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National Commission on Federal Election Reform report released today.

By maynard in News
Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:31:03 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

The National Commission On Federal Election Reform released a long awaited report to the public today. Former President Jimmy Carter (secondary biography) met current President George W. Bush at a ceremony today for the unveiling of the report to the public and President Bush. The two met in private for a short time before attending a public ceremony where President Bush stated that he "heartily" endorsed in general the contents of the report, but reserved judgment on the specific recommendations until further analysis. Afterwards, former President Carter and the members of the commission responsible for the report were questioned in a press conference, broadcast on C-SPAN; rebroadcast time(s) to be announced.

The commission report in it's entirety, or in partial segments, may be downloaded across the Internet along with a summary of recommendations. The bi-partisan report was commissioned in the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential election, in which Candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore wrangled over Florida's decisive electoral college votes through PR and legal means, culminating in a US Supreme Court victory for George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore. At the time, widescale complaints of confusing butterfly ballots, widespread disenfranchisement of minority voters, claims of absentee ballot voter fraud, and high error rates with Punch Card balloting systems in comparison to Optical Scanning systems, (the error rate is about 4%-6% for punch cards in comparison to about 2% for the Optical Scanning systems) throughout Florida were reported in the press. Given these circumstances, the commission was responsible for drafting a report which would prove acceptable across party lines while recommending serious reforms for successful future elections.

The six primary recommendations by the commission are as follows from the summary:

When they choose the president, the vice president, and members of Congress,

the American people should expect all levels of government to provide a democratic process that:

  • Maintains an accurate list of citizens who are qualified to vote;
  • Encourages every eligible voter to participate effectively;
  • Uses equipment that reliably clarifies and registers the voter?s choices;
  • Handles close elections in a foreseeable and fair way;
  • Operates with equal effectiveness for every citizen and every community; and
  • Reflects limited but responsible federal participation.
It's was widely reported by the press that former President Carter stated on NPR's "Morning Edition" during the election crisis that he was "Taken aback and embarrassed" by what happened during the Florida election fiasco and that if the Carter Center had been asked monitor that election, it would have refused.

During the press conference Former President Carter addressed this issue while responding to a question regarding that comment by stating that the Carter Center could not actively participate in monitoring any election without direct federal involvement imposing fair election laws at the local level. Since this was not available during the 2000 election, he implied that by default the Carter Center could not have participated regardless of the events in Florida. He also responded to a question regarding instant runoff voting, which was not included in the report, and he replied by stating that there was considerable interest in instant runoff voting by members of the panel and the public, but it was not included because it did not meet the bipartisan requirements of all members. He stated that the commission also refused to consider reforms to the electoral college because they were outside the scope and expertise of the commission members. He also noted that members of the commission considered three possibilities for enacting legislation to pursue these recommendations:

  • Pass a law which provides federal matching funds for any state which chooses to purchase uniform voting equipment, but which does not mandate this purchase.
  • Pass a law which requires states to purchase uniform voting equipment which meets a 2% or less error rate.
  • Pass a law which provides for a block grant to all states to purchase whatever voting equipment they choose.
He stated that after much debate among commission members, the public, and certain elected officials it was decided that the first option (federal matching funds) was the most preferable, and he pointed to the Senate McConnel/Shumer bill which met this requirement. ***

Since ending his tenure as President in 1980, Mr. Carter has engaged in many charitable works including volunteering for Habitat For Humanity (where he helps build housing for the poor), as a Sunday school teacher in his local parish, and as an election monitor the world over through his umbrella organization The Carter Center, most recently in Peru's April 8th elections.

***Please note that I'm using personal notes from the C-SPAN video and don't have direct quotes.


From Maynard: I've tried very hard to leave my personal bias aside and report only facts regarding this issue. My bias is well known, though largely irrelevant to these events. I hope readers (especially those who disagree with my views) recognize the difficulty in attempting to remove bias when reporting a factual news story and to help by noting any bias you find in a comment below.



