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Electoral College Change Without Amendments

By adimovk5 in Op-Ed
Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 03:45:04 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

The electoral college has produced controversial decisions six times in the history of the United States. Such election results produce calls for changes to the Constitution. Amending the Constitution is a difficult and complicated process. Only 27 Amendments have passed in over 200 years.

Here are some changes that can be made to the system without amending the Constitution.

Article 2 Section 1 of the Constitution requires the States to choose electors who choose the President.

"Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector."

Problem #1 --- Wyoming versus California
Wyoming with 3 electoral votes has a population of 501,242 while California with a population of 35,484,453 has 55 votes. California has 12.20% of the nation's 290,809,777 people, but it has only 10.22% of the 538 total electoral votes. Wyoming has 0.17% of the population and 0.55% of the electoral college.

This problem has three causes. First is the requirement of the Constitution that the electors equal the total number of Congressmen. Second is the absolute lower limit set by the Constitution on the number of Representatives in the House. Each state is given at least one Representative regardless of population. The third cause is the upper limit on the total number of Representatives. "The number of House Members used to expand as the population expanded, but in 1913, 435 became the set number for Members."

Increasing the number of Representatives will reduce the discrepancy. If Wyoming has one Representative for 501,242 people, California should have approximately 70 Representatives out of 580 at the same ratio. This would give California 72 electors, 17 more votes. California would increase to 10.54% of the 683 electors. Wyoming would drop to 0.43%.

Each increase in House numbers moves the electoral percentages closer to the actual population percentages. The original limit on House size was not to exceed one per 30,000 which would yield a House of 9,693 with 1,182 for California and 16 for Wyoming. However, that might be too much of an increase. The 1,060 point would be large enough to adequately represent people without becoming too unwieldy. It would start with giving Wyoming 2 and every State a multiple of Wyoming. California would have 141, Texas 88, New York 76, and Florida 67. Each member would represent over 250,000 people.

Problem #2 --- State-winner-takes-the-State method disenfranchises voters

Many voters complain that their votes don't count unless they are part of the State majority. The problem is caused by allocating all of the votes in a State to one candidate. The popular vote determines which slate of electors will represent the State. In close elections, this can result in millions of people not receiving their choice of candidate.

Maine and Nebraska have a solution that might help. Each district there is an individual contest while the winner of the State as a whole receives two votes. When you take a look at who holds the governor, Senate and Representative seats in each State, most have both parties represented. Voters who form a minority in a State would have a chance to gain at least one elector. Election by this method would make the race more than a fight for big States.

Problem #3 --- It is almost impossible for third parties to gain a following in national elections.

The problem is caused by the role of political parties in elections. State political parties choose a slate of electors. In November, voters choose which slate of electors represent the State. In most States, only one candidate wins all the electors in the State. Most voters will not choose a third party even in the two States where electors are chosen by district. Voters believe the third party votes have little chance of being enough to affect an election, much less win.

States should allow and encourage third parties to al ign with one of the major parties. Parties could appear on the ballot without their own candidate. Instead, they would support one of the major parties. For instance, a vote for the Green Party (D) would be a vote for the Democrats. A vote for the Libertarian Party (R) would be a vote for the Republicans. Votes for minor parties would not be "lost" or a "vote for the other party". A party would also be free to split itself. Centrist parties could field an Independent (R) and Independent (D) ballot position. This would allow third parties to show the strength of their support. Parties would be free to support their own candidate instead if they wished.

Additional room for third parties could be created by expanding all seats in the House from single member to dual member. Each district would have the potential to be Democrat-Democrat, Democrat-Republican, Republican-Republican, Democrat-Independent, Republican-Independent or Independent-Independent.

Problem #4 --- Disputes over electors

Several past disputes have been over the choice of electors. During the 2000 Bush-Gore election, the popular vote was split evenly between the two candidates. The close electoral vote meant the popular vote tally in Florida could swing the election either way. The 1876 Hayes-Tilden race was even worse.

The problem is caused by the way electors are chosen. When a voter makes a ballot choice in November, he is not voting for a candidate. He is voting for a slate of electors. The electors are party loyalists nominated by the political parties of each State. The electors then vote for the President in December. A dispute over the popular vote in any State automatically effects who the electors are.

The electors should be chosen earlier. In the year prior to the election, the voters should elect electors from each district and two to represent the state as a whole. In November, the voters would not select a slate of electors. The vote would only inform the electors of the desire of the voters. The electors would still meet in December and vote. Choosing the electors ahead of time would allow them to be independent thinkers making informed decisions. Voters could select electors who were statesmen instead of party robots.

Problem #5 --- Too much money is spent on campaigning.

Many people complain about the millions of dollars spent by the candidates for President. The problem is caused by the need of the candidates to get voters to the voting booths. It starts with the first primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa as the hopefuls fight for their party's nomination. Then the nominees spend millions until the November election. The advertising, registration, and get out the vote efforts are expensive.

The electors should be part of the process from the begining. Before the candidates are even chosen, in the year before the Presidential election, the voters should choose the electors. The next March, the electors in each State choose a candidate for President (50 potential candidates). In June, the electors vote and select 5 candidates from the March group. In September, the electors vote and select 3 candidates from the previous 5. In December, the electors select 1 candidate from the previous 3.

During the presidential election year, the electors could study the candidates and the issues. The electors could require the candidates to define their positions, answer questions and participate in debates. The electors could control the process instead of the campaigns or the Federal Election Commission.

As you can see, there is no need to abolish or amend the Constitution to change the electoral system. Great change can be produced using the electoral system as it exists in the Constitution.


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Would any of these work?
o I'd rather leave the system as it is. 20%
o None of them. 8%
o One of them. 4%
o Two of them. 2%
o Three of them. 2%
o Four of them. 0%
o All five of them. 4%
o I'd rather abolish the electoral college than fix it. 57%

Votes: 45
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o electoral college
o controvers ial decisions six times
o calls for changes
o Amending the Constitution
o 27 Amendments
o Article 2 Section 1
o electoral votes
o population
o 538 total electoral votes
o at least one Representative
o "The number of House Members used to expand as the population expanded, but in 1913, 435 became the set number for Members."
o not to exceed one per 30,000
o Maine and Nebraska
o both parties represented
o al ign with one of the major parties
o 2000 Bush-Gore election
o 1876 Hayes-Tilden race
o millions of dollars
o Federal Election Commission
o abolish or amend
o Also by adimovk5

Display: Sort:
Electoral College Change Without Amendments | 116 comments (91 topical, 25 editorial, 0 hidden)
Follow on from campaign spending (none / 0) (#8)
by xria on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 07:04:19 PM EST

The corollary of campaign spending is fund raising. Clearly if a campaign needs to raise over $200 million to run a successful campaign, then people/companies have to be providing it. If the parties want to have a chance of running next term they need to repay that money in terms of favours when/if they are elected, and equally elected governments have an incentive to create policies that are likely to attract donations from wealthy interests.

This can change the interests of politicians to be closer to satisfying a plutocracy rather than a democracy.

I still think it is appropriate for businesses, industries and NGOs to make people aware of the potential effects they predict of various policies before an election as they have the ability to research as a group effort which many individuals would not, but really they should be limited to commenting on individual policies to broaden the analysis and scope of political campaigns.

Among other things making too much legislation to favour large corporations can make an economy much less able to deal with changes in the short term. In addition large corporations are more able to act in anti-competitive ways, which can subvert the entire principles of having a free market.

Ugh. Not another anti electorate story. (2.42 / 7) (#10)
by fluxrad on Sat Oct 30, 2004 at 08:17:57 PM EST

Problem #1 --- Wyoming versus California
Wyoming has 0.17% of the population and 0.55% of the electoral college.

Yes. this was set up so that the smaller states would not be held hostage to the fancy or agenda of the various larger states. Why do people continue to assume that this wasn't what the founding fathers had in mind?

Problem #2 --- State-winner-takes-the-State method disenfranchises voters

Yes, and a national winner-take-all system would also disenfranchise the 49% that didn't vote for the winner. Sometimes your guy loses. Such is life.

Problem #3 --- It is almost impossible for third parties to gain a following in national elections.

