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Author Topic: The Electoral College  (Read 11078 times)
Emsworth
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« on: August 23, 2005, 09:14:06 pm »
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The Electoral College seems like an interesting topic for this board. This institution is alleged by some to be quaint and archaic. They call for its abolition, on the grounds of the principle of "one man, one vote."

Yet, I would argue that the Electoral College is a very important cornerstone of our federal system. This system of choosing the President ensures that any candidate will have to appeal to a broader segment of the populace. Merely appealing to the urban metropolis, for example, would not win an election; one would have to appeal to the more sparsely populated areas. Furthermore, the system encourages appealing to voters in a variety of geographic regions. In a popular voting system, racking up very high vote totals in a small region, while getting somewhat average or below average results in others, would permit one candidate to win. On the other hand, with the Electoral College, such narrow appeal never wins elections.

Another point is that the Electoral College enshrines federalism. Just as Congress includes one House which reflects populations, and another which reflects the equality of the states, so too does the Electoral College balance population and the states. For better or worse, states are not administrative units, but the fundamental, effectively semi-sovereign, entities which make up the United States of America. The Electoral College takes their presence into account; I see no problem with doing so.

One common objection, as I said earlier, is that the Electoral College is supposed to be undemocratic. However, the detractors of the Electoral College, perhaps, do not observe that the U.S. is not a democracy, but a federal republic. Under their logic, the minimum of one Representative per state, or equal suffrage in the Senate, or perhaps the states themselves, would be abolished. Clearly, such a line of reasoning does not reasonably apply in a federal system.

Hence, despite its supposed drawbacks, I would argue that the Electoral College should remain.
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jfern
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« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2005, 09:53:27 pm »
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What a bunch of crap. The electoral college makes votes in safe states be worthless. You only have to focus on winning a plurality of a few swing states. Wouldn't it be far more competitive if the candidates had to run 50 state campaigns, instead of ignoring NY and CA. Also, the Bush campaign's demonization of MA wouldn't have been as effective if votes from New England still mattered.

I say this even though with the right uniform swing to Kerry, he would have lost the popular vote, and won the electoral vote.

The Bush campaign was against the electoral college November 1st, 2000, before they (obviously) switched to being for it.

Thanks for trying to have my vote not count. Some Democrat you are.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2005, 09:56:04 pm by jfern »Logged
Emsworth
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« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2005, 10:01:19 pm »
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The electoral college makes votes in safe states be worthless.
They are not "worthless." By that standard, a vote in a safe House district is also worthless.

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You only have to focus on winning a plurality of a few swing states.
Again, the same applies to Congressional elections. Any election will involve a focus on some areas more than others. The Electoral College merely results in a broader focus than the popular vote.

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Wouldn't it be far more competitive if the candidates had to run 50 state campaigns, instead of ignoring NY and CA.
No, it would not. Firstly, New York and California are not ignored; both candidates made campaign visits to both states.

Secondly, if the popular vote were adopted, one wouldn't have fifty state campaigns. One would have very few big city campaigns, and nothing else. All money would be poured into buying a few ads in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and a few other large cities. Almost all of a candidate's time would be spent in those places, as well. Why would a candidate pay any attention to, say, Montana or Vermont? The return on investment (so to speak) in those states would be too low. The Electoral College ensures that they are not ignored.

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The Bush campaign was against the electoral college November 1st, 2000, before they (obviously) switched to being for it.
When ever did I bring up the Bush campaign? I never said anything about President Bush, or about Republicans, but only abou the virtues of the Electoral College.
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2005, 10:14:58 pm »
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The electoral college makes votes in safe states be worthless.
They are not "worthless." By that standard, a vote in a safe House district is also worthless.
House districts use the popular vote, every vote counts the same for that particular race. Gerrymandering is obviously a problem, but it's much harder to fix, so let's just worry about the electoral college.

The electoral college, on the other hand, screws people in big states, safe states, and states with high turnout.

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You only have to focus on winning a plurality of a few swing states.
Again, the same applies to Congressional elections. Any election will involve a focus on some areas more than others. The Electoral College merely results in a broader focus than the popular vote.
At least Congressional districts each have roughly the same number of people. Wyoming has over 3 times as many electors per person as California. Each particular Congressional race is still winner take all.

