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Question: Which system do you prefer?
Current Electoral System   -37 (59.7%)
Nationwide Popular Vote   -25 (40.3%)
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Total Voters: 62

Author Topic: Electoral College  (Read 40287 times)
tweed
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« on: December 26, 2003, 07:53:01 pm »
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Which system do you prefer?
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2003, 04:34:48 am »
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The EC is more fun to predict, it makes this forum much more interesting, but a popular vote makes more sense, since the US is so much of a unit.
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2003, 10:11:45 am »
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The EC is more fun to predict, it makes this forum much more interesting, but a popular vote makes more sense, since the US is so much of a unit.
Agreed.  The popular vote should decide the election.  No, I'm not a whiny Gore supporter here either, I think the popular vote is the way to decide elections.
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2003, 10:43:00 am »
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In a perfect world, I would agree that the direct popular election would be the best system.

However we don't live in a perfect world and the technical aspects of democracy have to be considered.  At least with the Electoral college we will always end up with a President, even if once every century or so said President's opponent may have recieved a few more votes than he/she did.

Had we had the direct popular vote in 2000, the election debacle that was confined to one state could have been extended to the entire country with each state's results challenged to squeeze votes out for one side or the other.  It would have turned a temporary mess into a nightmarish Constitutional crisis.  If you don't think that the results in Florida were right, how could you possibly think that those discrepancies multiplied across the country would be any more accurate?  Even if the entire country switched to a similar electronic voting system with the same rules and standards, there would still be challenges of voter lists and claims of fraud.

I don't like the electoral college, but I accept it as a necessity for an orderly transition of power in a nation with over a hundred million voters.
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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2003, 11:23:29 am »

In a perfect world, I would agree that the direct popular election would be the best system.

However we don't live in a perfect world and the technical aspects of democracy have to be considered.  At least with the Electoral college we will always end up with a President, even if once every century or so said President's opponent may have recieved a few more votes than he/she did.

Had we had the direct popular vote in 2000, the election debacle that was confined to one state could have been extended to the entire country with each state's results challenged to squeeze votes out for one side or the other.  It would have turned a temporary mess into a nightmarish Constitutional crisis.  If you don't think that the results in Florida were right, how could you possibly think that those discrepancies multiplied across the country would be any more accurate?  Even if the entire country switched to a similar electronic voting system with the same rules and standards, there would still be challenges of voter lists and claims of fraud.

I don't like the electoral college, but I accept it as a necessity for an orderly transition of power in a nation with over a hundred million voters.
I don't like the Electoral College either. But, I do think we can do without it. Why can't every precinct have a row of laptop computers that have only one government developed program installed, [that program would be the same nationwide and change every 2 years] the same Brand of Laptops, and everything. A voter scrolls down the screen as they make their selections and a print out is made of their choices, they would be required by law to sign the copy, and the registrar would be witness, the voter gets the bottom copy. This would ensure accurate voting, the voter's votes will be counted and be undisputable. If there is a dispute, however, it's just a matter of looking at the white form the registrar/or Secretary of State has, and the copy given to the voter, for a match. No hanging chads, no funny business. Straightforward. Voters would be required by Law not to dispose of their copy for 4 full years. There, I've done it, I've solved the problem.
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2003, 12:38:14 pm »
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A voter scrolls down the screen as they make their selections and a print out is made of their choices, they would be required by law to sign the copy, and the registrar would be witness, the voter gets the bottom copy.

You want to have a record kept of how an individual voter voted?
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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2003, 01:01:21 pm »

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A voter scrolls down the screen as they make their selections and a print out is made of their choices, they would be required by law to sign the copy, and the registrar would be witness, the voter gets the bottom copy.

You want to have a record kept of how an individual voter voted?
YES. One copy to the registrar/SofS/ one copy to the voter, signed by both at the time the voter voted. All Ballots would be done separately, not ever on the same form. This would eliminate the raucus. Both the Registrar at each precinct and the voter would immediately sign the form with the voter's choice, each would get a copy. Voters would be required by LAW to keep their copy for no less than 4 years. And if there is some dispute, and the voter did not follow that law, they would be fined $500 or 10 days in Jail.
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2003, 02:12:08 pm »
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In a perfect world, I would agree that the direct popular election would be the best system.