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During Election 2000
o Your vote counted. 19%
o Your vote did not count. 10%
o You voted 3rd party -- who cares? 28%
o You voted 3rd party -- ARRRGGGHHH! 11%
o You did not vote. 18%
o Election, what election? 5%
o Inoshiro ate my Homework. 6%

Votes: 77
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o National Commission On Federal Election Reform
o Former President Jimmy Carter
o secondary biography
o ceremony today
o rebroadcas t time(s)
o commission report
o summary of recommendations
o Bush v. Gore
o confusing butterfly ballots
o widespread disenfranchisement
o claims of absentee ballot voter fraud
o high error rates with Punch Card balloting systems
o Optical Scanning systems
o instant runoff voting
o electoral college
o Habitat For Humanity
o The Carter Center
o Also by maynard

Display: Sort:
National Commission on Federal Election Reform report released today. | 31 comments (28 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Additional Poll Option (4.50 / 2) (#1)
by theboz on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 06:38:21 PM EST

I doubt this happened to very many people but I would vote for, "Denied the right to vote." since the state of Georgia had screwed up and somehow arranged for me not to be officially registered until the week after the election. It was interesting because I attempted to register in the summer when I got my driver's license, and they asked my political affiliation so I am assuming that they put me in a stack of "do not register until after the election because he's not $party" or something. It may just be paranoia, but it shouldn't take four or five months to process a registration to vote should it?


Why tell them? (none / 0) (#8)
by Obvious Pseudonym on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:05:39 AM EST

...and they asked my political affiliation so I am assuming that they put me in a stack of "do not register until after the election because he's not $party" or something.

You should have told them that you hadn't decided yet, or that it was none of their business. Keep 'em guessing.

Obvious Pseudonym

I am obviously right, and as you disagree with me, then logically you must be wrong.
[ Parent ]

I didn't tell them. (none / 0) (#9)
by theboz on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:55:42 AM EST

I am neither Republican or Democrat, and I am unaffiliated with any political party. I assume that sounds subversive to them and they probably thought I was some "red commie bastard" or with some party I wouldn't admit to.

[ Parent ]

Not realistically an option (none / 0) (#15)
by aphrael on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:49:03 PM EST

in most states, in order to vote in a party's primary election, you must be registered as affiliated with that party --- the supreme court has overturned laws like california's which allowed everyone to vote in an open or blanket primary regardless of party affiliation.

This means that when you register, you must either (a) register with a party, or (b) decline to state an affiliation --- and if you do (b), you have *zero voice* in determining who the candidates are going to be in the general election --- eg., declining to state an affiliation reduces your overall power in the political process.

[ Parent ]

Re: Why tell them? (none / 0) (#19)
by ncc74656 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:41:01 PM EST

...and they asked my political affiliation so I am assuming that they put me in a stack of "do not register until after the election because he's not $party" or something.
You should have told them that you hadn't decided yet, or that it was none of their business. Keep 'em guessing.
They need to know your political affiliation to determine the primaries (if any) in which you're allowed to vote. (Don't even think of open primaries as a solution to that...as a Republican, I would be royally pissed if a gang of Democrats rolled into a GOP primary and got "their" guy through the primary.)

[ Parent ]
Mom & Apple Pie (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by jlusk4 on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 09:22:27 PM EST

This is sort of a Mom-and-apple-pie story. Of course (most) everybody wants more fair elections. The problem is that this is gonna cost money. (Some) states will need to purchase new ballotting equipment. (2 Ts? 1 T?) Provisional ballotting [the recommended practice of taking a person's vote if s/he claims the right to vote, and only counting that vote later if s/he turns out to be right] means more people will have to be devoted to (a) figuring who really had a right to vote, and (b) opening their provisional envelope and adding their ballot to the tally. According to tonight's NewsHour w/Jim Lehrer, some counties in the U.S. had a -->20%<-- inaccuracy rate (if I'm interpreting the word "spoilage" correctly). Getting that down to 2% will not be trivial.

Raise taxes? Cut teacher salaries? Raise taxes? Cut teacher salaries? (How politicians blow their minds.) Considering the short attention span of most the electorate and their fascination w/shiny it's-the-people's-money rhetoric, can you imagine politicians spending money on optical scanners, or time on new administrative procedures in year two or three of a four-year election cycle?


300 Million/year for four years. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by maynard on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:06:37 AM EST

The commission recommended an expendature of $300 million per year for four years in matching funds to the states in order to purchase new equipment for each state that takes the funds. I note that they place a restriction that the funds must be used to purchase equipment with an error rate of 2% or less, which limits the purchase to either OpScan, or newer (very expensive) electronic systems. It's expected that the majority of states will simply upgrade to OpScan if these recommendations are enacted in law. --M

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
1.2 billion dollars (none / 0) (#17)
by weirdling on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 04:31:39 PM EST

Anybody else amazed at the staggering amount of money being spent on a non-problem? Oh, well, rhetoric and valid statistics don't go well together...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
The report (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by aphrael on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:51:14 AM EST

like all political documents, contains some good ideas and some ideas which are problematic.

