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04-25-1999, 10:10 PM
Why does it still exist?
The Electoral College was created because the leaders at the time assumed that the general populace was not educated enough to vote for the president.
Well, we're educated enough now, so why do we still have it?
I think the time has come for online voting AND direct popular voting.
Peace,
mangeorge

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"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything" Mark Twain 1894

04-25-1999, 11:12 PM
Hmmm.. call me cynical, but I don't think the majority of the population is educated enough to vote for the next color in a bag of M&Ms, much less the leader of United States of America. Besides, it does make for a nice easy way to track who's popular in what states. Online voting? I hope you're kidding. The White House and CIA can't keep their own websites from getting hacked, and you want to let online votes count?

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"I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn't."

04-25-1999, 11:17 PM
Well, here's one good reason as to why it still exists...

To change it would require a constitutional amendment, and thus it would need to be ratified by 3/4 of the states. Since electoral votes are matched to the number of representatives/senators a state has, changing to a purely popular vote would reduce the election power of small states. There are enough small states to block the 3/4 requirement.

04-26-1999, 06:49 AM
Not necessarily. The assumption you make in your statement, Undead Dude, is that each state has about the same voter turnout and the same percent of registered voters, which is not always the case. That is why a larger state like California, with its electoral votes, might reduce in voter turnout after it finds out one of the candidates will inevitably win, giving that state a stronger electoral power even though it had less turnout.

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"[He] beat his fist down upon the table and hurt his hand and became so
further enraged... that he beat his fist down upon the table even harder and
hurt his hand some more." -- Joseph Heller's Catch-22

04-26-1999, 08:23 AM
Why does it still exist?
The Electoral College was created because the leaders at the time assumed that the general populace was not educated enough to vote for the president.
Well, we're educated enough now, so why do we still have it?

Are you kidding? When was the last time you went to a fast food restaurant? I went to McDonald's the other day and ordered some french fries. The kid behind the counter said "You want some fries with that?" (-Jay Leno)

04-26-1999, 09:51 AM
A general vote looks to see which candidate is supported by more Americans. The Electoral College has a different function; it looks to see which candidate has a broader base of support.

The weakness of the Electoral College is that it allows a candidate to with with less than half of the popular votes. The strength of the Electoral College is that although the winning candidate has less than half the votes, he will have more than half the states (weighted by population).

He is an example I had wondered about for years. Under the Electoral College system, candidate A can win with just 51% of the electoral votes. That can happen by getting 51& of the popular vote in those specific states, and no votes at all in the other states. In other words, by getting 26% of the popular vote, a candidate can theoretically capture most of the electoral votes.

Even the smallest states have at leat 3 electoral votes, giving the voters of those states a disprportionately strong voice in the Electoral College. Going over the figures from the 1996 election, I found that if a candidate would concentrate on the smallest states, and would be satisfied with getting 51% of the votes in them, he could become President with only 23.5% of the popular vote.

In actual practice, however, this is not going to happen.

04-26-1999, 10:57 AM
Jophiel has a point about online voting.
I use a Mac, so I don't think much about hacking, viruses, and all that. Besides, maybe voting should require some effort.
As for the small states losing power? Hey, "Let them eat cake!" I live in California. :)
I talk a lot about politics, esp. to younger people. And the two most common themes I hear regarding presidential elections are "My vote doesn't count" and "We already know the winner before we even get to the polls".
I feel that everyones participation is important, including the guy at McDonald's. And I sure don't consider Jay Leno to be the ultimate authority on voting rights.
Peace,
mangeorge


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"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything" Mark Twain 1894

04-26-1999, 11:12 AM
I've heard proposals to increase voter turnout by making election day a national holiday. It's not a bad idea, I think. Aside from eliminating the excuse of having to work, it would infuse the act of voting with even greater symbolic value (although it's sad that the symbolic value of voting needs shoring up). If nothing else, it might shame people into going to the polls, since that would be the ostensible reason for their holiday. Hell, it makes more sense than Columbus Day.

04-26-1999, 02:06 PM
My first thought on this was: How often does an electoral college vote not mirror the popular vote in a state?

I can't remember it being in the news anytime recently, so I'm thinking it happens very infrequently. I've read/heard that at least some states have specific laws that say that the electoral college votes are decided by the popular vote.

If this is the case, it sounds more like the issue is one of big/small states and power, not one of an educated populace. However educated or uneducated you say the population is, I think they are already deciding the election by popular vote.

I think it might really be useful to either have completely synchronized voting across the country or have a press blackout on the election until it was over.

That last bit would be tricky, given the first amendment and all. Maybe it could be wrapped into an amendment with the changing the electoral college into simple popular vote. Normally I don't like rewriting the constitution ("Oh I'm an amendment to be, yes an amendment to be. And I'm hoping that they'll ratify me."), but I think this was one area where the forefathers had no way of predicting the shape of things to come.

04-26-1999, 03:16 PM
Not necessarily. The assumption you make in your statement, Undead Dude, is that each state has about the same voter turnout and the same percent of registered voters, which is not always the case. -- krish
I think you missed my point. My point was more about perception than specific statistics. Rhode Island gets 3 electoral votes. California gets 54. The population of Rhode Island is certainly less than 3/54ths of the population of California. So, how likely is it that Rhode Island is going to ratify an abolosihment of the electoral college? Not very. Also, by your example, a purely popular vote would tend to level out voter turnout, since a candidate would no longer "carry a state".

04-26-1999, 03:25 PM
<The Electoral College was created because the leaders at the time assumed that the general populace was not educated enough to vote for the president.> But when you think about it, don't we have a president because the founding fathers believed that the populace wouldn't know how to act without a king?

04-27-1999, 01:28 AM
While it is possible for the person without the most popular votes to be elected president (and has happened 3 times), it is unlikely to happen now.
The last time it occurred was in 1888, when Harrison beat Cleveland. However, that was still close enough to Civil War times and few , if any Southerners, were going to vote Republican. However, the industrial north, which had more electoral votes, went for Harrison, but not as overwhelmingly.

Unless a political issue comes up that divides the country into regional disputes, the 1888 scenario is unlikely.

The other two times a second-place candidate won was in 1824, when Adams beat out Jackson. No candidate got a majority in the electoral vote and Jackson won the popular vote, although not every state had regular voting procedures.

In 1876, Tilden had more popular votes than Hayes, but there was so much fraud in that election that the totals were quite suspect.

04-27-1999, 03:07 AM
I would say if we're looking for electoral reform, the place that needs work is the difficulty of getting on the ballot not the electoral college. I live in New York (admittedly one of the most difficult states for a candidate to get on the ballot) and the rules for becoming a candidate are so arcane and arbitrary that generally half the possible Presidential candidates aren't on the ballot I see. This is true of both primaries and general elections.

04-27-1999, 09:57 AM
>>I've heard proposals to increase voter turnout by making election day a national holiday. It's not a bad idea, I think. Aside from eliminating the excuse of having to work, it would infuse the act of voting with even greater symbolic value (although it's sad that the symbolic value of voting needs shoring up). If nothing else, it might shame people into going to the polls, since that would be the ostensible reason for their holiday. Hell, it makes more sense than Columbus Day.<< Mikael

1. My roommate told me that she always got school off for election day. She lives in New Jersey. Is this an east coast thing? *I* never got school off for elections, even since I've been old enough to vote. (I live in CA.)

2. I haven't gotten Columbus Day since I was 7. People don't really observe it anymore, do they?

3. The national holiday thing sure works in Israel. Wow, is this country insane when it comes to politics (other things too, but I won't go there now). 80% of the general populace votes, and probably a large portion of the other 20% doesn't vote because of reasons of principlel, not because they aren't educated. Or it might just be cause politics is Israel's national pasttime.

~Kyla

04-28-1999, 01:23 AM
1. My roommate told me that she always got school off for election day. She lives in New Jersey. Is this an east coast thing? *I* never got school off for elections, even since I've been old enough to vote. (I live in CA.)

Manny states give kids the day off school on election day because they use schools as polling places and they don't want a lot of unsupervised adults in the school at the same time the kiddies are.

PUN

04-28-1999, 10:50 PM
Keeves, what you posted above about the Electoral College process was absolutely incorrect. For the love of the Union, please, oh please, read the Constitution.

If that's too much for you, then you can at least check the Electoral College's own web site: http://www.nara.gov/fedreg/ec-hmpge.html .

The current system does allow someone, such as Mr. clinton, to be elected President although he received LESS than 51% of the so-called popular vote in one election.

04-28-1999, 11:37 PM
So what's the consensus here? Should we change the system, or leave it as it is?
Personally, I think a carfully considered reform would be good.
A few points to think about;
1. Kick the E.C. to the curb.
2. Election day a holliday. :)
3. Some kind of campaign reform. (money)
4. Delay of exit poll results?