I don't see this as nearly the problem that most third-party voters do (for obvious reasons). Personally, I think it's good that it's extremely difficult to become a presidential contender.

Problem #5 --- Too much money is spent on campaigning.

You think overhauling the electoral system is going to get the money out of politics? Who's your dealer and where can I contact him?

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
re: problem #1 (none / 1) (#17)
by zenofchai on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 12:46:43 PM EST

Did you ignore the part about the effect of the cap on the number of representatives, set in the early 20th century? The founding fathers did in fact want to grant smaller states a significant amount of power, but placing a hard cap on the house of reps goes further than the founding fathers, I believe, intended.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
Agreed (none / 0) (#33)
by fluxrad on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 07:19:44 PM EST

But the problem is that you need some sort of cap or we'll wind up with 700 members in the house one day which is just absurd. It needs to be capped somehow.

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
absurdity (none / 0) (#41)
by zenofchai on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 09:24:18 PM EST

I'm not sure that 700 members in the house is absurd, to ensure equivalent representation for the citizens.

The non-absurd way to assign proportional representation is... uh... by proportion. Not in some other way.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

Agreed again (none / 0) (#45)
by fluxrad on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 10:22:35 PM EST

But what number is absurd. Let's say ~500 for a population of 300m. Is 1,000 too high? What about 5,000. At some point the house becomes too diluted. Instead, I would suggest that at certain times it would be more beneficial to increase the number of voters that elect a single representative.

"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Right, but... (none / 0) (#48)
by zenofchai on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 11:00:54 PM EST

I would suggest that at certain times it would be more beneficial to increase the number of voters that elect a single representative.

That would be great... I wonder if Nebraska and Wyoming would mind being combined into a single Congressional district? ;]
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

Dilution in the house (none / 0) (#89)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 03:34:05 PM EST

At some point the house becomes too diluted.
But there are other ways to address this besides increasing the number of voters a representative represents.  Some would grow without need of legal changes; for example, reps might begin to form state delegations where all reps from a state agree to vote the same way.  Something like that might actually end up becoming law, where reps from a given state choose a "State Chair" for a given vote, and empower him or her to cast the State's votes.

Yes, I know there are problems with that, but my point is that increasing the number of reps in Congress doesn't automatically dilute the house: there are ways to manage large numbers of representatives.  What's most important is making sure that citizens are reasonably equally represented in the House.

I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]

You appear to be under some misunderstandings (none / 0) (#103)
by hackwrench on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 01:42:55 PM EST

#1 wasn't set up so that the smaller states would not be held hostage to the fancy or agenda of the various larger states. The Senate was set up that way, but the House of Representatives, and thus the Electoral College was not.

#2 a national winner-take-all system doesn't disenfranchise voters to the extent that State-winner-takes-the-State method disenfranchises voters

#3 Any evidence to back up your assertion that it's good that it's extremely difficult to become a presidential contender.

[ Parent ]
about "too many electoral college stories (1.42 / 7) (#12)
by circletimessquare on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 03:53:45 AM EST

the more we talk about it, the more likely the unjust status quo can change

keep the discussion up everyone, and thank you author

only by falling silent on the issue of the anachronism called the electoral college does the thing actually stand a chance of continuing to exist

because those who think we defy the electoral college don't understand that our reasoning isn't ideological, it's simply logical

and, like all contentious subject matter, more talk leads to more thought, and more thought leads to logic and agreement

the electoral college is a fucking joke, and the more it is talked about, the more people can see that

there's nothing ideological about it at all

those who fail to see that lose the argument

#1: the electoral college is not the heart and soul of federalism. federalism makes sense on a whole range of issues. just not electing a president. so those who defend the electoral college based on defending federalism aren't winning any arguments, they are simply changing the subject

#2: defending the electoral college based on appealing to the wisdom of the forefathers is not sound. historical explanation does not equate to ligcal justification. if you base your argument on defending the electoral college on "because someone smart said so" then you're not very bright are you? the founding fathers got so much right, but they also got some things wrong, some of which has already been overturned in our history.

goodbye electoral college, let the groundswell begin

only silence on the issue and inertia allows it to continue to exist

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

ANOTHER Correction To CircleJerk's Postings (none / 1) (#27)
by Peahippo on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 04:50:57 PM EST

Er, there you go again, CircleJerk, forgetting:

#3: the electoral college is a part of the us constitution and we must actually go through the process of amending said constitution in order to remove it

... so there, now your posting is complete. By the way, bitch, have you written your Rep and Senators, urging them to submit a bill to amend the US Constitution to remove the Electoral College? I eagerly await your answer. I mean, how hard can it be? You can even just send email today, if putting pen to paper (or toner on paper, more likely) is too much effort for you. What do you say, CircleJerk? Don't you have any stomach for even following the law for changing the law? Remember, you can't just ignore Constitutional law on the basis of running a popularity poll, like Clinton's modus operandi (which is also Bush's MO, alas).

[ Parent ]
if you are going to give me a funny nickname (none / 1) (#51)
by circletimessquare on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 12:09:54 AM EST

make sure you don't atually pick the name of someone already here


i look forward to a more creative effort from you next time, but keep up the effort! it's quite entertaining to be the object of so much desire


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

SUBMIT a bill? (none / 0) (#79)
by Zeriel on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 08:53:48 AM EST

Hell, man, didn't you know, there's already a bill there to remove the electoral college by amendment. All he has to do is look up the bill's number and ask his congresscritters to support it. But I suspect that's too much work for him, compared to just trolling K5.

[ Parent ]
Completing the post? (none / 0) (#104)
by hackwrench on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 01:49:12 PM EST

I fail to see how this in any way completes his post. It doesn't in anyway support his arguement, nor did I see any attempt on his part to bring up counterarguements, nor is bringing up counterarguements required.

[ Parent ]
0;vertical spam (3.00 / 2) (#61)
by sllort on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 10:48:03 AM EST

Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
hey (none / 0) (#72)
by circletimessquare on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 01:35:50 AM EST

have you seen some of the postings by that guy calling himself "liberal conservative"?

he's totally ripping off my formatting man!

i'm so pissed >:-(

but lucky for me, i still have groupies like you

it will really hurt when my groupies like you leave me for him ;-(

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Holy crap! (none / 0) (#14)
by davidduncanscott on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 09:40:51 AM EST

Your suggestion #5 is pretty radical surgery for a chronic ailment, don't you think?

I'll agree that the electoral college attentuates the popular vote, but since most (all?) states bind their electors to the popular vote for at least the first ballot, there is still some suggestion of popular will. Your approach removes that completely.

Try asking somebody on the street about a return to state legislatures appointing Senators, and when the bruises have faded somewhat please reconsider your proposal. Americans feel that the problem is that the system badly reflects the popular will, and making that worse hardly seems like the best approach.

The money inherent in the system (none / 0) (#15)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 11:30:39 AM EST

Few of the States actually bind their electors to the popular vote. It's just assumed that they'll follow the popular vote. The popular vote chooses a slate of electors that were chosen by the political party that won the popular vote. Why wouldn't they follow the popular vote? The Constitution is silent on the matter. The legislature picks a method for picking the electors. Then the electors pick the President.

Most of the people I have met and talked to have no idea who their Representatives and Senators are. Also when asked about the issues they only know what they have seen from soundbites and commercials. I've been talking to fervent believers on both sides who can't explain why they are strong supportors beyond 30 seconds of rhetoric. The art of public debate is largely lost.

We elect Senators to make decisions for us. We elect Representatives to make decisions for us. We elect the electors to make decisions for us. The first two are elected honestly and openly.

The electors are hidden. In many States they aren't even on the ballot. Until 2000, most voters had no idea electors existed. They thought they were voting for President. Why not remove the illusion? The voters would still control the process. They would choose the electors. The voters could choose statemen of good judgement or highly partisan politicians.

The point was removal of vast sums of money from the contest. The money doesn't serve to sway reason. It sways emotions. It ignores facts. If removal of money is desired then there can be no popular vote. And the choosing of electors has to be divorced from the politicians.

Any use of the popular vote means money must be used to get the attention of the population. There are over 200,000,000 potential voters. No matter how many restrictions are applied, politicians and lawyers will find loopholes to pour money through. Even at a couple dollars per person, the sums are enormous.