However we don't live in a perfect world and the technical aspects of democracy have to be considered.  At least with the Electoral college we will always end up with a President, even if once every century or so said President's opponent may have recieved a few more votes than he/she did.

Had we had the direct popular vote in 2000, the election debacle that was confined to one state could have been extended to the entire country with each state's results challenged to squeeze votes out for one side or the other.  It would have turned a temporary mess into a nightmarish Constitutional crisis.  If you don't think that the results in Florida were right, how could you possibly think that those discrepancies multiplied across the country would be any more accurate?  Even if the entire country switched to a similar electronic voting system with the same rules and standards, there would still be challenges of voter lists and claims of fraud.

I don't like the electoral college, but I accept it as a necessity for an orderly transition of power in a nation with over a hundred million voters.

I disagree. Gore's victory margin in the country was much larger than Bush's victory margin in Florida, both in number of votes and percentage points. There would have been an obvious winner anyway. It works for a lot of other countries, though no one is as big as the US. If you can put men on the moon you should be able to organize a nationwide vote count, but that's just me.
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2003, 02:18:04 pm »
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But bush would have campaigned differently if the system used the popular vote to elect presidents.  Candidates would probably concentrate on increasing voter turnoutin their strong areas (Bush in the south; Gore in the northeast)
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« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2003, 02:25:20 pm »
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True, but I think what Gustaf meant is that IF the results had turned out the same way as they did, then Bush would not have had much of a chance of winning the nationwide popular vote on a nationwide recount. The margin for Gore was enough that the nationwide popular vote count was not really in doubt.
Now in 1960, however, you would have had a nationwide recount most likely. However, I don't see how that would take any more time or be any more difficult to conduct than a statewide recount, just more expensive.
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CHRISTOPHER MICHAE
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« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2003, 02:45:33 pm »

True, but I think what Gustaf meant is that IF the results had turned out the same way as they did, then Bush would not have had much of a chance of winning the nationwide popular vote on a nationwide recount. The margin for Gore was enough that the nationwide popular vote count was not really in doubt.
Now in 1960, however, you would have had a nationwide recount most likely. However, I don't see how that would take any more time or be any more difficult to conduct than a statewide recount, just more expensive.
It would take more time though. Unless the Supreme Court set an absolute deadline for a recount.
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« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2003, 02:48:07 pm »
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Not necessarily, since you'd have more people doing it. The only way it would take more time is if there weren't enough workers to help conduct the recount. In which case you'd have to offer to pay more to get more workers to be willing to do it, and then it would get expensive. But there's no reason why it should take more time really.
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« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2003, 04:15:46 pm »
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True, but I think what Gustaf meant is that IF the results had turned out the same way as they did, then Bush would not have had much of a chance of winning the nationwide popular vote on a nationwide recount. The margin for Gore was enough that the nationwide popular vote count was not really in doubt.
Now in 1960, however, you would have had a nationwide recount most likely. However, I don't see how that would take any more time or be any more difficult to conduct than a statewide recount, just more expensive.

Thank you. That is exactly what I meant. And btw I agree that I don't really see it being that much more difficult.
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2003, 12:16:35 am »
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Between the two, the electoral college, but neither system is perfect, the EC for the reason that the winner takes all system shuts out voters who vote for other candidates...the popular vote for reasons mentioned by htmldon (where's cheech?  ;-))

I think a district system (which would localize recounts to districts rather than entire states) or a proportional system with a minimum threshold for securing EC votes would probably work best.

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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2003, 01:47:32 am »
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Christopher, your proposal sounds good. The details obviously would be complicated to work out, but the basic framework sounds good. I definitely disagree with punishing anyone in any way for losing their receipt, though....
Also, I definitely wouldn't want the government to have any copy whatsoever saying how each individual voted.
Otherwise, though, the basic framework of having the voting system be computerized is a good one. Another possibility, perhaps simpler, would used with a machine that would basically be like an ATM.
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2003, 07:52:39 am »
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I would stick with the electoral college for several reasons, both theoretical and practical.

