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Proposal to Update the Electoral College

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the now-just-work-on-their-counting-skills dept.

922

A Stanford Professor has put down an idea (and also co-wrote a 620-page book for those who are that interested) on how to update the often criticized Electoral College system for presidential elections. Under the proposed system participating states would form a compact to throw all Electoral College votes behind the winner of the national popular vote regardless of which candidate won in any individual state. This proposed system would also make it much easier to bring the system up to date since it would not require a constitutional amendment to change or disband the Electoral College.

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922 comments

interesting theory (5, Insightful)

preppypoof (943414) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777703)

this system could possibly yield better voter turnout...if someone who wanted to vote republican lives in a traditionally "blue" state, they might not have voted knowing their vote wouldn't matter. if everyone's vote counted the same in the entire country, however, that person would be more likely to go to the polls.

Re:interesting theory (2, Interesting)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777787)

this system could possibly yield better voter turnout...if someone who wanted to vote republican lives in a traditionally "blue" state, they might not have voted knowing their vote wouldn't matter. if everyone's vote counted the same in the entire country, however, that person would be more likely to go to the polls.

What about those of us living in 'blue' states, who want to vote 'green'? Our votes already don't matter. Something drastic needs to happen before any of these current shenanighans are going to end.

Personally, I think voting should be MANDATORY for all citizens, but I don't think that will happen either.

Re:interesting theory (5, Insightful)

mrxak (727974) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777810)

Personally, I think voting should be MANDATORY for all citizens, but I don't think that will happen either.
So you want millions of uninformed uncaring citizens to start determining national policy? The solution is to education people so that they want to vote, not force people to vote on things they know nothing about.

Re:interesting theory (3, Insightful)

charlesbakerharris (623282) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778190)

Pfft. I'm informed enough to know that in a blue state, my vote doesn't count. I'm more educated than 95% of the people in my state, but I don't vote because it could never possibly matter.

Then again, I'm arguing with someone who said "The solution is to education people..."

GG.

Green? (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778065)

"What about those of us living in 'blue' states, who want to vote 'green'? Our votes already don't matter. Something drastic needs to happen"

You mean the Green Party, which represents the interests of about 1 or 2 percent of the voters and manages to catch this percentage in elections? I don't think anything "drastic" needs to be done in regards to the Green Party either way.

Re:interesting theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15778058)

I think you are right that some people really do think like that, but I have never understood how people could think that. It so unlikely that a single vote will determine an election of this kind that any individual vote already does not matter. Voting is a purely symbolic act for each individual voter (except if that single vote determines the election).

This is the same reason that it makes no sense to me to say that a vote for someone who will certainly lose is wasted. The only difference the vote will have made is to indicate that you have chosen to participate in the election and that you would prefer the candidate you voted for. No individual vote will help someone win. People should simply vote for their preferred candidate to indicate they support this candidate.

To me voting is no different to demonstrating in this regard. It is a question of showing your support for some idea rather than thinking that your participation is going to make a difference. Sure the demonstration itself could make a difference, but it will likely do so independently of anything you do (except if you want to get really involved). It is a question of satiating the desire to do something and to express yourself.

You can probably imagine how crazy I think it is to do strategic voting - to vote for someone else than your preferred candidate for strategic reasons. Voting is a symbolic act that gives you the possibility to express your views, and then you express them WRONG! That makes no sense to me.

I am not saying voting does not matter - I am saying that voting only makes sense if it fulfills a psychological need for you. Your vote will have no impact on who wins.

Re:interesting theory (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778133)

Actually, that Republican would be encouraged to vote whether they lived in a "blue" state, *or* a "red" state, or *any* state. Their vote would count the same amount no matter what.

Contrast this with the current situation, where their vote does not count for anything if they are in a "blue" or "red" state. If the Republicans are sure to win in that state, it does not matter what that Republican does, if the majority of states will go Democrat there is nothing they can do in that state to change that.

Re:interesting theory (3, Insightful)

parasonic (699907) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778227)

this system could possibly yield better voter turnout...if someone who wanted to vote republican lives in a traditionally "blue" state, they might not have voted knowing their vote wouldn't matter. if everyone's vote counted the same in the entire country, however, that person would be more likely to go to the polls.

Or, rather, it could do the opposite. A voter could be in a state with a small population where his vote would count more. Perhaps he would be in a state that is nearly split down the middle, and his vote may matter more with the electoral college than with the gross sum voting system. The electoral college is there to give each region (state) as much power as the next region in the federation, creating a balance of power in the federal level.

That's A GREAT Idea... (-1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777704)

/sarcasm

Let's enact this system now and watch 90% of the United States go unrepresented forever in the executive branch. Grrreeeaat...

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (1)

CaptainPinko (753849) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777723)

As opposed to the current system where only middleaged, privledged, white, predominantly protestant men control the executive branch...

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (0)

JordanL (886154) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777816)

Now see, that's just your apathetic goth self talking.

Legally you have to be older than 35 to be President... barring an amendment, they will always be middleaged.

But the reality is that the whole executive branch could represent nothing but the suburban/city areas, and the entire rest of the United States would be screwed. You think environmental concerns are bad now? Try handing them directly to the 80+% of the United States which work in the middle of a city in which their monetary benefit and/or job security is directly related to how poorly the rest of the US is managed, or how much they are allowed to clear cut, or what the price of electricity is.

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (5, Insightful)

scheming daemons (101928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777913)

No... it would mean that the New York City resident's vote would count EXACTLY the same as the Wyoming rancher's vote. One each.

As it stands now, The average citizen in Wyoming is 1/160,000th of an electoral vote. The average citizen of New York State is about 1/300,000th of an electoral vote.

Why should the Wyoming citizen's vote count for twice as much as the New York citizen's vote?

One man (or woman)... one vote. Any system which gives greater weight to a citizen of one state's vote over the citizen of another state is a flawed system.

The electoral college system guarantees that the citizens of lightly-populated states like Wyoming, Montana, Deleware, and the Dakotas have a greater percentage say in who is the President than a citizen of California, Florida, New York, or Texas has.

That is a patently unfair system, and the only equitable system is one in which each of us has the same 1/280,000,000th say in who the next president is. That way, there won't be campaigning in just "swing" states... because every vote in every corner of the country counts the same. The Democratic candidate would have a reason to go to Texas and campaign... the Republican candidate would have a reason to go to Massachusetts to campaign... there are votes to be gotten there and they would count the same.

I am just as much a citizen of this country as some farmer in North Dakota is. His vote shouldn't be worth twice as much as mine.

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (1)

Senobyzal (826207) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778180)

This post makes the point I was trying to make in a reply earlier in the thread, only much more cogently. Kudos.

