View Poll Results: What, if anything, should be done with the U.S. Electoral College?
Nothing. Don't touch it. Leave it alone. 45 31.47%
Change it. Eliminate winner-take-all. Have the electoral votes in each state parceled out according to the percentage of popular vote the candidates receive. 17 11.89%
Abolish it. It's an anachronism from the 18th century that doesn't reflect how presidential elections have changed since 1788. 81 56.64%
Voters: 143. You may not vote on this poll

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  #151  
Old 10-27-2018, 12:40 AM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
It has been a couple of centuries. We do have the world's oldest running constitutional democracy. Most other nations that democratized copied our model, but also made some changes, improvements they saw that would avoid some of the difficulties our v0.110 to v0.127 has encountered. We're still in beta testing, and some flaws have certainly been uncovered, and only quick fix patches have been applied.

It is time for a new version. Learn from not only our own mistakes, but the efforts of others that have copied and expanded upon our model. I do support a constitutional convention to completely overhaul the thing.

You ask what period, I ask, if not now, then when?

The set up of the distribution of power was a compromise. It wasn't a founding principle, it wasn't a self evident truth, it was a political concession from the more powerful and wealthy and populous state towards the smaller poorer state because without it, we'd still be under the articles of confederacy, and those didn't serve anyone well.

We are not in that condition anymore. All the players that negotiated that contract are long gone and buried. All the political alliances that created that contract are forgotten. We are not beholden to the past, we are beholden to the future, and the world we leave for our descendants. The founding fathers didn't gnash their teeth at the idea of throwing away traditions that no longer served their needs. They not only broke away from Britain, they then went and threw out the contract that they did it under, replacing it with one that they felt better served their needs.

They even gave us the tools to update it, not thinking that they were going to get things right on the first try. We should look to their vision of creating a better future, than to look at the past to try to emulate and repeat it.
All you need is 38 states to agree with you and you're all set (I'll be urging my state not to do so).
  #152  
Old 10-27-2018, 08:18 AM
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octopus, tradition can in fact be a good guide to making decisions. If you're not sure why Mom always cut the ends off of her pot roasts, but they always came out good, well then, you should cut the ends off of your pot roast, too. If you don't know why your predecessors did something, then it's wise to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they had a good reason for it.

But that isn't the case here. We know why our ancestors created the Electoral College. Some of their reasons were good ideas that didn't work, some of their reasons were based on conditions that are now obsolete, and some of their reasons were actively evil. None of their reasons are both good and still relevant. Tradition should have no weight whatsoever, in this case.
  #153  
Old 10-27-2018, 08:19 AM
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Oh, and again, HurricaneDitka, we all know how the amendment process works, and other than you, all of us know that we all know that. That's not what we're discussing here: There's little point in discussing that, because we all already know it.
  #154  
Old 10-27-2018, 09:46 AM
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octopus, tradition can in fact be a good guide to making decisions. If you're not sure why Mom always cut the ends off of her pot roasts, but they always came out good, well then, you should cut the ends off of your pot roast, too. If you don't know why your predecessors did something, then it's wise to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they had a good reason for it.

But that isn't the case here. We know why our ancestors created the Electoral College. Some of their reasons were good ideas that didn't work, some of their reasons were based on conditions that are now obsolete, and some of their reasons were actively evil. None of their reasons are both good and still relevant. Tradition should have no weight whatsoever, in this case.
What were the reasons that were "good ideas but didn't work"?
  #155  
Old 10-27-2018, 10:33 AM
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Off the top of my head, the idea that electors would sit down and wisely decide who should be President. Party politics mostly put the kibosh on that.
  #156  
Old 10-27-2018, 11:24 AM
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Thats fine by me. We have an amendment process and we also could call another constitutional convention. Id be very concerned about the 2nd option though.
I wouldn't be. It would still need to be ratified, so it's not like we can just scribble some stuff with a crayon and call it a day. We can make something better
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I do disagree that we are not at the very least partially beholden to the past.
I completely disagree with that. There is no one in the past who will be affected in the slightest by decisions that we make today. No matter whether we become a communist nation, an anarchist nation, a capitalistic utopia or dystopia, will George Washington's life be in any way, shape, or form, impacted. We owe him nothing.

The past is simply a repository of knowledge, the empirical results of many different experiments of governance. We can learn from the past, we can try to replicate successes and avoid failures, but we do not need to "honor" the past. The past doesn't care.

