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SoftUnderbelly Donating Member (139 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:34 PM
Original message
Are Americans happy with the electoral system?
I'm from England, but I do know a bit about how the American system works, what I want to know though is how the average American feels about your electoral system.

more specifically, do you see the electoral college as a fair way of electing a president? i must admit the arguments i've heard in favour of the electoral college over popular vote are extemely weak.

one argument i heard was that with the popular vote the candidates would concentrate all their efforts into the most populous areas, ignoring the rural voters. surely this is nonsense? also, that is clearly what happens with the electoral college and swing states! how much effort is put in to florida and ohio (swing states right? might be wrong...) Also im guessing the republicans dont even bother trying to win california and new york (and vice versa with demcrats and republican states)

secondly, in a two paty system aren't you always voting for the least bad option? for me i would sooner eat my own shoes than vote for a party in england that had the policies of the democrats, however when the only other option is a shower of rabid neo conservatives i would have to hold my nose and vote for them.

thirdly, do you think that these two factors are the main cause of voter apathy? why would you bother to vote for the democrat presidential candidate when you live in a safe republican state? couple that with the fact you probably dont even support the democrats on a lot of issues, you just dont want that republicans in, it hardly inspires people to go to the ballot box.

so final question: would politics in america benefit from any changes in the electoral system and would it benefit from a wider spectrum of political parties?
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pooja Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:39 PM
Response to Original message
1. yes and no. You would have re-organize the govt to open up
the 2 party system and seeing how the govt is operating now, i would be scared to monkey with a lot.
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SoftUnderbelly Donating Member (139 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:43 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. can you expand?
what would have to change in order to move away from a two party system?

also i should point out that although britain is a multi-party system, it is still dominated by the main two - labour and conservatives - due to our 'first past the post' consituency system. the major change i would like to see in britain is a move to proportional representation - a party gets 35% of the vote it gets 35% of the seats.

of course this has its own problems in that the party itself gets the power to decide who goes at the top of the list, and therefore decides which candidates go to parliament and also the link is lost between and MP and his constutuents.
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unblock Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:43 PM
Response to Original message
3. right now, the system is "the republican wins"
any discussion of electoral college vs. popular vote is kinda irrelevant as long as diebold is doing the counting....
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Totallybushed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:53 PM
Response to Original message
4. I think most people
are satisfied with the system. Otherwise we would see an outcry from outraged citizens.

The system was set up to force compromise. In other words, the Founders did not want the extremes to rule. Therefore, change can come, but it must come slowly, giving people time to consider if the changes have had the desired effects or not.

After all, it is very seldom that the electoral vote does not match the popular vote, and it is just unfortunate that it happened when GWB was the Republican candidate. Besides, no system is immune to cheating.

All this is not to say changes shouldn't be made. I don't really know. I just think that the system doesn't have to be changed because it was gamed.

Any way, there are a lot easier things to do than change the electoral system. The smaller states, for example, are not going to give up their two votes for their senate seats. And the larger states, say New York, ALL of their votes go for the state winner.

Under a proposed change now, so I understand before the New YOrk Legislature, all of New YOrk's electoral votes would go to the national popular vote winner, provided enough other states to have a majority of the electoral college ageed to do the same. How would New Yorkers feel if their state went heavily Democratic, but the national popular vite went to the Republican candidate? By a small amount? And if under the current system the electoral college winner would have been the Dem?

Any change can work both ways. After all, GWB won the popular vote in 2004, according to the official tallies. Yeah, I know he cheated, but that's a different issue altogether.
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SoftUnderbelly Donating Member (139 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 03:16 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. i see what you mean
Edited on Thu Aug-03-06 03:16 PM by SoftUnderbelly
there is no point changing something unless you can guartantee what follows will be better. also how difficult would it be to change the system? elected officials are unlikely to want to change the status quo (would be like turkeys voting for christmas as we say in britain, but i suppose turkeys voting for thanksgiving would be the american version ;) )
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Totallybushed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 03:49 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. Well,
Edited on Thu Aug-03-06 03:50 PM by Totallybushed
we eat turkeys at Christmas here, too. I like 'em deep fried, a distinctly Southern version of th dish which actually makes them edible.

