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Almost everyone I've ever discussed the electoral college with wants to see it reformed, or abolished outright. My beefs with the EC are the same as everyone else's: (1) It gives disproportionate power to the smallest states; (2) it forces campaigns to focus only on "swing" states while ignoring our biggest population centers; and, of course, (3) it allows a candidate who loses the popular vote to win the presidency.

Eliminating the electoral college outright would require a constitutional amendment - an amendment which would never pass because Republicans, who rely on the small states to win, would never support it. (And the small states themselves would not want to dilute their own strength.)

So what about reform at the state level instead? Two states, Maine and Nebraska, award their electoral votes on a sorta-proportional basis. This year, Coloradans voted down a proposal to award their electors on a purely proportional basis. Either system, however, would not really eliminate all of the problems caused by the EC, and in any case, they'd both hurt Democrats.

Most other ideas run along the same lines and are either impractical or unsatisfying. But a reader at the Swing State Project once described a plan which I think might be viable. Nathan Larson pointed out that the Constitution (Article II § 1) says the following:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress. (Emphasis added.)

The meat of this proposal is on the flip.

The bolded bit is what gives states like ME and NE the authority to divide their electors proportionally - and the other 48 to award them via "winner-take-all." But why not award a state's electors based on the winner of the national popular vote? There's nothing in the Constitution that would prohibit this, and it could all be done at the state level, without any constitutional amendments.

If the eleven largest states - CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA, OH, MI, NJ, NC & GA - passed such a measure, 271 electoral votes (enough for victory) would automatically go to the popular vote winner. And to safeguard against states trying to stick with the old system, these laws could include a trigger saying they wouldn't go into effect unless states totaling 270 EVs have also passed similar measures.

Of course, I can imagine the outrage people might feel if their very blue state gave its electors to a Republican or vice-versa. But clearly, we'd just be talking about mere formalities - do you really care where your EVs were allocated if your guy lost?

The main obstacle to implementation would be whether the swing and Republican states on the list would go along - the swing states might be hesitant because they'd lose their coveted status, and the GOP states would (perhaps rightly) fear that this plan would hurt Republicans. My response is that the swing states - Florida, Ohio, Michigan , etc. - won't always be swing states, and they should plan for the future. And the states on this list which went red by sizable margins are all (except TX) trending blue.

Thoughts, criticisms and alternate proposals are - as always - most welcome.

Update [2005-1-7 16:35:35 by DavidNYC]: Drew in the comments observes that the Amar brothers (both law professors) discussed this proposal three years ago.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:16 PM PST.


What kind of EC reform should we pursue?

12%34 votes
6%18 votes
5%14 votes
25%67 votes
41%110 votes
7%21 votes

| 265 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Need to abolish the EC (3.33)
    all other "reforms" are subject to political whim and partisanship at any time, now or in the future.
    •  EC (4.00)
      I don't disagree - but I also believe it's simply not possible to eliminate it, given the high barriers to an amendment.
      •  exactly the problem (3.50)
        the EC was instituted primarily to appease the southern states (along with representation in the senate)... I can't see them changing their minds at this point because they would only (in their minds) lose power...

        example... we suceed in reforming the election system and get rid of the barriers to the ballot box based on race/ income/ party affiliation (ok, I know I'm dreaming, but go along with me here). Suddenly, thousands of minority citizens in the southern states start voting (and having their votes counted) and, while their turnout wouldn't make a huge difference in the pure southern states under the current system (i.e. LA, GA, AK, etc.), although it could and that would be a whole other problem, they would definitely make a difference in the national popular vote.

        no way any of those states or the repubs would let that happen. either way.

        I think the campaign just has to be on one person, one vote, and everyone's vote counts equally.

        but ultimately there will be severe opposition to any proposal changing the status quo.

        Jaded Reality... I've had enough spin for today thanks...

        by spiderleaf on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:26:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  This was a very good diary. (none)
        Thanks for all the linkage, especially.

        I completely agree that the electoral college is beyond reform.

        I completely agree that the proportional style by state is the answer, however it is also not likely to be changed for a similar reason: the states that help elect the president have at least a perception of receiving more largesse from the pig trough than those that voted for the loser. I am not sure that is true or not. Are there studies?

        The proportional vote would dilute the supposed positive effect on any one state of voting for the winner.

  •  Any kind of reform is good reform (none)
    Although there IS one decent argument against abolishing the electoral college outright, and that's that a Nation-wide recount would be a pain in the ass. Imagine Ohio multiplied by 20.

    But it would still be worth it, in my mind. To abolish the EC.