People in the future, however, that's another story. They will be helped or harmed by the decisions that we make today. I say that we have far more obligation to improve the lives of those who come after us than to try to make a bunch of dead people proud.

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All you need is 38 states to agree with you and you're all set (I'll be urging my state not to do so).
Is that just a blanket statement, without any knowledge whatsoever as to what sort of changes would be made, even if they would actually end up being a benefit to yourself, or is that a blanket statement that you do not believe that any changes could possibly be of benefit to yourself?

I disagree either way, finding the first position to be self-destructively stubborn, and the second to be obtusely ignorant.
  #157  
Old 10-27-2018, 04:11 PM
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Quoth John Mace:

What were the reasons that were "good ideas but didn't work"?
The electoral college was supposed to prevent an unqualified populist demagogue from getting into power. Which is a noble goal. But we've just seen how effective they were at that.
  #158  
Old 10-27-2018, 07:02 PM
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The electoral college was supposed to prevent an unqualified populist demagogue from getting into power.
I don't think that is quite correct. It wasn't to prevent someone like that from "getting into power", it was to prevent that type of person being elected, directly, by the people. It was an argument against electing the president by popular vote. Is it a good idea to have a buffer between the popular vote and the election of the president?

I think if the EC were to overturn an election, it would be worse for the country than the election of someone like Trump. And I would say that whether someone like Trump got the most total votes in the election or if that person's opponent got more total votes.

In short, I think the idea is not a good one, no matter how we look it at.

Last edited by John Mace; 10-27-2018 at 07:03 PM.
  #159  
Old 10-27-2018, 08:29 PM
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... Is that just a blanket statement, without any knowledge whatsoever as to what sort of changes would be made, even if they would actually end up being a benefit to yourself, or is that a blanket statement that you do not believe that any changes could possibly be of benefit to yourself? ...
I'm skeptical that America in 2018 would make a new Constitution that protects my interests or serves the country better than our current one. If, against my wishes, a Constitutional convention we're called and, to my surprise, the product we're an improvement, I would happily support it. I consider that a remote enough possibility and the danger of something idiotic but popular being approved instead serious enough that I oppose calling a convention.
  #160  
Old 10-28-2018, 07:18 AM
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John Mace, why would it make any difference whether an unqualified populist were elected directly or indirectly?

But in any event, whether it would be a good thing or not, it looks like we agree that it doesn't work.
  #161  
Old 10-28-2018, 08:21 AM
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John Mace, why would it make any difference whether an unqualified populist were elected directly or indirectly?
Can you clarify your question? I'm not sure why you are asking that.

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But in any event, whether it would be a good thing or not, it looks like we agree that it doesn't work.
Yes, I agree that it doesn't work. Where I disagree is that it's a good idea for there to be some check on the votes of the people. Many of the Founders were, among other things, elitists who didn't trust the common people to make good decisions. I think that was a bad reason to support the EC. YMMV. If you recall, we had a debate about this almost 2 years ago right after Trump won and the idea was floated that the EC should or might swing the election for Hillary. In fact, more than one.

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  #162  
Old 10-28-2018, 10:16 AM
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I'm skeptical that America in 2018 would make a new Constitution that protects my interests or serves the country better than our current one. If, against my wishes, a Constitutional convention we're called and, to my surprise, the product we're an improvement, I would happily support it. I consider that a remote enough possibility and the danger of something idiotic but popular being approved instead serious enough that I oppose calling a convention.
I'm skeptical that any progress will be made in 2018, or 19, or 20. Sometime down the road, maybe. I see no reason why what we come up with wouldn't be an improvement, we have centuries of knowledge and experience that the founding fathers did not have in order to make something better. Why do you have such doubt in the capabilities of people of today that you have to bow to the wishes of people who died hundreds of years ago?

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Can you clarify your question? I'm not sure why you are asking that.
You said:
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It wasn't to prevent someone like that from "getting into power", it was to prevent that type of person being elected, directly, by the people.
I disagree that it wasn't to prevent someone like that from getting into power. The FF's didn't really trust the public not to be swayed by a populist demagogue, and wanted a check in order to prevent such a person from taking power. That is why there is no where in the constitution that makes an elector beholden to the vote.

You do not vote for the president. Ballots of old made this more clear, where it would actually list the slate of electors that you were voting for. You vote for a representative to go to the capitol and vote on your behalf on who they think would best serve in that office. Just because most ballots don't say this anymore and word theselve in such a way that people think that they are actually voting for the president doesn't make it so.