Any other ideas?
Peace,
mangeorge

05-06-1999, 02:45 AM
I have a question along the "my vote doesn't count" lines:

While a U.S. citizen living overseas can vote by absentee ballot, if s/he doesn't have a permanent residence in the U.S., how does the absentee vote count toward an electoral college vote?

Since they still have to pay income tax, wouldn't this qualify as taxation without representation?

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History major. Heed at your own risk.

05-06-1999, 11:10 AM
It's been a long time since the Electoral vote didn't match the same result in the popular vote, and it's unlikely it would ever happen again. The electoral vote only exaggerates the strength of the winning candidate; you may get 51% of the vote, but 68% of the electoral vote, for instance.

What the electoral vote does do is make it important for the candidate to visit states where the election is close, and to heed their concerns. If you lose, say, Pennsylvania, by a thousand popular vote, you can make it up easily elsewhere. If you lose all of Pennsylvania's electoral votes in a close race, you're in a hole. So the candidate spends more time in Pennsylvania to make sure he gets that extra thousand votes.

05-06-1999, 11:57 AM
It's been a long time since the Electoral vote didn't match the same result in the popular vote, and it's unlikely it would ever happen again. The electoral vote only exaggerates the strength of the winning candidate; you may get 51% of the vote, but 68% of the electoral vote, for instance.

What the electoral vote does do is make it important for the candidate to visit states where the election is close, and to heed their concerns. If you lose, say, Pennsylvania, by a thousand popular vote, you can make it up easily elsewhere. If you lose all of Pennsylvania's electoral votes in a close race, you're in a hole. So the candidate spends more time in Pennsylvania to make sure he gets that extra thousand votes.

05-06-1999, 12:27 PM
I don't think we should have direct popular voting. I like to think that the people in the EC are a little bit more educated than the general public. You say that we're educated enough now... I say you haven't been talking to the right people.
Occasionally, one of the people in the EC will vote out of conscience - that's why we occasionally get that one rogue electoral vote. I'd like to see a lot more of that. Just imagine if there was an electoral college in the state that elected Jesse Ventura. Not that he's doing a bad job, but if you had compared resumes with all the candidates, he wouldn't have been called back for an interview.

05-06-1999, 02:08 PM
[quote]While a U.S. citizen living overseas can vote by absentee ballot, if s/he doesn't have a permanent residence in the U.S., how does the absentee vote count toward an electoral college vote?[quote]

If you are in the military, you must have a home of record. You don't have to have a house there or own any property there, but you have to pay state income taxes there and you vote in whatever district you once lived in and your vote is counted for that state. This is true if you are overseas or just in another state. So when we lived in Germany we voted in San Antonio TX elections. When we lived in Maryland, we still voted in San Antonio. Now that we have moved to El Paso we changed our voting registration to here. If we move to Hawaii in a couple of years, we have the option of maintaining El Paso registration, or switching back to San Antonio.

PUN

05-06-1999, 10:17 PM
RealityChuck
Member posted 05-06-99 10:10 AM
It's been a long time since the Electoral vote didn't match the same result in the popular vote, and it's unlikely it would ever happen again. The electoral vote only exaggerates the strength of the winning candidate; you may get 51% of the vote, but 68% of the electoral vote, for instance.

Ah,Reality! You've ignored your namesake. The truth of the matter shows your assertion to be wrong.

The link I posted above is the Electoral College's own web page. Here are some box scores from it (between the quoste lines; I've indicated my observations as such):


Election: 1992
President: William J. Clinton [D]
Main Opponent: George Bush [R]
Electoral Vote: Winner: 370 Main Opponent: 168 Total/Majority: 538/270
Popular Vote: Winner: 44,908,254 Main Opponent: 39,102,343
Vice President: Albert Gore, Jr. (370)
V.P. Opponent: James Danforth Quayle (168)
Notes: Independent candidate H. Ross Perot received 19,741,065 popular votes for President, but no electoral votes.

My observation:

Votes for winner: 44,808,254
Votes for other than winner: 58,843,408
Winner received less than 50% of popular vote but more than 50% of electoral vote.


Election: 1996
President: William J. Clinton [D]
Main Opponent: Bob Dole [R]
Electoral Vote: Winner: 379 Main Opponent: 159 Total/Majority: 538/270
Popular Vote: Winner: 45,590,703 Main Opponent: 37,816,307
Vice President: Albert Gore, Jr. (379)
V.P. Opponent: Jack Kemp (159)
Notes: Reform Party candidate H. Ross Perot received 7,866,284 popular votes for President, but no electoral votes.

My observation:

Votes for winner: 45,590,703
Votes for other than winner: 45,682,591
Winner received less than 50% of popular vote but more than 50% of electoral vote.

"It's been a long time since the Electoral vote didn't match the same result in the popular vote?" I'd say in the last two presidential elections, that's all it's done!

Markxxx
08-12-1999, 03:41 AM
It seems to me disbanding the Electoral College would encourage third parties. This would make it more likely the election could be thrown into the House for it to decide.

Omniscient
08-12-1999, 04:53 AM
The idea of making election day a national holiday is the best idea I have heard in a very very long time!!!! Give the kids a day off, use the schools for a polling place, the parents will be home to care for the kids who aren't in school. I don't know if this has any real momentum in congress, or if its just one off handed idea, but I really can't think of a downside. Loss of productivity yadda yadda yadda, i don't buy that, we can do without another holiday if need be, combine Presidents Day (I assume that the Lincoln-Washington's B-day combo is nationwide) with this voting holiday. I don't know if I'd make it a yearly holiday or not, but if not then the productivity arguement really loses steam. This needs to get done.

Sadly, i really don't remember all the electoral college stuff, I hoped by reading the thread I'd understand it well, but no luck.

If anyone has the patience to explain a few details to me I'd appreciate it, I just don't have the gumption to do a web search and sort through the porn links to get to some legal/constitution docs that I will need to decipher.

1) IIRC, New Hampshire and Iowa are very important states in the EC for some reason. I've never understood this, why is it so, it certainly isn't the number of EC votes?
2) The canadate gets all or none of a states EC votes, T/F?
3) Popular vote determines who gets the states EC votes, T/F?
4) How are the number of EC votes determined for each state if not directly by population ratio (as per Undead Dude)?
5) Is the EC made up of people? (I didn't think so) If so who are they and what bearing does the popular vote have on them?
6) Is there really a reason why all the states results get in at different times? It seems to me that the fact some states polls close earlier than others is inherently bad. For the sake of parity and fairness why don't they all just close at the same time and open at the same time? (Not clock time, true time 10AM-6PM EST/7AM-3PM PST) As long as everyone has the day off this should not pose any logistical problems that exceed those now in effect.

Finally I have no doubt that reform is needed in many aspects from campaign spending, to the process of getting on the ballot, to exit polls, but these issues about the voting day procedures seem non-partisan, very positive, and easy to alter. Is it just the fear of change that makes us cope with them today?

Akatsukami
08-12-1999, 07:42 AM
Omniscient asks a goodly number of questions:1) IIRC, New Hampshire and Iowa are very important states in the EC for some reason. I've never understood this, why is it so, it certainly isn't the number of EC votes?
They're not important in the Electoral College, they're important (or considered by politicoes to be so, which I guess comes down to the same thing) in the nomination process.
2) The canadate gets all or none of a states EC votes, T/F?
Not a Constitutional requirement, although I believe that it is currently the case in every state except Maine.


This is basically a political decision. That my own state of Connecticut give eight electoral votes to whoever takes a plurality is thought to wield more power than splitting those votes.


In Maine, IIRC, one vote is given the winner of the plurality in each Representational district, and two to the winner of the statewide plurality (see below).
3) Popular vote determines who gets the states EC votes, T/F?
Again, not a Constitutional requirement. Currently, every state does choose electors by popular vote; before the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, as some would have it), South Carolina's electors were selected by the state legislature.


Additionally, the courts have ruled (I don't think that such a case has ever made to the SC, although I could be wrong) that electors canot be bound in their votes by laws, oaths, or the willadapeepul, but are an independent and freely-choosing body, in principle. They almost always go with their pledges and party affiliation; in each presidential election of the past few decades, however, one or two have "voted their conscience".
4) How are the number of EC votes determined for each state if not directly by population ratio (as per Undead Dude)?
Number of Senators (i.e.</>, two) plus number of Representatives (more or less in proportion to population, but every state must have at least one). [i]That's a Constitutional requirement.


At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, the smaller states feared that a government selected by proportional representation would ride roughshod over the rights of those states that happened to have smaller populations. I'd say that they were prescient in that regard.
5) Is the EC made up of people? (I didn't think so) If so who are they and what bearing does the popular vote have on them?
Yep, real people. A dirty little secret in this so-oh-democratic age is that we don't vote for a president, we vote for presidential electors of that party (in some states, this is explicitly mentioned on the ballot; in others, the fact is swept under the rug).