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (3, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778198)

Why should the Wyoming citizen's vote count for twice as much as the New York citizen's vote?


Because that was the way our founding fathers configured it. Intentionally.

Or perhaps I should say that our Founding Fathers configured it so that each state would have a say, not the individual. The only reason why a person in New York has a vote at all is because the state of New York decides that you have a vote. Comparing your vote to the fellow in Wyoming is ridiculous. He's voting for how his state's electoral votes will be counted, and the New York fellow is voting for how his state's votes will be counted.

If Mr. New York wants to be a prick about it (Whaaa! Mr. Wyoming has more of a fraction of his state's vote! Whaa!) then I suggest that the state of New York remove voting privledges from its population, and decide the matter inside the state government. The population will then be forced to chose between their existing leadership and the right to vote for their state's electoral votes.

That is a patently unfair system


The only way it's "patently unfair" is if Mr. New York thinks his state should decide the outcome of ALL federal elections. In which case, what do we have states for anyway? Better dissolve the individual governments, and subject them all to total rule from the Federal government. It's so much better to give the President and Congress absolute power so that we can ensure that they are absolutely corrupted. While we're at it, why don't we dissolve the Senate? Wyoming has way too much power there, as well. Ooo, and why don't we eliminate the Supreme Court? They've been a real pain in the rear for the Soviet Socialist Republic of New York.

In case you're not catching on to the sarcasm, the electoral college is one of the many checks and balances built into the US constitution. Each of those checks that gets knocked out further weakens the nation. Thus whining about your "right to vote" is exactly that: Whining. The nation might even be a better place if we removed your right to vote. At least THAT would be constitutional.

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (1)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777725)

And that's worse than the current system how?

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (2, Interesting)

barawn (25691) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778055)

Eh. There are advantages to the current system (which constantly get ignored by those who think that a pure popular vote is the One True Way (tm)).

What you have to ask is "what do I want from the federal government?" As in, what's their job? What are they supposed to do? Are they supposed to be a true federal government, setting down laws for the people, framing their society based on their wishes? Or are they supposed to be a confederacy [wikipedia.org] , letting smaller, more local governments frame society, and just setting up the rules for how those governments interact with each other?

The Electoral College's current approach is appropriate for the second - a popular vote is more appropriate for the first. I'm personally of the opinion that the United States federal government is intended to be more like the second approach - what with the delegation of duties downward to the states, and then to counties, etc.

Honestly, I don't get the "reform the electoral college" crap all the time. The solution is simple: 1) increase the size of the House of Representatives, and then 2) citizens from each state should whine and complain if they don't like the way their electors are forced to vote (or better yet, move to a state that does it in the way that you want it to).

1) doesn't require actions from the states, either. Just a resolution from the House. Easy as pie.

Re:That's A GREAT Idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15778204)

What? Moving towards a system that makes each person's vote count equally is somehow ignoring 90% of the country? I'm probably missing something and I would love some clarification if anyone is up to it but I'm pretty sure there isn't a combination of words in the English language that will make it make sense.

Sorry. (3, Insightful)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777709)

This is a fantastic idea which seems to have the ability to cut down on red tape and electoral disputes while more aaccurately projecting the wishes of the population onto the American government. And that's precisely why it'll never get anywhere close to implementation by the very people kept rich and powerful by the current system.

Still, Professor Koza might as well get something for his troubles. Someone slice up a banana for him, and put his favorite video on.

Re:Sorry. (1)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777771)

Still, Professor Koza might as well get something for his troubles.

Prison? Advocating any change in government is obviously a "terroristic threat".

Re:Sorry. (1)

scheming daemons (101928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777789)

Still, Professor Koza might as well get something for his troubles.

Prison? Advocating any change in government is obviously a "terroristic threat".

He might get "Plamed".

Especially since his last name sorta-kinda looks muslim-ish.

Re:Sorry. (2, Informative)

olsonle (598547) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777863)

The wishes of what population? Why should California's delegates cast their vote based on what voters from Texas think? The Maine/Nebraska system seems to be a better solution for representing local populations.

Re:Sorry. (2, Insightful)

emag (4640) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778092)

You're thinking along similar lines to me. If anything, I'd much rather see electoral votes divided in a state, either based on popularity or congressional district. We already have candidates that only pay attention to the most populous areas of the states with the most electoral votes. Going with a national popularity contest would just make the problem worse, and basically disenfranchise huge numbers of voters. Making a candidate actually WORK for each and every electoral vote would mean no more "let's concentrate on NY, CA, TX" style campaigning, and would likely in several areas result in electoral votes for third party candidates, which is something else this proposed system would more than likely make impossible.

A Maine/Nebraska (or finer-grained) scheme would also address problems such as those in the 2000 election, thanks to, at most, 3 electoral votes being up for grabs, instead of an entire state's worth.

Re:Sorry. (1)

spirality (188417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778233)

Absolutely. The Maine/Nebraska system maintains Federalism, which too many of us in this country have either disregarded or are completely ignorant of.

I really wish Presidents were as important as they were in the late 19th century. Then we wouldn't give a damn who the President was... Oh well...

Re:Sorry. (1)

toad3k (882007) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778182)

You say it isn't going to happen, but it is already well underway. All that is needed is the 11 biggest states to enact this law and it is done. All that is needed to guarantee victory is 270 electoral votes.

Even if they can't manage to get 270 votes under this system, 150 would be so influential it could make this system work anyways 99% of the time anyways.

California, Illinois, and two other states already have laws floating around their governments to this effect. So to say that it will never happen is... wrong.

Ah; but the problem still would exist... (1)

JPFitting (990912) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777720)

The problem still lies within the fact that most Americans are not willing to become involved with politics nowadays. It's sad that most people in this country don't realize that we can actually vote ourselves more money, let alone get involved.

Why this won't work (2, Insightful)

DeathPooky (559729) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777730)

This would effectively give a small number of states control over the electoral system. Looks like your candidate won't be winning the popular vote? Have states that might otherwise support him drop out of the system, either causing the system to collapse or become ineffective. A few states dropping out would then cause a chain reaction of other states dropping out to counteract the problem.

The electoral college is in many ways a bad idea in modern times, but a constitutional amendment is the best way to go about fixing it.

Re:Why this won't work (2, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777786)

States like MA that have consistantly voted Democrat since, forever, would probably not join anything like this. Other states that always vote Republican would probably do the same. The only states where their people would feel they have something to gain would be those that are consistantly "too close to call". Otherwise, it's betting too much state power on something that could only have a downside.

I agree, the only way to fix the electoral college is a constitutional amendment.

Re:Why this won't work (2, Insightful)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777900)

>The only states where their people would feel they have something to gain would be those that are consistantly "too close to call".