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Wouldn't it be far more competitive if the candidates had to run 50 state campaigns, instead of ignoring NY and CA.
No, it would not. Firstly, New York and California are not ignored; both candidates made campaign visits to both states.
Secondly, if the popular vote were adopted, one wouldn't have fifty state campaigns. One would have very few big city campaigns, and nothing else. All money would be poured into buying a few ads in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and a few other large cities. Almost all of a candidate's time would be spent in those places, as well. Why would a candidate pay any attention to, say, Montana or Vermont? The return on investment (so to speak) in those states would be too low. The Electoral College ensures that they are not ignored.

You know as well as I that Bush and Kerry didn't spend much time in NY and CA, and most of that was fundraisers. In addition, media costs per capita are higher in CA than most states, so it would still actually be cheaper to go after votes in other states. I'm tired of these right-wing anti-city arguments that the candidates would only be in the cities. Guess what. Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania have some large cities, too. As for rural Vermont, I'm sure it'd get a lot more campaigning than it currently does. What about rural upstate NY? The rural Sierra Nevadas? No, you don't seem to care about people in safe states.


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The Bush campaign was against the electoral college November 1st, 2000, before they (obviously) switched to being for it.
When ever did I bring up the Bush campaign? I never said anything about President Bush, or about Republicans, but only abou the virtues of the Electoral College.

Well, you sound like a Republican, so I figured I'd point out how Bush was a hypocrite.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2005, 07:03:37 am by Dave Leip »Logged
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2005, 10:27:15 pm »
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House districts use the popular vote, every vote counts the same for that particular race.
Every vote counts the same for a state's electoral race as well.

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The electoral college, on the other hand, screws people in big states, safe states, and states with high turnout.
The same problem applies to Congress. A big state has the same representation in the Senate as a small state; the representation in the House is also skewed. A vote in a safe district, similarly, carries less weight than one in a close district. And finally, a district or state with high turnout does not get more representation than one with low turnout.

All of these sacrifices are made in return for the higher benefits of federalism in Congress; I see no reason not to do so in presidential elections as well.

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At least Congressional districts each have roughly the same number of people. Wyoming has over 3 times as many electors per person as California.
The Senate is even worse; yet, I don't see as many individuals arguing for its abolition.

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Florida and Ohio and ennsylvania have some large cities, too.
I never said that only New York and California would be targeted.

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As for rural Vermont, I'm sure it'd get a lot more campaigning than it currently does.
By what logic? There would surely be no need to campaign there.

Ultimately, whatever system we adopt, there will be some areas in which campaigning is futile. I do not expect the Democrats to campaign, for example, in Shannon County, South Dakota. I agree that the Electoral College has its drawbacks in this regard; yet, the system is still superior to the popular vote.

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Well, you sound like a Republican
Hah!

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so I figured I'd point out how Bush was a hypocrite.
Yes, I know that he's a hypocrite, like most other politicians.
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2005, 10:39:15 pm »
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House districts use the popular vote, every vote counts the same for that particular race.
Every vote counts the same for a state's electoral race as well.


The Presidency is a national race, especially thanks to the TV.

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The electoral college, on the other hand, screws people in big states, safe states, and states with high turnout.
The same problem applies to Congress. A big state has the same representation in the Senate as a small state; the representation in the House is also skewed. A vote in a safe district, similarly, carries less weight than one in a close district. And finally, a district or state with high turnout does not get more representation than one with low turnout.

All of these sacrifices are made in return for the higher benefits of federalism in Congress; I see no reason not to do so in presidential elections as well.

Double standard, state's rights don't apply to Presidential recounts, or basically anything else that could help Democrats.

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At least Congressional districts each have roughly the same number of people. Wyoming has over 3 times as many electors per person as California.
The Senate is even worse; yet, I don't see as many individuals arguing for its abolition.

Well, the Senate is clearly un-Democratic, and gives a lot of power to the small states. Isn't that enough of a reason to not have the Presidential elections also biased in favor of the small states? Thanks to the Senate, Wyoming and Alaska will still get all the pork they want.

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Florida and Ohio and ennsylvania have some large cities, too.
I never said that only New York and California would be targeted.
Do you have a point? My point was that PA, OH, and FL have large cities. By your logic, Bush and Kerry should have spent 100% of their time they were in those states only in the largest cities.
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As for rural Vermont, I'm sure it'd get a lot more campaigning than it currently does.
By what logic? There would surely be no need to campaign there.
Because they have votes. Even if they didn't visit it much, they'd at least run ads. As it is, you're for making people in rural areas of safe states be irrelevant, it's not just the cities you're screwing.
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Ultimately, whatever system we adopt, there will be some areas in which campaigning is futile. I do not expect the Democrats to campaign, for example, in Shannon County, South Dakota. I agree that the Electoral College has its drawbacks in this regard; yet, the system is still superior to the popular vote.

