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Author Topic: Electoral College: any changes coming?  (Read 19040 times)
zorkpolitics
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« on: November 16, 2003, 11:09:11 pm »
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I think we need to have at least one ongoing discussion of the Electoral College.  
For this thread, I'm interested in learning of any states  that are considering changes in how they allocate their Electoral votes.
Currently two systems are in use, 48 states use the Winner take all method, while NB and ME use the District method (1 EV to the winner of each Congressional District, and 2 to the statewide winner).
Are any other states considering a change?

Does anyone know of  a web site that tracks governor and state legislature control?  For political gain, I could imagine a state controlled by one party, but which usually votes for the opposite party for President  (like LA?)  might go to the District, or even proportional, method of Electoral Vote allocation, to be sure some votes go to the each candidate?
Has any big state, like CA ever considered proportional allocation?  
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2003, 03:03:49 am »
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Good idea to start the discussion!

The site you are looking for is http://www.ncsl.org/

More specifically
http://www.ncsl.org/ncsldb/elect98/partcomp.cfm?yearsel=2004

for control of legislatures. Yes Ne and Me are the only states so far to have a different system. As to who is considering it? We'll I'm guessing all the states controlled by one party, but which usually votes for the opposite party for President have it in mnd but no one is actively considering legislation.

I do remember legislation to this effect being intoduced in North Carolina (by a democrat of course) It must have died a natural death when the GOP took the lower chamber in 2002.

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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2003, 03:35:03 am »
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Y'know I was just going through the list of states contolled by a major party and voting for the other and realised its really in the democrats interest to start pushing such plans.

The GOP does not completely control a single state that is a near cert for the democrat candidate. (if you consider control to include the Gov and the legislature)

Whereas the dems control at least 2 such states now- Oklahoma and Louisiana (from next year Miss. right now) and also Tennessee (if I were a dem strategist I would pefer Tenn. to have elec vote by district)

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zorkpolitics
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2003, 11:59:29 pm »
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Good idea to start the discussion!

The site you are looking for is http://www.ncsl.org/

More specifically
http://www.ncsl.org/ncsldb/elect98/partcomp.cfm?yearsel=2004

Thanks for the link to the site, very helpful.  Since the 2000 election not a single state has changed its Electoral Vote allocation method.  Not surprisingly interest was greatest in 2001 (28 states), less so in 2002 (16 states), and the least in 2003 (7 states).  The states have considered 3 methods:
Winner take all to District elections: 25 states
Winner take all to Proportional to state vote: 4 states
District method to Winner take all: 1 state (NE)
Several small states did pass resolutions to Congress affirming their support of the Electoral College.  
Interestingly, no big state has considered a relatively easy way to effectively convert the Electoral College into a ratification of the popular vote without a Constitutional amendment.  The most interesting proposal I've seen is for states, in particular large states, to pass a law that would allocate all that states Electoral votes to the National Popular Vote winner, but the law would only become effective when sufficient other states had passed a similar law, guaranteeing that 270 EV would be allocated to the Popular Vote winner.  As few as 11 states could do this.
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2003, 08:08:08 pm »
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I take some comfort in knowing that the Electoral College, despite its shortcomings, is virtually written in stone.  There just isn't any widespread groundswell to throw it out.  The only problem I can foresee is if a 3rd party challenger garners enough electoral votes to throw the election into the House of Representatives.  I can't fathom what issue would split the country so much but a situation like 1968 will probably happen again.  
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zorkpolitics
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2003, 09:30:13 pm »
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The only problem I can foresee is if a 3rd party challenger garners enough electoral votes to throw the election into the House of Representatives.  I can't fathom what issue would split the country so much but a situation like 1968 will probably happen again.  