Interestingly enough, under our current system those states get boat loads of attention... any by attention I mean money... in an effort to lock in votes.

In summary, no one likes this idea.

Semantics (3, Insightful)

christopherfinke (608750) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777736)

So basically, their plan to update the Electoral College is to give the presidency to the winner of the popular vote? Isn't that more of a removal than an update, since that would make the College useless?

Re:Semantics (1)

punkr0x (945364) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777819)

Yes, but we can't just remove the electoral college. That would be too straighforward. People might not be confused! Stupid government, thinks they're better than me...

Re:Semantics (1)

Ryan Amos (16972) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778086)

The college is useless. It was put into place when the vision for this country was a more regional, loosely federated alliance of individual autonomous states. That vision disappeared pretty much the day George Washington left office.

Right now, all it does is allow the political parties to focus their advertising dollars (and fraud) on states whose outcome was not decided a year before the election. The best part is that it makes a little bit of fraud able to decide an entire election. All you really need to do is 'lose' a few ballots from the right neighborhoods in a large swing state and it can change the outcome of an entire national election.

I'm not saying that actually happens, but the potential and ease with which it can be done is so scary that the press doesn't even want to discuss it.

Re:Semantics (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778147)

The Constitution needs to be updated if the Electoral College is removed or replaced. However - states are allowed to choose how they allocate their Electoral College votes. It may *seem* more complicated, but it is easier to implement.

Basically, this is a deal among states that fixes something the Federal government is unable to touch. I have no complaints about states getting together outside the bureaucracy of the Feds and working out their own solutions.

And NO, this will never happen. Well, maybe if the states that join are exactly paired (red/blue) so as to match the results of an agreed-upon past election. Otherwise, this just hands votes to the side that *your* state didn't vote for, which I doubt any state on either side would approve.

Can't Win? Change the rules! (2, Insightful)

sithkhan (536425) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777740)

I love how fruity the left land of silliness is! How about this for the importance of the Electoral college? Make the State Senates vote for the US Senators; that would put a bee in their bonnet!
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Re:Can't Win? Change the rules! (1)

marklark (39287) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777815)

What a remarkable idea. And _so_ retro! I like it! Could a state bring their senator home if he wasn't properly representing it?

Let's Do It. Repeal the 17th amendment!

Re:Can't Win? Change the rules! (0, Troll)

punkr0x (945364) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777848)

I love how fruity the left land of silliness is!

You, sir, are the biggest fruit in this discussion.

Heh umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15777743)

The blurb should really point out that this is a Stanford Comp Sci professor, and not Polisci or something else that might be more expected (and before you geeks out there laugh, modern polisci definitely has a strong technical aspect and Stanford is quite well respected for it). Regardless, an interesting idea.

Re:Heh umm (1)

GodaiYuhsaku (543082) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777817)

And would you like to point out that the Professor has been one of the electors and involved in the process multiple times?

Thus showing that Computer Scientists can have a strong political aspect.

Second point:

An elector doesn't have to vote how the states want them to, aka Faithless Electors.
"
There are laws to punish faithless electors in 24 states. While no faithless elector has ever been punished, the constitutionality of state pledge laws was brought before the Supreme Court in 1952 (Ray v. Blair, 343 U.S. 214). The court ruled in favor of state's right to legally require electors to vote as pledged, as well as remove electors who refuse to pledge." -- from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Electoral_Colleg e#Faithless_electors [wikipedia.org]

Re:Heh umm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15777939)

Nobody took issue with that (e.g. comp sci having a political aspect - obviously everything can be political, and a political scientist will probably be the first to acknowledge that), hence you're simply responding to a straw man argument. As for your second point, I have no idea where the hell that came from, but it's somehow even more tangential than your first.

What I find interesting about this proposal is that it is a bit of a "work-around" type solution, which I at least find representative of a comp-sci styled approach. Had a polisci professor put forth a proposal, you can rest assured it would be much more complicated and involve splitting the vote every which way.

In any case, to get back to the first point, all of your points are silly and irrelevant. Read comments more carefully before responding in the future.

So the great idea of the century is... (1)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777750)

to vote for the winner? How does that one work?

Outdated System (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15777760)

Tell me why we cannot move to a count of the popular vote instead of funneling it through this outdated system again? Am I wrong or was the electoral college not setup first to make it easier to tally the votes and who won? Oh and to prevent the people from auctually electing a president. I'm sure that was a reason at one time.

Re:Outdated System (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777920)

Am I wrong or was the electoral college not setup first to make it easier to tally the votes and who won?


Oh, you're quite wrong. The answer to the problem is in the name of our nation: "The United States of America"

Under the original constitution, each state was a separate entity with its own laws that banded together for common defense under a singular Federal entity. Federal powers were always intended to be weak so as to allow for the diversity present in each state governing itself.

The electoral college was setup because the states were concerned that they would not be fairly represented. The concern was that since New York had the largest population, all the elections would follow their desires without the opinions and diversity of the rest of the nation coming into play. As a result, the EC was developed to allow even the smallest state to have a bit of weight in their vote.

In case the implications of that aren't clear, let me spell it out: The electoral college is designed to NOT reflect the popular vote.

Sometimes the popular vote reflects the college vote (especially in the case of a landslide), but in many close races the two will differ. (e.g. Bush vs. Gore '00)

What's interesting is that the people demanding a change in the method used to count the vote is almost always the folks from heavily populated areas. i.e. The exact people the electoral college was setup to protect against. The concern is that these people have little understanding of other areas, and would do insurmountable damage to the rest of the nation. Considering that our food production as well as many forms of research and manufacturing are handled in rural areas, failing to represent them could be disasterous.

Re:Outdated System (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778120)

Failing to represent the small states? Bah! If the Senate and Congress stay they way they are, the small states still have plenty of representation in Washington.

I think the change would be positive, as it would give the majority of people control of one branch of government, while the majority of states has control of two, leading to a more balanced, less partisan federal government.

Re:Outdated System (1)

marklark (39287) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777934)

The Electoral College gives a greater weight to smaller states - so they liked it and decided to join our "Union." This is still a good idea. The politics of California and New York generally drive the U.S., but don't have to.

Another reason that we shouldn't do away with it is that this country is not a "democracy." It is a Republic, ruled by laws, not simple majorities and whims.

It wasn't about ease of use. They had plenty of time to count and more people deeply interested in the results to keep an eye on it.

Yes, it is somewhat about keeping the "people" from electing the President, but in a good way. ;^)

Re:Outdated System (1)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778149)

The Electoral College gives a greater weight to smaller states - so they liked it and decided to join our "Union." This is still a good idea.

So, which small state do we want to join the union?