Ever hear of GOTV (Get out the vote)? Of course they'd be spending more effort on GOTV in places like Shannon County, SD. That county was very important for Senator Johnson's re-election.

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Well, you sound like a Republican
Hah!
You seem to have quite an anti-city bias. Why should a vote in a city count less? Of even assuming we want to screw the cities just because you said so, there are still serious holes in your the logic anyways since PA has Philadelphia, and lots of safe states that are ignored have no big cities.
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2005, 10:54:32 pm »
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The Presidency is a national race, especially thanks to the TV.
So? The system is still a federal one.

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Double standard, state's rights don't apply to Presidential recounts
That's because the Fourteenth Amendment specificies otherwise. The Supreme Court's writ of certiorari in Bush v. Gore was not an extraconstitutional intervention in state affairs.

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Isn't that enough of a reason to not have the Presidential elections also biased in favor of the small states?
The Congress is balanced: one House favoring the larger states, and the other favoring the smaller one. The Electoral College is just those two condensed into one body.

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Well, you sound like a Republican
Hah!
You seem to have quite an anti-city bias. Why should a vote in a city count less? Of even assuming we want to screw the cities just because you said so, there are still serious holes in your the logic anyways since PA has Philadelphia, and lots of safe states that are ignored have no big cities.

It's not the issue of cities alone. That is just one example, not a central one. In general, the Electoral College favors candidates who have broad appeal. The popular vote favors those who have narrower appeals.

Consider, for example, each instance in which the popular vote and the electoral vote differed, and why the latter was not, in and of itself, an incorrect result in each case. The popular vote in the election of 1824 is irrelevant, simply because at that time, several states did not use the popular vote to award electors. Similarly, the vote of 1876 is not relevant, since Tilden was deprived by fraud.

Consider, furthermore, the election of 1888, between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was a single-issue candidate (tariffs), and won enormous majorities in the South. As a result, he won the popular vote. Yet, because his appeal was so limited, he lost the electoral vote. This is an excellent demonstration of why the Electoral College is a good idea: candidates with limited appeal, whether it is to cities or to rural areas, or to specific geographic regions, are not helped.
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2005, 11:03:52 pm »
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The Presidency is a national race, especially thanks to the TV.
So? The system is still a federal one.

Why does that matter?

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Double standard, state's rights don't apply to Presidential recounts
That's because the Fourteenth Amendment specificies otherwise. The Supreme Court's writ of certiorari in Bush v. Gore was not an extraconstitutional intervention in state affairs.

Where does it say that?

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Isn't that enough of a reason to not have the Presidential elections also biased in favor of the small states?
The Congress is balanced: one House favoring the larger states, and the other favoring the smaller one. The Electoral College is just those two condensed into one body.
The House doesn't favor the large states. In fact, the formula used for the allocation of House districtions, which is x*sqrt(n (n-1)) people required to have n congressional districts, where x is a number that gives 435 congressional districts screws the larger states.

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Well, you sound like a Republican
Hah!
You seem to have quite an anti-city bias. Why should a vote in a city count less? Of even assuming we want to screw the cities just because you said so, there are still serious holes in your the logic anyways since PA has Philadelphia, and lots of safe states that are ignored have no big cities.
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It's not the issue of cities alone. That is just one example, not a central one. In general, the Electoral College favors candidates who have broad appeal. The popular vote favors those who have narrower appeals.

Consider, for example, each instance in which the popular vote and the electoral vote differed, and why the latter was not, in and of itself, an incorrect result in each case. The popular vote in the election of 1824 is irrelevant, simply because at that time, several states did not use the popular vote to award electors. Similarly, the vote of 1876 is not relevant, since Tilden was deprived by fraud.