The writers of the Constitution didn't believe in popular will. Every institution is designed to separate the decisions of the government from the mob called Democracy. Democracy swings with the emotions and is a very unstable way to govern. The other options for electing the President were Congress and the States directly. Choice by Congress would make the President owe his job to another branch. Choice by the States would destroy the independence of the federal government. They opted for a compromise, the electors.

Today's popular vote doesn't represent popular will either. It's an illusion. A large number of eleigible voters don't register. A large number of registered voters don't vote. Many voter's don't fill out their forms right or go to the right place. In 2000, Gore had 48.38% of the national popular vote to 47.87% for Bush. It looks like the nation is split evenly. However, only 51.30% of the voting age population voted. So the real percentages are Gore 24.81% Bush 24.55%. Does that sound like popular will?

[ Parent ]

A different opinion (none / 0) (#16)
by marktaw on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 12:04:09 PM EST

A different opinion:
The United States is a noted case where, to avoid the dominance of urban electorates and those of very populous states such as New York and California at the expense of smaller communities, the President is elected by an Electoral College, made up of electors representing the states.

wiki opinion (none / 0) (#24)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 03:25:14 PM EST

The author(s) of the wiki confuse the effect of the electoral college with its reason for being. Here is a better article by a Professor of political science.

The electors don't represent the States. They are chosen in the States by a method selected by the State legislature. They aren't required to vote according to the wishes of the State. They can't be forced to vote according to the wishes of party or popular vote.

The writer's at the Constitutional Convention knew who they wanted to be President with they had no idea how to elect him. Several choices were discussed. Some suggested election by Congress but opponents felt that the Presdent would then have no real power. Some suggested election by the States but opponents argued the States might keep the federal government forever weak. Most were afraid that general population was too uneducated and too easily swayed to ever make a wise choice.

At least seven methods were approved and reversed as the Convention continued. Arguments and new points caused the Convention members to change their votes back and forth. Finally a committee was chosen to decide the issue.

The resulting compromise was genius. It insulates the President from the Legislative branch. It also allows the President to be independent of the State legislatures. It provides a simple method for how to apportion votes. It's flexible because the method of choosing electors is left up to the States. The legislature can choose itself, let the governor choose, let the population choose or even let the Chief Justice choose. The electors are distributed by population but the addition of two for the Senators allays the fears of small States. It was a compromise as great as the one that provides two Houses in the legislature.

[ Parent ]

What you say is true, but... (none / 0) (#25)
by marktaw on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 03:38:53 PM EST

In terms of *today's* political scene, they always do vote with the popular vote. Reversing the electoral college will mean that smaller states have less say.

This is less important now than it was then due to the omnipresent television and to a lesser extent, the Internet, because it means every person in the nation can be just as informed as any other, which was much harder to acheive during the Constitutional Convention. Back then you would vote on people who you thought would make a good and informed decision. Now the electoral college don't actually make any decisions.

[ Parent ]

Question. (none / 0) (#29)
by Kal on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 05:19:00 PM EST

Do you honestly beleive the average person today is any more informed than the average person in the 1800s?

[ Parent ]
Wha? (none / 0) (#32)
by debillitatus on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 07:08:21 PM EST

Do you honestly beleive the average person today is any more informed than the average person in the 1800s?

Yes, of course. What was the literacy rate in the US in 1800, or even 1890? Education level?

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm nowhere near asserting that the US populace is well-informed now, but it's a hell of a lot better than it was in the 19th century. I mean, come on.

Damn you and your daily doubles, you brigand!
[ Parent ]

No really people are not informed (none / 0) (#64)
by cione on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 01:35:25 PM EST

People today know more but in reality that doesn't mean that they are more aware. The issues of the 19th century were really cut and dry by today's standards but back then they were cutting-edge topics. We as a World have more issues today.

Assisted Suicide wasn't a public issue at one point in history. Today the same topic has more than just religious points. Stem cell research wasn't an issue 50 years ago. Do you think the common American knows enough to really vote on these issues? Let's take a look at the U.S. Military. I would bet that not a single average American knows the true logistics and abilities of this massive force. I would also bet that sadly the common Iraqi has a much better idea. Yet we vote on that very issue.

Just because a person can read and write doesn't mean that they do in a manner that allows for better decisions. People in general I would bet are less informed today then in the past of what and who they are voting for. I know how to build a computer, connect it to the world and talk to you but I don't know squat about the people in Indonesia where my shoes are made.


$.04 to make a $100 bill now thats a profit margin
[ Parent ]

By that argument... (none / 0) (#78)
by guinsu on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 08:33:02 AM EST

By that argument, why let the common people vote at all? If they are so uneducated as to not beable to directly elect the president, why let them even vote for electors that, with two exceptions, gives them the outcome of ELECTING the fucking president.

[ Parent ]
Dont lean too far. (none / 0) (#86)
by cione on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 11:48:07 AM EST

The case was made people were more informed today. That's not true. Smarter maybe, but not more informed. Let's not confuse the two. I think maybe the difference is maybe how people pick one thing they disagree with rather reading or listening to the whole conversation. The more informed person may agree or disagree with the whole subject as a less informed may just pick one or two topics to have a problem with. Both have merit one just made more informed decision.


$.04 to make a $100 bill now thats a profit margin
[ Parent ]

alternatively (none / 1) (#18)
by dimaq on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 12:59:12 PM EST

you could make the whole presidency thingy less important by shifting the power from federal to the state level.

power shift (none / 0) (#23)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 02:46:17 PM EST

The previous American government failed because the States had too much power versus the central government. The writer's of the Constitution took great care to give the federal government power and structure enough to make it truly independent of the States.

The federal government has more power than originally granted to it in the Constitution. It would probably help to trim the federal government back some but great care should be exercised in returning power to the States beyond the original limits.

[ Parent ]

writers of the consitution didn't mean... (none / 0) (#54)
by dimaq on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 03:23:41 AM EST

they didn't mean federal power to the people anyway, which usians think they have cause they elect a president, or in this case representatives that choose the president, or what was it again? - they only meant to homogenise a few states, to group those states in a struggle against monarchy, isn't it so?

[ Parent ]
Failure? (none / 0) (#55)
by jeremyn on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 03:34:56 AM EST

Is restrained spending because noone could agree such a bad thing?

[ Parent ]
Various comments (none / 1) (#19)
by godix on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 01:29:10 PM EST

#1 - You present Wyoming versus California as if it were a bad thing. I personally like it this way. It helps, in theory at least, to make a government representing all Americans instead of a government representing California, New York, and Flordia telling the other 47 states what to do. Fortunately enough of our forefathers thought in a similar way that the EC compromise was born.

Besides, as you pointed out, following the logic behind this to it's conclusion would lead to a House of 9693 and growing larger. Congress has enough deadlocks, backroom deals, and general inefficiencies because of it's current size, do you really think adding over 9000 representative will improve Congress?

#2 - While I'm not a fan of winner take all the fact is the President is constitutionally bound to that method. Your idea doesn't eliminate winner take all, it just moves it up a rung from the vote for electors to the actualy vote for President. It'd just serve to complicate things with no real gain.

#3 - This is tied very closely to #5 and a change in how we finance elections would solve both. Third parties are as tiny as they are largely because they can't get real coverage. I do notice last time a third party got serious coverage he got ~15% of the vote and that was for a total fucking wacko. Make changes so that third parties can get real coverage, instead of the 'X is a joke' like Naders getting, and third parties will become more significant. Electors have little to do with this issue.

#4 - No, the problem was that 1876 election fraud was so common and blatent in a way that would absolutely stun people today (back then the KKK didn't hesitate to hang people in order to make blacks afraid to vote. And some think a police car managing traffic in 2000 was intimidating...) In 2000 the problem was that the elecetion SHOULD have gone to Congress and it didn't. In 2004, well, we'll have to wait and see but with the way both parties are gearig up for legal challenges it might be another case where Congress should take it but won't. One of those problems has, to a large part, already been dealt with. The other wouldn't have been changed by your idea. We don't need to change how electors are voted to fix it, we just need to remind everyone that part of the role of Congress is choosing a President in close cases.