Another reason that we shouldn't do away with it is that this country is not a "democracy."

That's a statement, not a reason. And the fact is, having an electoral college doesn't stop us being run by whims - in fact, instead of having an averaged out whim over the entire country, which encourages stability, we get run by the whim of smaller swing states, which are much more volatile.

Yes, it is somewhat about keeping the "people" from electing the President, but in a good way. ;^)

A good way that elected Bush.

Re:Outdated System (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778184)

"A good way that elected Bush."

So, is this reform needed, then to cut one party down and give another party advantage?

No (4, Insightful)

acvh (120205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777765)

The whole point of the "United States" is that we are a federation of 50 states. That means that we have intentionally crafted a system in which each state gets a certain minimum representation, both in Congress and in selecting a president. Proposals such as this would change the rules under which smaller states joined the union; their voices would cease to be heard.

If this is really the way we want to go, then we should eliminate state government, replace it with regional governors to attend to regional issues, and stop pretending that states matter.

Re:No (1)

getnate (518090) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777866)

Well said.

Re:No (1, Interesting)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777870)

That means that we have intentionally crafted a system in which each state gets a certain minimum representation, both in Congress and in selecting a president.

Even if nobody lived in them?

Surely it is more reasonable to deal out political power by the number of people who vote, instead of by artificial divisions of state? Why should living in a heavily populated state with a disproportionately small electoral college count mean that your voice matter less?

People deserve voices more than abstract lines in the sand do.

Re:No (1)

acvh (120205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777985)

I respectfully disagree. The whole of idea of the United States is that government would neither be concentrated in one person, nor would it devolve into the mob rule of unfettered democracy. While the current state of affairs has devolved itself into a bit of a mess, to resort to strictly popular vote to select a president is not, I believe, the answer.

This isn't an abstract line in the sand, it is the principle on which this country was founded. Take that away and we might as well resport to the solution I referenced previously, do away with the fiction of "states" and make the US one big country with one government.

Re:No (2, Informative)

Balthisar (649688) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778282)

I was in Mexico on election day. I was espousing the idea to my inlaws there that none of their current political mess would have happened if only their federal system were *truly* federal and they had a well-working electoral college system similar to our own.

There's STILL no declared presidential winner there, and the losing idiot is still calling for marches, making unsubstantiated accusations, and not giving the legitimate government there a chance to function and do its job. He claims "the will of the people will be heard," forgetting the fact that almost 2/3 of the population were intelligent enough to vote *against* him.

(This is an election that was declared clean by European observes, lest anyone accuse the USA of interefence.)

Hell, I'm from a crappy, wrong colored state that I want to be the other color. As a constant loser, I wish we had a Maine type system. Were I a constant winner, I'd probably be more than happy. It's easy to criticize when you're the loser. The easy, most fair, non-partisan answer is to keep everything local or as local as you can. Hence states can do whatever the hell they want to, and even though I'm not happy with how my state does it while I'm losing, it beats a centralized system.

Re:No (4, Insightful)

anaesthetica (596507) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778244)

artificial divisions of state

States are only "artificial" if you have no concept of American history and have never traveled through the United States. People from other countries don't understand regional or state-specific differences in the U.S. Moreover, American history is taught with poorer and poorer standards, and with less focus on state history. For instance, I received no education in Maryland history even though I attended high school there. So even Americans don't understand why we have states instead of a unitary government.

Division of power between a number of levels and branches of government is fundamental to the liberal philosophical tradition. Read Locke and Montesquieu. Liberal institutions which diffuse power to intermediate and co-equal entities is essential in preventing the centralization of power. It is centralized power that is far more prone to abuse than decentralized power--that should be obvious. Why then would you want to eliminate the substantive role of state divisions, when they are there to fundamentally split power, prevent swaying of the masses through temporary demagogy, and check the central government?

Re:No (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777928)

If this is really the way we want to go, then we should eliminate state government, replace it with regional governors to attend to regional issues, and stop pretending that states matter.


Hate to sound negative, but that has been the major push by most federal government for the past 50 years or so. A marked increase in Federal power and a decrease in States Rights.

Re:No (1)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778042)

Actually, the Supreme Court in recent years has made some key rulings in favor of states' rights [wikipedia.org] , at the expense of the federal government.

Re:No (2, Insightful)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777977)

The whole point of the "United States" is that we are a federation of 50 states."
BUUUZZZZT! Wrong answer, thanks for playing. See, we had this little thing called the Civil war where 600,000 people died in order to decide that in the end, the good of the entire populace outweighs the good of any individual state. Determining who the president is surely a matter where the good of the entire population trumps the good of any individual state.

Re:No (1)

acvh (120205) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778154)

once again I must respectfully disagree. the Civil War was fought for many reasons, but elimination of the right of states to choose the president wasn't one of them. now, the Civil War did go a long way toward creating our current system of a powerful federal government overstepping its constitutional authority, but that isn't the reason the war was fought.

the war was fought to preserve the union, and "union" was understood, even then, to be the equal partnership of the several states in a federal system. if you don't like the idea of the "United States", that's fine; work to change us to something else. But don't rewrite or misinterpret history.

Re:No (1)

Senobyzal (826207) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778063)

Well, at the very least let's fix the system so that states get the right number of votes in the electoral college. Wyoming has something like 3x the # of electors per capita than CA, even though it seems otherwise at first glance (I think it's 3 to 53 or something like that).

Re:No (1)

BigRare (187855) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778119)

"The whole point of the "United States" is that we are a federation of 50 states. That means that we have intentionally crafted a system in which each state gets a certain minimum representation, both in Congress and in selecting a president. Proposals such as this would change the rules under which smaller states joined the union; their voices would cease to be heard.

If this is really the way we want to go, then we should eliminate state government, replace it with regional governors to attend to regional issues, and stop pretending that states matter."


Hmm, I thought we were a supranational constitutional federal republic. Though, I would prefer a confederation better, maybe then the federal government spending would be under control, but probably not. Wait, we already tried that, it didn't work. Nevermind then.

Maybe an anarco-sydicalist commune...

Re:No (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778211)

When the US Constitution was passed, its unique blend of government ideals was quite new. It can be best described as a representative democracy; the people choose who to trust and represent them in governmental affairs.

Re:No (1)

greysky (136732) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778171)

What does this remind me of? Oh yeah...

"The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away...The regional govenors would have direct control over their territories"
-Moff Tarkin

Why this is a bad idea... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15777769)

Currently... only those states with Diebold machines are subject to having their electoral votes given to a candidate that won because of vote fraud/fixing.

Those of us in states that still use machines that allow for verifiable recounts don't want to have our electoral tally tainted by some neighboring right-wing Diebold-controlled state.

