Oregon lawmakers consider changing how electoral votes are cast

Link (contains autoplay video from KGW Portland).

One one hand, such a strategy might prevent the disaster that it Trump. On the other hand, what if the election went the other way? What would happen when the election goes the other way? The Electoral College is there to prevent ‘the tyranny of the masses’. As we’ve seen, the system can be gamed. Oregon’s plan seems to be a way to have ‘direct democracy’. Do we really want that? This election, I would have. But pendulums swing.

Please say NO to the National Popular Vote.

I’m not opposed to a popular vote for President on principle, but this “end-run” is fraught with potential problems. If there is a close election, the losing side might want recounts in every state. Not only would that cause expense and confusion, but states where the vote wasn’t close might refuse to recount, especially if they’re not signatories to the NPV.

What if there’s a horrid blizzard in the Northeastern states, and turnout is way way down. With the electoral college system, this may be unimportant — New York gets 29 electoral votes no matter what its turnout. But it could sink the popular vote.

At present, every state that has signed on to NPV is a blue D-voting state; in fact most of those states are sure-things for the D’s. The R’s know the electoral system favors them and are not eager to join in. But for the purpose of discussion, suppose that some R states join in, and they get their 270-ev threshold. If the D wins the electoral vote but R wins the popular, will California, New York, Illinois — three big states which have already passed NPV — be happy to put an R into the White House? But more importantly (and more likely), what if R wins the electoral and D wins the popular: Does anyone really believe the R states signatory to the NPV will fulfill their promise? Lawyers could easily concoct reasons not to comply. Based on all past evidence, only a total sucker could imagine an R legislature voting for a D when the R won state and electoral vote.

Please! If you live in a state like CA, NY, or IL, petition your legislature to repeal their enactment of National Popular Vote.

When a close contest is lost it is natural for the losing side to tear the game apart play-by-play. If only this score wasn’t called back, if only this call by the officials could be reversed, we would have won! And it is also natural to look at changes in the rules that would have reversed the outcome.

But what about the next contest, or the many after that? Then it becomes entirely possible that your new rule change will work against you. The old saying of be careful what you wish for. Remember, it was not so very long ago that Ronald Reagan was the popular governor of California. And went on to become a 2 term conservative president. Trying to lock in the popular vote from California as if it will always go liberal is a very unwise move. There are definite conservative tendencies among the Hispanic population, many who take their Catholic religion quite seriously. Most are currently in the Democratic camp now but I do not see that as a firm lock. A future charismatic leader or an issue not currently evident can change that.

The Electoral College may have its flaws but it has worked, in balance, very well over time. This recent election was for the Democrats to lose, and they did, through a combination of factors that will continue to be debated for some time. But it wasn’t the “system” that threw the election to Trump. Poor strategy, not campaigning in the critical areas, a more likeable candidate, etc. These things will be examined for years. But it was a loss, as played by the rules.

Leave the system as it is and work on the mistakes of the previous election strategy. The avoidance of moving beyond the last election for the Democratic party and only focusing on some kind of repeal is beginning to look rather silly and unhinged. I prefer a sort of government stalemate between the 2 parties, and the Dems need to get their mojo back and quit crying over spilt milk.

But that is just, like, my opinion man.

Prior to the last election, the conventional wisdom was that the electoral college created a nearly insurmountable blue wall that favored Democrats.

FWIW, California used to be reliably Conservative.

Sounds like this would bite them in the ass and lead to the exact opposite of what they intend.

I support the NPV.

I don’t agree that the Electoral College “prevents the tyranny of the masses” or any such; it just introduces an element of random noise into the the system that occasionally awards the Presidency to the candidate who got fewer votes. How can that be good for democracy?

As Nate Silver and other political scientists have determined, the EC doesn’t give any permanent advantage to either party; although it has screwed the Democrats twice in the last sixteen years, it would have helped Obama in both of his elections*. So I support this change in the interests of democracy and not out of any partisan motivation. This movement has been around for years (it was first adopted by Maryland in 2007), so** Dallas** is incorrect in assuming that it was somehow cooked up in the last three months by sore-loser Democrats.

Only in the sense that many pundits were predicting a popular-vote near-landslide for Clinton, and this was demonstrated with e.v. calculations.

The relevant case is where the election is very close — so close that the popular vote goes one way, the electoral vote goes the other. I made several posts pointing out that the Republicans were favored(*) in such close-popular votes and, IIRC, Nate Silver’s simulations were coming to the same conclusion.