A third party split of the EC is much more unlikely now than 1968.  From 1948 to 1968, 3 Regional (Southern) candidates won EV, all running against civil rights position of the Democratic Party.   This was not unexpected because the Dmeocratic party was a unlikely coalition of post Civil War anti-union conservative Southern, and pro-union, Northern liberals.  Thus a Conservative, Southern candidate could easily split off the region (Strom Thurmonsd 39 EV in 1948, Harry Byrd 15 EV in 1960, and George Wallace 46 in 1968) .

Today the South is conservative and part of the Conservative Republican coalition, and the nation has realigned into a Conservative, non-urban, Southern, Mountain, great Plains coalition vs. the urban, Western, Upper Midwest, Northeast Liberal coalition.  There is no longer a region to bolt the national parties.  Since you win an entire state to win EV, even strong third party candidates will have no direct effect, though of course they can preferentially "take votes away" from one party.  Indeed, since 1968 3 third party candidates have gotten more votes than the Southern Conservatives above, but none have won even a single EV (1980 John Anderson 7%, 1992 Ross Perot  19%, and 1996 Ross Perot 8%)
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2003, 10:05:30 pm »
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A third party split of the EC is much more unlikely now than 1968
I agree that it is increasingly unlikely, but the following could happen in the future: Suppose the Democrats nominate Gephart, who supported the Iraq war. The anti-war people revolt and support a 3rd party candiate, who wins VT.  In the meantime Bush wins the same states as he did in 2000 except MO. Electoral Result (Updated EV count) : Bush 268, Gephart 267, 3rd party- 3.   Unlikely but possible if the 3rd party guy is Howard Dean.
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2003, 02:11:28 am »
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That COULD happen, but is very unlikely.  The desire, for the most part, of the Dems to regain power, and pressure from party leaders The Clintons, would convince any would-be 3rd party liberal to not run in that fashion.
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« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2003, 05:05:04 pm »
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For an independant to win he would have to be a Perot type.  RICH or accessible to plenty of money, able to get his message out and articulate ideas.

Remember Perot was ahea din 92 when he jumped out, then in and , oh well.

The EC makes it harder for 3rd party candidates.  Nader couldn't even get on the ballot in some states.

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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2003, 02:42:31 pm »
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NorthernDog,

Interesting scenario.  Unfortunately, I believe if an antiwar independent candidate got enough votes to win a state (close to a third of the vote at least) to win a single state, that candidate would also get enough votes in other states, and enough of those votes would otherwise go to the Democratic candidate, that President Bush would win a landslide electoral victory.  President Bush would have to slide considerably to win less than 270 electoral votes in a race with that sizable independent candidate support.

Am I saying the Democrats can't survive a Nader.  Not necessarily.  But a liberal independent or 3rd party candidate with enough support to win a state, or even come close, would virtually guarantee W's reelection.