Do I agree with that as a final safety measure, meh, hard to say, in some ways, it's a holdover from a different time, when people did things differently. In other ways, it could still be relevant. If the EC had blocked Trump from attaining office, then it would have served that purpose. As it was decided that the EC wouldn't or couldn't fulfill their final purpose, they have no further use. I'm actually for a more parliamentary form of government anyway, so yeah, having electors making their own best judgment as to the leader of the executive branch doesn't bother me as much as it would bother someone who is against such a form of governance.

Is there any point in actually having electors who cast a vote if that vote is predertmined? Why not just tally it up and save them a trip?
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Yes, I agree that it doesn't work. Where I disagree is that it's a good idea for there to be some check on the votes of the people. Many of the Founders were, among other things, elitists who didn't trust the common people to make good decisions. I think that was a bad reason to support the EC. YMMV. If you recall, we had a debate about this almost 2 years ago right after Trump won and the idea was floated that the EC should or might swing the election for Hillary. In fact, more than one.
I don't know if you are reading that right. There may have been some that wanted the election overturned and swung to Hillary, but most were just wanting to avoid Trump. I supported the electors passing up Trump and electing Pence as the most reasonable compromise. Still not getting the party that I want to be in charge, still continues a political fight, but avoids a person who is fundamentally unqualified for the office.
  #163  
Old 10-28-2018, 01:11 PM
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I do think that one of the big problems we have is that we have only two parties, and that we have to choose one or the other.
...

I like the idea that the head of state should be more of a figurehead than having actual authority. Kind of like the Queen of England. They are the person who represents us to the world, but has no actual power or authority.

They can do all the pomp and circumstance, while the legislative bodies do the actual work of governing.
1) That seems to be the biggest problem inn the USA. Most European countries have had at least one party to act as a third force and occasional coalition partner. That said, coalitions are not all that great as they tend to sink into paralysis (cf the Netherlands and Germany) but frankly that is better than a turn and turn around cartel.

The question as to what is a fair electoral system is vexed, to say the least. I have have even seen mathematical proofs that many systems result in the person who is everyone's second choice gets elected. AFAIK, that is how Harding got in. The next issue is defining the electoral boundaries, and even with a neutral commission it is easy to either produce ultra-safe seats for one party or else ones that are permanently marginal. The answer? I don't have one.

Part 2: many European countries do have a figurehead for the representative work. It seems to be a good idea.
  #164  
Old 10-28-2018, 01:42 PM
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All you need is 38 states to agree with you and you're all set (I'll be urging my state not to do so).
You and all other sentient Americans are well aware that it is impossible, in the present political climate, for a Constitutional Amendment that might offer partisan advantage to be passed. Pretending otherwise ("Amend the Constitution if you don't like it!") is just another form of partisan gloating.

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The electoral college was supposed to prevent an unqualified populist demagogue from getting into power. Which is a noble goal. But we've just seen how effective they were at that.
BUT, it is precisely because the use of intelligent informed Electors was replaced with rigid adherence to the babble of the ignorant masses (albeit with a peculiar arithmetic distortion that allowed a dolt to be elected with only 63 Million votes) that this disaster befell. What might have saved us here would have been a return to the Founders' vision!

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... we all know how the amendment process works, and other than you, all of us know that we all know that. That's not what we're discussing here: There's little point in discussing that, because we all already know it.
Just as an abstract point not relevant to any Dopers here it is precisely because a point is well understood that makes its mention temptingly delicious when the purpose is snide sarcasm.
  #165  
Old 10-28-2018, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by k9bfriender View Post
I disagree that it wasn't to prevent someone like that from getting into power. The FF's didn't really trust the public not to be swayed by a populist demagogue, and wanted a check in order to prevent such a person from taking power. That is why there is no where in the constitution that makes an elector beholden to the vote.
Maybe I wasn't clear about what I was getting at. The phrase "getting into power" is too broad for what the Founders were going after. There are many ways that a bad guy could "get into power":

1. The people vote for him
2. The country is invaded, and someone is installed by a foreign government
3. The government is overthrown by a coup, and a dictator is put in place of the president.
4. Something else.

The EC was put there to address only #1. It can't deal with anything other than #1. The phrase "getting into power" obscures the fact that it was meant to be a buffer between the voters and the selection of the president. To the extent that the EC an overrule the voters, I think that's a bad reason for having it.

