Electoral College again

It was established in another thread that the EC gives states with smaller populations more power in voting. The term “Rule Of The Mob” was used.
So, why is this a good thing? If there are more people in CA and TX than sat RI that want Smith as president, why shouldn’t they get him? Why is a state more important than people?
If someone is protecting voters, preventing the Rule of The Mob, who is it and why aren’t people deciding for themselves, be it good or ill? Why doesn’t the majority have its say? It will be wrong sometimes, but who makes that decision?
The concept of the Republic is that we select our ‘leaders’ and they are indeed that, smarter than we and able to make the correct decisions while we feed and hoard and know not them; but should this leadership carry over even into the selection of a leader?

As I might recall, the electoral college is divied up almost exactly the same way the senate and house are divied up. 2 per state, plus how ever many more for each district in that state.

And, originally, in our republic we did not elect our senators, but they were instead appointed by the government of each state.

I’m not sure of the original intent of this, but in light of the campaign finance issues we’ve been having lately, it makes sence to have someone in the works in Washington making descisions that only have to lobby a few hundred people in Boston or Austin or Sacramento rather that blowing millions of dollars in special interest money in order to buy pablum adverts for the “ignorant masses.”

Aw, Senator Kennedy likes puppies. I guess he’s a good guy after all.

I think the ammendment which changed how the senators were chosen should be repealed.

The reason mob rule is bad, is the mob can be easily swayed by rhetoric. Anyone disagree with that?

That, jmullaney, is why the European elite thought the U.S. would never last after the Revolutionary War. Here we are, 224 years later, and our “mob rule” (that’s what they thought it was) has outlasted the British Empire, Nazism, Russian communism, and all the rest of the pretenders.

The trend, throughout our history, has been to widen the democratic aspects of our government, whether by extending the right to vote to women, lowering the voting age to 18, or by providing for direct election of the Senate.
None of these steps hurt the Republic in any way. Elimination of the Electoral College would be in keeping with this trend.


Hell yes, I will disagree.
I always disagree with those who belittle us po common folk.

First off, mobs are easily swayed by emotional rhetoric, true. But people form mobs rarely and only under certain conditions. The characterization of rule by the people as “mob rule” is just the type of emotional and inaccurate labeling that your post was decrying. Perhaps you are using this rhetorical trick for the same reason that politicians do, because it is not just an effective tool for influencing mobs. It is useful for convincing all kinds of people to agree with you.
Government by the people is not “mob rule”, it is democracy.


The elitist comments by jmullaney unfortunately are in agreement with the feelings of the Framers ( of the Constitution ). It is important to realize that they were not regular Americans but rather from the upper class. To lend credence to my assertion allow me to quote from a post I made a while back. I think that it is just as relevent to this thread.

Is this just so much elitist claptrap? IMO- yes.
Is it paradoxical to found a democracy on a principle of mistrusting the people? Yes.
But that is the hand we have been dealt.

I once read an article (that I’ve been unable to locate again) by a mathemetician who calculated that that electoral college makes the individual voter more powerful, rather than less.

His argument was that your vote is only individually meaningful when it’s the swing vote. Under the electoral college scheme, your vote is more likely to be the swing vote than under a simple, direct voting scheme. I recall that the article was in a reputable journal, and I couldn’t smell any crackpotism to it.

If anyone can reconstruct the mathematics of it, I’d be obliged.

To semi-quote a someone from around here:

You don’t get to vote on the facts.

I think this pertains just as easily to individual rights. Even if there was only one man in America who believed in Freedom of speech, it would still be a valid right. States are another layer of protection for individual rights. The Ec just tries to help maintain the protection of the states.

Please expand on that; I’m not quite catching your drift.

The EC was a compromise to make sure the federal goverment didnt have too much power over the states.

2sense is right in his assessment of the fears of the members of the Constitutional Convention WRT the lack of virtù of the common man. Of course, in an age where the choice of a President is essentially between Bush and Gore, with only Nader being given even an outside chance to do well enough to get public monies for his party four years hence, it is difficult to refute them…

As for the current uses of the EC, it is perhaps to be noted that a considerable amount of whining goes on, both on the SDMB and elsewhere, about the alienation supposedly caused by the average voter perceiving that she is but one voice in hundred million. Given the EC (and the several States) are examples, albeit imperfect ones, of a federal system in which that average voter is a voice in a much smaller pond, one would suppose that there would be some support among those of that opinion for retaining that federal structure (even if it is regarding as the futility of voices that cannot be heard in the crowd).

There was a war fought over that and the Feds won.

We’re discussing the mechanism by which we choose one dingbat rather than another to make a good portion of our decisions for us for the next 4 years. No matter how you do that, it isn’t going to be spectacularly democratic.