Moving the election to be on Veteran's Day is probably the best idea in the lot: having an election on a holiday would ease some of the problems with the process, especially in traffic-heavy suburban wastelands.

The uniform poll closing hour has problems, though. Consider that the people working in the polling place are volunteers who are paid something close to minimum wage (in most states). For reasons of accountability the same crew must work the polling place from poll opening to poll closing --- it would be much harder to verify the absence of fraud on the part of polling officials if this didn't happen. Now, if you introduce a uniform poll closing time of 11pm EST, then one of the following must happen in New York: (a) the same poll crew must work from 7 AM until 11pm (which will decrease the number of volunteers willing to do it); (b) the polls won't open until 10am EST; (c) there will be a switch in poll crews with a resultant decrease in verifiability of election results. Similarly, on the west coast, either the polls must open at 4 AM (if they open at 7 AM on the east coast), or if they open at 7 AM as they do now, there is a discrimination: east coast voters get 16 hours to vote, west coast voters get 13 ....

Prohibiting the release of results from federal elections by elections officials until 11pm EST seems like it would be easier; this would presumably be a constitutional regulation of the manner in which federal elections are held, and would not abridge the free speech rights of the networks. Of course, if that happened, the embargo on exit poll results might fall apart, leading (paradoxically) to a worse situation: the networks projecting the winner in a state *before the polls close*.

Veteran's Day (none / 0) (#11)
by BurntHombre on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:32:59 AM EST

Regarding the Veteran's day bit: Were they planning on shifting the voting day to Veteran's day, or Veteran's day to voting day? Under either case, one of my concerns is that people would use the new holiday to take an extended vacation and end up not voting at all (I certainly wouldn't be shocked to see this occur). Of course, you can't legislate civic responsibility, but the possible consequences should be taken into consideration.

[ Parent ]
Veterans Day (none / 0) (#20)
by 3waygeek on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 11:25:35 AM EST

They'd have to move Veterans Day, as election day (at least for President/VP) is specified in the Constitution as the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November. To change election day would require a Constitutional amendment, which is somewhat more difficult than moving a holiday.

[ Parent ]
Equipment is not the problem... (5.00 / 2) (#10)
by WombatControl on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:14:39 AM EST

While funding more and more equipment may help some problems, it wasn't just the equipment that was broken in Florida this November. Most of the problems with the Florida election came from voters who didn't follow procedures correctly. Either they selected multiple candidates, did not fully punch the card, or just didn't follow the arrows as indicated. All the technology in the world cannot fix this problem. Only voter education can. Even then, there's no guarantee that another Florida won't happen.

For example, the "confusing" butterfly ballots were approved by the county election commissioners in Palm Beach County, all of whom are Democrats. This ballot was also available for public inspection before the election. Just throwing money at the problem won't help unless people actively monitor these situations before the election. After everyone has voted is too late to fix problems, as the Supreme Court wisely ruled.

Even with optical voting machines, there will still be times when recounts will happen. I live in the Second District of Minnesota, where Mark Kennedy won his House seat by only 155 votes, a margin of just a fraction of a percent. This is in a region with (I believe) all optical machines. However, the recount was handled in a fair manner and the results were not nearly as politicized as the Florida recount.

This report, while accurate in many respects, misses the point. The problem wasn't with the machines in Florida as much as it was with the voters, and no amount of federal matching funds for new equipment can fix those problems.

Equiptment does matter in some cases. (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by cthulhu512 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:54:48 AM EST

The equiptment may not be the only issue in system, but having a wakeup call about problems in ballot design and problems with some types of voting machines is important.

My grandmother, who is in her 80s, lives in West Palm Beach, the place with the ballot issues. She thinks she voted for Gore(after going and thinking things through and knowing what she was doing), however she had physical problems with the ballot. Being able to punch a clean hole in the exact proper place with shacky arms and general muscle tone that makes going up stairs difficult is much more difficult then it is for your average 20something techie.

In general, the people who have the most difficulty with understanding the design, or using the machines are not the ones who are implementing them, and open for public inspection does not mean much if there is no one strongly motivated to go and inspect.