Sincerely,

Kevin Lamoreau
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« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2003, 06:33:13 pm »
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The Electoral College System as it stands may suffer from some short comings, but it is fulfilling its original purpose with was to make it so that a candidate had to have wide geographic support inorder to win.  It seems to me that lately, attempts to change the system seem to be taking place only in Democrat controled states that Bush one in 2000 (i.e. North Carolina, there are others but I forget.  Anyway, wouldn't it be unfair if state by state the legislators got to pick and choose how they assign electors.  If we are going to change the process, it should be done nation wide, to put it on an eqaul footing.
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« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2003, 06:46:06 pm »
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I don't believe that the EC requires broad geographic support in order to win. Actually, I believe the opposite is true. With the EC, it is possible to narrowly win in one area of the country and get blown out in other areas, and win the election. That's not possible with the popular vote.
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NorthernDog
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« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2003, 07:43:47 pm »
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I don't believe that the EC requires broad geographic support in order to win. Actually, I believe the opposite is true. With the EC, it is possible to narrowly win in one area of the country and get blown out in other areas, and win the election. That's not possible with the popular vote.
Which area of the country could one win narrowly and achieve 270 electoral votes?  
I don't see how that could happen.
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« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2003, 07:53:11 pm »
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Well, I admit I phrased that wrong. What I should've said is that it would be possible to win many states by narrow margins and lose many others by large margins, and win in the EC, but you could not win in the popular vote in this manner. In terms of regions, one could do it with two regions though, if a candidate won, say, all of the Northeastern and Midwestern states by narrow margins, they could win the election even if they got totally obliterated in the South and West. For an even more extreme example, the 11 largest states add up to 270 Electoral Votes, thus a candidate could theoretically win each of them by one vote and get no votes in the other 39 states, and they could win! However, one could not possibly win the popular vote with such a narrow geographic appeal.
I would say that the candidate who won half of the country by overwhelming margins and was competitive but lost narrowly in the other half of the country actually demonstrated much more geographic appeal, since they were at least competitive everywhere. It would be very hard for a candidate to win the popular vote if they lost by large margins in lots of states, but one could win the EC this way if they won by narrow margins in many large states.
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« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2003, 08:51:30 pm »
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What you said about winning the north-east and the mid-west to achieve 270 isn't true at all.  In fact its not even close.  Even with the maximum number of states that can be considered "North-east" and "Mid-west" given to one party, it still would only add up to about 215 or so.  You should remember that Gore did carry nearly the entire North-east and Mid-west and he lost.

As for what you said about winning the 11 largest states to achieve 270, that proves my point, not yours.  The 11 largest states are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Penn., Illinios, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and New Jersey.  California is in the Pacific West, Texas is in the south west, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia are in the South east, Penn. New York and New Jersey are in the North East and Illinios, Ohio and Michgan are in the Mid west.  That seems pretty diverse to me.
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« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2003, 09:19:25 pm »
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Something I wanted to add: the electoral college makes it so that the rest of the country is not affected (as much) when a candidate wins a vast majority in a highly populated area.  Such as in the case of a candidate who comes from a large homestate.
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« Reply #16 on: December 09, 2003, 11:05:07 pm »
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NorthernDog,

Interesting scenario.  Unfortunately, I believe if an antiwar independent candidate got enough votes to win a state (close to a third of the vote at least) to win a single state, that candidate would also get enough votes in other states, and enough of those votes would otherwise go to the Democratic candidate, that President Bush would win a landslide electoral victory.  
I agree, but I just wanted to concoct a possible "tie" outcome in the EC for '04.  I don't foresee a 3rd party in 2004 unless Dean is torpedoed by the Dem establishment.
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Nym90
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« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2003, 08:17:08 pm »
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Yes, those 11 are in different regions, but has a candidate really demonstrated geographic appeal by only getting votes in 11 states?? The other candidate was at least competitive in the entire country, and didn't get blown out in 39 states.