Personally, I don’t see the connection between the FF’ fears and our poor presidential “choices”. The elite set up a system disempowering the common citizen and you want to point the finger at the citizenry when things don’t turn out well?
That sounds like blaming the victim to me.

In the spirit of brotherhood, and of the OP, I would like to link to a recent thread concerning the electeral college which I have bookmarked.

You will notice some good information on the ellectoral college posted there. Some of which is contributed by the 2 posters I am disagreeing with here.


What the electoral college does is shift emphasis away from pure numbers of folks and towards numbers of folks in each state. It is still the citizens who have the power. If the citizens of some states lose power, then it is simply shifted to citizens of other states.

More to the point, what the electoral college does is maintain the principal that this is the United States of America, not the United People of America.

hansel wrote:

The article was probably the one in Discover magazine cited, with a link, in this thread

Hi **Spiritus Mundi **,

Nice to see you again. You are my official favorite poster this month.
Actually, my “disempowering the citizens” quote was directed at the entire constitutionally mandated system but the electoral colege does its share of damage.

To wit:
How can removing the vote from people and giving it to a tiny group of political hacks be anything other than disempowering? The electors select the POTUS, not the people. Most people never even know who ( whom? ) they are entrusting to vote for them. And the electors may select any qualified candidate they wish.

Also, removing power from some people and investing it in others is, by definition, disempowering the first group. Because you add that power back to the citizenry as a whole does not mitigate the unfairness of this proposition. Some of the citizenry would necessarily have more power than others.

I agree with carnivorousplant on this one.
The Feds won the Civil War and things are different now.

Thanks, Nebulli - that’s exactly the article of which I was thinking. You should read it, 2sense; it’s an excellent articulation of the reasoning behind the electoral college, and why it’s still relevant.

I have two comments about winning the popular vote. The first is from a column by George Will published a couple days ago in newspapers. He mentions that one can win the popular vote by losing in 49 states and the District of Columbia, and then sweeping all 220,000 thousand votes in Wyoming. Is that person really the winner of the popular vote?

Second, compare the situation here with the parliamentary system in Canada: Canadians vote for their local member of parliament, who’s a member of a federal party. The federal party that takes the most seats wins, and the party leader becomes prime minister. Effectively, this means that Ontario and Quebec elect the prime minister every time. If you don’t win both, you lose the election; if you win only those two, you win the election.

That’s overstating it a bit: you can lose Quebec by a close margin if you sweep the west, but generally it’s true that the West and the Maritimes have no power in federal elections (Trudeau even said this out loud, several times).

The electoral college forces a candidate to have national appeal. If you win just New York, California, Florida, and Texas, you’ll lose. You have to appeal to a broader spectrum of Americans than just the key states, which benefits the country.

Lastly, Slate has a good article on the fact that the electoral college forces a two-party system, actively preventing the formation of large third-parties, and strips the power of small parties. That sounds like a bad thing, until you think of the governments of France, Italy, and Israel, with their perpetually factionalized governing bodies and precarious rulers who are so beset by coalition politics that they can’t accomplish anything.

That article is pretty amazing. But then Natapoff’s a Bronx boy, so it’s hardly surprising. :stuck_out_tongue: <- Bronx cheer.

However, before we all raise a tall one to the Electoral College, here’s one reform worth considering:

I’m sure one of the reasons why this election has such a decent chance of electing a President who didn’t win in the popular vote is that we haven’t had a reapportionment in 10 years. It just so happens that Bush is from Texas, which is one of the fastest-growing states in the Union, and therefore is proportionately more disenfranchised this year than it will be 4 years from now, after reapportionment. So the votes of Texans for their favorite son are going to be diluted more than they normally would be because of the change in population that went on in the previous 10 years.

In this age of computers, it should be possible to run a Census and do a reapportionment once every 5 years or so.

I’ve been following (and participating) in some of the EC threads in the GQ forum. Here’s the simplest and clearest position I’ve come up with so far:

Candidates try to win elections. One of the easiest ways to do that is to appeal to the majority (however that may be defined).

Appealing to the majority often means you can disregard, alienate, or (in extreme cases) abuse a minority, and still win.

A single, nation-wide contest would allow candidates to focus on one majority. All minorities, nation-wide, are disregarded.

A districted contest (as with out EC) means the candidates aren’t running in one election; they are running in 50. In order to become president, you have to win a good number of these contests. And because each district (state) has a different composition, there is no one “majority.” And pretty much every minority will be a significant voting bloc in one or more states.

The upshot: a districted election forces candidates and elected officials to respect the rights of minorities.

In the unlikely event that would happen, yes, by definition the majority is popular.

Oh, you’re a pip.