Going to a national popular vote would INCREASE the ability of Diebold to throw close elections toward the candidate of their choice.

Sorry... if the red states are rigged to stay red, at least they only affect the electoral votes in those states. Get the Diebold machines out of enough states totalling 270 electoral votes, and we have a chance to overthrow the right-wing coup of our government that began in 2000.

This = PR (2, Insightful)

FhnuZoag (875558) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777773)

Really, all this represents is a way to getting in Proportional Representation via the back door, with all the advantages and disadvantages that PR provides - and in a way that can bypass any wingeing states/parties who might complain about reductions to their political importance.

Not to say that this is a bad idea, but just to note that it's only the method here that is new, not the end result.

Worst ... idea.... ever (5, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777780)

That's the worst idea ever. The president was NEVER supposed to be elected by popular vote. The Framers hated that idea to the core. It's a bit of a "states rights" thing but it's up to the states individually to determine how they will cast their votes. There's nothing in the Constitution itself that says people are suppose to vote for senators or presidents. To the Framers, that choice was supposed to be made by the officially elected state government. That way somebody smart, and already elected once was making the choice for who the next higher up officeholder would be. On the surface it seems anti-democratic, but in reality, many of our Federal govt problems are directly related to Federal elections and officers being separate and disconnected from the lower branches of government. Think of how fast all the issues with Bush would be resolved if he and the senate had to answer not just to the idea of "voters" but to specific branches of state government.. Where would we be if our state legislatures or governors could call our Federal Senators on the carpet and demand their votes the way the States demand it to be because they appointed them, not the voter sheep. We'd see a much higher quality of govt if the feds were responsible to somebody local not "everybody" in a nebulous get elected next term way.

Re:Worst ... idea.... ever (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777960)

It would certainly allow for local power to trickle through specific points.

I wonder what affect that would have on Lobbying.

Re:Worst ... idea.... ever (3, Insightful)

Enrique1218 (603187) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778116)

I would disagree with you. First and foremost, the framers set up the constitution to be ammended with the times because they knew that they couldn't think of everything. What the Framers envisioned 220 years ago is not necessarily applicable today. They never could think of the internet or TV. The population as a whole is now not as nebulous as you describe due in large part to the forums like the one we are using now to discuss the issues across the nation. The internet links us together and can be used to inform and rally the people to exercise greater control of the government and of the president. Second, mass communciation system that we have now can further inform and update voters in real-time. Then, polls can quickly gauge the pulse of the people providing the appropriate feedback to the elected officials of their actions. So, the mechanism of control by the people is already in place and we don't need local proxies to do it for us.

Re:Worst ... idea.... ever (2, Interesting)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778142)

I can't remember if the Constitution specifically required Senators to be selected by the state governments, but it took a constitutional amendment to force (permit?) direct election.

Senators can still be temporarily replaced by the state government, with the next general election selecting the person to serve out the rest of the term. Representatives have to be replaced by special elections.

This was an important point after 9/11. Had a loaded plane hit the Capitol while Congress was in session, you might have had a situation where only a small fraction of the House survived and could not be replaced for several months. Yet government has to continue, and a quorum is determined by the number of sitting representatives. So you could have national laws passed by literally a few dozen people. It's not hard to imagine that situation leading to disaster in the wake of a successful attack.

Re:Worst ... idea.... ever (4, Insightful)

The Fun Guy (21791) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778283)

The president was NEVER supposed to be elected by popular vote. The Framers hated that idea to the core.

The framers of the constitution, for all that they believed in democracy, didn't really trust it to the extent that we do today, since no one really had any experience with running an entire country on democratic principles. The biggest lesson they took away from the ancient Greek polis and the Roman republic was how susceptible it was to being taken over by a charismatic leader and turned back into a monarchy.

The Electoral College was a mechanism put in place to prevent the rise of populist demagogues, on the assumption that the elected officials at the state levels would be less likely to be swept up in mob psychology furor to throw over the democratic structures in order to put a hero on the throne.

it's more complicated than this... (4, Insightful)

malchus842 (741252) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777795)

The electors, who are actually elected federal office holders, albeit with a very short term and only one permitted act, cannot be bound by any state or federal law to vote one way or another. It's not possible to prevent 'rogue' electors from voting for anyone they wish, anymore than it's possible for a state legislature to force the state's senators and representatives to vote a particular way on a bill.

Right now, electors represent the party of the candidate they pledge (i.e. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc). You would have to change this to non-partisan electors who agreed to vote with the national popular vote. And even then, you could not guarantee that the electors would do that, since they can't be forced to vote one way or another

The only way you will ever change this is to ammend the Constitution. And it's not clear that it should be changed. The Electoral College reduces the weight of large states and increases the weight of the small states, which makes it less likely a candidate will try to run up huge numbers in CA, NY, FL, TX, OH, VA and other large states so he/she can ignore the smaller states. Right now, you gain nothing from winning NY with say 70% of the vote vs 50%+1. That helps keep a few large states from dominating the process - the leveling effect limits their impact.

Of course, I know a lot of people don't agree with me. But that's no surprise, they mostly object to my calls to repeal (among others) the 17th Amendment and restore a true federal system.

Re:it's more complicated than this... (2, Informative)

GodaiYuhsaku (543082) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777856)

"There are laws to punish faithless electors in 24 states. While no faithless elector has ever been punished, the constitutionality of state pledge laws was brought before the Supreme Court in 1952 (Ray v. Blair, 343 U.S. 214). The court ruled in favor of state's right to legally require electors to vote as pledged, as well as remove electors who refuse to pledge." -- from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Electoral_Colleg e#Faithless_electors [wikipedia.org]

State law can. Federal law cannot. course INAL.

Re:it's more complicated than this... (1)

Senobyzal (826207) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778164)

I think that the big states SHOULD carry more weight. Why should some guy from Wyoming have 3x the impact with his vote than mine in CA? And people claim that we need to "protect" the "small" states... why? It seems to me that the more populated states seem to give more to the union via taxes and economic output than those big mostly-empty western states. I don't understand why we should encourage politicians to cater to the people in the smaller states, either... what's wrong with trying to "run up" the vote in a big state? Do those voters over 50%+1 just not matter? Why shouldn't their voices be heard?

It's an interesting thought, but... (4, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777797)

I'd be curious to see how enforceable the contract turns out to be. I can imagine a state changing its mind midway through the voting, or secretly changing its vote, or something. If the other states sue to enforce the contract, would it prove valid?

It does make recounts rather a mess. One advantage to the electoral college system is that as messy as the Florida recount was, at least it was in only one state. The election of 2000 was very close even in popular terms, and without the electoral college every single state would have ended up having a recount, because every single vote would matter. But gosh, other countries manage to work it out.

