General Electoral Collage Thread

Over in the “Bush Wins thread” there has been some disagreement concerning the Electoral Collage. We haven’t had a debate on this since the election fiasco and it seems like a good time to reopen the discussion. Please feel free to argue any point on this topic; this is intended as a general discussion. I’ll get us started.

I don’t like the current system for electing the President because it is undemocratic. My 2 main objections are that it violates the principle that all voters should be equal and that it appropriates the votes of individuals and chooses for them.

One of the arguments in favor of the Electoral Collage is that it empowers the rural voter. I disagree. The EC does give undue weight to the states with smaller populations but that strengthens the individual voter there only if they agree with the majority. If they wish to vote for a candidate that most of their neighbors dislike then the EC completely disempowers them. Since the justification for the inequality of voting power is to prevent a “tyranny of the majority”, I fail to see how it can be maintained that voters should submit to the majority/plurality in their state.

Here in Pennsylvania most people voted for Gore. So in the college, all of PA’s electoral power went to Gore. That is, under the current system the 49.4% of voters who voted for someone else ( as well as those who chose not to vote ) were all counted as Gore supporters.
Their voice has been stolen.

Just my 2sense
When I refer to my 2sense, I’m actually talking about my weird fifth sense. Not sixth. By some tragic accident, I was born without taste buds. - sig courtesy of Surgoshan

I have always felt that when they asemble the Electoral Collage, they should do it in the shape of a map of the U.S., with photos of the Maine electors bunched in the upper right corner and pix of the California electors strung in a line down the left-hand side.

I have always had a problem figuring out whether the pictures of the electors from Hawaii and Alaska should be kept way off to the left of the collage or whether, as with some maps, the Alaska electors and Hawaiian electors should be placed beneath Arizona and New Mexico to allow the borders of the collage to be kept rectangular.


Well, the EC exists based entirely on the notion of States Rights.

I’m sure you know, 2sense, the origins of the EC… back in Ye Olden Days, they couldn’t decide on having a straight Democratic Election or having elected representatives decide. Both have their pros and cons. The compromise, of course, was our current system.

(Note: I’m being general with the history, since this IS a “general” EC thread… tee-hee…).

Anyway, I’m sure the EC works, in theory. Definitely has it’s flaws (I know, I know… understatement). I’ve never been it’s biggest fan, although I dislike it when people misconstrue the meaning around it (one person I talked to IRL says that the EC was started just so the Republicans can take the election… it was amusing to tell her that the EC was invented centuries ago).

My suggested plan would be to have both a popular vote AND a states-vote, then average the two. I still hold to the notion that individual states are important, but NOT more important than the people.


Think of the European Union. Each counry gets represented equally, regardless of their population. Why would Portugal or Denmark join if Germany and France controlled everything based on their larger populations?
That is kind of the same way the US formed a couple of hundred years ago.

I’d like to think we’ve moved on a bit since the country’s founding.

Even in the early years of our nation, people moved around a lot, because opportunity was just as likely to be somewhere else as it was at home. (Cite: Inheriting the Revolution: The 1st Generation of Americans by Joyce Oldham Appleby.) Very quickly, most people weren’t Pennsylvanians or Ohioans, but Americans, simply by dint of their mobility. (Caveat: this was more true in the north than in the south.) This is just as true today, with the main difference being that southerners are catching up with the rest of us, mobility-wise.

The notion of states’ rights, here, makes a great deal of sense if states are like little nations to people, in the sense that most people born in France or Spain or Austria will likely die there, because they couldn’t imagine forever leaving their country of birth. But they’re not; we move from place to place with ease. I was born in California but have spent most of my life in Virginia; I met my Floridian wife-to-be when we were both living in South Carolina, and now, after another stop in Virginia, we live in Maryland. What’s the importance of ‘states’ rights’, in Presidential voting representation, to people who frequently trade one state for another?

I want my vote to count, and I’m of the perverse belief that its effect shouldn’t differ drastically based on where I live. And I think of my Presidential vote as being principally mine, not Maryland’s or Virginia’s or South Carolina’s. But the reality under the present system is that, in a way, my vote belongs to that state, to bundle up with other votes, and to count - or not - based solely on whether I’m in the majority in that state.

I’m not sure what system should replace our current electoral system (although I’ve got some ideas), but those are the principles that I’d like to see a new system based on.

I fail to understand what appears to be the principal argument of the OP, that the losers are victimized by the electoral college. No losers get anything under any winner-take-all system, whether national or state-wide. The losers in an electoral college system have their voice heard in the exact same way that the losers in a national election would - the candidates have to take them into account lest there be so many of them that they become winners. Unless I’m misreading the OP’s use of the term “rural voters” which I’ve taken to refer to small states generally.

Ultimately the real winners of the EC system are those “battleground” states whose votes can go either way (especially the larger ones). And the losers are the states (of any size) whose votes are assumed to be assured for one candidate or another.