Although at Christmas we splurge and my wife cooks a prime rib roast and, would you believe it, Yorkshire pudding. :toast:

clean up the cheating first. I'm only going to observe that I've seen a lot of talk about it, but I'm not sure what has been done.

Frankly, I'm not going to accept it as an excuse for losing any longer
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MissWaverly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 04:13 PM
Response to Reply #9
14. I admire a parliamentary system
Edited on Thu Aug-03-06 04:14 PM by MissWaverly
it allows a vote of no confidence in a corrupt and incompetent leader, we Americans have serious
problems with our electoral system which are difficult to deal with because our system is a mess.
Our elections are managed by each state with and in my state, my city has its own board of elections. On voting day, our polls are open usually 7 am to 7 pm here in Baltimore, MD. The
precinct workers who are basically there for the entire day are usually 65 years of age and up.
They handle an average of 2000 voters per popular election in their precinct. (by popular I mean
an election with a vote for president or governor). Of course many of these people have been
overwhelmed by the new electronic voting machines and have no computer experience at all. Each
state makes up its own rules and prints its own ballots. There is no real control for cheating
or gaming the system. It is a common practice in some states to stuff the ballot boxes at the last minute with bogus absentee votes just to make sure the vote comes out for the majority party.
Then there is the electoral college, this gives the power to decide the vote to the 11 swing states, the rest of us are ignored while all the campaign energy is spent on the states that
will decide the vote for president.
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GuvWurld Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:54 PM
Response to Original message
5. we don't have an electoral system
we have an illusion of democracy and a reality of fascism
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Totally Committed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:57 PM
Response to Original message
6. I, personally, would like to see the Electoral College abolished,
and a multi-Party system replace the current two-Party system.

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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 02:57 PM
Response to Original message
7. Our system makes yours pants!
(Okay, yeah, I have no idea if I used pants right, just a phrase I heard during the World Cup! Sorry. :) )

Those are all constantly debated questions, and you'll get lots of answers, most of them agreeing with you. Here are mine, and I'll disagree, on a couple of points, just for the fun of it.

First, there are several arguments to support the EC. You nailed one of them. The other is that it provides a buffer against a truly incompetent and possibly deranged candidate (see how well it works, though, eh?). Since, as I understand England, your PM is chosen by Parliament, you have a built in buffer. Since our president is in theory chosen by the states (not the voters, more in a second), the EC rpovides us with a filter. I believe that was part of the logic.

Another historical reason, not as valid now, was to give the states more power, back when the nation had a more federalist, states-rights, mentality.

But you nailed the arguments that undercut those arguments. It's just not that big a deal now, but no one wants to bother changing it. It's worked, mostly, so far, so there's no momentum to change it.

One more point a lot of people don't realize--there is nothing in our Constitution or law requiring the president to be chosen by election. The states choose the Electoral College reps however they see fit. Right now, in all states, that's by election. It can be changed. A couple of people have tried to amend the Constitution to require elections, but again, no momentum, and I suspect the majority of Americans don't even realize they have no right to vote for president.

Second, two party system. Our parties have primary elections, where the different factions of the parties at all levels of office --state, local, federal--choose which candidate is going to run, then we have the general election amongst the chosen candidates of each party. That's usually between two major parties, obviously. But our primaries are where the decisions about direction of party are made. I've heard it argued that are primaries are like your elections, and our general election is like your government forming its alliances amongst the parties, only our voters choose the alliances. That's not a direct parallel, but still, it's not as two party as it seems.

Third, I think voter apathy here is due to a lot of factors. Maybe the two party system plays a role. A bigger factor is tat people just feel detached from the process, like it doesn't matter anyway. I blame that on two things: corporate money, and the fact that our Congress has not grown with the population. The number of people each Representative represents is growing, and no one feels any connection. Our government officials aren't even people we can talk to, they are like distant celebrities that most people never expect to meet. I meet people who are in awe that I've seen our last two presidents in person, and spoken with Congresspeople. There is just no sense that the people really have any connection to our government.

My one grand change to the federal government wouldn't be the EC or the two party system. It would be doubling the number of Representatives and Senators. The mystique of these distant figures is just contrary to the whole idea of representative government. I want there to be so few people per representative that people get sick of talking to them. Make them into humans, and people will get more used to expecting them to listen. And it would immediately undercut the effects of corporate money.