As mentioned above, the EC is theoretically an independent body, and can vote for whoever they damned well please. 99.9+% of the time, though, they vote for the candidate that they pledge themselves to.
6) Is there really a reason why all the states results get in at different times? It seems to me that the fact some states polls close earlier than others is inherently bad. For the sake of parity and fairness why don't they all just close at the same time and open at the same time? (Not clock time, true time 10AM-6PM EST/7AM-3PM PST) As long as everyone has the day off this should not pose any logistical problems that exceed those now in effect.
Because no one in California is dumb enough to get up at 03:00 to vote, and no one in New York s dumb enough to stay up until 23:00 to vote (around here, the polls are open 06:00 - 20:00, not 10:00 - 18:00).


We just have to deal with the unfortunate fact that the U.S. spans seven time zones (counting Alaska and Hawaii, although I think that they only have seven electoral votes between them), and that anything convenient for the left coast is inconvenient for the right coast, and vice versa. The population (and thereby the political power) has historically been in the East, so Easterns have called the shots. With population shifts westward, California and Texas may force polling calculations my Mountain Time (as a compromise) early in the next century. They won't care what New Yorkers think anymore than New Yorkers have, traditionally, listened to them (heck, a lot of them are transplanted New Yorkers).



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"Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away."

hansel
08-12-1999, 07:56 AM
Does anyone recall a mathematician who tried to prove that your single vote is more powerful in a system with an electoral college? I read an article on the web a while ago about him; his claim was that, mathematically, your odds of casting the swing vote were greater with the electoral college system, and casting the swing vote is the only time your vote really makes a difference.

kunilou
08-12-1999, 02:46 PM
Let me say a word in defense of the Electoral College. If you think it's some dusty abstraction from the Founding Fathers, take a look at recent history.

Three times in the last 10 presidential elections (1960-1996)the electoral winner did not receive an absolute majority of the popular vote (1968 - Nixon vs. Humphrey and Wallace, and 1992 and 1996 - Clinton vs. the Republican and Perot both times). In two other elections (1960 - Kennedy-Nixon and 1976 - Carter-Ford)the popular vote was so close that the loser could have legitimately demanded a recount in one or more states.

That's five out of ten times in my lifetime alone where an election decided by popular vote alone could have been thrown into the House of Representatives or tied up in the courts. (Throw in 1948 and it's six times since World war II.) It could have been 1824 and 1876 all over again. I think the fact that real, live electors are on the job helps ensure that somehow, some way, the candidate who gets the most votes is going to wind up President.

Omniscient
08-12-1999, 03:01 PM
Akatsukami as usual your response raises more questions.

1) Are the electors the senators and representatives? Or is there just a concurrent number of individuals.
2) If not who are they literally?
3) If the electors are party affiliated then when are they selected? It seems to me that the electors must be selected before the election and if they vote their party 99% of the time the actual election doesn't do anything. The selection of the electors is obviously the important issue, yet I (a fairly well educated, aware, intelligent person) have no idea when it occurs. Why is it never discussed by the canadates?
4) OK, NH and IA are important for primaries (selecting the canadates) but why is that so?

Undead Dude
08-12-1999, 03:48 PM
Last time I voted for Prez (which was in Arizona), the electors were definitely on the ballot. It made the selections for the presidential candidates rather large, because they had to squeeze in these names in a small font. Incidentally, those names were definitely NOT incumbent senators/representatives. They were just unfamiliar names from my point of view.

torq
08-12-1999, 04:07 PM
"It's been a long time since the Electoral vote didn't match the same result in the popular vote?" I'd say in the last two presidential elections, that's all it's done!

That's because you're using a different definition of "match" than the original poster did. Clinton got more popular votes in both those elections than anyone else did. He also got more electoral votes than anyone else did. Sounds like a match to me.

It's possible (in fact, it's happened) for a candidate to get FEWER popular votes than another candidate, but still get MORE electoral votes. This is, obviously, NOT a match.

Actually, there's nothing in federal law or the Constitution requiring that the electoral votes for a state agree with the popular vote for that state (there are two counterexamples cited on the Electoral College website mentioned above, and I think I remember hearing of at least one more).

Are the electors the senators and representatives?

No. Actually, the Constitution specifically forbids them from being electors.

If not who are they literally?

Well, they can't be anyone holding "an office of trust or profit under the United States". Other than that, I think that exactly how they're selected is left up to the individual states.

If the electors are party affiliated then when are they selected? It seems to me that the electors must be selected before the election and if they vote their party 99% of the time the actual election doesn't do anything.

Generally there will be a "slate" of nominees for each candidate, chosen by that candidate's political party. The nominees whose candidate wins the popular vote become the electors for that state.

They're most likely to vote for "their" candidate, but as noted above there have been times when they didn't. The electors don't vote until December, so there's a month (actually a little over) where there is a theoretical possibility of a surprise upset.

A couple of states (Maine and Nebraska) do things a little bit differently in that the slate of electors is not chosen statewide, but in the same way that Senators and Representatives are (two statewide, and one by each Congressional district).

The selection of the electors is obviously the important issue, yet I (a fairly well educated, aware, intelligent person) have no idea when it occurs. Why is it never discussed by the canadates?

Why would they want to? As you've no doubt noticed, this is a horrible mess. I doubt that a detailed explanation of how the electoral college works is going to cause John Q. Public to change his vote, so as far as they're concerned they'd be wasting their time to discuss it.

OK, NH and IA are important for primaries (selecting the canadates) but why is that so?

New Hampshire and Iowa have their primaries early in the process (I don't remember noticing Oklahoma having any particular importance in the primaries, so someone else will have to answer that question... is theirs also early?). It's mostly a matter of "momentum"; someone who wins in those states will get news coverage as "a winner", others won't (and may decide to drop out after seeing how pitifully small their support base truly is).

AWB
08-12-1999, 04:15 PM
The election of 1876 is the centerpiece of every discussion of the Electoral College. The story: Hayes won the Electoral College by one vote, even though his opponent, Tilden, won the popular vote by nearly a quarter of a million votes. There were large questions about the legitimacy of the votes in four states, three in the South plus Oregon. Congress established an electoral commission to pass on the disputes. With 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats on the commission, every dispute was settled in the Republicans' favor by an 8-7 decision. So Hayes' one vote Electoral College victory was confirmed.

What the story doesn't explain is how Hayes could have won in the first place if Tilden had a quarter of a million votes more. Tilden's margin was not reduced by the disputes. If they had been resolved in his favor, his margin would have been even greater.

What put Hayes over the top were 3 Colorado electors appointed by the legislature without a popular vote ... all perfectly constitutional. Colorado was admitted to the union in August, 1876. The state legislature, to save money, decided not to hold a presidential election (true story!) They simply appointed electors who voted for Hayes. So what put Hayes over the top were 3 electors not chosen by the public. This was all perfectly constitutional, and it did not figure in the controversy over disputed electoral votes.

Was it just a coincidence that Colorado was admitted to the union right before the closest electoral vote in history? Probably not. Colorado was the only state admitted to the Union between 1867 and 1889. According to Daniel Boorstin, Congress wanted to hold on to the patronage jobs in the territories as long as they could. So admitting a state to the union was quite an extraordinary event, and perhaps the expectation of three additional Republican electors was a motivating factor.

AWB
08-12-1999, 04:23 PM
The above was from Avagara Productions

Avagara Productions (http://www.avagara.com)
Electoral College Webzine (http://www.avagara.com/politics/ec_zine)

Omniscient
08-12-1999, 04:42 PM
Sorry it should read

"Okay, NH and IA...."

hee hee

Akatsukami
08-12-1999, 08:08 PM
torq answered Omniscient's second round of questions, at least as well (if not better) than I could have. I'll only pick a couple of nits.


Omniscient asks:The selection of the electors is obviously the important issue, yet I (a fairly well educated, aware, intelligent person) have no idea when it occurs. Why is it never discussed by the canadates?


When it occurs? Almost certainly your state party conventions (not a pleonasm, necessarily). Why haven't you heard of it? Well, without challenging your education, intelligence, or awareness...who was the losing candidate for state attorney general in the last general election?

torq says:New Hampshire and Iowa have their primaries early in the process
I think that Iowa still holds party caucuses (although, not being a resident of Iowa, I could easily be wrong).

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"Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away."

jayron 32
08-12-1999, 09:16 PM
1) Are the electors the senators and representatives? Or is there just a concurrent number of
individuals.
2) If not who are they literally?
3) If the electors are party affiliated then when are they selected?