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I don't know if you are reading that right. There may have been some that wanted the election overturned and swung to Hillary, but most were just wanting to avoid Trump. I supported the electors passing up Trump and electing Pence as the most reasonable compromise. Still not getting the party that I want to be in charge, still continues a political fight, but avoids a person who is fundamentally unqualified for the office.
I didn't count the number of posters who wanted Hillary vs those who wanted someone else, but that's not really the point I was trying to make. I think it would have been a bad idea for the EC to substitute anyone (Clinton, Pence, Ryan, Pelosi, anyone) for Trump in the last election. So be that as it may-- if posters were mostly saying the EC should have selected someone other that Trump or Hillary, I think that would have been a bad idea.
  #166  
Old 10-28-2018, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Maybe I wasn't clear about what I was getting at. The phrase "getting into power" is too broad for what the Founders were going after. There are many ways that a bad guy could "get into power":

1. The people vote for him
2. The country is invaded, and someone is installed by a foreign government
3. The government is overthrown by a coup, and a dictator is put in place of the president.
4. Something else.

The EC was put there to address only #1. It can't deal with anything other than #1. The phrase "getting into power" obscures the fact that it was meant to be a buffer between the voters and the selection of the president. To the extent that the EC an overrule the voters, I think that's a bad reason for having it.
I get that, and that is a valid opinion. I am of a differing opinion that the EC was intended for the entire purpose of overruling the voters. Now, the reason for this was not entirely bening, but it was intended to keep people who were judged (by the EC themsevles) to be unfit for office from attaining office.

And we are only talking about #1, as that is the only one that is actually relevant to democratic shifts of power. The rest are non-democratic regime changes.
Quote:

I didn't count the number of posters who wanted Hillary vs those who wanted someone else, but that's not really the point I was trying to make. I think it would have been a bad idea for the EC to substitute anyone (Clinton, Pence, Ryan, Pelosi, anyone) for Trump in the last election. So be that as it may-- if posters were mostly saying the EC should have selected someone other that Trump or Hillary, I think that would have been a bad idea.
YMMV on this, but I disagree. I think that the entire point of the electors was to be a bulwark against someone like Trump. Now, when it was first set up, we had a bit of a different system overall. The VP didn't run with the president, in fact the VP would often be the president's biggest rival, so putting it on the EC to skip the head of the ticket and go to the second isn't something that would be spelled out, but I think that that is the most palatable and democratic scenario. If for some reason, trump were deemed unfit, whether by 25th amendment impeachment, or resignation, Pence would be the one to take power, so it makes the most sense to me that the EC would find Trump unfit, and the presidency would go to the one who would get it under any other circumstances where the President has been found to be unable to execute the duties of office.

Them picking anyone else, IMHO, would have been a bad idea. But standing in the way of a populist demagogue is the entire point of their existence.

Can you explain why we have electors that go to the capitol to elect the president, if it is not that they are being given the authority to use their best judgment as to who should be the head of the executive branch? The constitution does not say anything about faithless electors, does not behold them to the vote of those who elected them.

The only way that it is not an archaic institution that no longer serves a purpose is if it actually serves a purpose, and it refused to serve that purpose. Why should we keep around something that no longer works? Are we hoarders of failed constitutional concepts?
  #167  
Old 10-28-2018, 05:52 PM
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I get that, and that is a valid opinion. I am of a differing opinion that the EC was intended for the entire purpose of overruling the voters. Now, the reason for this was not entirely bening, but it was intended to keep people who were judged (by the EC themsevles) to be unfit for office from attaining office.
Which voters were they intended to overrule? Nobody was voting for President and 5 of the original states didn't even have votes for the electors. Your opinion could be defended if it was that the EC was meant to bypass the electorate. But it's clear the EC's entire purpose was to allow the individual states, weighing partially by population, to vote for President.
  #168  
Old 10-28-2018, 06:00 PM
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Which voters were they intended to overrule? Nobody was voting for President and 5 of the original states didn't even have votes for the electors. Your opinion could be defended if it was that the EC was meant to bypass the electorate. But it's clear the EC's entire purpose was to allow the individual states, weighing partially by population, to vote for President.
Its entire purpose was to allow individual states to send a delegation to the capitol to vote for the president.

As you said, no one was actually voting for the president, as I mentioned upthread when I said that it used to be that you actually had the electors on the ballot, rather than the president. We never have actually voted directly for the president, we have only ever gotten to vote for electors.