[ Parent ]

Moving Veterans Day is not the answer (none / 0) (#13)
by thenick on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:56:22 PM EST

I'm not sure about everywhere else in the country, but in Michigan and Ohio most people do not get the day off for Veterans Day. The only people who do are Federal employees, so moving the date would only benefit part of the population. Also, if I was given the day off, voting would be not be my first priority. Number one would be to sleep in, followed by sitting on my ass all day, the possibly a run to Best Buy followed by dinner and a large dump.

Really, I don't think Americans care enough about who gets elected because politicians try to make themselves as centrally located on the political scale as possible. To get Americans pumped about an election there has to be some other incentive. For example, voting enters you into a nationwide lottery for $100 million. The money would come from the money that is given to the political parties who don't need it anyways. I'd be first in line to vote if I had the chance to win money.

"Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex
How long must we suffer, O Lord? (3.66 / 3) (#14)
by weirdling on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:46:28 PM EST

Good grief, what is next? Democrats insisting pink elephants came and stoled votes for Al Gore? Allegations of Republican fairies that spoiled ballots for Al Gore? When will this end? I get so tired of hearing people trot out these allegations, which are serious and possibly libelous, and clothing them in the garb of voter franchise. Anyway, let's begin, shall we?

Here is an opinion given by a dissenter on the board that concluded, amazingly, without having data on race by vote cast, that blacks were rejected at a higher rate than whites. It quite neatly deals with this report and shows it to be the pile of crap that it is, but don't expect your news source to bother digging further than the most sensationalistic thing they can find. Essentially, this allegation is based on the fact that there appears at first blush and with no confidence level to be a correlation between counties that are majority black and high spoilage rates. What should be obvious to anyone but the brain-dead, though, is that those same counties have democratic canvassing boards, and so can't possibly be in on some collusion. In other words, if there is massive disenfranchisement, it is Democrats disenfranchising Democrats, which is stupid.

Anyway, the highest rate of spoilage, oddly enough, was an optical scanning system. Seems it was just idiots at the ballots, really, suggesting, once again, that the real correlation is between illiteracy and voting Democrat.

I realise it is entirely too much to expect Democrats to act non-partisanly in this case, but come on, packing a commission with Democrats and then releasing a report that is so riddled with obvious errors and specious correlations, and proceeding to villify the governor (has no control over canvassing boards), and the secretary of state (ditto) for mistakes FRIGGIN DEMOCRATS MADE is the utmost in political lying. And you jackasses have the gaul to insist that the Supreme Court acted partizanly. At no point was Gore *EVER* in the lead. A *full* recount shows him as having lost, still. Yet, people still continue as if this thing can't be resolved and Bush stole the election, when the truth is that Democrats have *NEVER* missed a chance to cast an aspersion on the legitimacy of Bush as president and Al Gore *DID* try to steal the election.

All that being said, the only reform I really support is a muzzle law on the news agencies making it illegal to report the outcome of an election until *ALL* precincts in *ALL* states have closed. No other reform is really necessary.
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.

Not sure what the point of your comment is. (none / 0) (#27)
by jcolter on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 10:41:48 AM EST

I think that we should all be smart enough to realize that the election was too close to call! There was entirely too much subjectivity in the counting of the ballots. I'm not speaking from a Republican perspective (I am a Democrat). The balloting system was so badly flawed that unfortunately, it was impossible to determine wtf had happened.

Did Gore try to steal the election? Absolutely! Did Bush do everything in his power to get his interpretation? Of course! I recognize that I am pissed because my guy lost. But honestly, trying to interpret the Florida election results accurately, I believe to be impossible.

[ Parent ]
Wouldn't have helped (5.00 / 3) (#16)
by krlynch on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:51:01 PM EST

Pass a law which requires states to purchase uniform voting equipment which meets a 2% or less error rate.

I'm surprised that I'm the first to point this out, but would this have helped? If up to 2% of all votes cast are misread, then that means that any election outcome which is determined using those machines that is closer than 2% is suspect (glossing over the details of experimental statistical analysis). That is, if you change the results within a 2% band and the outcome changes, then you can't actually say with any certainty that the result of the election is "correct".

The election in Florida was muh, much closer than that. The final "official" election result nationwide was, if I'm remembering correctly, 5-7.5x10^5 in favor of Gore, our of 100x10^6 ... or half to three-quarters of a percent. How exactly would a mandate of this level of accuracy have changed anything? It may have made the outcome slightly less uncertain, but it still would have been uncertain, since the average counting error would still have swamped the results.

