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Author Topic: Is there any plausible argument in favor of the electoral college?  (Read 36136 times)
A18
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« on: September 06, 2008, 09:54:47 pm »
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As opposed to election by national popular-vote.

None of the conventional arguments strike me as persuasive. But conventional or unconventional, line 'em up.
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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2008, 10:05:21 pm »
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Passing an amendment to eliminate it requires work and money. That seems to me the best argument in favor of the EC, and it's a feeble one. But the power of inertia prevails.
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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2008, 10:06:57 pm »
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1.  Usually, the EC winner is the same as the PV winner.  It is highly unlikely to have two different winners.

2.  It makes candidates visit swing states, rather than just run up massive totals in big states, and ignore places like Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire.
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2008, 12:02:49 am »
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     1. It makes elections more fun. Tongue

     2. It makes appealing to the extremes less fashionable since they probably won't give you the support you need to win enough states.
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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2008, 08:45:24 am »
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Theodore H. White's Pulitzer Prize winning The Making of the President, 1960 may have made the case most succinctly:
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John F. Kennedy was elected President on November 8, 1960, by 303 electoral votes, drawn from 23 states, to 219 votes for Richard M. Nixon, drawn from 26 states. ... The margin of this electoral vote, so apparently substantial, is however a tribute not to the victor but to the wisdom of the Constitutional Fathers who, in their foresight, invented the device of the Electoral College, which, while preserving free citizen choice, prevents it from degenerating into the violence that can accompany the narrow act of head counting. ...

John F. Kennedy received 34,221,463 of these votes, or 112,881 votes (one tenth of one per cent of the whole) more than Richard M. Nixon, who drew 34,108,582. ... This margin of popular vote is so thin as to be, in all reality, nonexistent.

White alludes to the potential violence in the South and the lack of clarity of votes cast in AL, MS, and those in NY given to the Liberal Party - all included in Kennedy's total.
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« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2008, 11:54:55 am »
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makes it more fun.
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« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2008, 05:34:14 pm »
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Wow, I'm shocked to see this from Philip considering his normal philosophy, though I am in agreement with him.

1.  Usually, the EC winner is the same as the PV winner.  It is highly unlikely to have two different winners.

2.  It makes candidates visit swing states, rather than just run up massive totals in big states, and ignore places like Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire.

1. So? 2000 shows when that's not the case it's hardly a non-factor.

2. So instead the safe states get ignored. The conservative parts of upstate New York becomes moot, as does the Deep South's black population and the numerous conservative parts of California. It doesn't result in every state being visited, rather only a handful.
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« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2008, 12:27:02 am »
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Wow, I'm shocked to see this from Philip considering his normal philosophy, though I am in agreement with him.

1.  Usually, the EC winner is the same as the PV winner.  It is highly unlikely to have two different winners.

2.  It makes candidates visit swing states, rather than just run up massive totals in big states, and ignore places like Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire.

1. So? 2000 shows when that's not the case it's hardly a non-factor.

2. So instead the safe states get ignored. The conservative parts of upstate New York becomes moot, as does the Deep South's black population and the numerous conservative parts of California. It doesn't result in every state being visited, rather only a handful.

1. The issue in 2000 was not whether or not Gore won the popular vote, it was the issue of ballots in Florida and had nothing to do with the popular vote across the US as a whole. It's also plausible for the Democrats to lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College - so long as the laws are fair and consistent and don't favour one side or the other, it will benefit one side as often as the other.

2. Each state determines how its electoral votes are allocated, hence why Nebraska and Maine allocate their electoral votes differently to the other states. If a safe state wanted to have more relevance in the campaign or more visits from candidates, it could look at other ways of allocating its electoral votes - either the same way Nebraska and Maine do, or by proportional representation - either method would have the potential to change the allocation and indeed, in California's case, proportional allocation would meant that a 2% change in party vote would lead to a change of electoral votes - providing an incentive for both parties to campaign there.

The issue has nothing to do with Electoral College vs popular vote, and everything to do with each state's decision on how to allocate their electoral votes within the Electoral College. Individual states could easily attract presidential candidates to their state if they wanted (and don't forget that presidential candidates may wish to help candidates of their party down-ticket and may campaign in a state they won't win in order to help another candidate of their party). Of course, California won't change to a proportional allocation for one reason - it would disadvantage the party that almost always wins California... the Democrats. It won't be for any "state's rights" type reason that it won't change - it will be for partisan reasons that it won't change. That's not necessarily a good nor a bad thing, that's just why it won't change (at least, not unilaterally). If the people of California desperately wanted their state to become more relevant and be noticed more in presidential elections, they could easily pass a law to do so. That's their decision.

