The Electoral College

My title is most descriptive, yes?

Over in this thread by Patty O’Furniture, we are discussing the possibility of California reforming the way we allocate our electoral votes. Rather than the winner-take-all system, California would allocate the votes on a district-by-district basis (a step which both Maine and Nebraska took years ago). Needless to say, such a reform would be an attempt to revolutionize the much disputed and (often cited as) antiquated Electoral College system of voting.

So what is the answer? I imagine many support a full abolishment of the EC- an institution that was originally enacted back before technology allowed instant communication and therefore stood as a buffer for fraud and mistakes.

Personally, I agree with the above stance for abolishment, as there seems to be little to no point to the EC anymore. More disturbing to me though, is that the chosen electors aren’t necessarily bound to vote along with the will of the people and while they generally do uphold the popular decision, there have been a few times a person decided to go “Broken Arrow” and do their own thing (somewhere in the South, I think Louisiana, an elector decided to vote for the football coach-- I searched for a cite, if anyone knows what I’m talking about and can dig up a cite I’d appreciate it).

With modern technology (and assuming Floridians can figure out how use a hole punch this time around), I fail to see the necessity for an Electoral College any more. Actually, I can’t even recall an argument pro-EC that seemend convincing to me, but I’d be interested to see if any of you support the EC in any form.
So do you believe the EC should be abolished completely, kept as it is now, or reformed? How, when, and why?**

I’m sure this has been done before, but it’s always interesting to see how the years (or even months) can change opinions on whether or not and how things can be changed.

This post covers my feeling about the electoral college. One way to alter it to make it more fair would be to give each state electoral votes equal to the number of congressional districts, without adding the two additional votes per state that they currently get. This would go a long way towards making the system more equitable without disenfranchising the smaller states.

I am in favor of the electoral college for all of the commonly used reasons. Since the EC is in place, California would be silly to proportion them. It would make its votes less valuable as a whole. Let’s say that the Dem candidate won 30 to 25 or the GOP won 30 to 25. You win a net +5 votes in a small state like WV. You would see a situation where both candidates would blow off the whole state!

Also, just a question. Since you feel that the Electoral College is arcane, should we also abolish the U.S. Senate since a small state like Rhode Island gets 2 votes, the same as California? That seems just as arcane…

Um, are you unfamiliar with the concept of a ‘safe state’? Both presidential candidates blow off most states, because it’s not worth expending the effort to increase 60% or increase 35% of the vote that they get.

I personally have no problem with the Senate. I don’t understand why people keep equating the two. I feel that it is good to have a smaller, more deliberative body that is less inclined to rush into things than the House is.

Point #1: Sure there are safe states now. At least with the current system, we get 10 or so swing states. Pick an alternative and see it much worse. A national popular vote? In 2004, you would have seen G.W. Bush in Texas the whole campaign and Kerry in Mass the whole time trying to rack up more votes.

Point #2: The Senate doesn’t only give a smaller and more deliberative body. You could get that with a 100 member body elected according to population. If you don’t like the electoral college because of its unfairness, then why do you like the idea that Wyoming gets one Senator per 350,000 people while, say, Florida gets one Senator per 7 million people? Shouldn’t there be a better way here?

For Presidential elections, I would make the following changes: [ol]
[] Group states into Even and Odd (based on order of admission), one group has a semi-national primary 9 months before the general election, the other 8 months before. Swap order every election. [] Fixed end time for Presidential elections/primaries: 8pm Pacific Time, 11pm Eastern Time. [] Approval voting: you may vote for as many or as few candidates as you like. No more accusations of vote stealing, gives small parties a chance to build real momentum, easy for voters to understand (easier than ranked voted). [] Increase number of seats in the House to 1000. Smaller, more representative districts. More proportional Electoral College. [] Assign Electoral College votes proportional to votes each candidate gets. [] Non-partisan redistricting, based only on number of residents, not any other data (party, race, etc). The current bi-partisan system is corrupt. (Yeah, not a Presidential election reform, but still badly needed.) [/ol] None of these reforms depend on any others, so order of implementation isn’t critical.

This would require a constitutional amendment, which you said in your linked post you didn’t feel would be worthwile to pursue politically.

You could increase the size of the House without an amendment. This would dilute the impact of the two extra electors that each state gets.

I have no idea how you’ve come to this conclusion. If Kerry and Bush had to compete for votes nationwide, why wouldn’t they campaign nationwide as well?

Personally, I’d like to do away with the EC and I’d like the Senate to be based on population.

Why would a candidate ever campaign in a swing or unfriendly state under a national popular vote? If you give a speech, the people are 50/50. It would be easier to twist a few arms in your friendly areas to get your 65% up to a 75 or 80 percent. Take Bush in TX, for example. If you are a state worker, you WILL work for the Bush campaign or lose your job. Same thing in reverse in Massachusetts.

Instead of worrying about ballots in Palm Beach County, FL, you would have cheating in every preceint in the country.