#5 - The ONLY way to remove money out of politics is to make politicians so powerless they aren't worth buying. Nothing else will do it, certainly not a change in electors. Since the US isn't going to make politicans that powerless (and that's probably a good thing) the best we can hope for is total 100% transparency in funding. Perhaps toss in some changes to the free coverage candidatees get (IE the debates) to make third parties more visible. However this is an entirely different subject than what you've brought up. Again, changing electors isn't going to solve the problem.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.

on #1 (none / 0) (#20)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 01:48:20 PM EST

The extra weight given to less populous States isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself. However, the restriction to 435 Representatives shifts the power too much. An enlargement to 9693 would likely be too much.

I suggest a move to at least 580 with every State a single multiple of Wyoming to make the Representatives more exactly proportional. A move to 1060 with everything a multiple of Wyoming and Wyoming starting with 2 would yield better representation. At 1060, each member would represent over 250,000 people. The 1060 point would be large enough to adequately represent people without becoming too unwieldy. There is no reason to go to the extreme 9693.

[ Parent ]

Combined reply (none / 0) (#71)
by godix on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 01:26:35 AM EST

On #1:
The 1060 point would be large enough to adequately represent people without becoming too unwieldy.

I think there's unintended consequences you're overlooking. Currently Congress is so large that real debate never gets done and the only reason Congress can act to pass laws is because it's a two party system with a leadership that can somewhat keep their party in line. Nearly doubling Congress size will just entrench the two party system even further just to keep order. If anything I think Congress should be made smaller. When three guys get together there are three different opinions tossed around. When 535 guys get together things quickly boil down to 2 opinions because 535 different opinions is just to unmanagable so people band together for simplicities sake.

On #2:

The winner-take-all system results from the method of picking electors chosen by the State legislatures.

No, it doesn't. The winner-take-all system results from the fact that at the end of it all one guy is President and everyone else are losers. That is built into the system and can't be changed short of a Consitutional ammendment and a major restructuring of the government.

It's not the same as direct election, but it is a step closer

You and I have two different opinions here, you want a diret election (or at least closer to it) and I feel the consequences of a direct election would be harmful and prefer an indirect election. For Congress direct elections are great, and we have them. A President however is supposed to represent everyone in the nation and a direct election would mean NYC, LA, Chicago, and a couple other major cities control who is president and any issue that is important to rural areas but not urban instantly gets ignored and neglected.

On #3

If they were able to vote Nader but have their votes count Democratic, they would be more inclined to vote for him on election day.

You seem to suffer the delusion that many went through in 2000. Contray to popular belief not all Nader voters would vote for the Democrat if Nader wasn't running. I know quite a few Nader voters, both in 2000 and 2004, who would either have voted for Bush, another third party, or not voted at all if Nader wasn't running. Ditto for Libertarians but even more so, Libertarians tend to hate Bush almost as much as Democrats do.

Basically any idea that boils down to 'Lets ignore how a voter really voted and claim he voted for a totally different guy' is wrong.

If you make it so that it's an optional choice on the ballot and they can choose 'nader then no one' or 'nader then kerry' is still a problem. In effect you're allowing some people two votes but not others. Consider it this way, could I vote for Bush twice? If not why would you give someone two votes by allowing them to vote for Nader AND Kerry?

Note: I'm opposed to this in principle not because it'd help the guy I personally hope loses. I would have opposed this for the same reason if someone sprung up the idea in 1996 when it would have helped the guy I was for (ah Dole, a far better man and politician than either of the assholes we have running today)

If their numbers grew they would be able to gain concessions from the Democrats and influence policy

No they wouldn't, they'd lose any influence and concessions they can get under the current system. As things stand Kerry would have to give some concession to Nader voters in order to win their votes. Under your proposed system Kerry wouldn't have to give ANY concession to gain Naders voters, he automatically gets them so he's free to ignore them. Look at the black votes for a case of how much having your vote taken forgranted gets.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]
efficient Congress (none / 0) (#112)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 10:57:05 PM EST

.....the only reason Congress can act to pass laws.....

You're advocating an efficient Congress. I'd rather the States were efficient and Congress were inefficient. Congress was intentionally built to stall action. The Senate composed of States and the House representing the people were supposed to be at odds with each other and the President. If I had my way, committees would be dissolved and all business would be handled by the Senate as a whole body and the House as a whole body.

Efficient response should only be needed when there is an overwhelming need to take collective action. Otherwise I'm sure the States can handle any problems that come along.

[ Parent ]

Slight difference (none / 0) (#113)
by godix on Fri Nov 05, 2004 at 03:46:35 AM EST

I'm argueing that a larger Congress will be totally ineffective rather than just inefficient. I understand the inefficient arguement, and to some degree support it, but there's a point where you get too inefficient.

What I personally would like to see (and never will) is a large return to states rights. If federal powers were curtailed enough you could safely make a smaller congress where a congresscritter can get attention to third options on the few remaining national issues.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

on #2 (none / 0) (#21)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 02:03:44 PM EST

The Constitution doesn't bind electors to the winner-take-all. The winner-take-all system results from the method of picking electors chosen by the State legislatures. Political parties choose a slate of electors. Voters choose one of the slates. Since the slates all belong to a single party, the contest becomes winner-take-all.

Idea #2 doesn't "move it up a rung from the vote for electors to the actualy vote for President". It moves part of the vote for electors down to the local Congressional district while leaving two electors at the State level. Each district has a winner. The State as a whole has a winner.

It's not the same as direct election, but it is a step closer. It would make it possible to see the effects of more direct elections without resorting to Amendment. I agree with you that it would be more complicated, but I don't think it would serve no real gain. If it did empower the urban areas too much, the States could easily roll back the change.

[ Parent ]

on #3 (none / 0) (#22)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 02:12:20 PM EST

Third parties can't get coverage because they can't get enough votes. They can't get enough votes because too many people feel the votes are meaningless. Nader's party leans Democratic. If they were able to vote Nader but have their votes count Democratic, they would be more inclined to vote for him on election day. Their votes would still help the Democrat candidate beat the Republicans. If their numbers grew they would be able to gain concessions from the Democrats and influence policy. Imagine if 20% or more of the Democrat vote was due to Nader's Greens. That same 20% would also gain them funding for get out the vote drives. They would also have a seat at the debates.

The same applies to Libertarians. Strong showings at the voting booth would allow them to influence Republican behavior.

[ Parent ]

Nader Isn't the Green Candidate Anymore [nt] (none / 1) (#37)
by unknownlamer on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 07:57:24 PM EST

<vladl> I am reading the making of the atomic bong - modern science
[ Parent ]
Congress? (none / 0) (#50)
by /dev/trash on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 11:50:46 PM EST

Who was in control of Congress in 2000?  The Dems still woulda sued.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
30,000 (none / 0) (#30)
by pyro9 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 05:24:17 PM EST

The shift away from one Representative per 30,000, however practical, has had an unfortunate effect on constituants.

Although a district of 30,000 is too large to expect to personally know your representative, it's small enough that he will in one way or another probably find himself face to face with each constiutuant without the benefit of securety at some point. Perhaps while getting gas or at the grocery store. If he sells out, he'll have to live with being glared at everywhere he goes. He might actually become his small town's laughing stock.

Districts of 30,000 are small enough that the representative will be much closer in socio-economic status to his constituants. In low income areas, the odds will be much better that NONE of the cantidates can afford to steamroll the others by carpet bombing style advertising. The more expensive means of advertising will actually be the least cost effective since the vast majority of people who might hear a radio or television add won't be in the cantidate's district. The cantidate who personally staples his election posters up will be just as effective within his district.

No more excuse for not reading his own mail. If 10% of his constituants write him a letter during a 4 year term, it's only 2.5 letters a day. If only 5% write him, he should have time to reply personally. (The last time I wrote my congressman, I got back a form letter thanking me for supporting him in legislation I opposed in my letter!)

With any luck there will be too many for a roll call vote to be practical, no more selling out with no paper trail to haunt them.

As many problems as having a Congress that size might cause, it would also solve a great many problems.

