My Pet Cat And Electoral College Reform


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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133 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Making presidential elections more manipulable by gerrymandering is a bad idea. So is making it more difficult for people who are constitutionally eligible to vote to do so. Period. The fact that Republicans strategies include both does not prove that both sides are the same.Report

  2. Avatar Morat20 says:

    I can’t help but notice something here: You don’t address the fact that these electoral changes are being done by one party, in a way that benefits only that party.

    If, for instance, the entire 50 states of America all changed at once — no problem. Changing a handful of states to give a specific party a 20 or 30 electoral vote “boost” in the next election? That’s not just a problem — it seems anathema to the basic principles of democracy.

    “I lost the election, so let’s change how the votes are counted” seems, you know, the OPPOSITE of how democracy is supposed to work.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I do fault the Republicans for this. If they want to win, they need to do two things. First, they need to field better candidates, and second, they need to offer better policies.

      Changing the rules so that they don’t have to change their political pitch is not something that helps the country as a whole. My post is to point out that it’s also not a call for a military dictatorship and indeed it’s a system that’s been working without much protest in two states already for several elections now. The Virginia Republicans are engaging in gamesmanship to gain an advantage for themselves, yes. They are not trying to kill democracy, and they have not thought through that this tactic could easily backfire on them because the future is uncertain.

      You’ll note, I hope, that I end my post with a call for abolishing the Electoral College completely. In the short run, I suspect this would benefit Democrats, all other things being equal. But if the Republicans could find themselves a good candidate, no Electoral College would help them.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        Such gamemenship imperils democracy, just as any attempt to rig the rules imperils a sport.

        Adding in this nonsense on top of the recent jumps in voter suppression, mid-cycle redistricting, and other shenanigans points to a political party that has no interest in democracy, only in holding power — even against the wishes of the people.

        (FYI: I just read about a study that worked out that Florida managed to disenfranchise about 200,000 voters through long lines alone. Long lines that seemed to be solely in heavily Democratic districts)Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          So you’ll be calling on Maine and Nebraska to change their systems and be like the other 48 states, then?

          That’s cool if you do.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            There are some factors in the Virginia case that do not apply to Maine and Nebraska. Virginia, initially at least, was attempting to give the two statewide votes to the winner of the most congressional districts. That this was even considered (if it hasn’t been abandoned) gives the game away, as far as I am concerned. Combine that with the fact that this is a national campaign, rather than something some states are simply deciding to do, demonstrates some significant bad faith.

            No, in and of itself it is not the end of the Republic. But it’s something that could seriously undermine the authority of the presidency far moreso than claims that the electoral college does. Indeed, one of the few benign things that can be said about it is that it could corrupt the system to such a degree that it leads to the disposal of the EC.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              Undermine the authority of the Presidency? Or just the authority of a particular President?

              A President who got both a plurality of the popular vote and a majority of the electoral votes wouldn’t have any problem at all, right? We’d only question the legitimacy of this system if it worked out with Candidate X winning the popular vote and Candidate Y being the one actually elected. That’s a risk under the current system, one which has actually manifested on a few occasions.

              Does this system increase the risk of a disparity between popular and electoral votes? Yes, I see that as a legitimate reason why this is not a good idea, and I did say in the OP that I think that it’s not a good idea.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The non-democratic nature of the Electoral College has two mitigating factors. First, that states in and of themselves are entities worthy of independent consideration. Second, that the disparity is rarely large. Here, the disparity would have the potential to be large enough that it would undermine the process, regardless of the president that is elected. Both presidents would be running to game a broken system.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                The disparity between the popular vote and the EC vote often is large. We don’t care about it much because usually, the winner is the same by both metrics. But I think the historical data is that the EC is not typically what I would call “roughly proportional” to the popular vote.

                In 2012, the disparity between Barack Obama’s popular vote (51.1%) and his electoral college vote (61.7%) was 10.6%.

                In 2008, Obama outperformed his popular vote in the Electoral College by 14.9%.

                In 2004, it was pretty close. Bush exceeded his popular vote in the real election in December by 2.6%.

                In 2000, of course, we had the debacle of Florida. With Florida ultimately going to Bush, Bush got 47.9% of the popular vote but 50.3% of the electoral vote. Disparity: 2.4%, but a critical 2.4% because it put Bush over the top.

                In 1996, Ross Perot sapped over eight million votes that presumably would otherwise have gone to either Dole or Clinton. Clinton probably would have won if Perot had sat it out. But the disparity between Clinton’s popular vote (49.2%) and his electoral vote (70.4%) was 21.2%.

                Same thing in 1992, when it’s not quite as clear to me that Clinton would have beat Bush had Perot not drawn away the votes he did. The difference between Clinton’s electoral and popular vote victories was 25.7%.

                In 1988, George H.W. Bush got 53.4% of the popular vote, but 79.1% of the electoral vote. Disparity: 25.8%.

                In 1984, Ronald Reagan got 58.8% of the popular vote, but won everything but Minnesota and DC in the electoral college. Disparity: 38.8%.

                In 1980, Reagan’s the disparity between popular and electoral votes was a whopping 40.1%.

                In 1976, it was closer to trued up: Carter’s disparity was 5.1%.

                Nixon 1972 looked like Reagan 1984: a disparity of 36.0%.

                It’s because the popular vote winner is usually the electoral college winner that we haven’t bothered to care about this all that much.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                That is all true, of course. The EC has the effects of distorting the margins of victory by making it seem larger than it is (not necessarily a bad thing), but it rarely reverses the winner and when it does it is in close elections. Try as the candidates might, it’s not an easy system to game. The National results typically end up having the same winners and it becomes mathematically very difficult to overcome anything but a narrow loss by spending your resources in few areas. Your ability to reverse a district-based system is more broadly from gerrymandering the districts to spending time nor only in a few states but in a few places. The former being the bigger issue.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            Actually, yes. Well, actually, I want NPV with proportional representation of the House and additional Senate seats for larger states, but that’s beside the point. 🙂Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              Dude, that’s only one step away from a Parliamentary system. What are you, a European? 😉Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain says:

              As a long-time resident of a middle-sized western state where ~40% of the area is federal land, I can’t support either the NPV or more proportional representation. At least, not until the bulk of that land (and perhaps more importantly the water and other resources that go with it) is transferred to the state. I am reluctant to give the voters from Texas and the populous states east of the Mississippi any more control than they already have over what’s wilderness or not in this state, when and where the natural resources can or should be developed, and how those resources will be taxed.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Not really. They’re meaningless in terms of EC, their oddity is basically historical at this point, and not part of a concerted effort to rig the game.