Actually, the rules stipulate that electors cannot be officeholders. I had a friend who actually was an elector. They are officially chosen by the parties at the state party conventions, but really its just a rubber stamp at that point. You get to be an elector generally if you are an active member of your party in your state. My friend worked on the campaign of an influential Ohio State Rep., and as a reward for his hard work he was selected as an elector in 1984. Unfortunately, he was selected as an elector for Mondale and so never got to cast his vote, Ohio (and damn near the rest of the nation) giving their votes to Reagan. BTW, he was 19 at the time and a chemical engineering student at Dayton College. So truly ANYONE can be an elector. I know it wasn't directly asked, but the electors cast their ballot sometime in December or early January (IIRC). The election of of 1872 is a facinating case summary of what happens when the candidate dies after the popular election, but before the electoral one. Fortunately the candidate (Horace Greeley) hadn't enough electoral votes to win anyways, but the 66 votes he did get were scattered among a bunch of candidates, making Grant out to be a bigger winner than he was.

------------------
Jason R Remy

"One pill makes you taller, and one pill makes you small, but the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all"
-- Jefferson Airplane White Rabbit (Slick, G. 1966)

Monty
08-12-1999, 09:23 PM
Jayron:

You seem to think the popular vote and the elctoral vote are inextricably linked. They're not--they have nothing to do with each other legally. Now as an exercise in observed behaviour, maybe. But the popular vote, in fact, and under the Constitution, does not drive the electoral vote.

Omniscient
08-12-1999, 11:02 PM
God damn you people, are you inentionally trying to be vague and talk over my head?

Akatsukami, what the hell does "not a pleonasm, necessarily" mean. Do you mean plenum???

OK, the electoral college as I gather works as such. At each states' political parties' conventions the parties select a group of people to be the electors for their party in that state, the number being equal to that states number of electoral votes. Then the popular election takes place, and the canadate who takes the popular vote's party's electors then get the opportunity to vote a month later. And these electors can vote for anyone they choose, but usually vote for the party canadate. Now under this system the canadate who takes the majority of the popular vote will likely take the vast majority of that states electoral vote, but depending on a few rogue electors the could take 51 out of 54 vote in that state. Did I miss anything?

jayron 32
08-12-1999, 11:32 PM
Jayron:

You seem to think the popular vote and the elctoral vote are inextricably linked. They're not--they
have nothing to do with each other legally. Now as an exercise in observed behaviour, maybe. But the
popular vote, in fact, and under the Constitution, does not drive the electoral vote.

What are you talking about? Where in my post did I ever indicate that electoral vote was linked in any way to the popular vote. My message faithfully reported on the electoral process exactly as it runs, and exactly as it is intended to run.

I said my friend was chosen as an elector by the Democratic Party in 1984 at the Ohio State Democratic Convention. Since the popular vote in Ohio chose Reagan that year (or rather, Reagan's electors) he didn't get to become an actual elector. Some guy who kissed some Republican ass in Ohio got to do that. But that guy was no more bound to vote for Reagan than my friend would have been to vote for Mondale should he have been selected by the popular election. The electors are chosen by the parties before the November elections, it is at those elections where it is chosen which electors get to sit in the Electoral College and vote for the president. Many, but not all states, even require the electors names to be listed on the ballots since that is truth in advertising: You are voting for which electors you want to send to the electoral college, not a) who you want for president or b) how you think the electors should vote.

------------------
Jason R Remy

"One pill makes you taller, and one pill makes you small, but the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all"
-- Jefferson Airplane White Rabbit (Slick, G. 1966)

BobT
08-13-1999, 01:51 AM
When I looked at the names of the 54 California electors for 1996, I noticed that helped to be related to be a member of Congress. I saw a Capps, Eshoo, and a Pelosi in the group.

One of my biggest hopes is to be a presidential elector. It seems like an exclusive club.

However, I wonder if I would have to pay my own way to Sacramento to cast the vote.

Akatsukami
08-13-1999, 08:47 AM
Omniscient asks:Akatsukami, what the hell does "not a pleonasm, necessarily" mean. Do you mean plenum???
Nope, "pleonasm". It means "redunancy".


Conjoining the words "party" and "convention" in a single phrase would seem to be gilding the lily (and, yes, I know that that's a misquotation from King John). But, whilst national political conventions occasionally manage an good floor fight (D-1948), good street fight (D-1968), or witty remark (R-1988), most of the time the signs, songs, and funny hats are there to disguise the fact that they're somewhat less interesting that soccer matches.



------------------
"Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away."

ConMan
08-15-1999, 09:01 PM
My knock against the Electoral College is just what has been discussed earlier - it does not reflect the popular vote. Nowadays candidates just concentrate on the big ticket electoral states of TX, FL, CA, NY & MI and ignore the smaller fish. I say we just tweak it a little bit. I suggest that the candidates receive the same percentage of Electoral votes from a state as their percentage of the popular vote from that same state. This winner-takes-all crap is all worng! In this way the candidates would have to work for every little vote they receive and truly reflect the voice of the people. Also, everyone's vote would truly "count". I believe this is where the "my-vote-doesn't-count" attitude stems from today. Your vote would directly affect the popular vote % and therefore the number of Electoral votes a candidate would receive. No more west coast low voter turnout because your vote would decide the race instead of it being predetermined by the time your polls close because as I mentioned the big electoral vote states earlier, most of them are 2 and 3 hours ahead of the last big ticket state: CA.

As far as holidays/days off on electional day, I just know the liquor stores are closed until the voting polls are closed - at least here in NC.

I usually vote out the incumbents anyway, unless there are really a couple of losers running (WIMP vs. SHRIMP '88?) - my own little way of setting term limits.

------------------
"Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore.'"
E A Poe

BobT
08-16-1999, 07:59 PM
The Electoral College was, at first, designed, with the idea that Congress would end up choosing the President because no one would get a majority.
The Constitution originally provided that the top 5 candidates would end up being voted on in the House.
Since the House was voted on by the people (at least the rich, white male people), it was supposed to be more responsive to the people's needs.
Once parties crept up and there were the unpleasant vice-presidencies of Jefferson and Burr, the Consitution was changed so separate votes were cast for Pres and Veep and only the top 3 candidates would be voted on in Congress.
The only candidate who got the short end of that deal was Henry Clay who finished fourth in 1824 (behind Crawford whom I believed had been incapicitated by a stroke and Adams and Jackson).
Adams ended up winning despite finishing second in both the popular and the electoral vote.

Rich Barr
08-16-1999, 08:43 PM
[[Nowadays candidates just concentrate on the big ticket electoral states of TX, FL, CA, NY & MI and ignore the smaller fish.]]

To be specific, a candidate can win 11 states' electoral votes and be elected president, even without a single vote from another state. These states, and their current electoral votes (ie. the votes as they with be for the election of 2000) are:

California--54
New York--33
Texas--32
Florida--25
Pennsylvania--23
Illinois--22
Ohio--21
Michigan--18
New Jersey--15
North Carolina--14
Georgia--13

TOTAL--270

Regarding the idea of having Election Day as a national holiday, I personally doubt it would increase voter turnout that much. I was an officer of a political party for several years, and I can assure you that most of the people who don't vote aren't so busy that time was the issue. A lot of them simply don't care enough to bother--having the day off wouldn't make a bit of difference. (And presidential elections have very large turnouts compared to most state and local elections, unless there's something especially controversial going on.)

If you really want to get people to vote, enact a reverse poll tax--a tax assessed on every citizen age 18 or older, which is then waived upon proof of voting in the general election. (This isn't my idea, by the way, but I can't remember where I came across it.)

On the other hand...not bothering to go to the polls can be seen as a passive vote in favor of whoever wins. Maybe we should leave the abstainers alone and be content that our own votes swing that much more weight.

Personally, I'd eliminate the ELECTORS but keep the Electoral College--make the popular vote binding on the EC. Award the votes by Congressional district--the candidate with a plurality in the district gets that electoral vote--with the two votes representing the Senators going to the winner of a plurality statewide. I'd also add a national electoral vote--say 63 votes, which would bring the Electoral total to 601--which would be awarded to the winner of a plurality nationwide. If nothing else, this would mean that every person who bothered to vote for president would be doing so in three different ways--for the district, for the state, and for the nation.

------------------
Nature abhors a vacuum, which means there are a lot of people whose brains are in mortal peril.

Monty
08-16-1999, 11:50 PM
Jayron: no malice aforethought. (Sorry about the movie title.)

I've a pet peeve with the popular (mis)conception of how the government in these United States is selected. Part of that peeve is in descriptions such as yours above.

Whilst I hold no doubt about your friend being an Elector; I, however, do not discount out of hand the validity of a particular party selecting him as the Elector. The Constitution states that the Legislatures of the Separate States will provide for the choosing of the Electors in any manner of their choosing. "Thier" obviously referring to the Legislature.