Its interesting that the electoral college affords two different ways for a candidate to win with less votes than his opponent. One is due to the winner-take-all awarding of electoral votes. This results in the margin of victory in a given state being meaningless, and a candidate could win with a small margin of victory in states that have a majority of the electoral votes, over his rival who has a large margin of victory in states with a minority of the votes. The other is due to the fact that the small states have more electors per population than the large ones. So that even if the margins of victory are the same, the candidate who wins the most states has the advantage.

When the possibility was raised that Gore would win with a minority of the popular vote, it was due to the first reason. When Bush ultimately won with a minority of the popular vote it was due to the second.

Currrently, does each state get one vote for each congressman and 2 more for the senators? Maybe each state should only get 1 more for the senators.

Not quite how the EU works. Larger countries are better represented in the Parliament and larger countries have two commissioners rather than one. The right to veto is being more and more limited as time goes on and the Union enlarges. There is something calle qualified majority voting:

Certainly not simple!

Basically a lot of small countries have to gang up to overcome the big countries, but there is still some diferential weighting towards the smaller countries, but not to the extent of the Electoral College.


Do you support the use of Elmer’s glue in an electoral collage, or are you one of those left wing rubber cement weirdo hippies?

I’d like to think so too, but I found the liberals crowing about democracy here in Massachusetts pretty much ended when I pointed out that, to be fair, you’d have to reapportion the Senate as well.

Which would mean, among other things, that all of New England (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Mass., Rhode Island, and Conneticut) would have only two senators (say, Teddy Kennedy and Olympia Snowe) while Texas would get ten senators (Texas having roughly 5 times the popualtion of New England.)

That point shut them up pretty quick!

In fact, with the new census results, Bush would have won by even more electoral votes. Looks like he’ll have a good shot at getting reelected in 2004.

True, but the United States of America is not, and has never been, a democracy. We are a Constitutional Republic. That’s like saying “The dictator can’t make all the laws, that’s undemocratic!”. They’re altogether different systems of government.

True again, but our country was not founded on that principal. That all men are created equal, yes, but not all votes.

Insert the word “democracy” in place of the phrase “the EC” and the statement is equally true.

I’m not opposed to parceling out electoral votes based on the poplular vote instead of winner-take-all, but that is an issue for each state to decide. It cannot and should not be decided at the Federal level.

I support the EC and do not believe it has outlived it’s usefullness. A true popular vote would mean that the candidate supported by coastal dwellers would be very hard to beat. Talk about disenfranchising a large part of the country! If you live in Montana you’d better support the coastal folks candidate or you don’t have much of a prayer.

I also suport the EC because it helps uphold the principles on which this country was founded. We are, and were intended to be, The United States of America - not the country of America. I like it that way, myself.

The Original Post describes frustration with the Electoral College on the basis that, if you are in the minority in your state when the votes are counted, you somehow lose your electoral voice. Let’s test that assumption.
Case 1: You are a Democrat in a state staunchly Republican; a Republican garners the plurality of the national and majority of the electoral votes.

Did you lose anything through the EC? Not one bloody thing. You were in the minority and lost; Democracy works that way.
Case 2: You are a Democrat in a state that is marginal; a Republican wins the plurality of votes in your state winning your state’s electors, and garners the plurality of national and majority of electoral votes.

Lose anything yet? No, indeed, you potentially gained something because the candidates may have been forced to pander to the population of your state during the campaign, given that the result was not clear in advance. For an example in the contrast of case 1 and case 2, look at Kansas and Missouri.

Case 3: You are a Democrat in a state that votes for the Republican candidate, who does not manage a plurality of the national popular vote, but gains a majority of the electoral vote.

Lose anything here, either? Eschewing for a moment the simple fact that, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in years divisible by the number 4 you do NOT vote for President, but in a statewide contest for electors (after all, one presumes 2sense is challenging that very point), all that has happened is that the nation elected someone who didn’t have the plurality of votes. To have lost something, one has to assume that there is some value in having the president be the person most popular nationwide on that day. But this puts the cart before the horse. The plain fact is that the President is a person chosen by the states to be the chief executive officer of the union of states. Thus, you haven’t lost anything in this result.

All of which is a way of moving the debate from the issue of what your vote should represent to the issue of how our federal republic should be structured. For someone in case 3 to have lost something, one must presuppose that, at least for purposes of executing the federal laws of the country, the states themselves should have no say in the selection of the President. Instead, there should be a national election. This, of course, is simply a step towards the elimination of the concept of individual states, and should be debated on that basis.
One final note: the OP makes one semantic and/or logical error by equating losing a vote with disenfranchisement. You are not disenfranchised by losing a vote; the franchise guarantees you the right to vote, not the right to win.

Scylla, you obviously do not have small children: glue sticks only!


I forgot to mention the most obvious undemocratic feature of the EC. Thanks for reminding me.
Your proposed compromise would still allow the possibility of a candidate losing despite garnering a majority of votes.


The EC victimizes voters by hijacking their electoral power and giving it to a candidate that they do not support. Sure there can be only one winner. That doesn’t mean that people should be forced to vote for him against their will.