Consider, furthermore, the election of 1888, between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland. Cleveland was a single-issue candidate (tariffs), and won enormous majorities in the South. As a result, he won the popular vote. Yet, because his appeal was so limited, he lost the electoral vote. This is an excellent demonstration of why the Electoral College is a good idea: candidates with limited appeal, whether it is to cities or to rural areas, or to specific geographic regions, are not helped.
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Your examples are meaningless. I've got a much better one. Even though I would have wanted Lincoln to win in 1860, it's a good example of the electoral colleges problems. He had no appeal in the south. Thanks to the electoral college, you only need to worry about getting a plurality of the votes in a plurality of the country (actually Bush won a minority of the country in 2000). If everyone else had united as an anti-Lincoln candidate, they would have had strong support in every state, broken 60% of the popular vote, and lost. Enough said.
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2005, 11:09:06 pm »
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Isn't this really simple. In a close Presidential election, not everyone's vote matters under the current system, while they do matter under the popular vote.

In fact, some people took the opposite criteria as you to argue FOR the electoral college, they claimed that the popular vote would be bad, since everyones vote would count, it would require a nation wide recount. Although actually their argument is wrong, the only really close popular vote was 1880, while we've had a number of cases where one critical state was close.

I think you're statistically more likely to affect the out come under the popular vote, then being in a random state (population weighted) under the electoral college.
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2005, 11:28:27 pm »
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Bullsh**t, where does it say that?
"No State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"

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The House doesn't favor the large states. In fact, the formula used for the allocation of House districtions, which is x*sqrt(n (n-1)) people required to have n congressional districts, where x is a number that gives 435 congressional districts screws the larger states.
Yes, I realize that; but, relatively speaking, it favors the large states.

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Your examples are meaningless. I've got a much better one. Even though I would have wanted Lincoln to win in 1860, it's a good example of the electoral colleges problems. He had no appeal in the south. Thanks to the electoral college, you only need to worry about getting a plurality of the votes in a plurality of the country (actually Bush won a minority of the country in 2000). If everyone else had united as an anti-Lincoln candidate, they would have had strong support in every state, broken 60% of the popular vote, and lost. Enough said.
Such an argument is not, in my opinion, a valid one. They could not have united, because they were in many cases fundamentally opposed. For example, Bell ran on a Union-saving platform, while Breckenridge stood for a pro-slavery platform. The argument that they could be considered as a single candidate would not, therefore, be valid.

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I think you're statistically more likely to affect the out come under the popular vote, then being in a random state (population weighted) under the electoral college.
I don't think so. The probability of affecting the outcome of your state's result is, naturally, higher than the probability of affecting the outcome of the national election.

Now, if the state is large, then the proability of the state result affecting the national outcome is high; if the state is small, then the same probability is low. At the same time, if the state is large, then the probability of you affecting the state result is low; if the state is small, then the same probability is high. Intuitively, and qualitiatively, one would imagine, therefore, that the overall probability of swinging the result is not too different under the separate systems.
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« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2005, 03:16:18 am »
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Bullsh**t, where does it say that?
"No State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"

So that justifies ending a recount, which disenfranchied plenty of people? You have some ed up logic. Are you really a Democrat?

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The House doesn't favor the large states. In fact, the formula used for the allocation of House districtions, which is x*sqrt(n (n-1)) people required to have n congressional districts, where x is a number that gives 435 congressional districts screws the larger states.
Yes, I realize that; but, relatively speaking, it favors the large states.
It does not favor the large states, the smaller states get on average, more representatives per capita.
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Your examples are meaningless. I've got a much better one. Even though I would have wanted Lincoln to win in 1860, it's a good example of the electoral colleges problems. He had no appeal in the south. Thanks to the electoral college, you only need to worry about getting a plurality of the votes in a plurality of the country (actually Bush won a minority of the country in 2000). If everyone else had united as an anti-Lincoln candidate, they would have had strong support in every state, broken 60% of the popular vote, and lost. Enough said.
Such an argument is not, in my opinion, a valid one. They could not have united, because they were in many cases fundamentally opposed. For example, Bell ran on a Union-saving platform, while Breckenridge stood for a pro-slavery platform. The argument that they could be considered as a single candidate would not, therefore, be valid.

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Have them form a coalition, where they nominate the most electable. They'd be spanked by the electoral college.


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I think you're statistically more likely to affect the out come under the popular vote, then being in a random state (population weighted) under the electoral college.
I don't think so. The probability of affecting the outcome of your state's result is, naturally, higher than the probability of affecting the outcome of the national election.

