the governed, and it will be quite a stretch to say that the governed taking the power to set tax rates unto themselves violates their consent.

          I suppose Madison’s critique of pure democracy in Fed 10 might provide some purchase if the Courts really want to take up the issue, but even with the taxation issue it’s a hell of a stretch to call Colorado a pure democracy.

          That said, I could almost wish the Courts would rule favorably. I have a horrific vision of every state becoming California.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to James Hanley
            Ignored
            says:

            I don’t think anyone gives plaintiffs much chance of prevailing. OTOH, most experts didn’t think that the judge would ever let the case go to trial.

            Colorado runs California a close second, I think, in terms of citizen initiatives adding assorted contradictory things to the state constitution. We have an odd one on the ballot this year — a constitutional amendment that requires the legislature to tell the state’s Congressional delegation to support a US Constitutional amendment that allows states to limit campaign spending, and requires the legislature to ratify such an amendment if Congress passes one.

            Both parties have supported assorted skullduggery by the legislature to get around the TABOR limits. Quasi-governmental agencies (less than 10% of their budget from taxes) are exempted from many of the restrictions. We now have a byzantine method of delivering state money to our four-year colleges and universities so that they can meet the definition of quasi-governmental if necessary. More recently, the legislature modified the unemployment insurance statutes, simply replacing every occurrence of the word “tax” with “premium”, then declared the UI program to be quasi-governmental since it was no longer tax-funded.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        “Both. There’s no clear cut distinction between the two.”

        Doesn’t democracy have several definitions?If you use the defintion of direct/majority rule, then there is a distinction between that and a representative republic.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MFarmer
          Ignored
          says:

          Yes, if you use that distinction, which nobody really does anymore. And even it breaks down when we consider states that operate mostly via elected representations but also include hefty doses of the referenda/initiative system. They are more democratic than the states that don’t allow r/i, but those other states are not non-democratic.

          For what it’s worth, basically any political system that holds free and fair elections is considered democratic today, although various permutations of electoral structures cause some to be said to be more democratic than others.Report

  11. Avatar kohler
    Ignored
    says:

    In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 338–70 margin. It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and various members of Congress who later ran for Vice President and President such as then-Congressman George H.W. Bush, and then-Senator Bob Dole.

    On June 7, 2011, the Republican-controlled New York Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 47–13 margin, with Republicans favoring the bill by 21–11. Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party favored the bill 17–7.

    Jason Cabel Roe, a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant wrote in National Popular Vote is Good for Republicans: “I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives . . . , and it is good for America. National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome.
    It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state – and every voter – to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States.
    National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help . . . Republicans. . . . Opponents either have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or don’t fully understand it. . . . We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it.”

    Former Tennessee U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson(R), former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar (R), and former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) are co-champions of National Popular Vote.

    National Popular Vote’s National Advisory Board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R–UT), and David Durenberger (R–MN) and former congressman John Buchanan (R–AL).

    Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the NPV plan would not help either party over the other.

    Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:”A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College.”

    Some other supporters who wrote forewords to “Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote ” http://www.every-vote-equal.com/ include:

    Laura Brod served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the ranking Republican member of the Tax Committee. She was the Minnesota Public Sector Chair for ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and active in the Council of State Governments.

    James Brulte served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.

    Ray Haynes served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002

    Dean Murray is a member of the New York State Assembly. He was a Tea Party organizer before being elected to the Assembly as a Republican, Conservative Party member in February 2010. He was described by Fox News as the first Tea Party candidate elected to office in the United States.

    Thomas L. Pearce served as a Michigan State Representative from 2005–2010 and was appointed Dean of the Republican Caucus. He has led several faith-based initiatives in Lansing.

    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 recent 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: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%.

    NationalPopularVoteReport

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to kohler
      Ignored
      says:

      I suppose that that is a good point… would there be more Republicans/conservatives who had never before bothered to vote suddenly start showing up at the polls than Democrats/liberals who had never before bothered to show up?