My concern is that by focusing on the voting hardware and making that the major part of their recommendation, the commission is avoiding dealing with the real structural issues that people have raised with the election, and going for the "easy fix", which is going to be horridly expensive and won't actually "fix" anything at all....

USA electoral college strangeness (none / 0) (#18)
by mrBlond on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 05:28:22 PM EST

[POV: I come from South Africa where we've only recently gotten rid of the old fascist government - people fought and died to be able to vote. In my local party if people vote for the binding none of the above (NOTA) option, don't vote, or it's spoilt, their votes are counted as NOTA.]

I've read an article defending the USA electoral college because "it's more fun", "like a baseball series". My understanding of the system is limited, but are the following correct?

Election 1:
049 000 000 Foo
047 600 000 Bar
003 000 000 Baz
000 390 000 Qux
000 010 000 Other
100 000 000 NOTA

1) Foo wins, dispite getting only 24.5% of the vote and with platforms, opposite to her own, getting 75.5% of the vote.
2) Because the voters in certain states are more equal than other, Bar becomes president.
3) Other random winner.

Election 2:
076 000 000 Foo
021 000 000 Bar
002 900 000 Bar
000 099 000 Qux
000 001 000 Other
100 000 000 NOTA

1) Foo wins, dispite getting only 38% of the vote.
2) Bar got 51% of votes in 51% of the "right" states allotted college voters. Foo got 97% of votes in 49% of state allotted college voters. All college members vote according to FPTP, (Foo got 100% of the Delaware vote), and Bar becomes president.
3) In a varaition of 2) one college voter disregards the people's "sovereignty" in his "more equal" state and instead votes for Foo, who wins.
4) Other random winner.

Election 3:
049 000 000 Foo
050 000 000 Bar
049 000 000 Baz
030 000 000 Qux
022 000 000 Other
000 000 000 NOTA

1) Bar wins dispite opposite platforms explicitly getting 75.5% of the vote.
2) Foo or Baz win because the voters in certain states are more equal than others.
3) Other random winner.

Election 4: (a "massive" scandal involving Foo and Bar break just before the election)
000 000 001 Foo
000 000 000 Bar
030 000 000 Baz
029 000 000 Qux
000 000 999 Other
140 999 000 NOTA

1) The electoral college voters vote according to FPTP, Baz becomes president, dispite getting only 15% of the vote.
2) Randomly anything in between.
3) Some electoral college voters are forced to vote according to FPTP and vote for Baz and Qux. Enough electoral college voters are persuaded by PACs to keep the dangerous direct democracy candidates (Baz and Qux) out of the White house and give the necessary number of votes to Bar, who becomes president, dispite getting 0 votes.

Inoshiro for cabal leader.
US does not have NOTA (none / 0) (#21)
by weirdling on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 11:52:06 AM EST

In the electoral college system, the federal government merely expects state governments to appoint electors. *How* they do so is up to them. If they do it by popular election, they must follow federal election law. If they do so by appointment by state legislature, that is fine, too.

The reason is simple: initially, the US president was supposed to only discharge the day-to-day operations of the government, as Congress met only every so often (often only once a year), and somone had to answer the phone, as it were. So, the president had nowhere near the political power he now enjoys. Anyway, given that, and given that federalists weren't convinced your average person understood politics well enough to make such a decision, and given that state governments had a serious stake in federal government, it was left up to the states how they wished to vote for president. Oddly enough, all states chose to pass it on to their constituents in an open election.

Anyway, the way the electoral college works is as follows: each state receives a number of electors proportionate to its congressional districts, so that it has a population-proportionate number of electors, with the minimum number being two, iirc. Then, each state votes in a general election, at which point, depending on state constitution, either all its electors are bound to vote the result of the general election, its electors are bound to vote the proportion of the result of the general election, or its electors are not bound at all, as in the case of Florida, meaning they can vote as they like, which makes it *very* important for the winnnig party to confirm a slate of electors that will vote for the right guy.

GW Bush won the electorate but not the popular vote. This is easy to do in the US, as many states have large populations but require that their electors not vote proportionally. So, if Gore wins 70% of state a, with 30 electors and a population of 1 million, while Bush wins 52% of states b and c, with 15 apiece and 500,000 apiece, it is a tie if all mandate that electors vote the will of the people, even though Gore won 700 000 votes and Bush only won a little over 500 000.