Now, if the state is large, then the proability of the state result affecting the national outcome is high; if the state is small, then the same probability is low. At the same time, if the state is large, then the probability of you affecting the state result is low; if the state is small, then the same probability is high. Intuitively, and qualitiatively, one would imagine, therefore, that the overall probability of swinging the result is not too different under the separate systems.

The problem is that if I put you in a random state for the 2000 election, the probability you are in Florida is only about 5%. The 1880 popular vote was just as close, and you don't have to be anywhere specific for your vote to matter for the popular vote. Get it? So we can afford several FL 2000 style elections, since they're all offset by the 1880 popular vote.

Another way to see this. Look at the elections that were close in either the actual electoral college or the popular vote. Compare the average absolute margin of the national popular vote to a weighted average of the absolute margins of each state. I think you'll find that the national popular vote margin is smaller on average.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2005, 03:18:34 am by jfern »Logged
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« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2005, 07:40:01 am »
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So that justifies ending a recount, which disenfranchied plenty of people?
No, it does not, as I said before. However, it does justify declaring the Florida recount unconstitutional, because it was, as the Supreme Court decided 7-2.

Now, given that decision, something else justified ending the recount on December 12: the U.S. Code.

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Have them form a coalition, where they nominate the most electable. They'd be spanked by the electoral college.
As I said, that would not be a valid suggestion. Bell and Breckenridge, for example, were rather fundamentally opposed.

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The problem is that if I put you in a random state for the 2000 election, the probability you are in Florida is only about 5%. The 1880 popular vote was just as close, and you don't have to be anywhere specific for your vote to matter for the popular vote.
The comparison is invalid. You shouldn't take the probability of affecting the electoral outcome in 2000, and the probability of affecting the popular outcome in 1880, and compare them. If anything, you should compare both in a single year.

And, yes, I am a Democrat. I have no interest in joining a party whose members so regularly pander to the fundamentalist right.
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« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2005, 08:52:39 am »
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This institution is alleged by some to be quaint and archaic.

Which it clearly is; although that alone doesn't make it good or bad

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This system of choosing the President ensures that any candidate will have to appeal to a broader segment of the populace. Merely appealing to the urban metropolis, for example, would not win an election; one would have to appeal to the more sparsely populated areas.


Which could be argued to be a plus if it were actually true (although there's always the obvious counter-arguement that one vote should not count more than another vote)... which it isn't. It might have been in the 18th century when America was a largely agricultural society with relatively small urban centres which really could be outvoted by rural areas in some states (if politics had ever divided on urban/rural lines). But that just isn't the case now; an overwhelming majority of the population lives in "urban" areas and Presidential elections are now won or lost in various metropolitan areas in various key states:



As appealing as the decidedly romantic idea that the electoral college prevents urban metropolitan areas from deciding who becomes President no matter what rural areas think is, it's a redundent arguement as urban metropolitan areas already do dominate the political process. All the electoral college does is decide which fortunate metropolitan areas get to wield the most power.

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Furthermore, the system encourages appealing to voters in a variety of geographic regions.

Any electoral system in a country as huge and diverse as the United States would encourage that; in pure PV system Kerry couldn't have just sat back and pump out as many votes as he could from Boston or New York and hope to win; neither could Bush have done the same with Houston or Dallas.

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In a popular voting system, racking up very high vote totals in a small region, while getting somewhat average or below average results in others, would permit one candidate to win.

But as the Electoral Votes of each state are determined by the PV in each state, this can happen with the Electoral College as well:



Despite Carter's strong support in most of rural Arkansas, Reagan's even stronger support in the more urbanized Northwest enabled him to take the state by just over 5000 votes... and take all 6 of Arkansas' votes in the Electoral College.

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On the other hand, with the Electoral College, such narrow appeal never wins elections.

Really?



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Another point is that the Electoral College enshrines federalism. Just as Congress includes one House which reflects populations, and another which reflects the equality of the states, so too does the Electoral College balance population and the states. For better or worse, states are not administrative units, but the fundamental, effectively semi-sovereign, entities which make up the United States of America. The Electoral College takes their presence into account; I see no problem with doing so.

Which is perhaps the best arguement in favour of the current Electoral College system

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However, the detractors of the Electoral College, perhaps, do not observe that the U.S. is not a democracy, but a federal republic.

Which is, at best, a technical distinction nowadays. Certainly the U.S is run on federal lines (and there's nothing wrong with this) but this doesn't mean it can't be or shouldn't be democratic (or, in this case, more democratic).