            They don’t really matter, nor are they indicative of the sort of anti-democratic (in the democracy sense, not the party) thinking of the Virginia plan.

            You DID hear the ‘defense’ of the plan by Virginia congressmen? It was — quite literally — it seemed unfair that the districts with more people seemed to have a larger sway than districts with less people.

            I am NOT kidding. Their stated rationale for changing the law is “One man, one vote” was unfairly biased in favor of the guy who got more votes.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              The districts ought to all have roughly equal amounts of voters in the first place. Seems to me that’s a rule I read somewhere.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:


                To best do that, however, we’d need more than 435 Congresscritters.

                Given that artificial limitation, I kind of think that it’s good that the Western part of the state have its own Congressperson rather than the Congresscritters all going to Denver, Denver, Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Pueblo.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Not the way they want to count it. They’re not splitting the EC vote by %, they’re splitting it — and there are a lot more Republican districts.

                Which means, just to make up numbers, if there are 4 million voters and 2 million (in 2 districts) voted D and 2 million (in 10) voted R, they’ll D’s would get 2, R’s would get 10 and then 2 more for winning the ‘majority’ of districts.

                So you’ll get…2 EC for 2 million Ds, and 12 EC votes for 2 million R’s. The R’s, per person, are getting more of a vote.

                It’s not by SIZE — it’s by NUMBER OF DISTRICTS. In the example above, the R districts are counting each vote like it’s worth 6 of the D voters.

                The actual ratio appears closer to 2 to 1, but that’s still the end result. There were slightly more Democratic voters than Republican voters, but the end result under this scheme is a lot more EC votes for the Republicans — meaning each Republican voter’s vote counted more than a Democrat’s vote.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            It seems to me that Maine and Nebraska a relevant precisely to the extent that their systems were put in place via political machinations with comparable motives to the ones openly on display in this concerted national push by one party today. Beyond that, they don’t seem particularly relevant? Am I off in having that sense? And if not, does anyone know the history?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        But if the Republicans could find themselves a good candidate, no Electoral College would help them.

        Which brings us right back to the “better policies” part of the equation.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          Ugh, that was an unclear bit of commenting, too. “But if the Republicans could find themselves a good candidate, then having no Electoral College would help them.”Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            It seemed pretty apparent that the EC was a bigger barrier to the GOP than was the popular vote, in my view. Which leads to the interesting thing about the party that is ideologically more likely to support the EC is at a disadvantage while the one that is more ideologically disposed to get rid of it benefits.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              The EC was more predictable (fewer variables, and turnout within a state is, to a first approximation, a wash.) The actual popular vote, which was an almost 4 point (5 million vote) victory for Obama, turned out to be quite a barrier as well.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Yes, both turned out to be significant barriers. But one was a bigger barrier than the other, in my view. Romney would have needed more than 5 million votes to close the EC gap, in my view.Report

              • Avatar Fnord says:

                A little bit, given the way the math worked out this time. Romney needed to flip one of the states that went 5% for Obama, when the national margin was 4%. Notably, the third part vote was significantly decreased, it doesn’t look plausible that Romney takes an actual majority in the popular vote but loses the EC, much less Romney losing the EC with the national popular vote numbers reversed.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I looked up the results in a very close state, Colorado.

    A total of 1,207,178 votes were cast for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives in seven districts. A total of 946,294 votes were cast for Republican candidates for the House of Representatives in seven districts. Republicans won 4 out of those 7 districts. Two Democratic races were obviously lopsided and two Republican races were obviously lopsided; the remaining three looked, at face value, to have been at least somewhat competitive and one of those, the sixth district, looks like the Democrat had a damn good fighting chance.

    Obama got 1,238,490 votes, and Romney got 1,125,391 votes. Obama carried the state. That means 31,312 more voters picked Obama for President than picked the Democrat for Congress; and 179,097 more voters picked Romney for President than picked the Republican for Congress.

    Leave aside the fact that this means nearly an entire Congressional district’s worth of voters dropped out after voting for President.

    If I’m doing my math right, this works out to about 7.3% ticket splitters overall — about one Colorado voter in fifteen voted for a Presidential candidate of one party but a Congressional candidate of the other party. I remain far from convinced that a district-by-district count of Presidential votes will mirror votes for members of the House.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I think my conclusion was slightly overstated, looking over my spreadsheet again, and I think this would be a more accurate way of interpreting the numbers:

      About one Colorado voter in fifteen was either a split ticket voter, or voted for President but did not vote for a Representative at all.

      This amendment doesn’t materially change the level of support for my assertion that how a district votes for Congress is not necessarily how it will vote for President. And Colorado may be atypical; I haven’t done this for every state.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I find that surprising because it seems a lot more likely to me that someone would vote for a representative from one of the two “real” parties but vote third party for president than vote for president but not vote for a representative.

        (Though I should also note that pretty much every elected office on the last ballot had at least one third party person on it.)Report

        • Avatar Dan Miller says:

          Your intuition is incorrect on this one. Typically, there are many more “undervotes”, where a person votes for Pres but not lower offices, than there are third-party votes for Pres.Report

          • Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

            Correct. In my case I didn’t bother voting for U.S. Rep because the ONLY choice was the TeaPublican Tim Huelskamp.

            Not that my vote for Obama meant much in Kansas anyway…Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      If i remember the numbers correctly from the blog i read last night, if the entire country awarded EV’s based on congressional district Romney would have won the EC easily while losing the popular vote by 4 million; Romney would have had 9 EV’s to 4 EV’s for O in Virgina while losing the state by a couple percentage pointsReport

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        If you can find that link, I’d be very interested in reading it.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:


          Key grafs: “Of the 3.8 million votes cast in Virginia in 2012, Barack Obama received 1,971,820 votes, or 51.16% of the vote, while Romney received 1,822,522, or 47.28% of the vote. Under the proposed law, though, President Obama would only have received 30.77% of Virginia’s Electoral Votes,, while Romney would have received 69.23% of the Electoral Votes.”