Just my thoughts. Sorry they are long and jumbled.
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SoftUnderbelly Donating Member (139 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 03:11 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. thanks
thanks for the reply, you raise some interesting points.

about federalists: i must admit i do read FR quite a bit, and it seems they are the ones more interested in returning states rights and reducing the power of the federal government. is this an issue only for those on the right, or do those on the left also have people who feel the same? because for me i would like to see democracy reduced to the lowest level possible, where representatives can be held more responsible, but im about as far aways from being a Republican as you can get.

another point i want to raise, which you touched on, is incumbents. im very much in favour of term limits, ideally one but maybe two is more reasonable. i have read a bit about the situation with liebermann at the moment. although you say primaries are like our general elections, at least our general elections have to happen at least every five years. how often is an incumbent challenged and defeated at a primary? and how often does an incumbent get defeated at the general election? its my opinion that professional politicians are one of the major problems in politics (not just in the usa but world wide)
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electropop Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 03:40 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. "States Rights" is a term left over from the slavery debates of the 1850's
It was a code word for "each state may abuse its citizens as it sees fit." In those days, Dems were the racists and the upstart Republican Party was the opposition to slavery. The parties have more or less reversed roles, but "states rights" still means more or less the same thing. It is used in debates on abortion, gay rights, and so forth, when red(neck) states want to deny certain people of their Constitutional rights.

States do have enumerated Constitutional rights, but they are explicitly superseded by the rights of the people.
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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 03:52 PM
Response to Reply #8
12. States rights is code for racism
Before the Civil War, states had stronger rights, and the federal government less. After the Civil War, and because of it, states had fewer rights (like, they lost the theoretical right to cecede). But the southern states hung on to racial segregation, and even got the Supreme Court to gaurantee their right to it for a while. During the 60s, as the South was desegregated, they started talking about "states rights." It was their attempt to claim they had the right the stay segregated. With Reagan that became a mainstay of the Republican Party--states rights equaled the right to reject the federal Constitution and Supreme Court ruling to desegregate. Over time, it's become a tax question and a religion issue, too, but even that is segregation and racism. Southern states want to weaken the federal government so they can resegregate their schools, force school prayer, and basically deny the rights the Constitution gaurantees to whomever they feel don't deserve those rights. Usually, that's racial minorities, but it's now becoming gays, as well. Reagan and his political handler, Lee Atwater (who was also Rove's teacher), developed that coded racism system.

Incumbents. Senators are elected to six year terms, Representatives to two years, and most other offices are four years. So theoretically incumbents face priamry and general election challenges somewhat often, except senators. In reality, a popular incumbent usually doesn't face a primary challenge, but it happens. PResidents of course are limited to two terms, but there are no limits on other terms. I'm strongly against term limits. I think they should be removed on the president, too. They seem ultimately undemocratic to me. But obviously there is debate on that.
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electropop Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-03-06 03:54 PM
Response to Original message
13. We are not happy with it. The Electoral College is a relatively minor
part of the problem. It is a relic of the slave-state versus free-state debates of the 18th and 19th centuries. The numerical makeup of the Electoral College mirrors that of the Congress (proportional representation in the House, State-based in the Senate). That gives a disproportionate boost to states with low population. In the 18th/19th centuries, slaves didn't fully count toward Congressional representation (a nod to the fact that they couldn't vote), so the slave states demanded the Senate composition (2 per state, regardless of population) as a compromise. The Electoral College (which was not the earliest Presidential voting system) simply incorporated the same compromise. These days, red(neck) state residents make arguments that while their populations are low, they should keep this extra power because their land area is large. In other words, not "one man, one vote" but "one acre one vote." Or something. :eyes:

However, the real problems with the system have a lot more to do with the way campaigns are financed (by rich people and corporations, who then tell politicians what to do). This encourages all kinds of nefarious activity, such as the recent complete stripping of our voting rights. In 2000, the Supreme Court officially endorsed unequal protection of voters (by blocking the complete counting of votes, they unequally protected voters who Republicans liked/chose to count, over those they didn't). Of course, this was the beginning of "backwards world" and they described it as "equal protection." This occurred because the Court was in the grip of the Corporate Right.

In succeeding years, the corporatists have joined forces to manufacture and force the use of electronic voting machines, under the guise of preventing another 2000-style theft. These machines are quite likely the final nail in the coffin of American democracy.
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