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Under their logic, the minimum of one Representative per state, or equal suffrage in the Senate, or perhaps the states themselves, would be abolished.

Not necessarily

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Clearly, such a line of reasoning does not reasonably apply in a federal system.

At it's most extreme, no. No it doesn't.

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Hence, despite its supposed drawbacks, I would argue that the Electoral College should remain.

While I can see a case for some form of Electoral College, I can't really think of a good reason to just leave the system as it is (I don't consider tradition to be a good reason on it's own), if part of the idea is to make sure that the voices of different areas (rural, urban or whatever) are heard equally in the selection of a new President, wouldn't it make more sense to adopt a setup similer to what is used in Maine and Nebraska?
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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2005, 09:04:57 am »
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But as the Electoral Votes of each state are determined by the PV in each state, this can happen with the Electoral College as well:
But with the Electoral College, this phenomenon is limited, applying only within some states. Overall, the racking up of votes in small regions would not occur; the problem would be curtailed and localized.

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On the other hand, with the Electoral College, such narrow appeal never wins elections.
We've gon over the election of 1860, which can at best be regarded as an aberration, due to the sectional strife of the era. Lincoln was not even admitted on the ballot in a few southern states. If the popular vote were used, the same or worse would have been the result.

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Under their logic, the minimum of one Representative per state, or equal suffrage in the Senate, or perhaps the states themselves, would be abolished.

Not necessarily
Why? Isn't that the essence of the so-called "one man, one vote" concept?

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While I can see a case for some form of Electoral College, I can't really think of a good reason to just leave the system as it is (I don't consider tradition to be a good reason on it's own), if part of the idea is to make sure that the voices of different areas (rural, urban or whatever) are heard equally in the selection of a new President, wouldn't it make more sense to adopt a setup similer to what is used in Maine and Nebraska?
Certainly, tradition is no reason at all to maintain this system: such an argument would be fallacious. If a state wishes to adopt the Maine or Nebraska system, I see no objection to doing so. It's not going to happen as a matter of political reality, but that's a totally different issue.
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« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2005, 09:34:16 am »
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But with the Electoral College, this phenomenon is limited, applying only within some states. Overall, the racking up of votes in small regions would not occur; the problem would be curtailed and localized.

Perhaps... but you could argue that seeing as the current Electoral College system narrows down the amount of areas "in play" it can magnify the problem in a particular competative state... especially if that state is a serial offender:



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We've gon over the election of 1860, which can at best be regarded as an aberration, due to the sectional strife of the era. Lincoln was not even admitted on the ballot in a few southern states. If the popular vote were used, the same or worse would have been the result.

True, but not the point. The Electoral College system cannot prevent that sort of extreme geographical polarisation. Just because something is seen as an aberration doesn't mean it can't happen again and doesn't mean it can just be ignored.

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Why? Isn't that the essence of the so-called "one man, one vote" concept?

Taken to it's logical extreme, yes

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such an argument would be fallacious.

That hasn't stopped some people argueing for it based on that Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2005, 09:52:22 am »
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Jfern really can't argue coherently...

Someone once made an interesting point on this, don't remember who though.

If a candidate gets 51% of the vote in states holding 51% of the EVs and his opponent gets 49% in those states and then 70% in all the other states, who had the broadest geographical appeal? The guy who got at least 49% everywhere or the guy who never got above 51% and slumped to 30% in large parts of the nation?

I should add that I'm undecided myself on the issue, but leaning towards reform in the direction of more democracy rather than federalism. I feel that the US is too much of a nation, rather than a federal being comprised of many national entities, to justify the kind of infringements on democracy currently in place. And yes, the senate should probably be reformed as well.
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« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2005, 10:39:22 am »
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If a candidate gets 51% of the vote in states holding 51% of the EVs and his opponent gets 49% in those states and then 70% in all the other states, who had the broadest geographical appeal? The guy who got at least 49% everywhere or the guy who never got above 51% and slumped to 30% in large parts of the nation?
That is an extreme scenario in the Electoral College. I could give even more extreme cases. At the same time, I could also give extreme cases for the popular vote.