The electoral college creates political stability by narrowing the terms of debate and strenghtening the 2-party system.  The "winner take all" feature denies political strength to splinter groups, and forces them to "play nice" with the major parties.  

Some people think that's a bad thing, but overall I think it's a good thing.  It's harder for unhappy people to just take their ball and go home.  But if the two major parties get too far from what the people want, there is always the threat of a strong third party that can alter election results without winning any states.

I also think that the electoral college guarantees a voice to all sections of the country, and limits the influence of states that would otherwise threaten to dominate.  I like the fact that no matter how many New York City wackos and nincompoops the Democrats drag out of the woodwork, the state only gets 31 electoral votes.  Some people complain that one problem with the electoral college is that a vote in one place is not worth the same as a vote in another, but that is the whole point.  It was designed so that a candidate could not win by focusing only on major population centers, and I think that is a good thing.  I don't want a president who's elected by the residents of New York, Illinois and California.  In order to have stability, everybody must have a voice in proportion to their congressional representation.

Practically speaking, I don't see a good way to arrange a reliable national vote count.  The process is administered by 50 different states, with 50 different sets of rules for registration, etc. and I just don't see that changing any time soon.  Nor should it.  I don't fully trust computers because they can be hacked into and the results of that would be devastating.  I think it's good to keep the results on a more manageable state-by-state level.  The vote count is not my major reason for favoring the electoral college; the other two are more important.  But it is an issue.

The only change I would make is to take power away from individual electors, and have each state make automatic allocation rules.  Practically speaking, most states would probably stick with the "winner take all" because to change it, without other states changing their methodology, would dilute the power of the state.  Of course, I would love to see states like New York adopt proportional allocation.

I don't see the point of getting into a whole bunch of complicated schemes to reform the electoral college.  It has worked well for over 200 years, and in any case almost always produces the same winner as the popular vote in any case.  Realistically, anything that requires a constitutional amendment is not going to pass; the smaller states will block it, and they should.
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« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2003, 09:17:44 am »
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You sound suspicously close to saying that it is good not to make the system too democratic b/c then the wrong people would get too much influence.

What it comes down to is how you view the United States. If you truly believes it to be a union between different states with considerable autonomy then the EC does have it's points. I am a little sceptical to this, I think of the US as a nation with one people, not 50, and thus I am inclined against the EC.
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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2003, 10:39:57 am »

Christopher, your proposal sounds good. The details obviously would be complicated to work out, but the basic framework sounds good. I definitely disagree with punishing anyone in any way for losing their receipt, though....
Also, I definitely wouldn't want the government to have any copy whatsoever saying how each individual voted.
Otherwise, though, the basic framework of having the voting system be computerized is a good one. Another possibility, perhaps simpler, would used with a machine that would basically be like an ATM.
There would be no criminal record produced, nor will there be the offense of losing your receipt put on an existing record. But, you'd be penalized severely. I don't find it odd that it's always the Republicans who've been against Campaign Finance reforms and against changes in the Electoral Process. [Yes, I am still a Centrist]. I find faults with both parties.
I like your addition to my proposal Nym90. I think that a pin number sent to every voter would be nice. When a voter goes to vote, they'd enter that pin, followed by a dash, and then the registrar would give you a unique code that would follow yours. Noone else in your precinct would have your pin. Noone else would be provided the additional pin numbers.
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« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2003, 11:08:41 am »
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You sound suspicously close to saying that it is good not to make the system too democratic b/c then the wrong people would get too much influence.

What it comes down to is how you view the United States. If you truly believes it to be a union between different states with considerable autonomy then the EC does have it's points. I am a little sceptical to this, I think of the US as a nation with one people, not 50, and thus I am inclined against the EC.

As far as giving the "wrong" people too much influence, the EC cuts both ways, because it limits the influence of all regions and groups of people, including those who some would consider the "right" people.  Seriously, though, there are really no wrong or right people, just people with different points of view, and the EC is designed to give everybody a voice, not just by person but by state and, effectively, region.  I must admit that I do find myself seriously at odds with the prevailing political views in most cities, but that is not really why I support the EC.