The states that have already talked about signing on are big states: California, New York, Colorado, Illinois and Missouri. States who are under-represented in the electoral college. The little states, who currently benefit from having their individual votes be worth nearly 3 times as much as a voter from California or New York, will pitch a major hissy fit.

I haven't run the numbers, but I suspect that such a scheme will tend to favor Democrats over Republicans, at least with the current distributions. Those small states tend to be red states. Certainly the one recent example where one can point to a candidate getting an advantage from the electoral college favored a Republican over a Democrat, so any attempt to swing it towards a proportional vote will be greeted in red states as an attempt to make it more blue.

"other countries" (1)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778056)

There are two big differences between the US and other democracies.

1) we're larger, both in population and geographical distribution. You can't compare our problems with, oh, European countries that have 1/6th the population in a single timezone. Our peers are India, Russia, and...? Maybe Mexico, although she has a third of our population.

2) other countries have elections run from the top down. Single national standards, single national ballots, etc. We have something like 10,000 separate elections. States will usually have their own standards, but it's ultimately run by county clerks etc. There are profound legal problems with having election standards set at the national level -- things that work great in urban centers on the eastern seaboard will fail miserably in rural Montana, and vice versa. (I know, let's just ignore Montana since her population isn't that large!)

Re:It's an interesting thought, but... (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778070)

Keep in mind that a "state compact" really is a treaty, but between American states instead of between countries. Actually, a state compact can also include a foriegn government as well.

The one thing that keeps them under control and from getting out of hand is that all state compacts must not only be approved by all state legislatures involved, but also by the U.S. Congress.... keeping the U.S. Consitutional issues in hand.

These compacts are usually done for rather mundane tasks like highway construction projects that cross state lines, school districts that take in kids from just across the state line, or other issues that would involve multiple states. Some good compacts I've seen allowed "in-state" tuition at a group of universities in a specific region. Minnesota in particular established seperate compacts to do just that with all of the neighboring states.

Even more bizzare was a compact between Minnesota and Mantoba, where an airport on the U.S./Canadian border was more cheaply extended across the international border by 1000 feet. It wasn't a huge airport, but the need was there to build the extra length of runway and make a joint state/province authority over the expanded airport. The state and provincial governments ran the airport, but it also needed federal authority from both national governments in order to get this to work.

Once states enter into a compact like this, it becomes enforceable almost like the U.S. Consitution, and states simply can't back out of it shy of fully repealing the compact by agreement with all of the people participating in that compact. Indeed, something like this ultimately has even more authority in fact than the U.S. Constitution as trying to get the whole thing renegotiated all over again after the compact is in legal force would be something next to impossible to accomplish. All told, I think a constitutional ammendment would be easier to negotiate because of this problem. SCOTUS doesn't let states get away with the same garbage that would be routine for the World Court.

Re:It's an interesting thought, but... (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778286)

Interesting info. Thanks.

I didn't realize that state compacts had to be approved by Congress. I suppose it makes sense under the Interstate Commerce clause, but I've been unable to find any good cites on this. Can you point me in the right direction?

Re:It's an interesting thought, but... (1)

Pendersempai (625351) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778082)

"If the other states sue to enforce the contract, would it prove valid?"

No; the other states wouldn't have standing. But a citizen of the state could probably sue to hold the state accountable to its own laws.

In any case, the statutory enactment of the scheme would have to contain some sort of enforcement mechanism to be credible. The mechanism would presumably forbid the state legislature from changing the rules in the middle of the game. And if the state chose to ignore the plain meaning of its own statute, there would likely be a colorable constitutional claim against it in federal court under the Guaranty Clause, Equal Protection Clause, or Ex Post Facto Clause.

Small states (1)

getnate (518090) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777805)

IF executed this idea would take power from small (in terms of population) states and give more power to large states. Small states will have none of this. One of the comprimises made by big states (during the forming of our nation) was to have the senate, which gives more power to small states hence making their influence more equal to big states. The current implememtation of the electoral college continues that spirit of comprimise.

Re:Small states (1)

jZnat (793348) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778256)

The small states don't know what's best for the large states, and if they get just as much say in large state affairs as small state affairs, how the fuck is that fair?

Reform, but do not destroy (4, Insightful)

GospelHead821 (466923) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777813)

I don't think we need to do away with the electoral college altogether. Allowing each state to have a minimum possible voice is valuable. New York and California already have a lot of electoral votes, but not entirely in proportion to their populations. The problems with the electoral college could be mitigated if only the votes from the college were more granular. As it is, in most states, the candidate that wins the popular vote in that state earns all of the electoral votes from that state. That means that 49% of a state's votes might "not count" in the final decision. As a citizen of Ohio, this problem was really driven home in the last presidential election. The two principle candidates were nearly equal in terms of popular vote, but the state's entire contribution was to George Bush. Let the two "senator" votes go to the popular majority, but let the "representative" votes be divided proportionally to the popular vote.

How about...no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15777820)

Uh, how bout, a resounding no?

The WHOLE point of the design of the Electoral College was to disallow states with an overwhelming population to have an overwhelming say in the choosing of the President. If it was based on population alone, California, New York etc would always get who they wanted, and thus would always get the issues they wanted addressed, and the rest of the country might as well not bother. That was the whole reason for the development of such a system, it gives the little states a very important say in the matter as well, instead of some group of people from a relative minority of states having the power to do whatever they'd like.

From the wikipedia article:

"The Electoral College may have been implemented to negotiate compromises in cases of a split vote where each state was pushing its own native son. The United States presidential primary and the emergence of a two-party system has largely rendered this historical. One lasting theory is that the Electoral College helps dilute the effect of votes from densely populated centers which may steer away from the concerns of the rest of the country. Others have noted that the Electoral College enabled the Founding Fathers to deftly incorporate the Connecticut Compromise and three-fifths compromise into the system of choosing the President and Vice President, thereby sparing the convention further acrimony over the issue of state representation."

Doesn't work (3, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777827)

This doesn't work for two big reasons:
  1. It's a "boil the ocean" solution; it doesn't work at all until it is fully operational. Nothing ever works like that with 50 states. This is also related to the next reason:
  2. The benefits of cheating are too large once half or so of the electoral votes are in the agreement. The benefits of defecting, or threatening to defect, become large, because suddenly the votes become bargaining chips, useful to extract concessions from the other states. This makes it effectively impossible to get to all 50 agreeing anyhow; the more people in the agreement before it gets to 50, the larger the spoiler effect.
This would make things even worse, because of the horrible bargaining and politicing that would ensue around the electoral votes. Indeed, this would come to swamp the entire procedure, and the game would become getting the states to commit electoral votes, instead of convincing the people to vote for you. Hopefully, it's obvious why this is bad.