As it is, in no state does a particular party actually select the Electors; it merely advances a slate of Electors.

Even if the entire voting population selected those Electors, the Electors are only bound by their consience and the two Constitutional restrictions placed on their choice.

I think you and I are on the same side of this issue here.

To tell you the truth, I'm betting that the next popular election and Electoral election will be widely divergent.

And what fun the fallout will be!

Cheers!
-Chip

BobT
08-17-1999, 12:25 AM
Just how will the popular and electoral votes vary wildly? That would require one of two things:
1) A very strong third party candidate or
2) A divisive issue that turns one of the two parties into a sectional party (like the Democrats in 1888)

I don't see #2 on the horizon, so it's more likely that #1 would occur. Let's assume that we get the scintillating Bush-Gore matchup. If a 3rd party candidate, presumably the Reform Party candidate can make a respectable showing, then you could get some breakdown like 40%-35%-25% I suppose.
That assumes that a Reform Party candidate will do better than Perot did in the last two elections.

Since the Electoral College is winner-take-all for all practical purposes, I suppose that would be the disparity.

Monty
08-17-1999, 01:30 AM
You left out:

3) The Electors vote their conscience, completely disregarding the result of the so-called popular vote.

Oh, I guess that one vote Ronald Reagan got the election before he declared he was running wasn't really a vote?

Who knows, maybe a goodly number of Electors will just vote for their Cousin Bob just to throw a wrench into the works. Or to make a political statement.

John W. Kennedy
08-17-1999, 01:52 AM
The Electoral College was created because the leaders at the time assumed that the general populace was not educated enough to vote for the president.


A bit of an urban myth, actually. Some feared this, but the real consideration was that the US was, by a huge ratio, larger than any successful republic in history. They expected a pure popular election to result in a dozen or more minority candidates, all nationally unknown.

The introduction of political parties threw off everyone's calculations.


------------------
John W. Kennedy
"Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays."
-- Charles Williams

Boris B
09-24-1999, 03:40 PM
kunilouI think the fact that real, live electors are on the job helps ensure that somehow, some way, the candidate who gets the most votes is going to wind up President

This seems like a lot of trouble to go through to create the same result as a direct first-past-the-post contest. Why not just formalize a direct vote with a simple plurality rule? I'm not in favor of this, but you might be.

The whole electoral college question seems like it could be cleared up a lot with a little comparative politics. Very few countries have direct, first-past-the-post Presidential elections. Most provide for a direct runoff if no candidate wins a majority of the popular vote. Presidential electors are only used in a few countries (Germany, Argentina, and Italy), and only in Argentina is this an executive President.

A direct majoritarian system is also used in Israel to elect the Prime Minister.

I don't see why this plan hasn't gotten more support in the United States. Probably because it is unfamiliar, and for some reason gasp at the concept of a runoff. Some people say the 50% threshhold is way too high, since this result is not guaranteed and would be rare in a multi-candidate election. This is why weird compromises are proposed: Jimmy Carter advocated direct election, with a runoff if no one received more than 40% of the vote.

What is so bad about a runoff, I don't know. If it were held a few weeks after the first round (which could be held earlier if desired), then yes, it might extend the 18-month campaign season by a few weeks. Big deal.

Yes, this system would treat minor parties more fairly. Who knows how many votes other candidates would get if people weren't always afraid of the sub-majority election of their worst enemy? In fact, I don't even think the distinction between major and minor parties would exist under this system. Who knew which candidates would make it into the run off in the last French Presidential election?

Why don't we join France, Israel, Finland, Peru, and a bunch of other countries in choosing our chief executive this way? Because confusion and demoralization about the electoral college is as American as apple pie.

VileOrb
09-24-1999, 05:07 PM
What do you think of the idea of making election day a national halfday holiday? This would reduce the number of people who would use it as an excuse to go to the mountains. I don't think we need a whole day to vote and I think it would be interesting to have a half day holiday. The oddness of it might draw further attention to it, which would be a good thing.

------------------
If men had wings,
and bore black feathers,
few of them would be clever enough to be crows.

- Rev. Henry Ward Beecher

kunilou
09-24-1999, 05:49 PM
Boris B

I don't think a run-off will help third parties until the two major parties splinter.

As long as a run-off featured the two leading vote-getters, you would almost always wind up with the Democrat and Republican anyway. The third party, whether it's Libertarian, Reform, Constitution or whatever, would always wind up being a protest vote.

If, however, the two major parties, split into -- let's say four (social liberals, economic liberals, social conservatives and economic conservatives) -- and you throw in a couple of small, single-issue parties in the mix, you can easily wind up with a President who started with 24% of the popular vote, squeaked through a run-off (where three out of five of the people who voted in the first election stay home because their candidate already lost) and now has to deal with a Congress comprised primarily of people who not only don't agree with him, but don't agree with each other.

At least with an electoral college, the president has a chance at getting a majority of SOME vote.

You think political rhetoric is bad now? Try slinging "minority President" in there? You think government is distasteful and gridlocked now, try doing it Italian-style, where no one is in charge.

Sofa King
09-24-1999, 05:50 PM
The electoral college can and has voted against the wishes of the people, and in at least one case it turned out to be something of a good thing.

[commence humming patriotic music]

In 1820, James Monroe ran essentially unopposed for reelection and carried the popular vote in every state in the nation. When the electoral college met, one elector dissented and cast his vote for someone else (I'd like to know whom). His reason? George Washington was the only president to ever be unanimously elected by the electoral college, and the dissenting elector intended to keep that honor Washington's alone, thus preserving a special place for our first president and our election history. It serves as a reminder that this is a republic, and that the voice of dissent will at least be heard, if not acknowledged.

[end patriotic music]

Someday, the electoral college might just turn out to be our best friend. It's like that "get out of jail free" card that you can only use once. I offer you a hypothetical example.

After the resignations of President Bush, Vice President Dole, Speaker Hastert, and every Democrat holding public office for receiving oral sex on the job in 2002, President Pro Tempore Strom Thurmond takes the reigns of the presidency, but Congress bickers for twenty months trying to decide whom to appoint as his vice president. Furthermore, house Republicans cannot find a single Representative or Senator who has not had oral sex on Capitol Hill, so they do not officially appoint a Speaker or President Pro Tempore.

President Thurmond stuns an apathetic nation by announcing that he will run for reelection in 2004, and as a publicity stunt, the Republican Party nominates a computer-animated Teddy Roosevelt as his running mate. This is really a plan to have Newt Gingrich appointed Thurmond's vice president after the election.

Thurmond's main opponent is from the newly formed White Quilt Party, Adolf Heidler, IV. Two days before the election, it is determined that Thurmond has in fact been dead since his last bid for the presidency in 1949, and has been getting himself reelected to office ever since simply out of habit.

An emergency convention settles on Arnold Schwartzenegger as the Republican candidate, but election officials point out that because Arnold was born outside of the United States, he is ineligible to run. In the wake of this unexpected result, every single member of the Republican Party announces him or herself a candidate, and splits the vote forty million and one ways.

Heidler walks away with the election, winning a majority vote in every state mostly because he is the only non-write-in candidate on the ballot, and a majority of Americans are by now functionally illiterate and really wanted to push that shiny red button, anyway.

In the intervening period before his inauguration, Heidler announces that he is the direct descendent of the secret offspring of Adolf Hitler and Geli Rabaul. On Charlie Rose, Heidler announces invites his followers to burn the Capitol and take members of the legislature's mistresses (or masters) hostage in order to have Congress declare Heidler Fuhrer. The public watches with disinterest until Vice-President Elect Bill Gates announces that Windows 2005 will be available only to White Quilt Party members, and all prior Microsoft products will recieve no further technical support.

A sober Electoral College meets on a cold winter day to rubber-stamp the election results. But instead, they elect Reform Party Candidates Jesse Ventura and Jerry Springer President and Vice. The first act of the 109th Congress is to offer an amendment banning the electoral college, and it is quickly approved by every state except Minnesota.

Former Secretary of State turned Acting President Jesse Helms turns the presidency over to Ventura that February. America is saved, sort of.

So you see, the Electoral College might not be such a bad thing after all, right?

Right?

09-24-1999, 11:44 PM
Normally Sofa I say you were crazy. But then I consider that there may be a Buchanon-Beatty ticket on the 2000 ballot and I decide that nothing's too crazy for politics.

mangeorge
09-25-1999, 03:01 PM
All I want is for my vote to be a factor in deciding who is to be president. Right now it isn't. Not really. If this results in having a bum as president, I'll take my lumps and use the system to get him/her out. Speaking of "him/her", maybe direct election would finally let us experience a woman as president. Our present system certainly hasn't given us the "cream" of the political crop. I'm tired of "default" presidents.
I'm also against term limits (presidenial too) and for campaign finance reform.
Peace,
mangeorge

Monty
09-25-1999, 04:58 PM
MG: I'm maintaining that so long as this country still has that abomination known as the Bible Belt, there's no way a woman will be president or vice-president.