To the extent that the EC is designed to limit the influence of any one group or region, which it is, the concern there belonged to the founding fathers.  I share their concern, as do many others who support the EC.

One thing about the US, which is probably not the case in Europe, is a bias against cities, and I guess I reflect that to some degree.  I think the EC was designed to somewhat limit the power of urban centers, and prevent them from totally dominating those in less populated areas.  The US was never meant to be a pure democracy, as evidenced by the creation of the Senate, which gives each state 2 Senators regardless of population.  Each state is also given at least one House of Representatives seat, regardless of population, so the constitution takes the division among the states seriously.

In 2000, the EC worked as intended in that in a very close election, which was basically a tie, it awarded the victory to the person with the greatest geographical appeal.  Bush clearly won across a much larger, albeit less populated area, than Gore.

The US is also meant to be a collection of states, not a single unit, under the constitution.  The constitution calls for a very limited federal government, with all remaining power reserved for the states.  States make their own laws on a number of issues.  So the states really were meant to have a lot more power than you advocate, although the federal government has become much more powerful in the last 70 years.  But the states were not meant to administrative units of the federal government.

We have become a lot more democratic over time than the founding fathers intended.  The vote has been extended to all citizens, rather than just land-owning males, and Senators are now popularly elected rather than appointed by state legislatures.  It is also interesting to note that nothing requires that a state's presidential electors be chosen in a direct election; they could theoretically be appointed by state legislatures.

My basic position is that the EC has not failed us yet, so there is no real reason to change it.  I agree with the founding fathers in having some reservations about total democracy; I think democracy in a diverse society requires some safeguards, to ensure that it doesn't degenerate into the biggest and most powerful group simply taking all the spoils.  I believe that the authors of our constitution, despite some of their failings, were way ahead of their time in crafting that document, and that it should not be changed lightly.

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« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2003, 11:26:49 am »
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What it comes down to is how you view the United States. If you truly believes it to be a union between different states with considerable autonomy then the EC does have it's points. I am a little sceptical to this, I think of the US as a nation with one people, not 50, and thus I am inclined against the EC.

The Constitution says this country is a union of different states with considerable autonomy.  Unfortunately the far left, the justice department, (and now the religious right) hate decentralization and the union of states and want to do whatever possible to destroy it and the Constitution that protects it.  We are a nation of one people who live in 50 different and autonomous states.

I do 100% agree with the district reforms that Bullmoose suggested, even if he brought up Cheech Smiley
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« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2003, 12:36:51 pm »
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I like the fact that no matter how many New York City wackos and nincompoops the Democrats drag out of the woodwork, the state only gets 31 electoral votes.    I don't want a president who's elected by the residents of New York, Illinois and California.  In order to have stability, everybody must have a voice in proportion to their congressional representation.


The above sentences was what I was referring to. It does give the impression that you are arguing that it is good that people with "wrong" opinions don't get too much influence. I know that the constitution wasn't devised to be democratic, that, in my view, is the problem and you deserve better. The rights and the protection of the minority is fundamental in a democracy, I agree with you there. But these should be protected by clauses in an almost unchageable constitution (ahem...I am beginning to feel slightly hypocritical here...), not by giving some groups more influence than others. Basically it is about reducing the power of politicians to prevent minorities from getting disfavoured, but that is the liberal in me talking.
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« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2003, 12:50:15 pm »
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I like the fact that no matter how many New York City wackos and nincompoops the Democrats drag out of the woodwork, the state only gets 31 electoral votes.    I don't want a president who's elected by the residents of New York, Illinois and California.  In order to have stability, everybody must have a voice in proportion to their congressional representation.


The above sentences was what I was referring to. It does give the impression that you are arguing that it is good that people with "wrong" opinions don't get too much influence. I know that the constitution wasn't devised to be democratic, that, in my view, is the problem and you deserve better. The rights and the protection of the minority is fundamental in a democracy, I agree with you there. But these should be protected by clauses in an almost unchageable constitution (ahem...I am beginning to feel slightly hypocritical here...), not by giving some groups more influence than others. Basically it is about reducing the power of politicians to prevent minorities from getting disfavoured, but that is the liberal in me talking.