The future isn't what it used to be
The Maine + Nebraska system is a bad one. (3.00 / 3) (#39)
by aphrael on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 08:39:59 PM EST

I'm all in favor of a more proportional allocation of electoral votes within states; but tying it to congressional districts increases the damage done to our system by safe seats and gerrymandering. Given tht 95% or more of congressional seats are effectively unwinnable by opposition candidates in most years, rendering electoral votes in terms of congressional districts would make presidential elections largely pointless.

safe seats and gerrymandering (none / 0) (#44)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 09:41:24 PM EST

Electors don't stand for re-election. I think that would reduce the safe-seat problem.

How would the presidential elections by district be any less pointless than election by the current method?

I would like to see a combination of things happen. First, pick the electors a year early. Second, pick them by district. Third pick them two per district. The combination should result in a system that works closer to the original intent of the Constitution writers.

[ Parent ]

How could it reduce the safe seat problem? (none / 0) (#47)
by aphrael on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 10:36:45 PM EST

The issue is that in the average congressional district, party registration is skewed to be 60% or better for a particular party. Which is to say, a district which elected a democratic congressman would almost always elect a democratic elector, etc.

How is this in our interest?

[ Parent ]

i agree (none / 0) (#59)
by somasonic on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 09:48:33 AM EST

I used to be a huge proponent of electoral-vote-splitting, however it was done, but recently the argument your making has made me realize it's very very flawed. Splitting a portion of the electoral vote based on a general whole-population tally seems like an acceptable and much less horrible-situation prone method.

[ Parent ]
safe seats killed by double seats (none / 0) (#111)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 10:48:27 PM EST

adimovk5: I would like to see a combination of things happen. First, pick the electors a year early. Second, pick them by district. Third pick them two per district. The combination should result in a system that works closer to the original intent of the Constitution writers.

aphrael: How could it reduce the safe seat problem? The issue is that in the average congressional district, party registration is skewed to be 60% or better for a particular party. Which is to say, a district which elected a democratic congressman would almost always elect a democratic elector, etc.

With two seats per district, there would rarely be safe seats. Congress critters would always be unsure of their safety. They would have to try hard every election cycle to win votes. For example, in a district that is 60% PARTY(A) and 40% PARTY(B), if voting is along party lines (A) wins seat one and (B) wins seat 2. This will be the most common result if both the major and minor party fight vigorously for their seats.

Voter participation in Presidential races is about 50% of the eligible voting age. A third party need only win enough votes to oust one of the two. A third party need only rally 100% of its supporters to mount a challenge. The two favorites should always be under pressure.

There would also be ample opportunity for party splitters to run as independents against the favored party nominee. Local politics is much different from State level politics. Sometimes one party would gain both seats, but the weaker of the two would always be in danger of losing his seat.

[ Parent ]

Issue #3 (none / 1) (#40)
by aphrael on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 08:42:50 PM EST

The type of system you describe is referred to as 'cross-filing'. California used to do this; it was introduced as part of an attempt to reduce republican party dominance in the progressive era (when democrats simply could not get elected to a statewide office), and it was abolished as part of an attempt to reduce republican party dominance (where the same candidate, almost always a republican, would run in both the democratic and republican primaries). :)

not cross-filing, slate support (none / 0) (#42)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 09:25:57 PM EST

In cross-filing a candidate could run in more than one party primary.

My idea isn't the same as cross-filing. A minor party without a chance of winning on its own could chose not to run one at all. Instead it would declare for one of the major parties regardless of the candidate that party chose. Candidates would still only be allowed to run in one primary.

Example :
...Republican - Dole
...Democrat - Bush
...Reform - Perot
...Green - (Democrat)
...Libertarian - (Republican)
...Constitution - (Reform)

In this case, the Reform party thinks they can win so they nominate Perot. The Green, Libertarian and Constitution parties don't think they can win. They opt to support more popular parties with whom they share some opinions. Votes for them will be votes for the major party slates.

They can hope to gain enough votes to win an automatic ballot position next year and possibly some influence in the major parties.

[ Parent ]

damn, screwed up the names <nt> (none / 0) (#43)
by adimovk5 on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 09:29:40 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 1) (#46)
by godix on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 10:32:59 PM EST

Democrat - Bush

Look, I know he spends like a democrat and starts social programs like a democrat and has a party boy history like a democrat and makes an equal opportunity cabinet like a democrat and...

Hmm, I'm sure I had a point when I started but I don't remember what it was.

- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

That's a fair point. (none / 0) (#49)
by aphrael on Sun Oct 31, 2004 at 11:40:22 PM EST

I suppose this is a similar problem to the NYC thing with the liberal and conservative parties running identical candidates to the republicans and democrats, at times.

[ Parent ]
_ (none / 1) (#52)
by felixrayman on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 12:50:58 AM EST

The tree is rotting from the trunk up. The solution is not pruning.

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

no political philosophy is valid (2.00 / 3) (#56)
by circletimessquare on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 03:45:38 AM EST

that says the masses are wrong

the government in a democracy is and should be a reflection of its people

if all of the people are wrong, then the government will be wrong, and everyone will pay the price... but there is no superior option to this scenario: if a mistake is to be made, let it be an honest valid one

because you cannot ask the masses to pay for a mistake made by a small elite- that would delegitimize the elite

you can only ask the masses to pay for a mistake of their own creation... because elite classes of people and compelling worldviews come and go like fashions and whim, but the masses are forever

it is a fallacy to believe in a smaller, somehow special class of people who are right by virtue of birth, education, money, or whatever

because when this smaller, somehow special class of people are wrong (and they always are: it is often only in their own eyes that they are right and the masses wrong... their "education" and "better intelligence" really boils down to nothing more than indoctrination in a given pov) and if they were to gain power, then it is not they who will pay the price, it is the people who will pay the price for their mistakes

so an elite cadre who is "right" and the masses wrong is simply an impossibility: only the pov of the masses perseveres

so being at odds with the masses is simply an invalidation of your world view in a democracy

that doesn't mean that the masses can't be wrong in a theoretical sense, and you not right- no, the masses can be very very wrong on a given issue

it is just that there is no valid way to enforce a minority viewpoint on a problem that runs counter to what the masses want

this does not invalidate the possibilty of change, au contraire: when the masses find themselves to be wrong, they are in a better position to absorb the mistake and correct their failed pov... now, if a pov were enforced by some sort of special minority on the masses, even if that viewpoint is theoretically superior, the very act of opposing the wishes of the masses casts a pall and resistance to accept the superior pov should the minority try to enforce their worldview

there are no shortcuts in life, and everyone makes mistakes

the only valid road is to let the masses go where they think is best, let them stumble when they make a mistake, and let them learn

this is the only valid path for any society to take

no elite class need apply

and a democracy, for all it's problems, is still therefore better than any other system of government

because everyone makes mistakes: the masses do, the elites do

but only in a democracy do the masses pay for only the mistakes they make

that makes a democracy the only system of government that can remain legitimate over an extended period of time, and survive the whims and fancies of various cadres of elites that come and go, and give the society good ideas, and give the society bad ideas, as the elites always do in equal parts

also note: these points about the masses and the elites does not invalidate liberal concerns... it invalidates liberal AND conservative concerns

for there is a rate of change that every society has, like some sort of mathematical constant

rushing that rate of change, such as liberals might do, will result in taking the society places that are not totally thought out, and so result in injustice and suffering

likewise, retarding the rate of change, such as conservatives might do, will result in society stagnating and unable to incorporate new and better ideas, and so result in injustice and suffering

so, take note: if you find yourself thinking of the average man as stupid, you are not better than him or her, you are merely alienated to him or her

for yes, you may have a better idea in your mind than the masses do

but who is to say your idea might not actually be worse?

do you honestly think so highly of yourself to make that judgment and enforce that on other people?

does that not sound like the formula for so much suffering that has taken place in history?

trust the masses

trust them in all their slow, stumbling glory

they get tot he right spot eventually, and it is they who are we are supposed to serve after all

they do not exist to serve you

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

amen (nt) (none / 1) (#60)
by LilDebbie on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 09:49:29 AM EST

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
How there might be an ammendment (2.50 / 4) (#62)
by NoBeardPete on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 01:17:44 PM EST

There could be an ammendment to change the electoral college system, but first the electoral college needs to fail in a spectacular way. That's the only way there'll be political will to replace it with something better.