          “Further confirmation of just how bad the District Method actually is can be found in this study which finds that, had the method been in place in all 50 states this past November, Mitt Romney would have won the election despite losing the popular vote by some five million votes:”Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Doug Mataconis of OTB (one of my very favorite bloggers, by the way) links back to and extensively quotes the same article by Alan Abramowitz on UVA Prof. Larry Sabato’s blog that I linked to the my own OP. (Abramowitz is a professor of political science at Emory University.)

            What I’m looking for is the data that Prof. Abramowitz relied on to reach that conclusion, which ideally would be in the form of a district-by-district vote count on a spreadsheet. Maybe it’s a graph summarizing that spreadsheet, or something else.

            Let’s assume Prof. Abramowitz is right and he’s got the numbers to back it up somewhere. Obama got a majority of votes in 4 of Virginia’s 11 Congressional districts. That would mean that under the Maine-Nebraska system, he’d have got 6 votes from Virginia, and Romney would have got 7.

            Once we abandon the idea of a winner-take-all system, another alternative way for a state to allocate its electoral votes would be to do so proportionally to the voter turnout. Had that been the system, according to the vote totals, it would have been Obama 7 votes, Romney 6. One vote different from the outcome under a Maine-Nebraska system, and this despite ruthless pro-Republican gerrymandering.

            So is a Maine-Nebraska system ideal under those circumstances? No, of course not and nowhere in this post nor in any comment I’ve made here will you find me saying it is. Having the Electoral College at all is not ideal. The Electoral College already presents us with the risk that the winner of the popular vote will not be the next President. I’m not disregarding the idea that if every state went the way of Maine-Nebraska, that risk would increase; I think it would and that’s why I think going Maine-Nebraska is not a good idea. Which is what I said in the OP.

            What people seem to be mistaking for an apology for the Virginia Senate Republicans is my assertion that the results of such a system would not be as skewed from the popular vote as partisan critics of that system claim. If Prof. Abramowitz’s data is as he describes, it would certainly be a skewer into that thesis. A fatal one? I don’t know; I haven’t seen the data.Report

            • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

              What brings me back to my original comment that I don’t think they’rereven talking about the Maine system. Or I’m not sure. The article you link to suggests a 9-4 split, which tells me that the extra two are going to Romney because he won more districts. Which is what I heard initially. I can’t get confirmation on whether that’s changed.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I don’t know, either. I’d agree with you that a system that gave the extra two votes to the winner of the most districts is a problem because it’s getting even further out of whack with the voters themselves. That system would be different than the Maine-Nebraska system.

                I could see a Maine-Nebraska system with a caveat that the winner of the popular vote in the state must get not less than half of the state’s electoral votes to avoid the Obama wins the state but Romney gets one more vote than Obama scenario that Prof. Abramowitz’s numbers would apparently suggest.

                Of course if we’re going to do that, why not just split all the votes proportional to the vote in the state?

                And if we’re going to do that, why not just split all 538 votes proportional to the popular vote?

                And we’re going to do that, why not just use the popular vote directly?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                There actually IS an attempt to do that. Although since it was pushed by liberals, it attempts to be fair.

                Basically, states award EC to the popular vote winner of the nation. However, that doesn’t kick in until 270 EC votes worth of states have added the amendment.

                So it’s meaningless until enough states sign on, at which point it automatically goes into effect.

                I think only a handful of states have signed on to it.

                Hmph. Between this and the GOP’s sudden obsession with the ‘wrongness’ of the direct election of Senators, and their deep and abiding interest that everyone have photo ID — unless you vote absentee, then we trust you — there’s probably a pretty good post hanging around.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              Once we abandon the idea of a winner-take-all system, another alternative way for a state to allocate its electoral votes would be to do so proportionally to the voter

              That also favors Republicans significantly. The reason that the EC more or less reflects the popular vote is that it’s distorted in two ways that, fortunately, oppose each other:

              1. Republicans win more states, so they get the advantage of the 2 extra EC votes each state gets on top of the ones proportional to its population.
              2. Democrats win more large states, which gives them more benefit from winner-take-all.

              Remove #2, and you have a system that skews Republican, which is why proportional EC schemes, even ones less obviously crooked than Virginia’s, always originate from them.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I don’t think that point #1 is accurate. Of the 57 Presidential elections we’ve had, only five have seen a President elected who did not carry a majority of individual states. (Those were 1824, 1848, 1880, 1960, 1976; note that 1824 was, um, “special,” and 1848 and 1880 were ties in state counts.) It’s certainly not true in the present day. Obama carried more states than McCain in 2008 and he got more states than Romney in 2012.

                There’s something to point #2, though. The average EC value of an Obama state in 2012 was 12.6 votes, where the average EC value of a Romney state in 2012 was 8.6. Then again, picking big states to campaign in and actually winning them is part of good strategy anyway; it’s not like Romney didn’t try to win Florida and Ohio. But Republicans have some big ‘uns in their “reliable” column, like Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and Tennessee.

                I don’t doubt that winner-take-all favors Democrats right now. The core Democratic states, in the winner-take-all scheme that prevails in 48 states now, gets any Democrat 253 votes without even spending a penny more than what it takes to get on the ballot in the first place. Add Virginia to that core and you’re at 266, and you need only one of Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, or Colorado in order for your generic Democrat to beat your generic Republican in 2016 and 2020. So of course it’s Republicans (in the short run, meaning the next eight years) that ought to be looking at changing the status quo.

                But the reason to consider EC reform is not for the purpose of making Republicans more competitive. They don’t need [EDIT TO ADD: or deserve] that help. The reason to consider EC reform is to make elections a better reflection of the popular will.

                Allocation by districting doesn’t really get us any closer to that goal, I think, but I do think we could live with some version of it. Maybe not the version the Virginia Republicans either are or until recently were pushing, as Will points out elsewhere in the thread.

                I think proportional allocation may get us closer to the election results reflecting the popular will. That is, if a large number of states (meaning all or nearly all of them) did it.