Of course, presidential candidates seem to more frequently come from safe states (I could be mistaken - that's more the impression I get - eg. Bush=Texas, Kerry=Massachuttes, Obama=Illinois, Clinton=New York, although could be argued was from Arkansas which tends to be safer for the Republicans), whereas swing states are less likely to provide an aspirational elected official with a long enough history of representative politics to provide them the opportunity to run. So I guess it all evens out in the long run.
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« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2008, 04:37:01 pm »
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(a) "It makes candidates visit swing states, rather than just run up massive totals in big states, and ignore places like Nevada, New Mexico, and New Hampshire."

In other words, it would be most cost-effective to focus on densely-populated areas. That is true (of course, isn't it much the same way now?), at least if we assume that the percentage of swing voters does not vary significantly from region to region. I'm not sure it's much of an improvement to arbitrarily divert attention toward "swing states."

Another point: Your argument applies to such things as GOTV and advertising. It doesn't apply at all to the actual positions a candidate takes; surely they will be communicated to the entire country through the internet, radio, etc.

(b) "It makes appealing to the extremes less fashionable since they probably won't give you the support you need to win enough states."

This certainly isn't obvious. Please elaborate.

(c) With reference to the close presidential election of 1960: "'[T]he Constitutional Fathers . . . in their foresight, invented the device of the Electoral College, which, while preserving free citizen choice, prevents it from degenerating into the violence that can accompany the narrow act of head counting'" (quoting Theodore H. White, The Making of the President).

Well, sure. But thin margins are not a uniquely national phenomena. Once--ancient history, by political standards--there was even a close election in a state whose electoral votes were to determine the next president (i.e., Florida 2000).
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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2008, 10:06:45 pm »
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The only plausible argument I can think of is that when the electoral college outcome is in doubt, only a couple states would determine the outcome (e.g. FL, NM in 2000), whereas if the popular vote winner is in doubt, every county in every state would have to have a recount.
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2008, 10:18:22 pm »
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(b) "It makes appealing to the extremes less fashionable since they probably won't give you the support you need to win enough states."

This certainly isn't obvious. Please elaborate.

     What I mean is that driving up turnout amongst the core base in places like Utah & Massachusetts isn't good enough. There are places like Iowa where swing voter turnout is high enough to make sure that people like Musgrave or Rangel wouldn't have a prayer at winning, regardless of how much they charge up the base.

     Though those are extreme examples, the point remains that it makes it harder to win by just turning out your base since you'll be forced to compete in more moderate states.

     At any rate, the argument sounded better when I first posted it than it does now. Tongue
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« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2008, 01:24:34 am »
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It prevents a regional candidate from controlling the whole country.  I candidate can't run up huge totals in New York, New Jersey and New England and still win the presidency.
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« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2008, 09:56:55 am »
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It prevents a regional candidate from controlling the whole country.  I candidate can't run up huge totals in New York, New Jersey and New England and still win the presidency.

Instead, they could win narrow margins in enough states to get 270 electoral votes and get massively blown out in the rest of the country. Has that candidate really demonstrated broad appeal?
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« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2008, 02:49:20 pm »
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Quote
John F. Kennedy was elected President on November 8, 1960, by 303 electoral votes, drawn from 23 states, to 219 votes for Richard M. Nixon, drawn from 26 states. ... The margin of this electoral vote, so apparently substantial, is however a tribute not to the victor but to the wisdom of the Constitutional Fathers who, in their foresight, invented the device of the Electoral College, which, while preserving free citizen choice, prevents it from degenerating into the violence that can accompany the narrow act of head counting. ...