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I should add that I'm undecided myself on the issue, but leaning towards reform in the direction of more democracy rather than federalism. I feel that the US is too much of a nation, rather than a federal being comprised of many national entities, to justify the kind of infringements on democracy currently in place. And yes, the senate should probably be reformed as well.
That is certainly a respectable point of view. If you do not accept that federalism is as important, then, obviously, the Electoral College is not necessarily something that you would support; similarly, you would not suppor the structure of the Senate. But as long as that principle of federalism is accepted, the Electoral College remains important.

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True, but not the point. The Electoral College system cannot prevent that sort of extreme geographical polarisation.
Of course: such polarization was caused by extreme social, economic, and cultural factors that no electoral system could prevent. I suggest that within a more regular, normal context, the Electoral College does more to discourage polarization (at the federal level--not within individual states) than the popular vote.
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« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2005, 10:47:31 am »
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Emsworth, while I admit that my scenario was extreme that was only to underline a point. Generally, if candidate A wins the popular vote while losing the electoral vote it indicates that candidate A did better in the areas he lost than candidate B did in the areas he lost. And that could be viewed as showing broader geographical appeal.
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« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2005, 10:56:14 am »
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Generally, if candidate A wins the popular vote while losing the electoral vote it indicates that candidate A did better in the areas he lost than candidate B did in the areas he lost. And that could be viewed as showing broader geographical appeal.
On the other hand, one could view the same scenario as indicating that one candidate generally appealed to more areas by (relatively) margins, whereas the other appealed to a very small area, but by a very large margin. Obviously, in a situation where one candidate wins 49% of the vote in each state he loses, this claim does not apply. However, this is not the case in a closer election. If one candidate has only a somewhat higher popular total than the other candidate, then the other candidate's electoral victory implies that his appeal is spread geographically, rather than concentrated in a very small region. For example, there would be no reward for trying to rack up 80% of the vote in Nebraska, or 80% in Massachusetts, or the like.
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« Reply #19 on: August 24, 2005, 11:07:34 am »
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But the discrepancies usually occur when both the electoral and popular votes are close. I belive the Gore states in 2000 held more people than the Bush states did. In that sense there is no real support for Bush having support from wide segments of society.
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« Reply #20 on: August 24, 2005, 05:54:43 pm »
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I'd like to include some other aspects of Electoral College reform that have not been brought up.

One is the issue of practicality for the election. Clearly there were practical issues that gave an advantage to the Electoral College when votes were primarily counted by hand. As the nation and the world become more electronic then that reason weakens.

Another is the nature of determining a winner. One success of a system like the College is that a plurality vote winner will likely be magnified to a majority winner. That has the positive effect of producing a winner in single round of voting, yet blocking really weak plurality winners. It's often been noted that Clinton never broke 50% of the vote, and in 1996 the House would have sided with Dole. A runoff would have been a large and unnecessary expense since Clinton had a substantial lead over Dole. The Electoral College proved superior to a straight popular vote majority system in that election.

The most important factor to me relates to the federalism that has been the theme of Emsworth, yet also has been unmentioned. It is the process of changing the system. Under the Constitution there would have to be an amendment to enact the substantial changes some have suggested. It is hard to see 3/4 of the states agreeing to a change, since more than a quarter would likely perceive a diminution of their power, and vote against an amendment.
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« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2005, 09:51:49 pm »
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So that justifies ending a recount, which disenfranchied plenty of people?
No, it does not, as I said before. However, it does justify declaring the Florida recount unconstitutional, because it was, as the Supreme Court decided 7-2.

Now, given that decision, something else justified ending the recount on December 12: the U.S. Code.

The vote to deny any recounts was 5-4. The argument that there wasn't enough time left was the biggest partisan bullsh**t ever because
1. The Republicans were doing delaying tacticts
2. The SCOTUS could change the non-binding deadlines
3. Hawaii's electors for the 1960 election were chosen in... 1961
4. The 1876 election was contested for 4 months

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Have them form a coalition, where they nominate the most electable. They'd be spanked by the electoral college.
As I said, that would not be a valid suggestion. Bell and Breckenridge, for example, were rather fundamentally opposed.

It's a hypothetical.
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The problem is that if I put you in a random state for the 2000 election, the probability you are in Florida is only about 5%. The 1880 popular vote was just as close, and you don't have to be anywhere specific for your vote to matter for the popular vote.
The comparison is invalid. You shouldn't take the probability of affecting the electoral outcome in 2000, and the probability of affecting the popular outcome in 1880, and compare them. If anything, you should compare both in a single year.