                But the real way to get there is to go directly to the popular vote.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Sorry, I meant to say “Republicans win more small states”, so the extra two votes per help them proportionately more.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe says:

            Of course, if you change the rules of the game, you change the strategy and the action of the players in that game. Obama campaigns in particular have always been very very good at formulating a strategy early on that takes advantage of the nuances of the rules.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              Exactly. When anyone pointed to the popular vote and insisted THAT should really matter, I countered that that would be like pointing to the total number of first downs (or stolen bases or free throws) and declaring the team that led in that a winner. If folks knew they were supposed to do X instead of Y, they would have played the game entirely differently.Report

  4. I’m not so sure about much of this post’s midsection; but the title and the final graph are superb, so it earns a tweet, easily.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t see the fact that the electoral vote sometimes conflicts with the popular vote as a real issue. Votes are at best a very noisy indicator of a candidate’s ability to be a good president, and it’s really not even clear that the correlation is positive. Direct popular election is not morally superior to the Electoral College.

    The better question is what effect the EC has on policy. Honestly, I have no idea. I can think of arguments for both sides.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Direct popular election is not morally superior to the Electoral College.

      I think it offers a superior claim to legitimacy, regardless of how the EC’s members are constituted.Report

      • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

        *Democratic* legitimacy. Not all systems are to be so composed.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        If you start from the assumption that democracy is a moral imperative rather than a strategy for choosing a less-bad government, sure. But that’s begging the question.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          It’s not that democracy is a moral imperative as much as democracy is vaguely related to the whole “consent of the governed” thing. Of course there isn’t a 1:1 relationship between “what the people want” and “who ended up being nominated” (let alone “how the guy who got elected will actually end up governing”) but… it’s vaguely in the same ballpark.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            Is the consent of the governed thing a moral imperative, or a just a convention we like?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              If I may compare governance to sex, I would say that the removal of consent from sex transforms it from “something pretty cool” to “something pretty awful”.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                But perhaps you may not by my lights today. Perhaps I prefer for you to take things as they are and speak to them directly for once…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So we’re discussing whether consent of the governed is a moral imperative by speaking to things directly.

                So could we compare a list of countries where we agree that there is consent of the governed and a list of countries where we agree that there is not and say “well, these countries are better than those countries”?

                I’m asking if that is even theoretically possible. I mean, maybe we’ve got some weird cultural bias that says “Canada is better than North Korea” when if we had perfect objectivity, we might come to a different conclusion than one steeped in Western Superiority.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                ……It’s not that I don’t agree with you, it’s just that sex is a thing that’s pretty easy to define and recognize, while (the absence) of consent of the governed… is harder to define, much less measure. But past a certain point, it’s a fair analogy.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                The correct comparison is not sex to consent-to-being-governed birthday consent to sex and consent to being governed. Both are murky, though I can agree that sexual consent is generally more straightforward to determine (but maybe not).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I agree that birthday sex is profoundly superior to birthday government.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              This was dumb from the start. My apologies.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Consent of the governed is a fairy tale. If you look at the government we actually have, many people don’t consent to a great many things it does, and those who do consent are often not those who bear the costs—i.e., they’re not the ones who are actually being governed.

            We can’t have consent of the governed in any meaningful sense. Given that, damage control—that is, selecting a less-bad government—is a pretty reasonable goal for an electoral system.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              I don’t agree that we can’t have it in any meaningful sense at all. But I ado agree that the extent to which we have it at any one time is almost inevitably so difficult to measure and even fundamentally undefined that it does throw into question whether or not it can constitute a meaningful, practical moral imperative, rather than something of an assumed convention, for whose real substance our practices of democracy stand in as a proxy.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              …But it stands asking… if not even the consent of the governed is attainable, one wonders why there mere preferences of the governed – i.e. establishing an electoral system – should be thought better for the purpose of achieving a less-bad government. Why shouldn’t the best thinkers about what is bad and less-bad government (self-selected… or not… whatever) simply convene, define the least-bad government, set it down in a constitution, and then convene again periodically in secret to 1) choose the administrators best suited to those purposes,and appoint them to terms of indefinite length, and 2) appoint successors to the membership of this constitutional/staffing committee?Report

  6. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    The undemocratic nature of this change is that it deliberately gives people who are typically Republicans (i.e., people in rural areas) more electoral power per person than people who are typically Democratic (i.e., urban voters). It’s worse than the electoral college because the districts are heavily gerrymandered to favour the Republicans.

    It’s all the more glaring because Virginia is in a part of the country that has a very, very, very long history of deliberately using ostensibly colour-blind electoral measures to disenfranchise black people. Who tend to live in urban areas.

    Rejigging the rules because you don’t like the results, and doing so in a way that ensures black people’s votes end up being worth less than white people’s votes, is a serious offence against democracy.

    If you want to get rid of the electoral college, go ahead. This measure is the opposite – it takes one of the fundamental flaws of the electoral college – that the votes of rural people are worth more than the votes of urban people – and accentuates it even more, thus making the system less democratic, and doing so in a blatantly racially-biased way.

    See TNC:

    Efforts to disenfranchise black people, have always been most successful when they worked indirectly. After the initial post-war Black Codes were repealed, white supremacists turned to less obvious modes of discrimination — poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests.

    These were cloaked under a colorblind argument — “We don’t discriminate against black people, we discriminate against people who can’t read the Constitution.” By “read the Constitution,” they meant “recite the Bill of Rights by heart.” And they’d ask you to do this after reducing your school funding to a pittance. I say this to point that this is not a “new” racism. This is how it scheme went before the civil-rights movement, and this is how the scheme works today.

    To see the only other major political party in the country effectively giving up on convincing voters, and instead embarking on a strategy of disenfranchisement is bad sign for American democracy. There is nothing gleeful in this.Report

  7. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Bear in mind the congressional result is also remarkable because the GOP lost the generic congressional popular vote by somewhere around half a million votes yet they come out ahead by 30-odd seats.Report

    • Avatar ktward says:

      Yes. PA is a perfect example: 13 House seats went R, only 5 went D. Yet, statewide there were more votes for Dem candidates than for GOP candidates. (Something like 2.7M to 2.6M.)

      I think Bernstein gets it exactly right: “the Republican plan isn’t electoral-votes-by-congressional-district. It’s electoral votes by congressional district in the states where it would help Republicans.”