Here's one way it might happen.

In the election on Tuesday, the American people vote such that the electoral college is split 269-269, assuming electors all vote as they should. According to the Constitution, at this point, the House of Representatives picks from amongst the top three candidates. In a straight up House vote between Bush and Kerry, Bush will easily win.

One of the Democratic electors has a clever idea. Recognizing that a Kerry win is a lost cause now, and hoping for a president he finds more palatable than Bush, he votes for a moderate, well liked, somewhat maverick Republican. This is most likely John McCain. Now when the House of Representatives votes between the top three candidates, they will be voting between Bush, Kerry, and McCain. The Democratic members of the House will all get behind McCain, knowing that Kerry is a lost cause, and preferring him to Bush. If a relatively small number of Republican Congressmen vote for McCain instead of Bush, McCain could be president.

Maybe it doesn't get quite that far, though. We're supposing that one Democratic elector casts a vote for McCain. The extreme Republicans might anticipate this, and have _two_ of their electors vote for someone who is extreme and unpalatable to most Democrats, say, Tom DeLay. Then the top three candidates would be Bush, Kerry, and DeLay. Of course, anticipating this, the Democrats would have to throw more votes to McCain, and anticipating that, the Republicans would have to throw more towards their prefered third candidate.

There would be some complicated maneuvering, where each party tried to predict what the other one was up to, so that they could best counteract it. There's a good chance there'd be some degree of spying, and maybe a couple of good scandals in the period of time between the polls closing and the electors casting their votes. This is on top of the lawsuits that will doubtless spring up over counting and recounting and disenfranchisment and dead voters and all that jazz. If the Democrats are truly willing to give up on Kerry at this point, of course, the Republicans can't keep their favored third candidate out of the top three, so McCain could well go on to win.

After the American people get over the shock of all of this, they become outraged. What is wrong with their democracy, they ask, that an election can be won by a man noone has voted for? This provides the political will to rehaul the electoral college, and replace our current system with one that makes more sense.

Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!

My god, that could actually work. (none / 1) (#73)
by Kasreyn on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 03:32:15 AM EST

You just scared the crap out of me.

I hope John Ashcroft wasn't reading this one. -_-;;


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Ummmm.... fundamental flaw in your logic (none / 1) (#74)
by cactus on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 03:48:04 AM EST

If one of the Democratic electors votes for McCain, it's not a 269-269 split anymore - Bush wins 269-268-1.
"Politics are the entertainment branch of Industry"
-- Frank Zappa
[ Parent ]
nope (3.00 / 2) (#80)
by jupo on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 09:04:51 AM EST

You must have a true majority, or 270 electoral votes, to win in the College. If no one person gets 270, it goes to the House. -jupo

[ Parent ]
An easy Bush win in the House? (none / 0) (#77)
by Millennium on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 06:28:54 AM EST

I'm not so sure that Bush would have such an easy time in the House. Republicans do have control there, but their margin is very slim, and there's a significant faction of malcontents. It would only take a couple of people to swing it back towards Kerry.

Mind you, any Republican voting for Kerry in such a scenario would probably find their political career to be over in a hurry. But I can think of a few who would be more than willing to kamikaze their own careers to see Bush gone. The only question is: would there be enough?

What's the fun in being "cool" if you can't wear a sombrero? -Hobbes

[ Parent ]
one minor point (none / 0) (#91)
by jreilly on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 05:40:16 PM EST

If the election gets thrown into the house, then the president isn't chosen though a simple vote. Rather, each state gets one vote. Yep, in this case, Wyoming and California have the exact same input, essentially Senate-izing the house. Though it will be quite fun to see any states with even splits fighting it out amongst themselves =)

Oooh, shiny...
[ Parent ]
reference (none / 0) (#92)
by jreilly on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 05:51:22 PM EST

Article 2, section 3 of the us constitution, though modified slightly by the 12th amendment in a way that doesn't affect this

Oooh, shiny...
[ Parent ]
Your scenario don't work as you described (none / 0) (#95)
by skwang on Wed Nov 03, 2004 at 03:08:17 PM EST

You are correct in that the states vote for the top three contenders with one state each. Let's assume in your scenario, John McCain is one of the three contenders and the Dems all vote for him abandoning Kerry.

Since the Republicans hold an absolute majority in the House in this one vote per state contest, they will elect Bush. The only chance for McCain to be elected is if enough Republicans break from their party (unlikey) and that they are the right ones in the right states (a New York Republican breaking from Bush won't matter) to give McCain more states. For instance of the single Republican Represenative from Montana votes for McCain, that state's vote goes toward McCain.

Interestingly enough, only the top two contenders for Vice-President are then chosen in the Senate if there is not an absolute majority in the electoral college.

[ Parent ]

We Must Keep the Electoral College! (none / 1) (#65)
by egg troll on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 07:41:38 PM EST

The Electoral College was begun because our Founding Fathers correctly recognized that the common citizen could not be relied upon to make an informed vote. In this day and age, I certainly don't trust your typical American to cast their vote correctly. Thus, I am reassured to know there is a body of altruistic intellectuals willing to step in when the public gets off course.

He's a bondage fan, a gastronome, a sensualist
Unparalleled for sinister lasciviousness.

But Electors don't vote (none / 0) (#83)
by deadcow on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 10:34:14 AM EST

That's adimovk5's point exactly. The electors are just party loyalists who vote one way or the other, based on the typical American's vote . I think your argument should be "reinstate the electoral college"... But then again, I don't see why the electoral college would be any more "correct" in their approach. "a body of altruistic intellectuals"?! Are you kidding me? The electoral college would, if given the sole power to elect the president, quickly become a morass of political corruption and special interests.

[ Parent ]
Or sometimes they really don't vote (none / 0) (#99)
by derumi on Wed Nov 03, 2004 at 09:52:44 PM EST

Any chance that elector from DC will withhold her vote in protest this year like she did in 2000?

[ Parent ]
Why the Electoral College Exists (none / 1) (#67)
by cdguru on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 10:07:33 PM EST

One reason is certainly to isolate the election of the president from the popular vote. It was assumed that someone like Lyndon Larouche could be elected because of "appear to the masses" and this would be so horrible as to require the imposition of some mediator to prevent that. With television and the Internet this is probably even more a danger today than it was then - it is very easy for a candidate to make an emotional appeal that is utterly devoid of facts.

The other reason, which we should all be thankful for, is that it mandates 51 separate elections. Each with their own set of rules and each with their own independent decision. If we had a single monolithic vote we would have utter chaos - every presidential election would require a nationwide recount unless it it was a "landslide". This would be unworkable and would result in the country being leaderless for long periods of time while the real results were finally determine.

-1 You're right but (none / 0) (#68)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 11:16:52 PM EST

none of this is going to change.  Except more states might abandon winner take all.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
Response to Number 1 (none / 0) (#69)
by baberg on Mon Nov 01, 2004 at 11:21:53 PM EST

You are using a flawed method for determining your argument. Yes, Wyoming gets 3 Electoral Votes. 2 represent the Senate seats, one represents the House seat. California gets 55, of which 53 represent the House.

If you remove the 100 Senate seats, plus the 3 that are given to Washington DC (who has no representation in Congress) then you get 53/435, or 12.18% of the electoral votes by population in California. Wow, it's almost like it's set up that way!

Problems with your solutions: (1.33 / 3) (#76)
by Kasreyn on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 04:02:26 AM EST

Increasing the number of representatives: Just think of all the additional stress for D.C. residents, who will be even less able to find parking that's not taken up by some asshole above-the-law congresscritter. And there would need to be 4 new lobbyists for every new congresscritter, to keep them all occupied. I honestly don't know if D.C.'s infrastructure could support it all. I say, find the largest state by population and give it 50 representatives, then base every other state's ratios on that state's ratio.

Of course, I've always thought that the Senate was a weird idea. Not the bicameral thing - that's good - but having it be by state. I consider it an unfortunate flaw of the birth pangs of this nation. Back then, they were trying to write a constitution that would entice 13 sovereign states to give up a lot of central control to an untested political experiment, brainchild of weirdos with first names for last names, like Jefferson and Franklin. They had to include some sort of "state power" because back then everyone cared about their state. Today people only care about their state when they renew their driver's license. Culturally, we identify ourselves as Americans first, and people of our home states second.