      Personally, I’ve always assumed that conservatives just show up to vote because standing in line like it’s the goddamn Soviet Union is what conservatives do and liberals in places like Wyoming/Texas/Idaho *MOVE*. Or they don’t vote. Whatevs.Report

      • Avatar kohler in reply to Jaybird
        Ignored
        says:

        In 2008, voter turnout in the 15 battleground states averaged seven points higher than in the 35 non-battleground states.
        If presidential campaigns now did not ignore more than 200,000,000 of 300,000,000 Americans, one would reasonably expect that voter turnout would rise in 80% of the country that is currently ignored by presidential campaigns.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to kohler
          Ignored
          says:

          And that’s also an argument against the popular vote. You’re suggesting we massively increase the amount of man-hours required to do the same task, electing a President, which means decreased efficiency.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to George Turner
            Ignored
            says:

            So what we need is millions more disengaged, low-information voters? Whoever thinks things can’t get any worse has no imagination.Report

          • Avatar kohler in reply to George Turner
            Ignored
            says:

            With National Popular Vote, every vote would be equal. Candidates would reallocate their time and the money they raise to no longer ignore 80% of the states and voters.

            Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to the handful of ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

            During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

            Compare the response to hurricane Katrina (in Louisiana, a “safe” state) to the federal response to hurricanes in Florida (a “swing” state) under Presidents of both parties. President Obama took more interest in the BP oil spill, once it reached Florida’s shores, after it had first reached Louisiana. Some pandering policy examples include ethanol subsidies, Steel Tariffs, and Medicare Part D. Policies not given priority, include those most important to non-battleground states – like comprehensive immigration reform, water issues in the west, and Pacific Rim trade issues,

            “Maybe it is just a coincidence that most of the battleground states decided by razor-thin margins in 2008 have been blessed with a No Child Left Behind exemption. “
            Wall Street Journal

            Six current heavily traveled Cabinet members, have made more than 85 trips this year to electoral battlegrounds such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a POLITICO review of public speeches and news clippings. Those swing-state visits represent roughly half of all travel for those six Cabinet officials this year.
            PoliticoReport

  12. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Any consideration of the popular vote is silly. It’d be like telling a football team the team with the most points wins but then arguing that the team that kicked the most FGs really would have won.

    If we were going with a popular vote, campaigning and voting patterns would be much different. Looking at them with the EC in place doesn’t tell us anything meaningful.Report

  13. Avatar Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    Dear Jebus, when will this election be over?!?!Report

  14. Avatar BobbyC
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m one of the many who favors replacing the electoral college with the popular vote regardless of the likely short-run impact on outcomes. It’s just a better, more fair system.

    One benefit of the electoral college is that it is a stark reminder of how inertial and ineffective our system is – we have anachronistic rules and cannot change them because they are used to entrench existing power. It’s nice to have clear reminders of that so we don’t get carried away with idealistic visions of reform or normative forays into how everything should be. There is only so well that a nation of 300m+ people can be governed.Report

  15. Avatar Remo
    Ignored
    says:

    Not being american, i find that the most interesting fact is that you only have 2 parties that can dispute anything. And both of those parties are well, pretty much equal. You dont have anyone that take actions to make the government smaller, or the income distribution closer to equal, or to make the presidency a permanent post.

    IE: You don’t have any kind of variety in the political discourse. You have to choose between candidate A that will suports plans X, Y and Z, and candidate B, that will support plans X, Y and Z.

    You don’t ever have a candidate that will defend a idea that is wildly unpopular, but that his party believes that is the right way to follow.Report

  16. Avatar Pyre
    Ignored
    says:

    I am against switching to a popular vote.

    In 2010, Mtn Dew ran their 2010 Dewmocracy vote. Being Dewmocracy, it was based on how many people were willing to spam their vote once every 15 minutes so the controls weren’t as tight as a Presidental election but it still led to some interesting results. Throughout most of the campaign, Typhoon led in all states except California and a handful of others which preferred White-out. However, White-out never wavered from the lead.

    And that would be the future of Presidental elections under a popular vote system. The winning strategy would become “promise everything to the top 7 states. Give some attention to the next 11 states. To hell with the rest.”

    And, after you dump the electoral college, what’s next? During the 2010 budgetary debates, an informal poll made the news which stated that between 12 and 13 percent of Americans favored abolishing the Senate. Once you knock off the EC for the President, it wouldn’t be that far of a leap to say that the Senate gives disproportional representation to Rhode Island so it should be dropped as well.

