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Flunking the Electoral College

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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 11:17 AM
Original message
Flunking the Electoral College
On Dec. 15, the United States will endure a quadrennial ritual born in the economics and politics of slavery and the quill-pen era. Members of the Electoral College are scheduled to meet in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to formally choose the next president.

There is no real doubt about how the electors will vote, but it is disturbing that they have any role at all in making this vital choice in the 21st century. The Electoral College is more than just an antiquated institution: it actively disenfranchises voters and occasionally (think 2000) makes the candidate with fewer popular votes president. American democracy would be far stronger without it.

There is no reason to feel sentimental about the Electoral College. One of the main reasons the founders created it was slavery. The southern states liked the fact that their slaves, who would be excluded from a direct vote, would be counted as three-fifths of a white person when Electoral College votes were apportioned.

The founders also were concerned, in the day of the wooden printing press, that voters would not have enough information to choose among presidential candidates. It was believed that it would be easier for them to vote for local officials, whom they knew more about, to be electors. It is hard to imagine that significant numbers of voters thought they did not know enough about Barack Obama and John McCain by Election Day this year.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/opinion/20thu1.html?t...
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yellowcanine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 11:27 AM
Response to Original message
1. The fact that without the EC we would have had President Gore instead of Bush seals it for me.
No Florida recount, no hanging chads, no SCOTUS antidemocratic rulings in December. Just G.W. Bush conceding to Al Gore late election night after the California vote came in.
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 11:49 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Without the EC, the vast majority of the country would be irrelevant in the Presidential race
Look at the metro areas of the country's dozen most populous cities, and you have enough popular votes to win the presidency. Most states suddenly don't matter: Why bother campaigning in South Carolina or Washington or Vermont if you can focus your resources in New York City and Philadelphia and Los Angeles?

The Electoral College is imperfect, yes. But it keeps most of the country in play and ultimately minimizes feelings of disenfranchisement.
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yellowcanine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. It cuts both ways. How much campaigning was done in California, Texas, the whole Northeast except
PA this year? Not much. With the EV system rural areas still get short shrift because winning the big cities + suburbs still gets you the state - PA this year for example. It could be argued that with elections decided by national popular vote, candidates would campaign in more states, not fewer, because it would be to their advantage to maximize their vote in every state, not just the "battleground" states. For example, this year Obama surely could have gotten more votes than he did in Texas by campaigning there. Likewise McCain and California.
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davefromqueens Donating Member (277 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 03:07 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. I disagree and here's why
I think the Electoral college should be abolished.

Now, what you have is a system where people in about 40 states are ignored. The candidates disproportionately spend that money in so called swing states.

If you have the popular vote, then EVERY voter counts. That means the candidate not only should spend his or her time in big urban cities but also in every small town in every state. That would mean Republicans going to Massachusetts looking for votes and Democrats going to Wyoming looking for votes.
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yellowcanine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 03:22 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Yep - I think so too. The EC is fundamentally undemocratic. Small states have disproportionate
influence. Every state and Washington D.C., no matter how sparsely populated, has at least 3 electoral votes. At the least, we ought to modify the winner take all system and allocate the EVs one per congressional district captured with the the state wide winner getting the extras.
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 03:38 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Again, the Founders never created a democracy; arguments about "undemocratic" are irrelevant
The Founders created a federation of states, and took great pains to guarantee that even the smallest states would hold a minimum amount of influence.

As for the "winner take all" system, that is strictly a matter of the states: there is no Constitutional requirement or federal law mandating such a system. Vermont allocates its Electoral votes differently, with one Electoral vote determined by the vote in each of Vermont's Congressional districts and two Electoral votes (equivalent to the Electoral votes granted by membership in the Senate) determined by the statewide vote. That Vermont has only one Congressional district, making this setup identical to a winner-take-all system, is beside the point.

You will note that California recently attempted to change it's system to be identical to Vermont's. There was a vast hue and cry against this, as it would guarantee that most of California's 55 Electoral votes would go towards the Republican candidate. In fact, such a system would turn almost every "blue" state solidly "red" by eliminating the massive influence of urban, relatively Democratic areas on the statewide vote. Is that really what you want?
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yellowcanine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 09:23 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. Congressional districts have roughly equal populations by law so I don't follow your claim that
Edited on Thu Nov-20-08 09:29 PM by yellowcanine
most blue states would turn red. In Maryland for example, all but one congressional district is held by a Democrat. If that held in a presidential election the Democrat would get all except 1 electoral vote. And the EVs Democrats would lose in otherwise blue states would be made up for by picking up EVs in urban areas of Red states as long as all states used proportional distribution of EVs - and this is the key. As for California, it has 53 congressional districts, 34 D and 19 R. So how does California turn red with proportional distribution of EVs? The "hue and cry" about California was because Democrats rightly recognized it would work against them to have a large Democratic state abandoning the winner take all system while large Republican states like Texas still used the winner take all system. The only way proportional distribution of EVs would be fair to both parties if large states start using it is for all states to use it.

And the founders were not perfect - they also enshrined slavery in the Constitution. EVs made more sense in early America when there was no mass media available to allow the whole country to get to know presidential candidates.
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TechBear_Seattle Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-20-08 11:45 AM
Response to Original message
2. The Electoral College is vitally important
Keep in mind, the Founders did not set up a democracy; they set up a federation of states. The people do not vote for President; that responsibility falls to the states.

The "great compromise" regarding slavery had to do with representation in the House of Representatives and only indirectly affects the Electoral College.

The Founders wanted those in power to be an educated elite, with connections and a background that allowed them to focus on what was good for the country. That is why the Senate and not the House holds nearly all the power in the Legislative branch, and why Senators were originally appointed by the states and not by the people.

It is very sad that an opinion writer for the New York Times would be so abjectly ignorant of American history and government.
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