Now, we almost never have a situation where a president wins the election with less than 45% of the popular vote because third parties largely do not work in this country, as there is no real way for them to get into the federal government with any sort of power. Right now, the Libertarian party has over 300 state and local elected officials and very nearly won a seat in Congress, but no third party has done that well for quite some time.

Since the US does not have the NOTA option, we can't develop any statistics about people not having voted or spoiling ballots or what-have-you, so there's no real way to show that Bush is a minority president, as, in the US, voter apathy about the presidential race has been increasing. I know a lot of people who didn't bother voting. I did, but my candidate didn't garner even 1% of the national vote, so my vote hardly matters except as a warning to the duopolists.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
The USA does have NOTA... its called no-shows (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by BlackStripe on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 03:08:46 PM EST

And the original poster's proportions were almost exactly right. Half of Americans choose not to vote, even in presidential election years. So it makes the logic hold as far as how many people supported the president. There was a funny SNL skit in '96 about how only 1 person actually made a decision to vote for Bill Clinton, the rest were either sure-things or no-votes. What the US doesn't have is binding none of the above. As in if BNOTA wins, everyone else loses and the election is redone with those candidates not allowed on the next ballot. They can be voted for as write-ins but that's it. Neat idea?

[ Parent ]
Next ballot; people's sovereignty (none / 0) (#26)
by mrBlond on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 06:57:16 PM EST

> As in if BNOTA wins, everyone else loses and
> the election is redone with those candidates
> not allowed on the next ballot

The "not allowed" is interesting, why should they not be in the revote?

What I don't understand is why people from the USA don't scream bloody murder to have the EC unseated. I understand that normally it results in the 1st option - FPTP (which I would also think insufferable), but the other options are boggling loopholes.

Is "the people's sovereignty" not a known concept there, or is it wittingly not expressed?
Inoshiro for cabal leader.
[ Parent ]

The President answers to... (none / 0) (#31)
by error 404 on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 01:17:58 PM EST

the States, not the people. At least, that's how the rules were originaly written.

No individual votes as an individual for any Federal candidate. Individuals vote for State positions - the Senators and Representatives that meet in DC are there on behalf of their respective states and districts. The President is elected by the States.

The original idea was that the USA was not to be a country. Each State was to be a country, and the USA a sort of organization of States. But then a certain party formed for the purpose of turning that loose federation into a Republic. Lately, that Grand Old Party has reversed its position.
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

One error (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by krlynch on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 03:49:16 PM EST

...each state receives a number of electors proportionate to its congressional districts, so that it has a population-proportionate number of electors, with the minimum number being two, iirc.

Almost right... each state gets a number of electors equal to the number of Representatives and Senators it is entitled to. Since each state has two Senators and at least one Representative, each state gets at least three electors. And the District of Columbia gets electors equal to the number of Representatives and Senators it would be entitled to if it were a state (the citizens of DC are not counted in the determination of congressional apportionment for the rest of the country). Since there are 435 voting members of the House, and 100 voting members of the Senate, the total number of electors is 435+100+3 = 538, and you have to garner 270 electoral votes to be declared the outright victor of the presidential Electoral College voting.

[ Parent ]

Electoral College (none / 0) (#22)
by MrAcheson on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 12:28:06 PM EST

The US does not count people that don't vote or vote incorrectly. The US voting system only counts the votes which were cast. Therefore in your first example Foo would have recieved 49% of the vote not 24.5%. Your NOTA column has no bearing on the election results and should not be considered statistically.

In addition to this, the electors of most states have to cast their votes in a legally given way according to popular vote (either all or nothing or by district). While they can technically cast their votes any way they like, I doubt an incorrectly cast vote would survive a legal battle. I think electors have to put their names on their electoral ballots (the electoral vote is usually televised on CSPAN).

In general the electoral vote serves to increase the margin between the candidates not decrease it. An election that is within 5% popularly (as most are) is likely to be more like 50-100% in the electoral college. This is because districting is usually a good thing. Note that if a President wins the electoral vote but not a majority in the popular vote, then he has to be confirmed by the House. This is a technicality unless he lost the popular vote for some reason.

Occasionally a candidate sweeps the more rural states like Bush did and manages to win the electoral votes despite losing the popular vote. Remember though that he lost the popular vote by something like half a percentage point. Keep in mind most of Bush's victories were 60% or more statistical landslides through the South and West. Gores votes came from more populous states where the elections were 55% or closer. It is unlike anyone will get above 60-65% in any state. For instance in Delaware, Newcastle County is urban/suburban and votes democrat in Wilmington and splits it ticket in the suburbs. Kent and Sussex counties are rural and vote republican. Gore won Delaware by a slim margin. Delaware is usually a good predictor of the popular vote.