Ok, I admit I didn't check the numbers on what regions you would need to win. But then the opposite is true, a candidate could win the South and West narrowly and win the election that way while getting blown out in the Northeast and Midwest. Since the winning candidate had appeal only in 2 regions and the loser was at least competitive in all 4 regions, I think that the popular vote winner who lost in the Electoral Vote actually demonstrated much wider geographic appeal.
Geographic appeal is obviously hard to define distinctly as a concept, but I'd say that a candidate who loses narrowly has demonstrated much greater breadth of appeal than one who gets blown out. The EC, however, fails to make this distinction at all.
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« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2003, 09:02:56 pm »
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[quote author=Nym90  Since the winning candidate had appeal only in 2 regions and the loser was at least competitive in all 4 regions, I think that the popular vote winner who lost in the Electoral Vote actually demonstrated much wider geographic appeal.
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The only instance of this was 1888 when Grover Cleveland lost the EC by a wide margin despite carrying the popular vote by about 1%.  The rule of thumb now is if the popular vote is within 1/2%, you may get a divergence in the EC and popular vote like in 2000.
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« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2003, 09:04:01 pm »
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That's the point of a Federal Republic (which is what we are).  This analogy limps a little, but think of it as the World Series.  Lets say that you have, I don't know the Cubs (I'm a fan) and they win four games and the series then you have a second team, the Yankees (I am not a fan) who win only one game.  Now the four games that the Cubs won were low scouring (1-0, 2-1, 1-0, 3-1) and the game that the Yankees won was a blow-out (14-0).  Now the Yankees clearly out scoured the Cubs for the series (16-7), do the Yankees therefore deserve to win.  The answer, of course, is NO.  The Cubs are clearly the supearior team because they won more games and the Yankees threw everything they had into that won game, but it doesn't matter because those points don't carry over.
Similarly, large margins in one area or even one state don't nessesarily determine the outcome of the election as a whole.  And the odds of carrying just those 11 states and no other, or even of carrying those 11 states are almost impossible (unless you have a landslide) because of the regional differeces.
Not to sound confrontational, but do you want a system where high margins in one part of the counrty can determine an election.  Do you want a system where, just getting as many uniformed voters to the polls as possible can eqaul a win.  Lets be honest, get out the vote efforts always consentrate on the inner-cities.  Do you want a system that basically says "screw rural people".
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« Reply #20 on: December 11, 2003, 01:32:19 pm »
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I would prefer a system that gives urban voters their due. People vote, not trees and acres. Elected officials should represent the people, not regional issues. To answer supersoulty, I wish to have a system which respects the equal voting rights of all, not one that says "screw urban people".
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« Reply #21 on: December 11, 2003, 01:59:26 pm »
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Once again, not to be confrontational, but since when has the political phiosophy every been centered around screwing urban people.  All the so-called "great society" programs have gone to help the cities and if they didn't start out that way, that certainly where they are now.  When was the last time you heard an Senator other than Zel Miller debate for the side of rural people with any passion.  I do give Edwards partial credit, because he has brushed the issue.  Why is it that its still okay to make fun of poor white people by calling them "Hill-Billies" and "White Trash", but it's politically in correct to say anything that can be precieved as being racsist about minorities. You ever wonder why Democrats can't get elected in rural areas.  Here the answer, because all the pork, all the programs and all the attention go to the cities.  Inner-city people complain that there is no oppertunity in the city.  Well, try living in the town where I came from where half the working people have to drive 80 miles a day to get to and from work.  Where the nearest McDonalds is 20 miles away.  Where the nearest govenment agency building, other than the post office is 90 miles away.  Where the newest car on the block is a 1990 Cheve.  Where the newest house in town was built thirty years ago.  Where the newest building in town is a bar.  I don't live there anymore, but I live in a state that is dominated by innner-city interests in Philadelphia and I'm sick and tired of it.  Why don't you get out of Massachusetts and make a visit to "fly-over country" sometime, that will show you how it really is.
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« Reply #22 on: December 11, 2003, 02:37:44 pm »
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I don't feel accountable to this voting bloc. No one is shackling them to where they live. They can always leave, but a stubborn rural determinism prevents them. You think people in Metropolitan Areas don't drive long distances to get to work? Many live in suburbs that are well over an hour away from their home. Th reason why urban areas get more attention than rural areas is because more people live there. If one had to choose between urban and rural America, a logical person would choose urban America for an obvious utilitarian reason that would be in keeping with everyone from nineteenth century theorists like Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Henry Mayhew to contemporary pragmatists: It does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Many people fail to realize that French language and literature was only my undergraduate minor, sociology was my major. In my case studies, I have seen situations that I couldn't have appreciated coming from my background unless I had been there. I have seen families being torn apart from the inside, and women who have had to have sex to get by. I have seen a criminal justice system which was viciously biased against the urban poor, and would lead one to the wholly justified conclusion that there is no such thing as crime, only behaviors which the power structure determines it disfavors, and will punish those who deviate from their paradigm. I have seen deep-seated class resentment, and I know because few would volunteer information because I was not of their social class. People in rural America may be poor, but they are not being strangled by the oppressive weight of societal disfavor, but only by their voluntary behaviors of religious and social conservativism. After all this, one must pose the question: How can anyone, in light of the fact that the government is the only helping hand these people see, deny them the help they need in favor of wasteful farm subsidies and the like? Only a person who willfully overlooks real facts can have such a proclivity which maligns our poor urban masses.
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« Reply #23 on: December 11, 2003, 03:01:19 pm »
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The rurul states don't want NY and CA to run the election and have a system that says "Screw rural people" also.