      I’ve never been a registered Dem, although I was indeed a registered Republican for the first 15 years or so of my voting adulthood. I’ve often voted split ticket, casting my ballot for whomever I believed to be the best candidate for whatever office regardless of their party affiliation. But after the 2008 election (and especially after 2010), I am sorely convinced that, at this pitiful point in time, absolutely no good can come from electing any Republican to State or National office; as a collective, they’re wreaking havoc.Report

  8. The good news is that it’s starting to look like this may be DOA:

    • Avatar ktward says:

      From your link, Mark:

      If a bill to reapportion Virginia’s presidential electoral votes by congressional district is a Republican plot, someone forgot to tell state Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Bedford County.

      Smith said this morning that he opposes the legislation, calling it “a bad idea.” Smith sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, which will hear the bill next week. Without Smith’s support, it’s unlikely the bill could get to the Senate floor. The Privileges and Elections Committee has eight Republicans and seven Democrats.

      “What if all states got to skewing it to their advantage?” Smith said in an interview this morning.

      Kudos to Sen. Smith, in that it seems to me he’s rather explicitly admitting that this is indeed a Republican ploy to rig presidential elections.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        The bill’s sponser admitted it. He flat out said it was to correct the ‘problem’ of urban districts having too much of a say, drowning out the ‘rural’ districts.

        In short “Too many people were voting for Democrats, we’re gonna redo the EC apportionment so each Republican vote counts more”.Report

  9. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I think that the calculations of what would have happened in November in Virginia had this plan been in place are based on presidential results in the CDs, not Congressional results. I’m not sure if that address the ticket-splitting caveat you give going forward, but it wasn’t clear that this was clear to you in your analysis. And I could be wrong about it, too, but I don’t think I am.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    If this were to become law in more than a state or two, I wonder if it might result in renewed effort to pass National Popular Vote Interstate Compactin enough states that the national popular vote would determine the winner of the election in the Electoral College going forward.Report

  11. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Do all congressional districts contain the same number of people? My understanding is that they don’t. Which, to me, is a problem both for this system and the current structuring of our House of Representatives.

    By and large, though, the structure utilized by Maine and Nebraska is similar to what I’ve advocated for recently. But instead of awarding delegates based on congressional districts, they would be divided proportionally based on the state’s popular vote, rounding up in favor of the winner*. The winner would also get the two bonus delegates for the senators.

    * The rounding could happen a number of ways, truth be told. But I favor the proportional allocation over the district allocation because of the discrepancy in district size.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      They contain roughly the same number — close to within a percent or two.

      However, given the realities of gerrymandering — say you have a state of, say, 4 million people split into 12 districts of equal size.

      Now — and this is true in Virginia — gerrymander the districts so that two are reliably Democrat (like 80 to 90% votes) and the other 10 are reliably Republican — R+10 (average vote is 55 R, 45 D). Each district is the same size, but the Republicans have 10 that require a +10 D wave to flip, and the D’s have 2 that are unlikely to ever flip.

      Now apportion EC votes –14 in this case. 1 per distrct “won” and 2 for the “winner of most districts”. The GOP just won 12 electoral votes, the Democrats won 2 — despite the popular vote count being 50/50,.

      I think the outcome in Virginia would have been 9/4 in favor of Romney despite Obama winning the popular vote.Report

    • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

      They contain roughly the same number of people withina statee, but between states it varies. Particularly among the small states. Montana is underrepresented, while Wyoming is over represented.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        This is what I was getting at. California has 75 times the population of Wyoming. It does not have 75 times as many congressional districts. As such, California’s districts must be larger by population. This is problematic, or at least seems so on first glance to me, though it wouldn’t shock me if Will had a reason why this was not only not problematic, but actually necessary.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Ah, I see here gives the numbers pretty clearly, via the “2010 Census Pop per House Seat”.

          I imagine there would be a lot more upheaval if we tried to maintain a consistent number, even if only adjusting every 10 years. Perhaps if we didn’t insist on keeping the House set at 435 members. Offer 1 seat per 500K citizens, or whatever number seems reasonable. As states grow, you add more. If states shrink, they lose some. Overall, the number will trend upward. Which I guess means a growth in government, but the exact type that just might get bipartisan support.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          No, it’s mostly a reflection of the size of the US House, as you point out. On the greater scheme of things, I don’t think it’s a huge problem (Wyoming gains, Montana loses, life goes on). I do think we should expand the size of the House, but for other reasons.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            What are those reasons?Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              Primarily because I question the ability of a single representative to adequately represent 700,000 people. In the western states, you are covering some extremely large and somewhat disparate areas (Western Montana should have a congressman, Eastern Montana should have another, one rep trying to represent Boise and Mormon Idaho and Northern Idaho leads to conflict) and in more densely populated areas you are looking at people representing a lot of diverse groups of people.

              Now, I’m not saying that every subgroup everywhere should get their own congressperson, but the ways in which they are divided should not be unlimited.

              Also, the fewer congressional representatives we have, the more they become national rather than local politicians. Disconnected from their constituency, and therefore playing to a more national one.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Adding to what Will said, Congress has authority to set the size of the House. It was last increased in, iirc, 1911 (except for temporary increases for the time between admission of new states and the next census). In 1911, the U.S. had about 100 million people.Report

  12. Avatar Morat20 says:

    Ha, tracked down the quote I’ve been looking for. It’s from one of the Virginia State Senators on why he supports the law:

    “The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn’t matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them.”Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      That’s an interesting way to phrase things. When he reflects his constituent’s concern that more densely populated areas are going to outvote them he’s essentially rejecting the idea of one person/one vote deciding elections. That’s fine I suppose, as far as it goes. But why think that? Personally, I think it devolves from a conservative meme gaining lots of traction lately even from otherwise neutral talking heads: that geographically, the country is predominantly conservative. (Which is true.) Usually this claim is bolstered by showing a map of Presidential election results by county. (The linked map is from ’08.)

      So, it’s not like conservatives are pulling this stuff out of thin air, and it’s not inconsistent with other conservative beliefs about state’s rights and jurisdictional sovereignty and all that.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Adding: not that I’m sympathetic to that argument. Just that it’s part and parcel of how some conservatives view politics.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        It’s really much more like this once you adjust for population.