    Perhaps I’m getting old but I think that, once you start taking the wheels off the current system in favor of a popular vote system, it will eventually leads to a situation where people in the midwest say “California pretty much runs the system. Why are we still in this union?”Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Pyre
      Ignored
      says:

      And that would be the future of Presidential elections under a popular vote system. The winning strategy would become “promise everything to the top 7 states. Give some attention to the next 11 states. To hell with the rest.”

      Elegant, Mr. Pyre, although fortunately something seems to be the matter with Kansas. For now.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Pyre
      Ignored
      says:

      The states don’t matter so much, when the artificial restriction that the state votes as a block is removed.

      In the electoral college, the difference between 49.9% of a state’s votes and 50.1% is 100% of the state’s votes. In a FPTP system, it’s 0.2%. I don’t see how it could get any more ‘California pretty muh runs the place’ than it is now.

      In FPTP, attracting a demographic that’s not enough to sway any single state is a valid strategy – single parents, immigrants near retirement age, whatever.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Pyre
      Ignored
      says:

      I don’t see this at all. Somewhere between 30% to 40% of all votes, virtually everywhere, are going to be inflexibly and unpersuadably for the other party. Then, we’re removing the restriction that a state vote en bloc. So the state line restrictions become artificial and maybe even counter-productive to your effort to reach out to the 20-40% of theoretically persuadable moderates, who might be located anywhere.

      Democrats will still focus their big pushes in the mid-Atlantic and northeast corridor, and on the west coast. Republicans will still focus their big pushes in the south and midwest. Demographically split areas will still see a lot of competition. Nowhere will either party exceed 70% of the vote in any given state.

      What you won’t see, though, is California or New York or Texas being utterly ignored in terms of campaigning. Right now, because these states vote en bloc every dollar spent there, by either candidate, is a dollar lit on fire. Since you picked on California, bear in mind that the inland regions of California are generally pretty conservative, but the more urban coastal regions have enough population that the imbalance keeps the state firmly in Democratic hands. If we were using a first-past-the-post national system, the more conservative inland votes would count and be worth courting — and mobilizing.

      (And it’s manifestly not the case that California pretty much runs the system. California has about 10% of the national population. More than anyone else, to be sure, but it gets less than 10% of the Federal goodies and pays more than 10% of the Federal kitty. At the moment, California is blessed with senior legislators in Congress but there’s no reason that will remain the case in the future and it has not a whole lot to do with California’s population. Also, our state government is a basket case.)Report

      • Avatar Pyre in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        You’re kind of making the argument for me.

        Under the system you’re proposing, which am I, as a Presidental candidate going to try to mobilize? 40% of CA’s safe votes with 20% undecideds or 40% of CO’s safe votes with 20% undecideds

        And, speaking of states that pay more than their fair share (CO’s spending ratio is $1.06 for every $1.00 received.):

        What’s to stop me from promising CA: I’ll make you a 1-for-1 spending state and places like CO can take the hit. That 40% of CA voters is more attractive than 100% of CO’s voters and I’ll be a hell of a lot more motivated to skip those states altogether. Liberal/Conservative ideologies tend to vanish when you tell people “I’ll give you money (through whatever means) if you vote for me.” Even if they didn’t, 20% of CA is STILL more attractive than 100% of CO.

        Well, the Senate would counter it. True … for now. But, if in 2010, you had 12-13% in favor of dumping the Senate in favor of a more representational system, what would that percentage jump to after you dump the Electoral College? Generally speaking, people aren’t really interested in hearing “Tyranny of the Majority” arguments under the best of times. After you remove the Electoral College, they’ll be even less inclined to hear such things when they have something to point to as an example of where we went to a popular vote.Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Pyre
          Ignored
          says:

          You’re going to care less about the state – take out the useless resolution-removing middle-man of the electoral college, and a vote is a vote is a vote.

          Under the current system, a vote in California is worth nothing, while a vote in a swing state is worth a huge amount.Report

          • Avatar Pyre in reply to dragonfrog
            Ignored
            says:

            While, under the FPTP system, a vote in California would be worth everything and a vote in the bottom 32 states would be worth nothing. All you’re proposing is rearranging whose vote is worth more.