Hell, I'd be in favor of abolishing the States and simply redividing the nation into districts based on population. It would get rid of all the disproportionate problems too. Basically, we only need the Senate and the Electoral College in order to keep the big states from treading on the tiny ones. Well, if all political subdivisions in the country were of equal population, who would be able to do any treading? Of course, the problem with this is there would have to be constant redivisioning as certain areas grow in population. For instance, my home county in Florida (motto: "Yes, we ARE stupid enough to re-elect Katherine Harris") would have to gain about 2 new districts every year. Perhaps there could be two types of districts: rural districts, and urban districts: urban districts being exactly ten times the population and having ten representatives? That way, NYC and Miami and other such places wouldn't have to add 5 new reps every year.

It's largely moot to me. I've never seen the problem with the more populous areas getting more attention. Umm... hello? There are more people there. What do you have in Wyoming, besides missile silos and sheep? Fuck you. We humans in Florida outnumber you by several million times, and that's just counting the illegal aliens who mow our lawns. Come in from the cold or quitcher bitchin. :P

As to electors being independant thinkers: so I see you're not too big a fan of this "by the people" thing!! I know, silly idea, wasn't it? Letting the people control their own destiny and all. But the corporate swine who've bought out the media and taken over public discourse in this country beat you to the punch of disenfranchising America. Sucks when someone steals your thunder, huh?

Or, to be less sub-tile: you dork, the entire POINT of electors is for them to BE robots. Assuming there ever was a point. Why not just have all of a state's individual human votes go to a candidate that gets the majority, rather than entrusting tens of thousands of votes to someone who goes to conventions and wears a giant hat shaped like an elephant? Doesn't it disturb you that elephant hat men treat your vote as a mere recommendation? People like that should in looney bins, or at least forced to appear on the Jerry Springer Show naked, not handed the keys to our nation's elections and told "hey, your people kinda want you to vote for this guy, if you feel like it right now." Third parties: ha! What were you ON when you wrote that? I want some. Just kidding - I don't do drugs. They might make me open my mouth and say something foolish. It's not a third party if it's not actually running a candidate. Well, it is, but it's already admitted defeat. You can't "vote Green for Kerry". If you vote for Kerry, the result of your vote is that a Democrat gets in office, and you just gave a sticky, used feeling to some REAL Greens. What you actually did was, you voted Democratic, and kidded yourself about still being Green. Nothing more. The REAL reason third parties don't get elected is because the two-party stranglehold is inherent in plurality voting, and unfortunately that AIN'T gonna change without a revolution.

Another problem I see, which you seemed to just ignore, is how the caucuses and primaries in certain states are given such importance. Fuck NH. Fuck IA. How many people have they got, 10? I say, all states should be required by FEDERAL law to hold any primaries, caucuses, conventions, or other gatherings for terminally brain-dead people who have nothing better to do than wave giant posters and fail to dance, on the same day of the year, simultaneously. The reason IA and NH get so much attention is they happen to go first.

Either that, or let's just get into a competition. How about Hoosiers pass a state amendment moving their primary back to Jan. 1 of that year? Then Minnesota might make theirs Christmas of the previous year. We'd have a primary earliness arms race, and before long it would turn out that the first primaries for the next election would be held sometime in 1960. And H. G. Wells is dead, dammit, so that won't work either.

C'mon, America. Even if we're too hamstrung in the system we've got to escape it, let's at least be honest with ourselves about what WOULD have worked better. Equal representation. Approval voting. All primaries held simultaneously.


P.S. Though I must admit, the Framers' hands were tied on the Equal Representation thing, Approval Voting is a more recent innovation AFAIK, and the primary problem was wholly unforeseen before the advent of non-quadrupedal news delivery.

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
State pride (none / 0) (#98)
by derumi on Wed Nov 03, 2004 at 09:44:08 PM EST

Culturally, we identify ourselves as Americans first, and people of our home states second.

I thought most of us thought of ourselves as "Californian" and "not Californian" first, myself. ;) Based on the amount of jokes I have heard that make fun of Montanans (in Idaho), Californians (in any state with a blight of them), and New Yorkers (in Massachussetts), I don't think all of us think of ourselves as being Americans first, except in times of crisis. It seems that people are quick to complain about "those fools damn Yankees" and "those idiots in Florida" whenever people there make a decision they personally don't like (or can't figure out how to punch a chad out).

[ Parent ]
Go back to the orginal way. (none / 1) (#81)
by dxh on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 09:42:36 AM EST

I say we go back to the orginal way... the people have no say in the election of the president, the electors are the only ones who vote, and they are all chosen/appointed by the state houses.

Bleagh (2.50 / 2) (#82)
by Pxtl on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 10:12:54 AM EST

Hey, a lot of people are sayign things like "if not for the electoral college, the elections would focus on the more populous areas".  Well gee willakers, you think that might be a bad thing to actually focus the elections on the bulk of the constituents instead of the fringe statistical variations?

Good god - you're basically saying "I want my Iowan vote to count more than your New Yorker vote".  One man. One vote.  Not that complicated.  While people might complain that the tyranny of the majority is a bad thing, you do realise that your solution is the tyranny of the minority, which, last time I checked, is way fucking worse.

How would you feel if somebody said that each person in Rhode Island got sixteen votes instead of one?  'cause that's basically the kind of logic that you're advocating when you talk about "keeping power away from the dense states".

Same thing with rural vs. city complaints - why do people complain about being marginalised outside of the city if two-thirds of your state population lives in the city?  I mean, maybe you should be marginalised if you are the freaking margin.  Better than marginalising the majority.

Marginalization of the rural vote (none / 0) (#97)
by derumi on Wed Nov 03, 2004 at 09:36:14 PM EST

One problem I have with doing a straight proportional vote based on population is that quite a few Americans feel loyalty to their state. A Nebraskan and an Alaskan might not be too pleased to have a Californian and an Ohioan making decisions for them. Plus, rural activities such as raising crops or cattle take up a lot of area - and they're pretty important to urbanites who may not otherwise care about corn and cows. Could someone that has never ventured out of the big city and seen a farm or forest be counted on to make informed decisions on the environment and farm subsidies?

[ Parent ]
how is this any different from what we have now? (none / 0) (#100)
by Wain on Wed Nov 03, 2004 at 11:45:27 PM EST

Chicagoans aren't too happy about having a Texan making decisions for them.

The president's entire job is to make decisions regarding things in which he has virtually no expertise.  That's why he has advisors.  I don't see how your problem doesn't already apply to the current voting system...or do you think Bush is an expert on "the environment and farm subsidies?"

[ Parent ]

Libertarian != Republican! (3.00 / 2) (#84)
by smithmc on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 10:39:57 AM EST

States should allow and encourage third parties to al ign with one of the major parties. Parties could appear on the ballot without their own candidate. Instead, they would support one of the major parties. For instance, a vote for the Green Party (D) would be a vote for the Democrats. A vote for the Libertarian Party (R) would be a vote for the Republicans.

Just one goddamned second. I voted Libertarian today, and I would not want my vote to count for GW Bush. I'm as interested in improving third-party representation as the next guy, but this ain't the answer.

FWIW (none / 0) (#87)
by Vaevictis666 on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 01:25:02 PM EST

For what it's worth, it could have just as easily been Libertarian Party (D) instead.

[ Parent ]
Libertarian (R) (none / 0) (#88)
by sethadam1 on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 01:39:19 PM EST

Unfortunately for you, my friend, your Libertarian vote might as well have been a vote for Bush, since there are really no viable third parties that detract from a Republican base, but there are several that pull from potential democrats.  

That's why Republicans contribute to parties like Green, because they sway Dems, not GOP voters.  

[ Parent ]

Nah, I live in a blue state... (none / 0) (#94)
by smithmc on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 11:23:47 PM EST

...New York went to Kerry by a wide margin, as everybody knew it would.

