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|-+  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion
| |-+  Presidential Election Process (Moderator: muon2)
| | |-+  Is there any plausible argument in favor of the electoral college?
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Author Topic: Is there any plausible argument in favor of the electoral college?  (Read 55741 times)
muon2
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« Reply #175 on: August 13, 2015, 09:54:24 am »

While it does make Election Night (watching the networks) more interesting, there is no plausible reason in my opinion to have a system in place where virtually 35 states even before the campaign begins are already decided and in the bag for one party or another.  It's ridiculous.

How is that different from watching the returns for Prime Minister in Canada or the UK? Most constituencies are effectively decided long before election day, yet no one claims that is ridiculous. The EC replaces Parliament to elect the executive leader of the government.

What makes the US unique is not the lack of direct elections for the executive. If the US followed most other major democracies Congress, not direct elections, would select the head of the executive branch. The unique feature in the US is that the Constitution creates a parallel body to Congress for the purpose of selecting the executive. Congress only steps in to select the executive if the EC fails to get a majority for a candidate.
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« Reply #176 on: August 13, 2015, 06:39:38 pm »
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One thing that the arguments in favor of the Electoral College ignore is that the Constitution leaves to the states the method of delegating electoral votes. Faithless electors have been possible historically, and states don't have to choose a winner-take-all methodology for vote allocation (though most do). It's a very easily gamed system that happens to have coincided with the popular vote most of the time.

But if we're arguing that one of the virtues of the EC is that it coincides with the popular vote far more often than not, then aren't we implicitly conceding that the popular vote is a good measure that we should value?

For the four times historically when the electoral vote and popular vote did not coincide, can we see arguments for why those specifically are cases where we should consider that the popular vote was wrong and the electoral vote was right? I'm interested in reasons. Why, for instance, was it correct that Bush won in 2000? Would it have been correct if a few hundred thousand votes had switched in Ohio or Florida in 2004 and Kerry had won the EC despite losing the popular vote substantially?

Yes, for at least two of them: the candidate more favorable to black civil rights was saved by the EC in both 1876 and 1888 in a time of blatant intimidation and disenfranchisement in the South.  Benjamin Harrison even got a VRA equivalent measure through the House in 1890.  These are two examples of the EC actually preventing election rigging.  The fact that Democrats would have lost a tied election anytime between 1896 and 1948 was in retrospect a feature, not a bug.

But that's looking from now. What about in the moment? What's the argument you'd make to people at the time?

While very few people in the late 19th century actually believed black and white people were equal, the 15th Amendment wouldn't have passed in the first place if a significant majority at the time didn't believe that black men should at least be able to vote.  And there certainly wasn't national majority support for lynching and other KKK violence.  So I would say my argument holds even back then.

But an issue neutral argument for the modern day is that near-unanimous margins anywhere are inherently more suspect from an election-integrity standpoint because even without a threat of violence, those publicly supporting the opposition candidate in a 90/10 or even 80/20 area often face social ostracism, loss of employment opportunities, etc.  Therefore, they are less likely to turn out or even be registered in the first place.  They would have more incentive to vote in presidential cycles under NPV, but the same issues would persist regarding supporting and/or campaigning for a party that is perpetually shut out of the state/local government.  And because the state/local government is under complete one-party control, mischief would in fact be a lot easier than in a competitive state where it is normal for both parties to have a say in election laws and oversight of vote counting.  Simply put, elections are likely to be somewhat cleaner, with more participation, in closely split states.  So having a unanimity penalty built into the system isn't necessarily a bad thing.     

Does that describe why the result in 2000 was the correct one?

Yes, actually.  A candidate who couldn't hold his own coalition together lost to one who could.  And neither got 50% of the vote, so neither could claim a true mandate.  It was simply 1912 on a less grand scale.  If an independent is angry enough at one major party candidate to run as a spoiler to their left/right, that says something bad about that candidate and their party at the time. 
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« Reply #177 on: August 14, 2015, 03:56:57 am »
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That sounds an awful lot like post hoc rationalization.
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rbt48
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« Reply #178 on: August 19, 2015, 10:04:31 pm »
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Elections are held within states according to each state's laws.  In order to have the popular vote decide the Presidency, there would need to be a Federal law governing the voting for President and Vice President.  Unless all elections were federalized (from Congress down to county officials), there would need to be separate elections for Pres/VP as distinct from all other electoral contests.  Otherwise a vote in one state would note equal a vote in another state.  Factors causing this lack of equality are numerous, but here are a few to consider (viewed from the standpoint of differing electoral laws among the states):
-Different candidates on the ballot from state to state,
-Different voting hours,
-Different residency requirements in a state and precinct,
-Diverse absentee ballot rules,
-All mail-in voting versus polling place voting,
-Registration requirements (same day versus X days before an election deadlines),
-Different voting systems (paper ballots, voting machines, format of ballots),
-Other distinctions that all are welcome to chime in with.

The key factor is that in order for a vote in (pick any state, say Illinois) to be equal to a vote in, say, Rhode Island, the rules for voting (eligibility, candidates to choose from, voting format, and other factors I've mentioned) need to be identical.

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bobloblaw
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« Reply #179 on: August 28, 2015, 10:06:17 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.

Well very few nations actually elect their leaders via NPV. NPV would be fun. I suspect both the GOP and Dems would split off and have multiple parties. One could get elected with 25% of the vote if there was no runoff
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