I object to the concept of winners and losers in an election, prior to the counting of the votes, of course. Every voice should have the same weight.

curious george:

Your understanding is correct, though there is also the District of Columbia which has 2 electors but no representation in Congress. Reducing the number of “senatorial” electors would lessen the unproportional nature of the EC but wouldn’t eliminate it. Even if the EC were completely proportional it would still suffer from the deficiencies inherent in a district voting system.


I fail to see the point of “reforming” the Senate to make it more democratic since the point of having an upper chamber is to restrict democracy.

Doctor Jackson:

The US is a democracy. It is also a Constitutional Republic.
I recommend a visit to the Explain in detail why democracy cannot exist in a republic thread.

Our country was not founded on the principle that all voters should be equal. It was also not founded on the principle that all men were created equal. Mr Jefferson’s rhetoric was compelling but also hypocritical; he owned other men. Despite this we have overcome our poor start and have since evolved toward the idea that all men are created equal. I am suggesting that we further evolve by casting aside the undemocratic idea that votes should be unequal.

Democracy does not disempower a person who wishes to vote for a person that those they happen to live next to don’t like. Democracy provides for the person with the most votes to be the winner. Why should it matter if those votes come from California or Montana?
OTOH- The EC doesn’t let the people vote. Instead, it votes for them.

The election of the President certainly can be decided by at the Federal level. It seems to me that this is the natural level to pick a Federal official. A single constitutional amendment would do the trick.


It doesn’t look like we will get a decision on the placement of the pictures of the Alaskan and Hawaiian electors for quite some time. The committee is still deadlocked on the thorny question of whether the tradition of choosing a fat Hawaiian to represent the big island is a harmful stereotype.

Just my 2sense

**DSYoungEsq **:

I do feel that the POTUS should be elected by Americans rather than by the minor political entities of this nation. If you wish to debate this then perhaps addressing RTF’s post would be a good place to start.

You are mistaken.
It is Doctor Jackson who makes this error. Voters are disenfranchised by the EC not because their candidate didn’t win the electoral votes of their state but because a tiny part of those electoral votes represents them. They are disempowered because, in effect, they voted for someone they didn’t wish to see become President. This is how their voice is stolen.

[semantic note]
The preceding argument is based on the assumption that by “losing a vote” you meant “being outvoted” as opposed to “not being allowed to vote”. The latter being the very definition of disenfranchised.
[/semantic note]

Hi! I’m a Weenie
What’s your sign?

And that’s one place that you’re making a mistake. If there is one thing that is clear from reading the Constitution, it’s that the states are not “minor political entities.” They are the building blocks of this country. One of the foundations of the Constitution is the concept of states’ rights and that each state should maintain it’s individuality and character and not be overly dominated by the whole. We are a nation made of states. The states, on the other hand, are made up of people. Were this not so, there would be no need to have 2 Senators from each state and X number of Representatives from each state. We’d just elect the best 100 people to the Senate and the next best 435 to the House. The fact that we don’t do this shows the FF intent that the states be dominant political entities, not minor ones.

Zev Steinhardt


One of the advantages of not supporting the Constitution is that you are not required to support the Constitution. The FF can kiss my ass.
The states were less important after 1787 than they were before. The states were less important after the Civil War than they were before. If the EC is eliminated then the states would be less important than they were before. I see this as simply an extension of the overall trend in our political system.

In any case, “minor political entities” was a poor choice of words. The states are by no means unimportant. I was referring to the fact that they were of lesser importance than the central government. “Smaller political entities” would have been better.

I’m afraid my word choice was affected by my philosophical position.
Thank you for pointing out my loaded rhetoric.

Just my 2sense

Oh, I see. You want to eliminate the “possibility” of the loser becoming the winner.

We’d better set up a dictatorship right now, 2sense, 'cuz that just ain’t gonna happen. It’s called a “margin of error”.

If you want to deal with possibilities… a mass, nation-wide popular vote has a possibility for voter fraud. It has a possibility of incorrect counting. It has a possibility of making less-populous ares vote less (who’d vote if they knew they’d lose?), which could hurt voter turnout. It has a possibility of causing the fabric of space/time to shatter.

Thusly, we cannot, in our good judgement, hold a popular vote. Ever.


As I thought, 2sense simply wishes to again debate the issue of eliminating the states and turning ourselves from a federal republic into one great big democratic republic. Fortunately, we aren’t such a republic; I for one hate the thought of national mob rule run mostly by the left and right coasts. I’ve lived in many states, and enjoy their differences. If you don’t perceive they exist, you aren’t looking carefully.

As for the debate itself, I won’t comment further. I’ve made my points before on this subject, and the attempt to revive it through some sort of re-examination of the favorite whipping boy of those who want to end our federal character, the EC, is disingenious at best…

The crux of the issue you’re debating, 2sense, has little to do with the EC. You want a new form of government. Fine. In this country you have the freedom to want that and work toward it. Just don’t hide your true agenda behind an EC smokescreen. Shoot, with the mob mentality prevalent today, you just might convince folks your way is better.

It’s not.

But you might.