Anyway, in you cases it will probably go like this: Case 1: probably 1, Case 2: 1, Case 3: 1 or 2 depending on the states, Case 4: 1.

The real horrible thing about the American voting system is that it excludes third party candidates. I'm sure there are tons of Greens and Libertarians here who can complain about that at length.

These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.

[ Parent ]
One error (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by krlynch on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 03:40:39 PM EST

Note that if a President wins the electoral vote but not a majority in the popular vote, then he has to be confirmed by the House.

This is incorrect. The US Constitution has absolutely nothing to say about popular votes for the offices of President and Vice-president. The only thing that matters is the voting in the Electoral College. It just so happens that each and every state has chosen to use a popular vote to choose its electors (the Constitution grants the right to decide the method of choosing electors to each state legislature).

So not winning a majority of the popular vote is irrelevant (note our last election!) To win the presidency through the Electoral College, a candidate must receive a majority (50% +1) of the electoral college votes, and so must the vice presidential candidate. If there is no majority winner in the EC, then the House votes to choose a president (majority vote) and the Senate vote to choose a vice president (again, majority vote).

In the 19th century, in fact, most of our presidents and vice presidents were chosen this way; it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century that it became possible to run effective national campaigns so that people in every state were choosing from the same slate of candidates.

As for your contention that it is "horrible" that third party candidates are frozen out of the EC system, some people would disagree :-) It has been pointed out by many commentators that the EC almost assures that the candidate eventually chosen is not a fringe wacko (i.e., there is a tendency to the middle of the political spectrum), and the EC system has a tendency to moderate the two major parties. Consider the stability and rather "boring, centrist" politics of the US to the much more "wideranging" politics of just about any European nation; despite some uninformed claims to the contrary, the US system has never been held hostage by a small (or even large!), fringe political force.

[ Parent ]

Ideas (none / 0) (#28)
by strlen on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 10:36:06 PM EST

I think the most important thing we need here is instant run off voting. This liquidates the third party "spoiler" function, you can vote for someone you like in the first stage, and against someone you hate in the second stage, basically. And it fixes the minority president problem, where a president receives less votes then all other candidates combined, but the more then any other candidate (as happened with several presidents already). Another idea is either abandoning the electoral college system all together (trhough a constitutional ammendment (hard), or requiring that all states use Maine's system, rather then a winner takes all system, either also through a constitutional ammendment, or by witholding highway funding (as they did with drinking age). Republican democracy is about protecting minorities, and not fighting against majority rule (having a majority elected president, rather then a minority elected one).

[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
Vote splitting (none / 0) (#29)
by Pseudonym on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 10:07:55 AM EST

I think the most important thing we need here is instant run off voting. This liquidates the third party "spoiler" function [...]
No it doesn't!

In fact, "third" parties (as opposed to "minor" parties) get the worst deal under instant runoff voting, because they can and do split votes if their preferences are not redistributed (which is often the case).

IRV is certainly an improvement over plurality voting, but it's only truly "fair" if used in combination with proportional representation (e.g. the Hare Clark system).

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Condorcet voting (none / 0) (#30)
by mbrubeck on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 07:45:47 PM EST

IRV is certainly an improvement over plurality voting, but it's only truly "fair" if used in combination with proportional representation (e.g. the Hare Clark system).
Very true. For single-winner systems IRV is very unsuitable for many reasons. There are much better solutions for single-winner voting. Probably the best, from a mathematical point of view, is the Condorcet method. You can read about it at electionmethods.org.

The only significant flaw with Condorcet voting is that it tends toward "compromise candidates;" critics complain that it favors breadth of support over strength of support. This may or may not be desired, depending on the circumstances. In any case, the following sentence is ALWAYS true: If Condorcet and IRV produce a different winner from the same set of ballots, then the Condorcet winner would beat the IRV winner in a two-candidate election. That's a pretty strong argument for the Condorcet winner, in my opinion.

It's unfortunate that most instant runoff supporters don't seem to have made a real study of election methods or theory. Many election reformers have only heard of IRV, and don't even know about other more sound methods of voting.

[ Parent ]

National Commission on Federal Election Reform report released today. | 31 comments (28 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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