There's no idea so bad you can't extol its virtues for 600 pages.

Finally, to use the previous election for concrete names, do you really thing California is going to stand for seeing its electoral votes go to Bush? Or Texas for Gore? Unlikely.

Re:Doesn't work (1)

Pendersempai (625351) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778043)

"This makes it effectively impossible to get to all 50 agreeing"

You don't need all fifty states to sign up, though; you only need enough states to get more than half of the electoral votes. In reality, you need even less than this, since most presidential elections are won by a relatively tight electoral race; tipping one or two big states should be enough to turn the tide the vast majority of the time.

"The benefits of cheating are too large once half or so of the electoral votes are in the agreement."

A state couldn't realistically cheat. Once it passed a statutory commitment to the scheme, it only takes a single citizen who disagrees with the defection to sue the state in its own court system. If the state's own court system fails, I am nearly certain the federal courts would require the state to enforce its own laws under the Equal Protection clause or the Guaranty Clause or something of the like. A state can't pass a law and then violate it, at least not so blatantly and when the stakes are so high and the scrutiny so close.

"Finally, to use the previous election for concrete names, do you really thing California is going to stand for seeing its electoral votes go to Bush? Or Texas for Gore? Unlikely."

This I agree with. This is why states will not implement the plan; or if they do, will repeal it after the first election in which it makes a difference.

Re:Doesn't work (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778266)

A state couldn't realistically cheat. Once it passed a statutory commitment to the scheme,

Ah, but you see, there's the cheating point. "I won't join your collective unless you give me X, Y, and Z." And once the last state comes in and gets what it wants, there is now an incentive for every state in the 50%+ majority to now say, "Unless you give me X', Y', and Z', I'm leaving." (Since there is no way to for states to fully commit short of a Constitutional Amendment which is extremely unlikely.)

Actually, the crossover point where cheating becomes better than staying is probably less than 50%. This of course only makes it harder.

What about smaller states (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777865)

One thing this proposal totally misses is the fact that the U.S. Constitution specifically set up the opportunity to disproportionally represent voters in smaller states over those in larger states, so that a Presidential candidate would have to appeal to voters of those smaller states like Wyoming, Hawaii, and Delaware in addition to major voting hubs like New York, Texas, Florida, and California.

There is no way a state compact could ever be made that would ignore this issue.

Of the various electorial vote distribution systems that have been proposed, I like Colorado's idea (that was voted down) as the best of the bunch, although the Nebraska & Maine system of having each congressional district determine their own "vote" does seem at least as an alternative. The current "winner takes all" approach that most of the other states use is really the source of some of the current problems.

Colorado actually proposed proportional electorial votes based on percentages of votes cast. That would mean states doing this would still get attention even if there was a huge percentage of voters in that state voting for one candidate, but one candidate could still just collect a few thousand more votes in order to get one more electorial vote from that state. Interestingly enough, Al Gore would have won in 2000 had this system been used in most states, and it is the democrats who don't want it changed.

It should be noted that the Bush campaign comittee specifically targeted the smaller states for electorial votes and it was a part of their strategy to win these "neglected by the Democrats" parts of the USA in order to win the presidential election. This strategy was specifically encouraged by design by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.

Re:What about smaller states (1)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778183)

I don't think they anticipated our disparity in state populations. I think the ratio between California and Wyoming is close to 100:1.

I object on precedent grounds (4, Insightful)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777876)

If we want to change the Constitution, the procedure exists, and affords suitable prohibition of bad ideas.

Setting up an end-around will only weaken the sanctity of the document.

Peering into the future, the subsequent election of CowboyNeal ought to be a sufficient caution for us all.

Worst. Idea. Evah!! Electors should vote well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15777896)

Who comes up with this crap... it's bad enough we've got elections that are rigged, now all you need to do is rig a couple of high population states and the whole game is yours... Don't people think things through... if anything, we should have the "electors" vote in ratios that represent the state's popular vote, that way there is at least some hope of returning to a representative democracy.

For f's sake..

Irrational to sign on (1)

Pendersempai (625351) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777905)

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think this plan will ever succeed.

The problem is, in order for the plan to make any difference in a given election, some states will have to cast their electoral votes against the will of their own electorate. If that happens even once, the people of the state will be pretty pissed, and that will translate into a lot of pressure on the state legislature to repeal the state's adherence to the plan. Moreover, an expectation that this would happen should be enough to dissuade states from signing up in the first place.

As an example, I am a liberal who lives in Connecticut. Of course I would be thrilled if Wyoming, Utah, and Texas signed up for this plan, but that's only because they would otherwise be voting for the republican candidate 100% of the time. On the other hand, I would oppose Conneticut signing up, since it ALREADY goes blue 100% of the time.

I also wonder if there would be constitutional problems with a state assignings its electoral votes without regard to its people's wishes. This is not a question of expertise or law, I think, so much as a political question of what the Supreme Court would consider to be the more judicially modest option: contravene the will of a few states, or permit the few states to overturn an institution that was very clearly within the intent of the Framers.

Re:Irrational to sign on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15777983)

Conneticut signing up, since it ALREADY goes blue 100% of the time.

So.. you're only like 18 years old? Or what? Check up on the election of 1984, for example.

Not to mention that no one called Democrats "blue" until about 2001, so pretty much any election save the 2004 one would be opposite of what you intended.

Interesting theory, but still unfair (3, Interesting)

theheff (894014) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777919)

This strategy of the state going for the popular vote is very interesting, and I guess in a way it would work, but it doesn't fix the problem of misrepresentation. In fact, it would undoubtedly make it worse. The state would represent itself poorly if the majority of its votes were for one candidate, but the national popular vote forced them to vote for the other candidate. That's not fixing the electoral college problem; if you're going to use this system why even use the electoral college? I realize it's a possible workaround, but senators/representatives would never let this agreement happen in their own states.

What I think would be fair is a system that allows the electoral vote of an entire state be split. If a state counted as 7 votes, it would be allowed 3 to one candidate and 4 to another. This allows a much more proportional representation. There's absolutely no reason why votes should count more in Ohio/Florida than any other state. This method also allows independent candidates to actually have a chance. It's unfortunate that nothing like this will ever be passed in legislation today because of our stagnant political system full of selfish scum.

Already Debated and Decided... (1)

Slagged (985600) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777923)

at the constitutional convention! This gets brought up every couple of years and will never get rattified by the states. The electoral college is about making sure the smaller states get proper representation. It's up to the states to determine how their electors should (not must) vote. A couple of states split their electors proportionally. The vast majority of states go with an all or nothing approach. Both methods are constitutional.