Damn shame, too.

Boris B
09-25-1999, 10:58 PM
I heard on NPR that of the 10% of Americans who say they would never vote for a woman for President, almost all of them are in the Republican Party. That means there is a big chunk of the vote that Elizabeth Dole doesn't have a shot at. I heard this as a possible reason why Dole isn't doing very well.

I don't know what poll they were talking about though.

mangeorge
09-25-1999, 11:30 PM
"I heard on NPR that of the 10% of Americans who say they would never vote for a woman for President, almost all of them are in the Republican Party."
---Boris B
------------------------------------------
Where does this attitude come from? I would like to hear to some well thought-out reasons why anyone would say they'd never vote for a woman. Religion?
And please, don't sully this discussion with any of that "Go to war once a month" crap.
Peace,
mangeorge

Akatsukami
09-26-1999, 03:37 PM
PatrickM writes:I've looked in the Constitution, but I see no mention of the New Hampshire primary or the Iowa caucuses (not to mention the recent Iowa county fair straw polls).
Well, that's because those institutions aren't Constitutionally mandated. If you wish to change them, move to either New Hampshire or Iowa.
Come to think of it, I see no mention of the two-party system there either. An oversight, no doubt.
No, a fervent hope. The writing of various early politicians made it clear that they were hoping that organized parties would not developed, although many accepted or even welcomed faction of the type then found in the British parliament.


The institutions that existed in the colonies, were created via the Federal Constitution, and largely copied in the later states, virtually guaranteed that a two-party system would emerge (actually, a 100-party system, coalescing into two confederations at the national level).
While we're at it, we have too many states that skew the results. Do we really need a North and a South "Dakota"? Can't we just make them one big "Dakota"? And Delaware has no reason to exist either. It's capital is just a suburb of Philadelphia, for Pete's sake. So why does it get 3 electoral votes?
Well, here we get into the political philosophy behind the Constitution. The object was not to create a unitary state like Britain or France, where local authorities only enjoy such powers as are devolved to them by the central government (in fact, the two schemes that answer to this description, the "Virginia Plan" and Hamilton's proposal, were rejected by the Convention when they were brought up). Rather, the Constitution was intended to create a federation of pre-existing states, the limited authority and evident imbalances of which would be acceptable to the smaller states of the time.


Thus, two critical clauses of the Constitution burke this scheme. Article IV, Section 3, forbids the alteration of state boundaries without the consent of the states concerned. Article V forbids a state from being deprived of its equal vote in the Senate without its consent.


The Electoral College is a sufficiently misunderstood institution that, some time in the not too distant future, it stands a good chance of being abolished. The two institutions in the former paragraph do not (indeed, most people don't eve know that they're there).


------------------
"Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away."

PatrickM
09-26-1999, 04:38 PM
Akatsukami:

Thank you for pointing out that my ideas about making one big "Dakota" and eliminating Delaware are presently unconstitutional. That fact alone does not make them bad ideas though.

I would argue that the Founding Father's original compromise and the way states were subsequently added has had the unanticipated result of vesting too much power, in terms of the electoral college and the US Senate, in states without sufficient population to justify such power. Is it constitutional for that to be so? No doubt it is. Is that the way it ought to be? That is a different question, and I argue that it shouldn't be so. The delicate balance the Framers created has swung too much in favor of "empty" states without many people, to the detriment of more populous states. While it is true that the framers wanted representative, as opposed to pure democracy, what I am saying is that we need to shove the balance back toward democracy and away from the reprentation of states aspect.

As for the NH Primary and the Iowa Caucuses, you suggest I move to one of those states and attempt to have them change their laws. I guess I failed to make my point clearly enough, so let me try again, to wit:

As a citizen of United States residing in the present state of Ohio Ohio I am opposed to the existing ad hoc jerry-rigged system of selecting candidates for the office of President. The residents in the US in New Hampshire and Iowa have much more say in the matter than I do, and I resent that. I do not intend to move to NH or Iowa, what I am suggesting is, to put in in Constitutional terms, that the present non-systematic system violates Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution. That provision states in part:

"The Citizens of Each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several State."

Whether you consider having to dodge Bill Clinton and Pat Buchanan while eating your breakfast in the corner diner a "Privilge" or not, the fact of the matter is that the residents of Iowa and NH have more say than the rest of us Americans in deciding who the presidental candidates will ultimately be. Iowa and NH have usurped this "privilege" from the rest of us Americans and that is not as it should be.

Monty
09-26-1999, 05:55 PM
Gee, PM, you seem to be conveniently forgetting that the FF were well aware of the differences between a large well populated state and a small sparsely populated state. Don't you recall that the original 13 states of the Union were comprised of both?

PatrickM
09-26-1999, 08:24 PM
Monty, I understand that and I appreciate what you are saying. But I advocate the heretical notion that insofar as these provisions of the Constitution apply to modern day America, the Founding Fathers got it wrong. Or more precisely, that it worked then (aside from that little squabble in the 1860's) but it works a lot less well now, so we should at least talk about improving it to make it more little "d" democratic and less little "r" republican.

Monty
09-26-1999, 08:36 PM
Heretic! :)

Thanks for a good laugh due to your choice of that word, PM.

FWIW, I also feel it's long past time for a constitutional convention to address a good deal of the current Constitution.

One thing at the outset IMHO is that obviously the House and Senate can't have viable arguments against term limits; after all, they're the ones who sent a term limit amendment to the States. Guess they only cared about the presidency becoming a fiefdom--not their jobs.

mangeorge
09-26-1999, 08:50 PM
"Guess they only cared about the presidency becoming a fiefdom--not their jobs."
---Monty
--------------------------------------
I hear this sentiment often, and what I don't really unserstand is how this is a large concern. The guy has to run for re-election every four years. Is there a real possibility of someone staying in office against the will pf the electorate? I know that such things happened in local politics in the past (ie Chicago). But we may be tossing out some really good politicians just because they've served their limit. Isn't that why we vote?
I'm not baiting for an argument, just looking for some opinions.
Peace,
mangeorge

mangeorge
09-26-1999, 08:53 PM
"Guess they only cared about the presidency becoming a fiefdom--not their jobs."
---Monty
--------------------------------------
I hear this sentiment often, and what I don't really unserstand is how this is a large concern. The guy has to run for re-election every four years. Is there a real possibility of someone staying in office against the will pf the electorate? I know that such things happened in local politics in the past (ie Chicago). But we may be tossing out some really good politicians just because they've served their limit. Isn't that why we vote?
I'm not baiting for an argument, just looking for some opinions.
Peace,
mangeorge

mangeorge
09-26-1999, 09:00 PM
Sorry! :(
Peace,
mangeorge

Monty
09-27-1999, 12:40 AM
The president also had to run for re-election every four years, but that didn't stop one guy from staying in for one long haul. Senators run for re-election every six years; Representatives, two.

My opinion is that a lot of money, and legislative time, is lost due to the incumbent's primary concern of staying in office. Remove the opportunity of making legislative office a lifelong concern and maybe, just maybe, something will get done in more of a hurry (governmentally speaking, of course).

PatrickM
09-27-1999, 01:49 AM
Several years ago Jeff Greenfield of CNN wrote a very good novel about abuses inherent in the electoral college system. Unfortunately, I can't remember the book's title, but the gist of it was that the president elect died shortly after the election and some members of the electoral college of that party revolted against voting for the vice-president (a Quayle-like dupe) and the machinations that resulted from the high-tech/instant news coverage of the events. I highly recommend the book.

I've looked in the Constitution, but I see no mention of the New Hampshire primary or the Iowa caucuses (not to mention the recent Iowa county fair straw polls). I'd be in favor of knocking those two states down to size and giving the rest of the country more of a voice in selecting the party candidates. Come to think of it, I see no mention of the two-party system there either. An oversight, no doubt.

While we're at it, we have too many states that skew the results. Do we really need a North and a South "Dakota"? Can't we just make them one big "Dakota"? And Delaware has no reason to exist either. It's capital is just a suburb of Philadelphia, for Pete's sake. So why does it get 3 electoral votes? But I digress.

I'd say we should call a new Constitutional Convention to look into these matters, but we'd probably wind up revoking the Bill of Rights and declaring Michael Jordan as president for life.

Boris B
09-27-1999, 04:54 PM
My feeling on term limits is that it weakens whatever it is applied to, by enforcing amateurism. So, it would only be balanced if there were term limits for everything in the political process: term limits for Justices, term limits for Congress, term limits for military officers, term limits for bureaucrats, and term limits for the press. That's right, just because you're not a public employee doesn't mean you can't influence public policy. Term limits for lobbyists, pundits (bye Safire, you've done your stint, go be a welder), and evangelists. The ultimate goal would be term limits for voters - after all, power corrupts.