John F. Kennedy received 34,221,463 of these votes, or 112,881 votes (one tenth of one per cent of the whole) more than Richard M. Nixon, who drew 34,108,582. ... This margin of popular vote is so thin as to be, in all reality, nonexistent.
As 2000 proved so well. Roll Eyes (good book though.)
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« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2008, 02:53:13 pm »
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One unusual argument here...

as of current, different US states have all sort of weird and arcane, but different, balloting laws. That would have to go out of the window if you introduce the national popular vote (or else somebody'd be crying foul play at every election decided by less than 4% nationally, and even have a point.) That's a real loss of one of the last vestiges of genuinely federal structure in the US.
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« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2008, 03:09:27 pm »
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as of current, different US states have all sort of weird and arcane, but different, balloting laws. That would have to go out of the window if you introduce the national popular vote (or else somebody'd be crying foul play at every election decided by less than 4% nationally, and even have a point.) That's a real loss of one of the last vestiges of genuinely federal structure in the US.

Thought of that. Certainly, recount standards and so forth would have to be nationalized--with respect to the office of president, anyway. I'm not sure about ballot design and technology; at present, how much freedom do local jurisdictions typically enjoy?
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« Reply #16 on: September 09, 2008, 03:30:45 pm »
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An incredible amount in some states, next to none in others.

Ballot access rules (with regard to the Presidency, anyhow). Another point that would be standardized.
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« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2008, 05:00:02 pm »
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What we should do is give ballot access ot any candidate who gets an endorsement from enough Congressmen, like they do in France.
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« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2008, 05:06:34 pm »
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What we should do is give ballot access ot any candidate who gets an endorsement from enough Congressmen, like they do in France.

I don't really want to give them that power...
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« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2008, 05:07:53 pm »
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What we should do is give ballot access ot any candidate who gets an endorsement from enough Congressmen, like they do in France.

I don't really want to give them that power...

It'd force smaller parties to focus on Congress, thus keeping the incumbents honest.
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« Reply #20 on: September 09, 2008, 05:10:12 pm »
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What we should do is give ballot access ot any candidate who gets an endorsement from enough Congressmen, like they do in France.

I don't really want to give them that power...

It'd force smaller parties to focus on Congress, thus keeping the incumbents honest.

Actually, in France, you need a certain number of endorsements (500?) from any elected official, including mayors and members of the General and Regional Assemblies. Minor parties without MPs can still run a candidate.
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« Reply #21 on: September 09, 2008, 05:39:51 pm »
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What we should do is give ballot access ot any candidate who gets an endorsement from enough Congressmen, like they do in France.

I don't really want to give them that power...

It'd force smaller parties to focus on Congress, thus keeping the incumbents honest.

Actually, in France, you need a certain number of endorsements (500?) from any elected official, including mayors and members of the General and Regional Assemblies. Minor parties without MPs can still run a candidate.

That's right. That'd be fine, too.
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« Reply #22 on: September 09, 2008, 07:03:43 pm »
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What we should do is give ballot access ot any candidate who gets an endorsement from enough Congressmen, like they do in France.

I don't really want to give them that power...

It'd force smaller parties to focus on Congress, thus keeping the incumbents honest.

Actually, in France, you need a certain number of endorsements (500?) from any elected official, including mayors and members of the General and Regional Assemblies. Minor parties without MPs can still run a candidate.

That's right. That'd be fine, too.

     That would probably be a good idea. Minor parties would have to focus on races like mayor & school board. Alternatively, maybe if they have at least 1 elected official per 500,000 people in a particular state, they get ballot access in that state.
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« Reply #23 on: September 11, 2008, 02:01:55 pm »
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It prevents a regional candidate from controlling the whole country.  I candidate can't run up huge totals in New York, New Jersey and New England and still win the presidency.

Instead, they could win narrow margins in enough states to get 270 electoral votes and get massively blown out in the rest of the country. Has that candidate really demonstrated broad appeal?

You really can't do that geographically.  A candidate can't do that unless he hs broad appeal across wide geographical areas.
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J. J.

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« Reply #24 on: September 13, 2008, 12:27:15 am »
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What we should do is give ballot access ot any candidate who gets an endorsement from enough Congressmen, like they do in France.

I don't really want to give them that power...

It'd force smaller parties to focus on Congress, thus keeping the incumbents honest.

Actually, in France, you need a certain number of endorsements (500?) from any elected official, including mayors and members of the General and Regional Assemblies. Minor parties without MPs can still run a candidate.

That's right. That'd be fine, too.

     That would probably be a good idea. Minor parties would have to focus on races like mayor & school board. Alternatively, maybe if they have at least 1 elected official per 500,000 people in a particular state, they get ballot access in that state.

Actually, I'm thinking 30 endorsements from holders of state or federal elective offices (i.e. legislative, state cabinet).
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