Base the Senate on population? There is no way. First, the small states only agreed to the constitution on the promise that they had equal representation in the Senate.

Second, this is the only thing that the constitution may NOT be amended for. No amendment shall deny any state its equal suffrage in the Senate…

And then you’d lose the election. There are plenty of votes to be picked up outside Texas and Mass., and both candidates have incentives to go grab them.

The ballots in Palm Beach aren’t an example of cheating. They’re an example of poor design. If you want cheating, look at the current administrations pursuit of frivilous voter fraud cases–happening all over the country. Cheating nationwide, even with an EC. You’re arguments make no sense.

Yes, I know why the Senate was originally in place. But Senators are no longer elected by states, they’re elected by people.

Huh? Post the text of the constitution that says it can’t be amended with regards to the Senate.

We had a debate about that in the past. THere does appear to be one part of the consitution that can’t be amended, or that would be grounds for states to secede if it were to be changed.

Empahsis added. The wording appears to place that outside the amendment process.

That’s not the way I read it. If all the states consent, then you can amend it.

If there’s legitimate disagreement about it, I won’t argue the point. The plain wording doesn’t read that way to me.

I should have said it can be outside the normal amendment process. And actually, you don’t need unanimous consent. If Alaska decided it was OK with having only 1 Senator, then it would appear that the normal amendment process would apply. And note that id doesn’t define what “consent” is. Presumably that would be some super-majority of the state legislature.

Suppose the people (barely) voted for an avowed fascist who promised a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Would you necessarily want the electors to follow that outcome?

I’m just trying to think of a situation (however unlikely) where the Electoral College might still stand as a buffer against the foolishness of us proles.

I agree with your interpretation here, but we were talking about shifting the entire Senate to proportional representation. In that case, I think the plain wording indicates that all states have to consent. I suppose one could make the argument that states that are better off under a proportional system don’t have to consent, but again, here, I think that violates the plain wording of Article V.

All that amendment says is that no state can be unequally represented in the Senate. If the Senate is abolished, there is no unequal suffrage.

The term is ‘faithless elector’, I believe, and there have been more than 150 of them, none of which have ever changed the outcome, and only the first one, Samuel Miles, had a reasonable expectation of doing so. W. F. Turner of Alabama voted for the district judge in his hometown in 1956, which I think might be what you were remembering. Also, 29 states do have ‘faithless elector’ laws, which I think either enforce cooperation or punish deviance from that state’s vote.

Maybe. But an argument can, and no doubt would, be made that any reference to the Senate assumes that there is a Senate, and there can be no Senate without Senators. At any rate, it’s a hypothetical that we needn’t worry about since there is no chance that the Senate would be abolished unless we were scrapping the whole Constitution and starting over again. Then, everything is up for grabs.

That’s an interesting argument. Could an amendment be passed which abolished the Senate? On one hand you could say yes, but then again, the Article V provision says that a state cannot be deprived of its equal suffrage IN THE SENATE (emphasis mine)

Any one state could object to the amendment saying that they would have NO suffrage, equal or otherwise in the Senate since it would be abolished and a court could rule the amendment out of bounds.

The bottom line, I think, is that it is important to realize that NO small state would have ever ratified the constitution in 1787 if they didn’t have a guarantee that one body of the national legislature would be equal among states.

But, back to the original topic. I think that the EC discourages the idea that a fascist party could win with a plurality. In order to win the EC, a person must win a plurarility of votes in a majority of states. He (or she) must cross regional and cultural barriers across the country, which, IMHO is more important than raw vote totals. A person with generic wide appeal cannot win (Ross Perot). A person with only strong regional appeal cannot win (George Wallace). It takes a person who is generally acceptable with all regional groups (Democrats and Republicans) and it moderates the candidates.

I’m sure you all have seen the county by county vote results in the year 2000 election. Gore won almost only urban areas while the whole country in rural areas was a sea of red. I’m not unconvinced that such a large geographic area of the country should have their will thwarted just because MORE people (by definition) live in urban areas.

And, again, under a national popular vote system, do you think that any presidential candidate, ever, and I do mean, ever, would care about fly over country? No. They would concentrate in media markets like NYC, LA, Chicago, Miami, and their home states to get votes.

That’s an interesting theory you have. Is it your contention that the land itself supported President Bush in the 2000 election? I don’t see anything else that would support your contention that the surface area of the rural parts of the country is somehow relevent. So how should we break this down? How many more votes would you get for living in the country?

As I’ve said in the past, the rural areas have enjoyed an almost unconscionable advantage, with the residents of the 22 least populous state in the union (Wyoming through Iowa) having 95 electoral votes between them compared to the 55 California has, and California has 2 million more people than in those 22 states.

All we have to do is make the number of electors equal to the number of congressman. In that case the 22 least populous states would have 33.8 million people and 50 electoral votes. California would have 36 million people and 53 electoral votes. See, it’s just as easy to do it fairly.