With some/most/all states these days not listing the electors anymore, and instead, just listing the presidential candidates, it seems some voters are confused, and think that they are actually voting for the president. This is not the case. They are only expressing their opinion, one which the electors who are elected by these voters can take into account, if they so wish.
  #169  
Old 10-28-2018, 07:00 PM
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Which voters were they intended to overrule? Nobody was voting for President and 5 of the original states didn't even have votes for the electors. Your opinion could be defended if it was that the EC was meant to bypass the electorate. But it's clear the EC's entire purpose was to allow the individual states, weighing partially by population, to vote for President.
That was not the entire purpose. As we have been discussing, some of the founders wanted a layer between the people's votes and the selection of the president. The EC mimicked the make-up of Congress, as the original idea was to have Congress vote for the president.

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Its entire purpose was to allow individual states to send a delegation to the capitol to vote for the president.
Just to be clear, the electors met in their respective state capitols, not the nation's capitol. And that's still how it's done. They send their results to DC, but the votes are done in the states. I'm not sure if you were implying that the election happened in DC, but your post could easily have been read that way.
  #170  
Old 10-28-2018, 07:01 PM
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We were discussing your opinion "that the EC was intended for the entire purpose of overruling the voters."
  #171  
Old 10-28-2018, 07:07 PM
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That was not the entire purpose. As we have been discussing, some of the founders wanted a layer between the people's votes and the selection of the president. The EC mimicked the make-up of Congress, as the original idea was to have Congress vote for the president.
That is simply more complicated way of saying they didn't want a popular vote. The EC is a third layer, because the legislatures of the states were already a buffer between voters and the presidency.
  #172  
Old 10-28-2018, 09:29 PM
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That is simply more complicated way of saying they didn't want a popular vote. The EC is a third layer, because the legislatures of the states were already a buffer between voters and the presidency.
Not really. There was never a time when all the states chose electors via the state legislatures. And some states switched between citizens voting and legislature voting (and vice versa). But more to the point, the Framers would not have known which or how many states would go the route of citizens voting and which or how many would go the route of state legislature voting.

At any rate, it's simply not correct that "it's clear the EC's entire purpose was to allow the individual states, weighing partially by population, to vote for President." That was one purpose. It might arguably have been the main purpose. But it was not the only purpose.
  #173  
Old 10-29-2018, 03:35 AM
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The electoral college, as it exists, is one of the reason why the presidency still swings between the two major parties.

I hope I never live to see a time when the electoral districts for a directly-elected president are set by the same system that governs electoral districts in the USA now.
  #174  
Old 10-29-2018, 08:59 AM
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What do you mean by "electoral districts for a directly-elected president"? If the President were directly elected, the districts would be irrelevant.
  #175  
Old 03-20-2019, 12:26 PM
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Bumped because of recent discussion by Elizabeth Warren and others about abolishing the EC.
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  #176  
Old 03-20-2019, 01:03 PM
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Miscellaneous comments:
(1) The elector-popular discrepancy gave the "wrong" result in 2000 and 2016. What if it had given the "right" result Gore and Clinton winning despite losing the popular vote? I for one would be rejoicing about the EC "wisdom"! (OTOH, the EC seems to favor the R's systemically at present that's a good reason to oppose it! )
(2) Those commenting on the desirability of giving large land areas higher electoral weights should comment on the high electoral weights given Delaware and Rhode Island.
(3) Giving electoral weight in proportion to states' populations (though preferably without the two-Senator kicker) has advantages. For example, suppose an election-day blizzard in New York causes hundreds of thousands of New York voters to stay home. This would partly disenfranchise New York in a popular-vote system, but is somewhat mitigated by the EC system.
(4)
Quote:
The exact opposite is true. Far from confining the recount mess to Florida, the EC turned the Florida mess into a mess for the entire country. And while it's theoretically possible that a popular vote would produce a result as razor-thin as the 2000 Florida result, it's far less likely, enough so that even though the resulting mess would be larger, the expected amount of mess is still significantly less.
Tell me if my back-of-the-envelope is correct. Approximating the U.S./Florida population ratio as 16, a recount required due to closeness would be only 1/4 as likely(*), but would be 16 times as expensive if it does occur.
(* - This crudity ignores that other states could have had razor-thin margins. But more importantly, and pushing in the opposite direction, it ignores that the Florida recount wouldn't have been worth the bother except that it was EC-decisive.)

I'm glad that the NPVIC proposal got minimal support in the thread. I call that the "Let the People decide? No, let's turn the election over to the lawyers!" initiative.

Last edited by septimus; 03-20-2019 at 01:05 PM.
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