        The country isn’t “predominantly conservative”, but conservatives are the majority in the most thinly populated areas. The map you linked is a great example of how conservatives have internalized things that just aren’t true using faulty data.Report

        • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

          You missed the word “geographically.”Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Yeah. That word is important.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            “Geographically” is a meaningless word in this context. The entire state of Wyoming has about half the population (and more cows than people per square mile) than does DuPage County, IL yet, “geographically” vis-a-vis the map Stillwater pasted, counts far more by orders of magnitude.

            “Geographically” is the word they’re using to delude themselves, and it shouldn’t be treated as anything more.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              “Geographically” is a meaningless word in this context.

              If the context is the geographical distribution of voting patterns, then the word isn’t meaningless. The context itself, however, might be – at least as a means of determining election outcomes. And on that I pretty much agree with you.Report

            • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

              You can consider it meaningless, but it’s not a delusion. Most of the land of the country is inhabited by conservatives. The fact that the rest of the country has more density doesn’t change that.

              I will say that for my part,partisan political posturing aside, land mass is not meaningless. I live in a large states with my fellow residents. The face that thereaaren’t many of us compared to states where I previously lived is true and relevant, but that doesn’t actually make this state smaller. [Edited to correct autocorrect]Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Square feet don’t vote. People do.

                Residents of Wyoming should take great delight in the existance of the Senate and consider themselves darn lucky.

                They shouldn’t start trying to weight the Electoral College by square feet, which is effectively the Virginia plan.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Wyoming isn’t trying to weigh the electoral college. They really couldn’t if they tried, seeing as how they only have a single House member.

                The electoral college (as-is, sans Maine and Nebraska), and particularly the senate (and the house when it comes to Wyoming, though not when it comes to Montana), do give additional voting privileges to squares. Though it’s focused on statehood, of course.

                Anyhow, I get and don’t really disagree with the notion that geographically large states shouldn’t count for their size because so few people live there. I also agree (and have said so) that the Bush Country maps are misleading in that respect.

                But they aren’t delusional. Some may view them as meaningless, but I think they do represent something of significance to some people.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You know, thinking about this some more, if a person thinks that the federal government ought to exist in a dynamic and reciprocal tension with statesrather than passing thru states directly to individuals, then the jurisdictional units that matter for determining Presidential elections will be larger than individual citizens (Popular vote say.) But maybe it needs to be more fine-grained than having each state cast a vote for the Presidency (not that anyone is making this proposal).

                So … Congressional districts. Those are the political entities, it could be argued, that best reflect the will of the people if geographical differences are factored in.

                I guess the question is why we should think geographical considerations ought to matter when it comes to electing representatives of state-wide and federal level offices. I’m not sure what the answer to that is, so I continue to believe that the idea isn’t very compelling.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                To me, anyway, it’s because the states are individually political and government units, and not jot just collections of a certain number of people.

                I personally don’t think that geographical considerations should be taken into account for statewide offices, with rare exception (I could be convinced, for example, that Hawaii should delineate between the islands. But that’s the only example I can think of).

                But with federal offices, it’s because states – unlike congressional districts – are constant things. That which is in Idaho today will be in Idaho tomorrow. Meanwhile, back home, my family’s house has been in three different congressional districts in the last fifteen years without nearly so much change as when one moves across state lines. Thus, while they are political units, they are not government units and they change with regularity (every ten years, or less).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The hard 435-congresspeople limit is the problem here. If we moved back to 1910 levels of representation, that would address much of the problem (It’d also eliminate gerrymandering and tackle *HUGE* amounts of the “disproportionate representation” problem).Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I more or less agree with this. It’s hard enough to gerrymander now; making the states actually proportionally representative would make it almost impossible.

                People move too often.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I agree somewhat with Jaybird here. The Webster Method and Jefferson Method don’t really scale that well, but we should consider enlarging the number of representatives to a point where the number of representatives in a “one representative” state more closely resembles the population-per-representative of those states with much higher population density.

                I’m not convinced that such a change alone would get rid of gerrymandering, mind you. I think requiring mathematical algorithm calculations devoid of partisan interference is a better way to go there.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Will, are you making an argument in that Presidential elections ought to be determined at the level of states (by the EC as it’s currently constructed)? Or just against individual congressional units being determiners of the Presidency?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Jaybird, could you elaborate on that a bit? Or, well, a lot?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Stillwater, here’s some insight into what Jaybird’s talking about. The Jefferson Method and Webster Method apportioned representatives on semi-strict “one representative per X amount of population” on a defined ratio, rather than capping at a specific number of representatives (435 now) and trying to shoehorn in a split that will that promptly get wildly disproportional.

                The problem is that by the old Webster Method, there were roughly 210,000 people per House representative in 1910. If we used that same general methodology today, we would need nearly 1500 representatives (at which point the House of Representatives would likely be at a too unwieldy a number to even call roll, much less take votes or hold debate).Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:


                I think we should do away with the EC. I don’t feel that strongly about it (about 55/45). But no, I don’t think the presidency should be determined at the state level. I do think that the state level is a better place to determine it than the district level, unless we were talking about going full-on to the parliamentary system (which I don’t think I would support, but I could be convinced).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                (I also think we need to move the capital to Kansas City.)

                I don’t think that 1500 would be too problematic. That’s what the Senate is for, after all. Let the 1500 do their thing, write the bill, vote on it, so on, and let the Senate turn it into something actually manageable and then let the House vote on it again.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                we would need nearly 1500 representatives (at which point the House of Representatives would likely be at a too unwieldy a number to even call roll, much less take votes or hold debate).

                What makes you believe that this is the case?

                It’s essentially 3 times the size of the current House. Aside from needing a bigger chamber, and having to reform rules about floor debate (neither of which strikes me as a particularly difficult problem), tripling the size of the House simply makes each member worth about a third of the voting power that they are now.

                The normal affiliations between members will cause additional organizational subgroups, but that’s about it. Generally, getting everyone to vote in a block big enough to pass legislation is the same problem that you have now.

                In addition, because districts are now limited by size, it will be much less likely that any one representative will have substantive conflicts of interest, and it will also be more likely that major interest groups will have to grab more members to wield the same amount of disproportionate power that they wield now.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                You are so wrong, Jaybird. We need to move the capital to nowheresville, Nebraska. Start a city from scratch, rather than trying to shoehorn it into a pre-existing city.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Let the 1500 do their thing, write the bill, vote on it, so on

                With 1500, it’d never get to the “vote on it” stage. So much gets killed even now.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                All the killing seems to be in committee or in the Senate.