And, yes, I am a Democrat. I have no interest in joining a party whose members so regularly pander to the fundamentalist right.

But yet, you hate city people this much?
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« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2005, 09:55:24 pm »
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But as the Electoral Votes of each state are determined by the PV in each state, this can happen with the Electoral College as well:
But with the Electoral College, this phenomenon is limited, applying only within some states. Overall, the racking up of votes in small regions would not occur; the problem would be curtailed and localized.

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On the other hand, with the Electoral College, such narrow appeal never wins elections.
We've gon over the election of 1860, which can at best be regarded as an aberration, due to the sectional strife of the era. Lincoln was not even admitted on the ballot in a few southern states. If the popular vote were used, the same or worse would have been the result.

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Under their logic, the minimum of one Representative per state, or equal suffrage in the Senate, or perhaps the states themselves, would be abolished.

Not necessarily
Why? Isn't that the essence of the so-called "one man, one vote" concept?

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While I can see a case for some form of Electoral College, I can't really think of a good reason to just leave the system as it is (I don't consider tradition to be a good reason on it's own), if part of the idea is to make sure that the voices of different areas (rural, urban or whatever) are heard equally in the selection of a new President, wouldn't it make more sense to adopt a setup similer to what is used in Maine and Nebraska?
Certainly, tradition is no reason at all to maintain this system: such an argument would be fallacious. If a state wishes to adopt the Maine or Nebraska system, I see no objection to doing so. It's not going to happen as a matter of political reality, but that's a totally different issue.

Face it, Lincoln had no support in the South (at least amoung those able to vote), but it didn't matter. With the electoral college, you can safely ignore certain areas, and run an entirely regional campaign. Currently, all one needs to do is win a plurality of the vote in 270 EV worth of states, which don't have to have even half of the nation's population. You can tell the other 268 EV of states, even if they are more populous to go  themselves. I've argued that a good strategy for the Democrats would be to focus mainly on the Great Lakes area - concentrate on MN, WI, IA, MI, OH, and PA. A regional campaign can win, it has many times before.
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« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2005, 10:05:09 pm »
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If a candidate gets 51% of the vote in states holding 51% of the EVs and his opponent gets 49% in those states and then 70% in all the other states, who had the broadest geographical appeal? The guy who got at least 49% everywhere or the guy who never got above 51% and slumped to 30% in large parts of the nation?
That is an extreme scenario in the Electoral College. I could give even more extreme cases. At the same time, I could also give extreme cases for the popular vote.

It could be more extreme. One only need a plurality with a margin of 1 vote to win all of a state's electors (slightly different for ME and NE, but similar for them). In addition, those 270 EV of states don't have to have half the population. Suppose you lose CA, NY, TX, FL, PA, OH, IL, MI, NJ, GA, and MA (MA is not the 11th largest state, BTW). You still get 270 EV, even though you have only 190 out of 436 (counting DC) Congressional districts worth of states, or about 43.5% of the population.
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« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2005, 10:07:33 pm »
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I'd like to include some other aspects of Electoral College reform that have not been brought up.

One is the issue of practicality for the election. Clearly there were practical issues that gave an advantage to the Electoral College when votes were primarily counted by hand. As the nation and the world become more electronic then that reason weakens.

Another is the nature of determining a winner. One success of a system like the College is that a plurality vote winner will likely be magnified to a majority winner. That has the positive effect of producing a winner in single round of voting, yet blocking really weak plurality winners. It's often been noted that Clinton never broke 50% of the vote, and in 1996 the House would have sided with Dole. A runoff would have been a large and unnecessary expense since Clinton had a substantial lead over Dole. The Electoral College proved superior to a straight popular vote majority system in that election.

The most important factor to me relates to the federalism that has been the theme of Emsworth, yet also has been unmentioned. It is the process of changing the system. Under the Constitution there would have to be an amendment to enact the substantial changes some have suggested. It is hard to see 3/4 of the states agreeing to a change, since more than a quarter would likely perceive a diminution of their power, and vote against an amendment.

Muon is arguing for the electoral college using the opposite criteria as Ensworth. Ensworth was arguing that the electoral college is good because it is more likely to be close, and make your vote count, Muon is arguing that the electoral college is good because it is less likely to have a close election. Can't have it both ways, guys.

Anyways, the electoral college gave the win to 3 popular vote losers. I'm not counting 1824, which was just weird.
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