[ Parent ]
re: Libertarian != Republican (none / 0) (#107)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 08:54:56 PM EST

I know that Libertarians aren't Republicans. They have many things in common with the Democrats too. At election time, the party could choose to support one of the majors or field its own candidate. It would make a choice depending on whatever was in its best interest. That choice might even be different in each State.

[ Parent ]
For a contrasting point of view... (none / 0) (#85)
by beefman on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 11:36:11 AM EST

...see my article here:



Seeking Approval (none / 0) (#90)
by Mason on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 04:58:31 PM EST

We quite simply need to burn the electoral college and shift to approval voting.  All problems solved.

I don't understand how people support the EC, who have probably had to take statistics at some point in time.  All it does is burn information in a very uneven way.

The "tyranny of the majority" line always cracks me up.  First of all, you're thinking of the Senate.  Second of all, we are a nation of minorities.  All the EC does is allow a smaller coalition of minorities to occasionally outweigh a larger coalition of minorities.  Given that our republic was founded on the ideals of democratic egalitarianism, this is wrong and, dare I say it, un-American.

An election decided by a popular approval vote would be the most accurate representation of the will of the electorate, and give each American citizen the chance to more complete represent themselves at the ballot box.  Remember, a single vote is essentially only one bit of information.  Single-voting makes tons of sense in a two-party system, but add in a third party and it no longer gives you enough information with which to truly represent how you feel about each candidate.

I mean, most of us here are programmers, or at least have some mathematical education, right?  It scares me that even you guys can't see how poorly our current system represents voters.

Any system that doesn't try to fully represent the will of the electorate is simply pooling power in the hands of a few, at the cost of disenfranchising others.

will of the people (none / 0) (#106)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 08:50:26 PM EST

.....the most accurate representation of the will of the electorate.....

The electoral college does represent the will of the people. It represents them through the filter of the States. I can see how some people have a problem with that. However, it's a function of the federal system. It encourages candidates to seek support across a wide geographic area and in as many States as possible. Without the electoral college system, candidates would be able to focus solely on getting high turnout in a few small regions.

.....our republic was founded on the ideals of democratic egalitarianism.....

I think you're thinking of France.....

The American republic wasn't founded on democratic egalitarianism. It was founded on representative elitism. Every facet of government at the beginning reflected this. The right to vote was restricted to male property owners. Elected federal office was restricted by age. Great efforts were taken to seperate the general population from the federal government.

Senators were chosen by State legislatures. The President was chosen by the electors who were chosen by the State legislatures. The Supreme Court was appointed by the President. Representatives were the only office the general population could vote on. Each Representative represented a district of at least 30,000. In 1790, few could afford to visit their Congressman and few would ever meet them in person.

Salaries were paltry. Only the rich could afford to run for office. Only the rich could afford to remain in office.

[ Parent ]

Solution #2 only moves the problem about (none / 0) (#93)
by scruffyMark on Tue Nov 02, 2004 at 10:45:52 PM EST

Your proposed solution only moves the winner-takes-all problem about from the State level to the district level.

Reductio at absurdum: if you reduced the size of each district to three people, and two out of every three people voted for one candidate, while the other one voted for the other, 33% of the voters would still be disenfranchised, as the state's votes would go 100% to a candidate that only got 67% of the popular vote.

If you want proportional representation, you need real proportional representation. Pool all the districts together, pool the electoral votes, and distribute the electoral vote according to the popular vote - rounding to the nearest whole elector, of course. This reduces the disenfranchised portion of the population to a minimum.

Of course this assumes changing the constitution is a bad thing - the electoral college system is ridiculous in a modern country, everyone with an ounce of sense can see that. The best you can do at a state level is to reduce the inequities while the votes are in the state - once the votes leave the state, you have to round millions of votes down to at most 55 electoral votes.

Of course there will always be rounding error - you only get one president. But the more levels of rounding error you add, the less accurate the final result will tend to be. Follow the chemist's principle of keeping all your data to the end, even the data you know is not a significant figure, and only rounding to the number of sig figs you have at the very end.

Colorado? (none / 0) (#101)
by csmiller on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 05:52:20 AM EST

Or all states could go the way of Colorado, which only requires the State to decide on this, not the federal governemnt, unless I'm mistaken.

[ Parent ]
That's exactly it (none / 0) (#115)
by scruffyMark on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 01:01:47 AM EST

That seems like exactly what I was describing, thanks for pointing that out.  Do you know if the bill passed?

But, as I said, you're still introducing rounding error sooner than you need to, by rounding to the nearest electoral vote in every state, when you're going to round to the nearest president again later anyway.  Still, it introduces more sig figs to the first level of rounding, so the error should indeed be reduced.

[ Parent ]

Colorado amendment 36 failed (none / 0) (#116)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 11, 2004 at 10:45:51 PM EST

By a large margin Colorado rejected the measure:

Vail Daily News

With most of the state's precincts counted, the measure was failing by a large margin, with more than 1 million "no" votes. Only 532,000 state voters cast "yes" votes.

The California Aggie

Colorado voters soundly rejected a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that would have distributed their Electoral College votes in proportion to their popular vote - a move that could have altered a squeaker of a presidential race.

After a preliminary wave of support in the months preceding the election - one poll taken in late September showed people favored the measure 47 to 35 percent, with 18 percent undecided - Colorado voters changed their minds and vetoed the idea by a factor of 2 to 1.

[ Parent ]
Party coalitions suck (none / 0) (#96)
by derumi on Wed Nov 03, 2004 at 09:27:25 PM EST

Oh, right. So as a Libertarian, tossing my vote over to the Republicans and their recent penchant for big government sounds pretty constructive. Pardon me if I would rather not do that.

Libertarian tossers (none / 0) (#105)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 07:58:58 PM EST

Libertarians would decide whether the Democrat or Republican candidate better reflected their ideals. The ballot would show either Libertarian(D) or Libertarian(R) or if the party was split it could show both. It would be a means by which Libertarians could show support for their party but still influence the election directly.

Imagine the scenario if a Republican won the election but half his support came from Libertarian(R). The Republican Party might begin to adopt more Libertarian ideals. Some Republicans might switch over and become Libertarians.

[ Parent ]

700 reform attempts (none / 0) (#108)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 09:40:31 PM EST

"There have been no less than seven hundred Congressional attempts to reform, re-legislate, or abolish the Electoral College system in this nation's history. So, like it or no, if the past is any precedent, it ain't going anywhere. The last time it saw major tinkering was after Jefferson's election way back in 1800, and it's held, admirably or no, ever since."


electoral college versus intense regional support (none / 0) (#109)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 09:59:35 PM EST

"Cleveland's debacle in 1888 demonstrates how the Electoral College system forces candidates to make their appeals as broad as possible. Whipping up intense support in one region will not win the White House. It also shows the potential danger in any direct election system, for it shows how easy it is to achieve really huge vote margins with appeals directed at specific regions, ignoring the rest of the country. "


few democracies directly elect (none / 0) (#110)
by adimovk5 on Thu Nov 04, 2004 at 10:11:15 PM EST

"Very few democracies in the industrial world have a presidential system with direct election. In fact, France, Finland, and now Russia are the only examples. France adopted direct election in 1962, Finland in the 1990s (it has only had one election since). "

"The French system appears to be stable, but it has built-in limitations on who may run. A candidate must receive signatures from a total of 500 elected officials, and those officials must come from at least thirty of the ninety-six departments. As a further requirement, no more than 10 percent of the signatures can come from any one department. In effect, a new party would have to succeed in electing 500 officials from nearly a third of the departments to make a Presidential bid. "

"Russia illustrates what can happen in a free-for-all direct presidential system.....Yeltsin, the incumbent, managed to clear the first round, even though 65% of the electorate voted against him. The perverse and paradoxical result was that Yeltsin won the election, but with a negative mandate. The voters registered a clear vote of no confidence. While it would be easy to attribute this result to Russia's lack of experience in democracy, it seems clear that the direct election process itself is to blame. "


The Founders know better (none / 0) (#114)
by digitalmonk73 on Tue Nov 09, 2004 at 03:13:44 AM EST

One can be so close to understanding except for the fact that emotion has usurped logic.

Please read this then make a judgment.

Electoral College Change Without Amendments | 116 comments (91 topical, 25 editorial, 0 hidden)
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