                Not sure how either of those things would be affected by a larger House size.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Nowhere works for me too.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Jaybird, You’re proposing expanding the size of the House to get around gerrymandering and some other issues. I get that. But how is it relevant to questions about various methods for determining the occupant of the Presidency?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                The Electors are based upon House representation.

                One of the reasons the EC is unbalanced, now, is that the House is unbalanced.

                Burt needs to weigh in on some day regarding standing.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ahh. Same process with finer grained representation. Good. Thanks.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And by “same process” I meant winner take all for each state.

                Is that where you and Jaybird are at on this? Or would you prefer popular vote, individual congressional district vote, something else?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I think winner take all by state is generally a bad method. It’s worse, now, with disproportionate House/EC representation. Fixing that would make it less worse.

                Proportionate representation by state popular vote would be better, even if you gave a minor kicker to the winner.

                It’s reasonable to have the states, as a body, have a say above and beyond the individual citizen vote… I understand the logic of it, and I think it makes sense to a degree in comparison to a direct popular vote.

                Because while it’s true (IMO) that right now the urbanized states are underrepresented, simply switching to a direct popular vote reverses that problem, and rural states will be underrepresented.

                I like a nudge in the direction of correcting the imbalance, one nudge at a time. Switching to a direct popular vote seems too big of a swing in one step.

                Optimally, I’d like to see each state proportion its electors in line with the popular vote in that state, with a small weight towards the winner of the state. How much of a small weight, I’m not sure.Report

              • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

                I’d need to bust out a spreadsheet to be sure, but I think that would shift things even more to the small states, where the results would be more skewed to the winner than in larger states. The one-rep and two-rep states would consistently go 2/3 or 3/4 towards the winner regardless of margin.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Yeah, exactly. It’d change the process from needing 270 Electoral Votes to win to needing 800ish (or whatever the number would be).

                I’m torn on “winner take all” because it, at least, has the benefit of making a 52-48 election look like a damned landslide and there are benefits to having a 52-48 election look like a damned landslide.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                There is no “fair” democratic setup wherein Wyoming is not underepresented in comparison to, say, Texas or California.

                For the simple reason that no one lives in Wyoming. (Compare to Texas, California, or really a whole bunch of other stats. My county in Texas as more people in it).

                And that’s just something Wyoming needs to live with. In the end, democracy boils down to “one man (or person, one vote” and while we can fudge the system (As the system actually does, giving Wyoming outsized federal political power compared to their population) in the end “More people” must be greater than “less people” when it comes to decision making.

                Mind you, I’m perfectly aware of the concept of ‘tryanny of the majority’ — I’m all for safeguarding against such things — but in the end, when it comes to day-to-day federal decision making, the people of Wyoming must have less than the people of California.

                There are simply less of them. Far, far less. And any system that elevates the power of Wyoming does so by screwing California and Texas. (And it’s not like California or Texas is at fault for no one living in Wyoming).Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I’m not really convinced that the EC favors smallpop states anyway. It favors swing states, and smallpop states usually lean pretty far to one side or the other.

                Generally speaking, I think the presidency is the wrong place to try to walk this line. Go with the popular vote. The smallpops have the senate.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I mean, obviously, the EC does favor the smallpops numerically. But functionally, candidates spend no time and effort in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, etc. Even Montana and New Hampshire, which theoretically could go either way, don’t get much attention. The mid-size and large swing states do. Wyoming may get a bigger chunk of the EV than its population would otherwise confer, but it’s twice of an amount that is below the radar of presidential candidates.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Most of the land of the country is inhabited by conservatives. The fact that the rest of the country has more density doesn’t change that.

                But it doesn’t justify giving the large, barely-populated states or counties a heckler’s veto on country-wide or state-wide issues either, which is what Republicans want when they talk about the country being “geographically conservative.”

                Seriously consider the following:

                Wyoming gets 2 senators, same as every other state. That’s one representative per 235,000 people.
                Wyoming is also overrepresented in the House; their single representative reports to just under 570,000 people while Californians have to share each representative among over 710,000 people.
                Wyoming is also overrepresented in the Electoral College by the same metric.

                Now, Wyoming is “largely conservative.” But it’s also FREAKING EMPTY. They’re overrepresented as it is and on top of that, they parade around shouting things like “the parasites now outnumber the producers” while at the same time they get more federal money per person than any other state.

                And somehow, Wyoming conservatives think they deserve a heckler’s veto on whether women can be in combat, or whether gays will finally have equal rights, or any of the thousands of other national issues facing the nation.

                I look at this, I look at their level of representation compared to where I live, I look at the amount of money they take from the donor states, and the only sane thing to do is shake my head in wonderment at the level of cognitive dissonance they are able to hold onto.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Now, Wyoming is “largely conservative.” But it’s also FREAKING EMPTY. They’re overrepresented as it is and on top of that, they parade around shouting things like “the parasites now outnumber the producers” while at the same time they get more federal money per person than any other state.

                Wyoming nets a whole lot of money from mineral resources. They send 100% of that money to Washingon, none of which counts on the “tax” side of the ledger. Then they get half of that money back, which does count of the “receipts” side of the ledger. That is why Wyoming is a “beneficiary” state. take that out of the equation, and it’s a donor state. Wyoming is a terrible state to get on a “fish the poor states” tirade about.

                Yes, few people live in Wyoming. Stipulated. That doesn’t make Wyoming small. That doesn’t change the fact – not the delusion, the fact – that conservatives are the stewards of the land of most of this country. You can argue that this is meaningless, that they suck donkey balls because they aren’t rich or because the government chooses to spend money on roads out here and treat them like actual Americans instead of the parasites you consider them to be… but that doesn’t change the fact that their map is accurate.

                (And again, for my part, I agree that the map is misleading by failing to take into account population density. I just don’t consider it irrelevant. No matter how few people live here, it’s not a small state.)Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                You can argue that this is meaningless, that they suck donkey balls because they aren’t rich or because the government chooses to spend money on roads out here and treat them like actual Americans instead of the parasites you consider them to be…

                When they’re busy calling the rest of the country parasites, pointing out what ridiculous parasites they are is fair game.