My proposal (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777965)

Why not do something logical such as "The winner of the popular vote in a particular region will have the corresponding electoral vote" or even "Each candidate will receive the proportion of votes determined by the popular vote")

Part of the reason the electoral college exists is so that areas of sparse population have as much voice as areas of dense population. The current system used where "The winner of the popular vote in a state gets all of the votes for the state" doesn't always reflect the will of the populace. The current system rewards marginal victories equally to landslide victories. If a candidate wins 60% of the population in a state, that candidate should be awarded 60% of the state's votes.

I'm not saying my proposal is flawless (large population centers could still be overruled by sparsely populated regions), but it would, at least, be better than what occurs now.

If you want to be the President, then you should have to win over the majority of the populace, not "just enough people" in a few key states.

But then again, I'd rather see more drastic changes. The government we need now is not the same as the government we needed in 1787 (when the design was written up).

Not so fast (1)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777966)

This is going to piss off a whole lot of people who don't understand it.

While it may be possible legally, politically, it would be a firestorm.

People outside those states won't like the idea that the bigger states are making the decision for them. And people inside those states won't like the idea that their electoral college votes are no longer based on the votes in their states.

Old News (1)

stomv (80392) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777972)

According to this article [latimes.com] dated May 31, this is already a work in progress. I'd bet its the same professor, although I was unable to confirm.

The idea is that you don't need all 50 states -- you need 270 electoral votes, the smallest number which guarantees a victory (of the 538 total votes cast). So, the compact doesn't go into effect until enough states sign such that 270 electoral votes are at stake.

According to the article I've linked, in addition to California the legislation is "in progress" in the New York Legislature, and its got some support in Illinois, Missouri and Colorado. That doesn't guarantee passage, of course.

Note also that this does not require a Constitutional Ammendment because each state is free to determine how to divvy up its electoral votes. There is no Federal requirements on how to allocate the electoral votes, just requirements on who can (and can't) vote. States have additional input, which is why prisoners, parolees, and those who have been completely released by the penal system may or may not be allowed to vote, depending on the state in which they live.

Why tip-toe forward instead of walking? (2, Insightful)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 7 years ago | (#15777976)

An interesting proposition, but I think efforts would be better spend on getting Congress to disband the electoral college and actually having a vote count as a vote.

The Electoral College was useful in the pioneer days when information took much longer to get from place to place. Not everyone had the opportunity to be informed, so they voted towards a certain party and the state threw all of its electoral votes behind the winner of that popular vote.

The modern day is much different. Information is instantaneous, and people are finding out every little nuance about politicians if they dig deep enough. While the modern citizen probably isn't well informed, they do have the ability now to be informed- they merely need to go to a library to use a comptuer for an hour, or read a few newspapers. This means that citizens can discern which candidate they want. Votes are tallied quickly with the use of punch cards and now electronic voting machines (faults aside). The public's vote should be the only thing that counts now.

Or the other option is... (1)

Zerbs (898056) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778005)

we could combine elector reform with this professor's last big idea and have a scratch off lottery type of ballot for president. Considering I (and a number of other people) don't trust either of the 2 big political parties anymore, maybe a random election wouldn't be too bad.

Ugh, if this gets implented (1)

Rhinobird (151521) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778051)

Ugh, if this gets implented we won't be the United States of America anymore. We'd be the United States of California and New York.

Re:Ugh, if this gets implented (1)

scheming daemons (101928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778253)

Ugh, if this gets implented we won't be the United States of America anymore. We'd be the United States of California and New York.

Wrong. It means that person in Schenectady, NY would have a vote that counts EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT as a person from Nome, Alaska.

Each of us should count as 1/280,000,000th of the vote. State lines are arbitrary in federal elections. State lines should have no bearings on the vote.

I hear your argument a lot and it just doesn't wash. Currently, the resident of Wyoming matters 3 times as much as the resident of California. Is that fair? No... they should each count as exactly the same share of the vote total.

Someone in San Jose California is not 1/3 of the citizen that a person in Dover, Deleware is. Why should their vote not carry the same weight?

You don't want the "United States of California and New York?" Currently... we have the United States of Podunk. And the current system is inherently unfair.

That's not an Update, it's a removal (1)

St. Intrope (238258) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778053)

A better idea would be to require that Electoral votes be counted by House District (except for your 2 Senate votes, which should still be counted by popular votes in the state).

That way, subsets of a state could vote against the state as a whole; Austin, TX could vote D, east California could vote R, etc.

This is probably also legally doable by Congress without an amendment; it also keeps the strong-and-broad support the Electoral College requires (which is better than the Strong support a majority-only system requires). It also isn't an invitation to fraud/gamemanship, as TFA's proposal is. (well, gerrymandering would still apply, but that's a separate problem that needs work anyway).

It would also reduce the number of Florida 2000 debacles (since you'd have to be within about 2 EVs of the other guy to need a state-wide recount).

For added bonuse, senators could be done the same way in states with at least 3 districts.

Congressional District Method, not winner-take-all (1)

Kevoco (64263) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778128)

From: http://www.fairvote.org/e_college/me_ne.htm [fairvote.org]
Maine and Nebraska both use an alternative method of distributing their electoral votes, called the Congressional District Method. Currently, these two states are the only two in the union that diverge from the traditional winner-take-all method of electoral vote allocation. With the district method, a state divides itself into a number of districts, allocating one of its state-wide electoral votes to each district. The winner of each district is awarded that district's electoral vote, and the winner of the state-wide vote is then awarded the state's remaining two electoral votes. This method has been used in Maine since 1972 and Nebraska since 1996, though since both states have adopted this modification, the statewide winners have consistently swept all of the state's districts as well. Consequently, neither state has ever split its electoral votes. Although this method still fails to reach the full ideal of one-man one-vote, it has been proposed as a nationwide reform for the way in which Electoral votes are distributed.
What I find most attractive about the Congressional District Method:
  1. Ends the red-washing / blue washing that introduces significant rounding error to Electoral voting
  2. Allows for a third political party to show up on the "big map" on election night
  3. Could lead to the balkanization of larger states, California a prime example of a state that should be 2 or 3 states (and picks up additional Senate seats in the bargain)

Do this and watch... (1)

Churla (936633) | more than 7 years ago | (#15778230)

You will never see a presidential candidate in a state other than NY, CA, TX, and FL. Everybody else will have to choose a president based on what they promise to do for those four states.

There is a reason the framers of the constitution hammered out these things they way they did. Some things could use some modernization, this is not one of them.

To bring this back into geek terms:

This is not a bug in the electoral process, this is a feature and is working as intended.

As they say around here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15778292)

A popular radio DJ around here used to say "If voting really made a difference, they wouldn't let us do it!"
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