No, I'm not serious about any of this, but "lame duck" is a pretty harsh thing to say about somebody, and it will eventually get said about every head of state this country ever has (excepting those who get murdered in office).

As to the election day question, I think elections should be held for a simultaneous 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday. It would run 3:00 PM to 3:00 PM, Eastern time (which would make it 10:00 AM, Hawaii time, if my arithmetic is correct). Local authorities could close down from 10 PM to 6 AM, if they so chose. This part I am serious about.

PatrickM
09-27-1999, 05:02 PM
FYI, Jeff Greenfield's novel about the problems with the electoral college is called "The People's Choice: A Cautionery Tale" published in 1995.

Northern Piper
09-28-1999, 02:01 AM
I'm with Boris on his first point - term limits mean that experience is weeded out. Would you invest in a company with a policy that none of its board members or executives could have more than 6 years experience at the company? Stagnation is a bad thing, yes, but so too is running a government with people who don't have experience.

('Course I can say this because the parliamentary system works well without term limits - we don't even have this debate.)

Boris B
09-28-1999, 12:30 PM
jti:
I think it is because most parliamentary systems operate with strong political parties. In a lot of countries, no one would ever think, "Well, such and such legislator is doing a fine job, but they've been in office too long. Let's kick 'em out." You would either like the persons policies, or you wouldn't, because their policies would always be obvious as a party member. Sure, sometimes European parties have wishy-washy policies, but they're never as wishy-washy as we're used to in the States. I heard John McCain on the radio the other day (and as a Democrat, John McCain is probably my favorite Republican). His speech sounded like a list of buzzwords. It made me wish, yet again, that I made good on my promise to myself not to start paying attention to the election until a week before the Iowa caucases; I'll probably keep paying attention for the next 13 months and be deathly sick of it all well before then.

The United States has some of the weakest political parties in the world. They don't really function at election time, and then it is only to channel choices into two elections (primary and general). I would prefer a model with stronger, smaller parties where party membership actually meant something. As long as the parties are like Coke and Pepsi, we lack a meaningful shorthand to distinguish the huge number of candidates on our ballots (the length of which is another issue).

People always retort that multipartism creates deadlocked coalition cabinets, etc. They always use Italy or Israel as an example. I use Germany as a counterexample, where the Chancellor can't just be sacked by the Parliament; if the Parliament wants a new Chancellor, they have to elect a new one in the same vote with kicking the old one out. Makes sense to me. I'm not sure I support a parliamentary system anyway; the multiparty system is fully compatible with an executive President, and there is no such thing as a coalition President. Yes, if I had my druthers, the President would have to tangle with a Congress occupied by five or six parties, but that's an improvement on the 535 parties he has to deal with now.

Boris B
09-28-1999, 12:36 PM
Woops. Second paragraph, second sentence, meant to say: "They don't really function except at election time."

Beruang
09-28-1999, 05:45 PM
To respond to Hansel's question of last August 12 (and to steer the conversation gently back towards the Electoral College), I recall reading an article about this mathematicianin Discover magazine back in '96. I may still have it; I'll try to dig it out. He made the case that an individual's vote actually carries *more* weight under the Electoral College system than in a direct-election system. I forget the mathematical proof (heck, I didn't *understand* the mathematical proof), but the analogy is forever burned into my memory:

The Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1960 World Series, taking four games to the Yankees' three. However, the Yankees' three wins were all blow-outs, while the Pirates four wins were all close affairs (most of them decided by one run). Thus, if you added up all the scores, you'd find that the Yankees scored more total runs in the Series, but the Pirates won more games.

The parallel to the Electoral College system is fairly obvious. A candidate can rack up some serious popular-vote majorities in a few regions--say, urban areas--while failing to carry any other regions. Thus, you can become the top popular-vote getter without truly representing a broad spectrum of the electorate. By forcing candidates to carry *states* rather than just *voters*, politicians are forced to broaden their appeal and listen to masses of voters they would otherwise ignore.

(Whether the system actually achieves this is, of course, open to debate.)

How does this affect the individual voter? Again, consider the 1960 World Series, which ended when Bill Mazeroski hit a home run to end the final game. If you count total runs (i.e. popular vote), then Maz's homer wouldn't have made any difference -- just one run more or less for the Pirates, while the Yankees would still have had a much higher total. But when you look at games won (i.e. states carried), that one run tipped the balance and decided the game, and thus the entire series.

Not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea. My vote (or the combined vote of people in my interest group or voting bloc) is far more likely to tip a state election than a national election. But that's only important if carrying states matters.

Put me down for wanting to keep the Electoral College just the way it is.

Monty
09-29-1999, 12:34 AM
Interesting theory, Beruang. Now please tell us exactly how much weight the average citizen's vote carries in the following constitutionally permitted scenario:

a) The entire "general population" voted for John Doe of Tennessee for president and Jack Frost of New Hampshire for vice-president;

and then

b) The entire Electoral College voted for Henry Walker for president and George Jenkins for vice-president.

After you tell us that, then let us know who, in the scenario just given, is president and who is vice-president.

Defend your answer with cites from federal statutes and/or the U.S. constitution (the document, not the ship).

Monty
09-29-1999, 12:38 AM
I forgot to add the states of residence for Walker and Jenkins in the scenario above.

Walker - New York
Jenkins - California.

Boris B
09-29-1999, 01:38 AM
Here are the margins of victory in the electoral college since 1948:
1948 114
1952 353
1956 369
1960 84
1964 434
1968 110
1972 503
1976 57
1980 440
1984 512
1988 315
1992 202
1996 220

The smallest margin was 57 in the Carter vs. Ford contest (1976). This is the sole election in which one state (New York, with 41 electors) switching from winner to loser would have changed the result. (California had 45 electors but they voted for Ford).

Frankly, I don't buy the theory that the electoral college makes an individual voter more powerful. A whole stateful of people in any state at any turnout rate could have changed their vote in almost any election, and it wouldn't have made a dime's worth of difference. Furthermore, the prospect of a state being one by a single vote is near fantasy, albeit slightly more likely than the whole country being won by a single vote. I see it as sort of like the lottery: your chances of winning are slightly higher if you buy the ticket, but hey, isn't it cheaper just to hope someone drops the winning ticket out of an airplane into your shirt pocket?

People always bring up 1960, since two states (Texas and Illinois) switching to Nixon could have made the difference in that year. (Still no power for the single voter.) Kennedy's margin was 118,574 votes, or 0.17% of the nationwide popular vote. His margin in Illinois was 8858 votes, or 0.19% of the statewide popular vote. His margin in Texas was 46,242 votes, or a (comparatively) whopping 2.02% of the statewide popular vote.

So the Kennedy's margins in the two key states were actually more comfortable, in percentage terms, than his nationwide popular vote margin. If 0.18% of the voters had uniformly switched from Kennedy to Nixon, Nixon would have won the popular column and Kennedy would have danced away with the election. QED

Trivia I:
Kennedy's margin in Hawaii was 115 votes. Not that four electors has ever made a difference since 1876, but that is a pretty thin margin.

Trivia II:
New York was the most populous state in the 1950 census, and thus had 45 electors in 1960, the second closest election. Had it gone to Nixon instead of Kennedy, Nixon would have exceeded Kennedy's electoral total, but the election would have gone to the House because Nixon would still have fallen short of a majority (Harry Byrd having taken some electoral votes as the choice of the anti-Catholic Democrats). I have no guesses who would have one in the House.

Source: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/6228/elections/index.html

Boris B
09-29-1999, 01:51 AM
A candidate can
rack up some serious popular-vote majorities in a few regions--say, urban
areas--while failing to carry any other regions. Thus, you can become the top
popular-vote getter without truly representing a broad spectrum of the
electorate. By forcing candidates to carry *states* rather than just *voters*,
politicians are forced to broaden their appeal and listen to masses of voters
they would otherwise ignore.

(Whether the system actually achieves this is, of course, open to debate.)

I don't know if a broad geographic spectrum equals a broad spectrum in the important ways. You can divide voters by age, race, IQ, Beatles/Elvis preference, etc., with just as much validity as a statewide distinction. If somebody racks up a popular majority in a smallish number of populous urban states, they will almost certainly have appealed to a greater demographic cross-section than the popular-vote runner-up who wins an electoral majority in a ton of whitebread states.

But I agree that it depends on how you define "breadth" in a voter base.

Northern Piper
09-29-1999, 03:05 AM
Boris (taking the thread gently off topic for a bit)

I take your point about the comparative weakness of American political parties, but I was thinking more of the ability of the vote to split his/her vote.