    • The danger of this scenario was readily apparent if you simply consider “wasted votes.” As predictable, California “wasted” 4.27 million votes for Clinton — that many Hillary voters could have stayed home and she’d still have gotten all of California’s ev’s. New York wasted 1.73 million votes, Illinois 0.95 million, Massachusetts 0.90 million. By contrast, the biggest wastage for the GOP was in Texas and amounted to a mere 807,000 votes. (The 2nd biggest “wastage” state for the GOP was Tennessee.)

I’m not understanding why this would bite anyone in the ass. I would like to, if someone could explain that.

It does seem to me that the Electoral College is a broken and outdated system and this is one means to fix that.

The chance that a national popular vote would ever be close enough to need a recount is microscopic, but if it ever did happen, well, we’d have a recount. And if some states didn’t want to participate? Several States now have no provision whatsoever for recounts, and just go with the initially reported results, so this isn’t a new problem that would be introduced by the NPV.

Federal law prohibits States from retroactively changing their methods of allocating electoral votes after the election results are known, so the scenario in your last paragraph is impossible; and if you argue that this law could somehow be challenged in court, again, this isn’t some new danger that the NPV would introduce, but something that could theoretically happen under the current system.

The blizzard issue, though, is interesting. I will need to think on that one.

Right, and in 2008 and 2012, Silver thought that scenarios in which Obama won the election while losing the popular vote were significantly more likely than scenarios in which the Republican candidate did so. The EC system doesn’t consistently favor either party, it just undermines democracy by introducing random noise into the system.

If you support the Liberal side, states throwing their EC votes to the popular vote winner would have been a good thing in the last election. Let’s presume Oregon, who voted for Clinton over Trump 1,002,106 (51%) votes to 782,403 votes (39.1%), remains Liberal. In a future election, Oregon voters overwhelmingly vote for the Liberal candidate; but the Conservative candidate gets one more popular vote than the Liberal nationwide. Under Oregon’s proposed law, Oregon’s seven electoral votes (and those of other states who adopt this scheme) would be given to the Conservative popular vote winner.

I can understand the desire to prevent a nation-wide “Floroida-2000” situation, but the fact that not one, but two recent elections have had the popular and electoral votes part company lead me to conclude that republican opposition to such plans is self-serving at best despite the Constitutional rationales in which said opposition is cloaked.

Yes, that would be how it works. And that’s the way it’s supposed to work. In civilized nations, the winner of an election is the one who gets the most votes, even if that’s not the candidate you like.

Yes, that’s one of the reasons to want a popular vote. We already had a national Florida-2000 situation, in 2000. What should have been a purely local problem became a national problem, because our system is set up to amplify random noise. A nationwide popular vote would make such problems far less likely.

Yes, and I’m ok with that. It should work that way in my opinion. The winner of the popular vote should win even if I don’t personally vote for them.

I believe that the Electoral College system is a broken and outdated system that is left over from slavery and paternalism and other equally unsavory biases on the part of our founding fathers and we ought to blow it up. If we cannot easily blow it up, then I am happy with an end run.

The ass-biting only comes into play if you assume that people support this because they think it will provide some permanent advantage to their preferred party, rather than because they think the person who gets more votes should win the election.

And even then, since the EC’s effects are essentially random, it’s equally possible that someone wanting to keep the current system for partisan reasons could end up with bite marks on their tuchus.

To elaborate: the average difference between the initial count and the recount in recounts of State elections is less than 300 votes. So, in the ridiculously unlikely event that all 50 States had counting errors favoring the same candidate, we might expect a national recount to shift 15,000 votes. The closest popular vote ever was 1960, when Kennedy beat Nixon by 118,000. All the other elections have had margins of at least half a million.

Although it is true that all the States to have passed NPV so far are reliably liberal, progress is also being made in some red states and swing states:

OK, to the weather thing: the NPV would actually decrease the chance that adverse weather events could impact the outcome of an election, but no system can entirely prevent such things from occurring.

For example, one analyst found that if Florida had had nice weather on Election Day 2000, Gore would have won by an indisputable margin. Those few thousand Floridians who stayed home rather than brave the rain changed the result of the election; under a national popular vote, the chance of them doing so would have been much, much smaller.

And the EC doesn’t prevent this sort of thing from happening, since not all areas of a given State are equally affected by weather events; the same analyst found that a hurricane which struck the coast of North Carolina on Election Day 1992 suppressed the vote in the heavily Republican coastal counties, giving NC’s electoral votes to Bill Clinton, who was almost certainly not the preferred candidate of most Tar Heels.