            And “a vote is a vote is a vote” is only valid if we had a federal government that was limited to military, foreign treaties/trade, basic interstate infrastructure and left the rest of the local issues to the people who actually lived in the region. Since we don’t, that is an unconvincing argument.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        California has about 10% of the national population… but it gets less than 10% of the Federal goodies and pays more than 10% of the Federal kitty. At the moment, California is blessed with senior legislators in Congress

        You call that a blessing? What the hell are they doing for California, I’d be asking if I still lived there. (Same question I keep asking about my own state’s senators, given Michigan is also a fished up state that still manages to traditionally be a net contributor.)Report

  17. Avatar dragonfrog
    Ignored
    says:

    As a Canadian, let me say this: if you were seriously going to switch to a popular voting system, let me recommend you go straight on past FPTP and look at some system that still works when there are more than two parties, and that’s capable of representing somewhat varied voter preferences – preferential voting, approval voting…

    I realize in the USA, the electoral college system is the benchmark against which you consider FPTP, and that makes it look pretty good. Moving to FPTP would be progress by that standard, but it would basically mean moving from the 18th Century to the 19th. Here in Canada, FPTP is the benchmark against which we consider other voting systems, which makes them all look pretty good.

    Basically, from where I sit here in Canada, FPTP is the worst of the at least marginally sane voting systems. If you’re seriously considering changing the voting system of a country, “the worst of the options that isn’t outright crazy” is setting the bar pretty low.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to dragonfrog
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m having a hard time imagining what system other than FPTP we’d use, dragonfrog. There can be only one President, and a substantial premise of our Constitutional system is that the President be independent of Congress. That’s a fundamentally different way of picking an executive than a Parliamentary system in which the Prime Minister is selected from a coalition of legislators. ‘Course, in a Parliamentary system, if one party gets an outright majority, it takes the PM spot and the entire Cabinet too, so that may not be particularly representative, either.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        In a two-party system, FPTP works alright. But it also has a strong tendency to cement the two-party system into the machinery of the state.

        An instant-runoff or approval voting system is the same as FPTP when there are only a two candidates choice, but it can allow third parties to thrive without being seen mostly as vote-splitters – the Tea Party could run its own presidential candidate without hamstringing a Republican contender, the controversies over whether Ross Perot or Ralph Nader would throw the election to the exact opposite side of the political spectrum would be non-starters, etc. I think political discourse benefits from that sort of dynamic.Report

        • Avatar Zach in reply to dragonfrog
          Ignored
          says:

          “In a two-party system, FPTP works alright. But it also has a strong tendency to cement the two-party system into the machinery of the state.”

          I don’t think this is the case, at least in the Canadian context. The parties in the pre-Confederation and the immediate post-Confederation period were rather weak.

          The more persuasive argument is that nationalist policy choices at the turn of the last century provided a greater impetus for party discipline, which stifled localized representation, and encouraged a more predictable adversarial approach. Established parties became the legitimate form of expression, and third parties only emerged when there were extraordinary regional pressures.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Burt Likko
        Ignored
        says:

        The problem of parliamentary seats being far off the popular vote results is not unique to FPTP, that will happen in any riding-by-riding system – parties with very weak overall support, but strong regional concentrations (the Bloc Quebecois, most notably, but also the currently governing Conservatives) are grossly over-represented, while parties with strong national support, but not much regional concentration, get few or no seats.

        But, just sticking to the selection of an MP for a single riding, that’s a problem analogous to a Presidential election. I’d argue that our current Conservative government has benefited from successfully engineering themselves the right half of a two-party system, while the left half consists of two or more parties (at least the Liberals and NDP, the Green party in some ridings, the Bloc Quebecois in others)

        FPTP means a Conservative candidate can win a riding where 70% of the voters loathe them, but their votes are split among the progressive parties. FPTP offers no way to vote the anyone-but-the-Conservative ticket, or anyone-but-the-Bloc, or Conservative-or-Liberal-but-no-further-left, which are all perfectly valid voter preferences.Report

  18. Avatar Pat
    Ignored
    says:

    If anyone needed convincing that the electoral college is subject to corruption, they surely got it with the election of 2012 voting qualification laws announced as a method of giving Romney an edge.

    No other evidence is required to see that the Electoral College is subject both to gerrymandering and to political corruption. Does anyone believe the millions raised thus far under Citziens United has been spent on political ads nationally?

    Impossible!

    Americans have much to fear under Citizens United but mostly it is the attitude of latitude created by its passage.Report

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