As I understand it, one of the factors that contributes to such strong incumbents in the U.S. is that you can, for example, vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, because you like his stand on one issue, and then vote Republican for the House incumbent in your district, because you think she's done a good job so far on local issues. A good incumbent, with all the resources of incumbency and good work in the local district, can stay in office for years. It's often only on retirement that the seat opens up.

By contrast, in a "first past the post" parliamentary system, you can't split your vote. You have a single vote - for your local member.

If you want to vote the current government out, you have to vote for a candidate from one of the other parties in your riding. You may think that the current member has done a reasonably good job on local issues, but you have to balance that against the performance of the government as a whole. If you think the overall performance of the government outweighs the good of the local performance, you vote against the local member, to change the government.

This approach normally gives a good mix of experienced politicians, who know the system and how to make it work, and idealistic new blood with new ideas. As a result, we don't have any debate about term limits, at least I haven't heard it.

Northern Piper
09-29-1999, 02:01 PM
to return to the main topic: I think there are two different issues floating around. One is, why is there this formal thing called the electoral college? the other is, why should the votes for the President be tabulated according to state, rather than a simple, direct election-at-large? I took the OP to be asking the first question.

you could easily get rid of the electoral college without changing the political dynamics at all. the voters in each state would vote directly for the President, but each state would have a block of electoral votes, based on its total congressional representation, just as it does now. each state could decide how those votes would be allocated, based on the popular vote: as a block, "winner take all," or proportionate to the popular vote (as I believe Maine does now).

an amendment of this type would have the benefit of bringing the actual wording of the Constitution into accord with the political reality.

Beruang
09-29-1999, 06:26 PM
Monty --

Ya caught me. The electoral system, like the laws of physics, breaks down under outrageously extreme circumstances. We have no defense against egregious, systematic abuse of power. Our only hope of dodging this bullet rests in rewriting the Constitution, or assuming that people will act rationally, much as they have for the past 200 years.

I also note the Constitution allows pigs to fly and the sun to set in the east. I'd best get to work on contingency plans for those as well.

As for who would be President? I would. Why? Because I'm Al Franken. You would be Vice-President. You're just the sort of young buck they're looking for these days. You're smart and you're no fool.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I remain,
Your humble servant,
Beruang

Monty
09-29-1999, 08:34 PM
Beruang: sadly, we'd never make it past the starting post. Those darn Electors would probably want to try to do something that's prohibited by the Constitution. Why should Congress be the only outfit who gets paid to do something unconstitutional?

dougie_monty
10-01-1999, 07:36 PM
What I have found about the Electoral College is that the unstated purpose is to keep the states' power in an election. When I got a letter criticizing the electoral College printed in a local newspaper in the early 70s, another reader replied, all but calling me a Big Brother's dupe! His point seemed to be that "We the People" actually means "We the States." A direct popular election would take the state's electoral power away. I don't know who created the unwritten rule that the candidate who wins the Presidential election in one state gets all of that state's elctoral votes--"winner-take-all"--got started, but to my way of thinking it thwarts the will of the majority (of voters, not states).

Boris B
10-01-1999, 07:52 PM
There have been a number of other rules to how to elect electors. (That's another problem with the electoral college, you sound like you're stuttering a lot.) The only state(s) which depart from the plurality winner-take-all rule are Maine and possibly Nebraska. Maine's rule is two votes for the statewide leader, and one vote for each Congressional district's leader. So Maine's vote could go three ways, if, for example, George W. got four votes in District 1, George Clooney got four votes in District 2, and George Burns got three votes in each District.

In a more realistic example, in the 1824 election, New York split its electoral vote three ways: Andrew Jackson, John Q. Adams, and Henry Clay, if memory serves (all the candidates were Jeffersonian Republicans ... don't know if that's relevant).

States have gravitated towards the winner-take-all system because it makes them more important. What really counts is the margin a state provides, and a 54-vote winner-take-all state always provides a 54-vote margin. If those were all single-member districts, the margin could be as low as zero (say, if the state were split in half); the same would be true, for different reasons, of a state which allocated its electors proportionally.

Two evenly matched candidates would be likely to pay tons of attention to a large winner-take-all state (witness all the attention heaped on California and Texas); the same large state might be totally ignored if it were "winner-take-some" (i.e. if its electors could cancel each other out). This is why all the states tend to like winner-take-all systems: it maximizes attention on the state (it would be great if your big neighbor would split its vote, but they choose their own process).

The only way to kill the winner-take-all system would be to ban it nationally; states have no incentive to do it. To do it nationally would require a Constitutional amendment, since states currently get to choose electors how they please. I'd rather just kill the college outright, with a Constitutional Amendment. Eugene McCarthy, in contrast, recommends a system of several thousand small districts, each with a single elector, who is intimately familiar with her or his constituents' Presidential preferences. The election could stay in the college for several ballots.

Monty
10-02-1999, 03:21 AM
So, Boris; what you're proposing is amending the constitution to say what it already says. Interesting.

Boris B
10-03-1999, 12:55 AM
I think you're teasing me in some manner that's way too urbane for me to follow. I just want an amendment to provide for a direct majoritarian election a la France and Brazil.

Monty
10-03-1999, 11:57 AM
Ah, so you're advocating, as my Government teacher in college does, for abolition of the Electoral College.

There are a few things involved with that stance (not that it's a bad stance, it's just fraught with danger as all changes are):

1) Residents of the smaller/less-populated states might be a little miffed if their Electors no longer have a real say in who runs the governemnt at the national level. This country, after all, is a union of different states, a few of those states had been countries in their own right prior to admission to the union.

2) There is still the question of which method of selection will replace the current selection:

a) Direct popular election - see Item 1 above.

b) State Legislatures vote for the Prez & Veep - that's the way Senators were orignally selected and the Constitution was amended to have direct popular election instead.

c) The Congress selects the Prez & Veep as they do in some countries - heck, they can't even agree on what constitutes the Decalogue!

d) Replace the entire shebang (Congress & the Presidency) with a one-house parliament in which the government of the day is selected entirely by the majority party - again, see Item 1 above.

I might add that the last item would also require, to make it work, scrapping the current concept of separate states and one union with one mega-state.

Boris B
10-03-1999, 08:23 PM
Certainly there are some people who are against one-vote-per-voter systems, and will argue against them in a hundred ways. In a direct system, each Wyoming voter would have the same power as each California voter. It doesn't seem that alien to me; plenty of federal systems use direct national elections. Every election in America was mandated by the Supreme Court to be "one-man-one-vote" except U.S. Senate and Presidential elections.

I still don't know why geographical distinctions matter so much more than other distinctions. We could have any number of electoral colleges. The winner of a plurality of the voters aged 20-26 could get a big chunk of electors; an age-based college would just make all the candidates craft their campaigns to appeal to as many age cohorts as possible instead of as many states as possible. Minor parties would be considered important if they could concetrate their votes in a small number of age groups; those that appealed uniformly to people of all ages would be ignored. This system is no goofier than the status quo, but we are used to pundits talking about whocanwinCaliforniaandTexasthisyear and not whocanwintheelderlyandnewvotersthisyear.

Northern Piper
10-03-1999, 11:58 PM
Boris,

the reason geography matters is that the U.S. is a federal system, not a unitary state. A federal system, almost by definition, says that some matters will be decided purely on popultion grounds, while others will be influenced by geographic considerations - i.e. decisions at the state level, rather than at the individual level.

I don't see why it's so unusual to say that the only two elected members of the federal executive should be chosen by a method that helps to ensure they try to get support from across the country, rather than just concentrating solely on certain groups of voters. (my personal reaction; can understand others may take a different view.)

Boris B
10-04-1999, 12:55 PM
jti
Is see your point about Federal systems and the desirability of Presidential candidates seeking votes across the country. I just don't see how the electoral college serves that end. A candidate could win in the electoral college with the 11 largest states. Campaigns focus on the big prizes - granted, they don't all sit in the same region (California, Texas, Illinois; for some reason they ignore Pennsylvania and Ohio ...).

Examples of truly Federal executives include the European Commission and the Swiss cabinet (I think it's called the National Council).

The most sectional President ever elected was Abraham Lincoln. No other Presidential election provoked a civil war. Lincoln won 39% of the popular vote but - and this is very important - he won overall voting majorities in states summing an absolute majority of the electoral vote. I don't have any thing against Lincoln, I just think it should be noted that if, hypothetically, every anti-Lincoln vote were counted for a single opponent (e.g., John Bell or Stephen Douglas), Lincoln would still have won with 39% of the vote. The loser would have had 61%.

dougie_monty
10-05-1999, 03:00 PM
The 1860 election was even more sectional than that, Boris. Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot in the eleven states that seceded--which they promised to do if Lincoln were elected.

Monty
10-05-1999, 10:33 PM
Boris: don't forget Clinton did not win a majority of the popular vote, either.