I would prefer a system that gives urban voters their due. People vote, not trees and acres. Elected officials should represent the people, not regional issues. To answer supersoulty, I wish to have a system which respects the equal voting rights of all, not one that says "screw urban people".
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« Reply #24 on: December 11, 2003, 06:24:43 pm »
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I don't feel accountable to this voting bloc. No one is shackling them to where they live. They can always leave, but a stubborn rural determinism prevents them. You think people in Metropolitan Areas don't drive long distances to get to work? Many live in suburbs that are well over an hour away from their home. Th reason why urban areas get more attention than rural areas is because more people live there. If one had to choose between urban and rural America, a logical person would choose urban America for an obvious utilitarian reason that would be in keeping with everyone from nineteenth century theorists like Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, and Henry Mayhew to contemporary pragmatists: It does the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Many people fail to realize that French language and literature was only my undergraduate minor, sociology was my major. In my case studies, I have seen situations that I couldn't have appreciated coming from my background unless I had been there. I have seen families being torn apart from the inside, and women who have had to have sex to get by. I have seen a criminal justice system which was viciously biased against the urban poor, and would lead one to the wholly justified conclusion that there is no such thing as crime, only behaviors which the power structure determines it disfavors, and will punish those who deviate from their paradigm. I have seen deep-seated class resentment, and I know because few would volunteer information because I was not of their social class. People in rural America may be poor, but they are not being strangled by the oppressive weight of societal disfavor, but only by their voluntary behaviors of religious and social conservativism. After all this, one must pose the question: How can anyone, in light of the fact that the government is the only helping hand these people see, deny them the help they need in favor of wasteful farm subsidies and the like? Only a person who willfully overlooks real facts can have such a proclivity which maligns our poor urban masses.

Your coments show me that you are more ignorant to the concerns of rural people than I though.  Don't throw your BS from your social philosophy classes at me.  I'm a political science major so I took those classes too.  You can say what ever you want but don't take it as for the bible because it comes from a text book or because some guy who died 100 years ago thought that he was pretty smart and so descided to throw some achedemic crap on a piece of paper.
What the hell do you mean that they aren't shackled to there area.  What shackles urban people to where they live.  Poverty?  You think that that doesn't exist in rural areas.  You think that that's not the same reason rural people can't leave there towns.  There is oppresion as well, it's just not as pronounced because its the subtle oppresion that comes with ingnorance and not caring.  Something that you have displayed in your comments.  
"I'm not accountible for that voting bloc".  What kind of egg head jargon is that.  You a person aren't you.  Your supposedly care about humanity, don't you?  Then how can you say that you aren't accountable?
All those things that you brought up, you don't think that those things happen in rural areas?  Do you think that middle america in all "Ozzie and Harriot"?  Well, you are dead wrong if that is what you think.
I don't malign urban people.  I know there problems and I want the help to be their for them when they need.  You however, you with your talk about rural people causing their own problems through "religious and social conservatism", you are the one who is maligning people.
The problems maybe different, but they are still there.  They just don't get the attention of what happens in the city because the people who live in Massachusetts and New York and California and Chicago and Rhode Island and Conn. don't see it and thus don't care.
You've seen some nasty things, I don't deny that, but have you seen a family of 8 living in a rusted out school bus in West Virginia?  I have.  So don't come on to me like I'm some sheltered yokle.
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