                Likewise for “we control a million square miles of absolutely nothing.” Good on them. Doesn’t make their views, totally lacking in common decency and ability to treat women or non-heteros as equal, any less abhorrent.

                And then there’s the racist streak out of them which is getting worse, not better.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Wyomingites, in general, do not call the rest of the country parasites. Some conservatives do. Conservatives that may be wealthy or may pay a lot of taxes and received comparatively few benefits. Conservatives that may come from a part of the state that is actually donor. And yeah, some conservatives who don’t fully understand money inflow and outflow.

                But not “Wyomingites.”

                Truthfully, I live in a red county and hear very little complaints about Washington spending on the poor. I hear more complaints about spending on the rich – such as bank bailots – though the biggest complaints I hear involve regulations and the like.

                I also hear complaints about dumb government spending locally. I never heard so many complaints about farm subsidies – from which my state benefits – as I do here (a lot of the complaints being that they are geared towards conglomerates and not family farms). Government money being spent on powerlines running through private property (though they’re mistaken, it’s not generally government money, though it does involve eminent domain).

                Oh, wait, I’m treating the great unwashed like people rather than a bunch of ugly, broad stereotypes. My mistake. I need to remember the people I live with are ugly stereotypes and not people.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Or, to be more brief about it, I get that you hate Republicans. I get it. And that ultimately, any conversation about them will eventually come back to hating women/minorities/gays/etc and their general disgustingness. I probably could have saved us both a lot of time by keeping that in mind before initiating conversation with you.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I don’t hate republicans.

                I do distrust them. What they say in private and in public are generally very different things. The growth of Fox News, talk radio and expansion of their “bubble” the past 30 years or so have not to my observation revealed nearly as much a growth in the sentiments I find so distasteful about them as it has simply drawn the veil back, making it impossible for them to play-act the difference between public and private speech, making it much more difficult to walk back their dog-whistles (which must, for the benefit of their base, be preserved and reinforced in private, instead revealing the man behind the curtain inherent to so much of the current GOP-conservative rhetoric and playbook and leaving that exposed to the population at large’s observation.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Point being, regardless of how despicable you consider them to be, that isn’t remarkably relevant to the topic at hand. They can sit at the right hand of Satan, and the map is the same degree of true or false as it is if they sit at the right hand of [insert benign deity here]. That the conversation turns there, and that it always seems to do so, is something I need to remember not to forget.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Likewise for “we control a million square miles of absolutely nothing.”

                Have you spent much time out there? If you really think there’s “a million square miles of absolutely nothing,” then you wouldn’t object to eliminating the constraints of the endangered species act and NEPA on Western states, since there’s nothing there to worry about destroying, and allowing them total control over mineral rights, since there’s not actually any valuable minerals out there, would you?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Another thing: these types of conservatives proposals only apply Presidential election procedures and not other federal level political offices. Why? Why aren’t conservatives pushing a policy whereby US Senators are elected by the same process (effectively giving each district one vote determined by the popular vote within the district)?Report

        • Avatar trumwill mobile says:

          A number of conservatives would be happy to go back to legislature-picked Senate seats , which is actually somewhat similar.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Which goes back to the key point here: Their positions are becoming increasingly unpopular, and rather than change positions they want to rig the game.

            Either by suppressing votes or changing the way they’re counted to effectively make their supporters votes “worth more”.

            Both impulses are dangerous to democracy.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              There was some conservative support for repealing the 17th even when Republican ideas were more in favor. Never enough to take action on that, but there’s not enough to take action on that now.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                I never got that. It seemed to be some weird ‘states right’s’ thing that never made sense.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                The idea, I think, is that if you had senators beholden to the state legislatures rather than the people, they would represent the state (as an entity) rather than the people (who are represented in the House).

                I don’t think that’s true, but I actually do understand the sentiment. Germany does something along these lines (except with something more effective).

                I prefer elected senators because if left to the legislature I think otherwise it’s too beholden to backroom deals. I could also live with Germany’s arrangement (appointed by the state government, can be recalled for any reason or no reason and therefore has to do what the state government wants), though the small-c conservative in me is skittish about such a change.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                I prefer directly elected Senators simply because I’ve met state legislators, who seem to be a stupider and more corrupt version of their federal counterparts.

                Then again, I’m pretty cynical by nature — I cut my teeth on politics by watching a particularly nasty local school board fight between a group of nutcase Christian creationists and, well, everyone else.

                I use nutcase on purpose — not only were they ardent Creationist eager to get our school district involved in a losing lawsuit, half of them had kids in private school rather than the public school, and their campaign involved evangelical rhetoric that didn’t become mainstream for almost ten years AND a series of particularly contemptous anonymous fliers decrying the current board as being child molesters who wanted to teach kindergarten kids how to masturbate first hand.

                They had, at one point, 40% of the board. School board meetings were quite tense and worrisome at the time — hiliarious later in retrospect. It was their attempt to get a majority that lead to the shark jumping and basically getting overwhelmingly rejected.

                Low-turnout elections tend to bring the stupid, the crazy, and the corrupt to office. The lower the turnout, the dumber the results. School board elections rarely have a lot of turnout — it took these guys being looney tunes in a particularly offensive fashion (the child molestation claims, among others) which tripled turnout and got rid of pretty much all of them.

                Not that high-turnout elections don’t render Morons Unto Congress. It just seems there’s fewer of them, by percentage.Report

  13. Avatar Damon says:

    “What I think I’m right about is that any proposed change to the electoral system will be evaluated first, last, and exclusively according to the calculus of which party will benefit from that change in the very next election, and therefore no meaningful election reform will ever actually take place. ”

    Of course. I see it in my state, historically Democrat. They’ve been working hard to marginalize the few Republicans into new districts that will be hard to win or pit two Repubs against each other.

    This caught my eye more though than the main subject: “It’s so much fun to be able to jump up and down and say “I’m right! I’m right!” only when what you’re right about isn’t particularly happy news, that feels like it’s sort of an inappropriate reaction.” I disagree. Ex: I enjoy pointing out to pro BOB supporters all the things he said he’d do for them with the phase “how’s that hope and change working out for you?” It does have the downside of lowering the number of dates I get with liberal women though. 🙂Report