I can understand why you would arrive at the interpretation you arrived at from those sentences.  But it could just as easily be said "no matter how many wacko nincompoop Christian coalition voters the Republicans drag out of the woodwork..."

The EC acts to limit the influence of all groups and regions, not just the ones you don't like, or I don't like.  It is pretty impartial in that respect.

I think the founding fathers were right to have reservations about pure democracy in a pluralistic society.  Representative government itself is a compromise on pure democracy, because citizens don't get to vote on every law.  I think pure democracy would work best in a heterogenous, highly educated and informed society, such as Switzerland or maybe Sweden.  But the US is quite different, and I don't think it would work well here.
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« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2003, 12:55:34 pm »
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I like the fact that no matter how many New York City wackos and nincompoops the Democrats drag out of the woodwork, the state only gets 31 electoral votes.    I don't want a president who's elected by the residents of New York, Illinois and California.  In order to have stability, everybody must have a voice in proportion to their congressional representation.


The above sentences was what I was referring to. It does give the impression that you are arguing that it is good that people with "wrong" opinions don't get too much influence. I know that the constitution wasn't devised to be democratic, that, in my view, is the problem and you deserve better. The rights and the protection of the minority is fundamental in a democracy, I agree with you there. But these should be protected by clauses in an almost unchageable constitution (ahem...I am beginning to feel slightly hypocritical here...), not by giving some groups more influence than others. Basically it is about reducing the power of politicians to prevent minorities from getting disfavoured, but that is the liberal in me talking.

I can understand why you would arrive at the interpretation you arrived at from those sentences.  But it could just as easily be said "no matter how many wacko nincompoop Christian coalition voters the Republicans drag out of the woodwork..."

The EC acts to limit the influence of all groups and regions, not just the ones you don't like, or I don't like.  It is pretty impartial in that respect.

I think the founding fathers were right to have reservations about pure democracy in a pluralistic society.  Representative government itself is a compromise on pure democracy, because citizens don't get to vote on every law.  I think pure democracy would work best in a heterogenous, highly educated and informed society, such as Switzerland or maybe Sweden.  But the US is quite different, and I don't think it would work well here.

Well, I can't criticize you after you saying such nice things about Sweden! You're right of course, in saying that the EC limits all groups. It does seem to favour small and rural states though, and these are mostly heavily republican and will likely be so for the foreseeable future (the west-midwest states and so on). Maybe you're right about plurality making the difference, I feel uncomfortable passing judgement, since I don't feel I know enough about the US to do so.
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« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2003, 01:02:04 pm »
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Well, I can't criticize you after you saying such nice things about Sweden! You're right of course, in saying that the EC limits all groups. It does seem to favour small and rural states though, and these are mostly heavily republican and will likely be so for the foreseeable future (the west-midwest states and so on). Maybe you're right about plurality making the difference, I feel uncomfortable passing judgement, since I don't feel I know enough about the US to do so.

The whole federal system favors small states, particularly the granting of 2 senators to every state regardless of population.

And there is definitely an anti-urban strain that is deeply ingrained in American thinking, which effectively leads the constitution and the political system to favor rural areas.

The practical issue is that in order to change the constitution, approval is needed by the independent legislatures of 3/4 of the states.  This process in itself favors the small, rural states, who effectively have the same voice in changing the constitution as states like New York and California.  Of course, they'll never agree to a change that takes away their power.

So for that reason I don't see the point in getting too much into designing a new electoral system that will never come to fruition.  Because the favoritism to small states is so deeply ingrained in our system, a change to the EC would actually be something far more fundamentally, and would call the whole constitutional system into question.
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« Reply #24 on: December 28, 2003, 04:04:48 pm »
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In 2000, a vote in Wyoming counted 3 times as much as a vote in New York.  That goes against the principles of Democracy if you ask me.
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