    Google bomb tom delay and coward. Ask me how to help.

    by danthrax on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:09:48 PM PST

    •  On the other hand (none)
      I would hope that the margin of victory of a national election would not be so close to the margin of error.

      That way you get away from the problem of ONE state being "too close to call."

      •  It would be (none)
        But you can't know that it wouldn't be.  Consider how close the last two elections were.  I don't think it was a fluke.  

        The polling mechanisms are so sophisticated and accurate these days that candidates know exactly where and where not to campaign, exactly what to tell people, and exactly how much they can give up.  Mobilize just enough people to win and to hell with the rest.  This was the hallmark of the 2000 race, where the running joke was that there was no difference between the candidates.  And look what a moderate GWB turned out to be.  

        Of course, the popular vote under the electoral college system is irrelevant, both legally and practically.  After all, if your state is known to be secure for one party, your vote won't make a difference - and thus the popular vote does not reflect these peoples opinions.  But the same would be true even if we DID have a popular vote, people will use the polls to decide if voting is even worth their time.  That's why voter registrations go down every year, and that's why spinning of polls is such an undemocratic tactic.  Therin lies one of biggest dangers of going to a popular vote - that one party will be seen as so secure no one bothers to challenge them anymore, or has the power to check their abuses.  You worry about Ohio x 20; what about Oklahoma x20?  

        Voter fraud becomes more complex as well.  Localized fraud becomes a very attractive option in districts and states with weak controls, and distributed ballot-box stuffing becomes an easy tactic for unscrupulous people everywhere.  Keeping the state's votes separate at least compartmentalizes the problems.  

        Man.  It's things like this that make me think we might be better off with a parlimentary system.  Voting would be way simpler, representation would be much fairer, and the Big Guy wouldn't ever be able to run wild.  

    •  Recount (none)
      You wouldn't have had a nationwide recount this year, given that Bush's margin was 3%. I doubt you'd even have one in 2000, where Gore's margin was .5%. You might have had a nationwide recount in 1960, I'll grant.
    •  States would still hold the elections... (none)
      ... just as they do today. States, down to counties, down to wards and precincts. Problems could be isolated and recounts done on a smaller scale.

      The other thing is, if we went with an amendment, it could have several aspects of voting reform: abolish the EC, AND guarantee the right to vote, AND guarantee a voter verified paper trail, AND prohibit partisan Sec's Of State from being in charge of elections, AND make election day a holiday or extend the voting period from a day to a week.

      •  Non-partisan redistricting, too? (none)
        And non-partisan (re)districting?
      •  Kitchen sink - IRV or even better Condorcet. n/t (none)
        •  Much better Condorcet (none)
          Not worth changing to IRV. It actually makes the situation worse. It doesn't eliminate strategic voting and requires time, effort, and capital to implement.

          Condorcet is much, much better. It is, however, quite complex. This might make it untenable.

          Approval would be a fine alternative. Easy to explain. Straight up or down vote on all candidates. Eliminates a fair chunk of the problems with the current first-past-the-post system.

          And if you need anything...there's some ants.

          by Skipbidder on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:54:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Approval voting incompatible with paper ballots (none)
            The one thing that has always bothered me about paper ballots is the potential for both voter error and small-scale voter fraud.  You can vote or not vote - but you can also overvote.  Worse, someone with a pencil/chad punch can turn your non-vote into a vote undetectably, or your vote into an overvote.  People notice overvotes - if there's too many in a district people will (should) be rightfully suspicious.  Unfortunately you'll probably have a bunch of nasty pundits harping about how stupid the voters in such-and-such a district are.  

            But that all goes out the window with approval balloting, because there's no such thing as an overvote.  Just a lot of pundits saying, "Well it seems that quite a few people out there approved of both the candidates!"  Third parties would use it to pad their approval ratings.  

            This is the main caveat I have about fill-in-the-bubble type ballots.  I've never seen an arrow ballot so I can't say how bad they are.  Write-in ballots would obviate this problem and allow detection of small-scale fraud but could theoretically be used to track votes back to their anonymous casters.  

    •  Oh, I'm sure the GOP could (none)
      construct a "reform" that would be worse on the EC as they have on many other things.

      Seriously, we have zero national political power; so, why are we discussing changing something that has no chance in hell of seeing the light of day?  The GOP isn't stupid enough to change something that benefits them.  They're not like Democrats who helped rid us of the Fairness Doctrine, media regulation and media competition.  The GOP may not be all that swift, but they ain't dumb enough to get rid of the EC.

      They would surely think it would be mighty fine for CA, NY and IL to put through that proportional allocation of EC votes, because it's so not fair to the Republicans in those states that their voices don't get heard.  CA, NY and IL always lead the nation, and it would be good of them to show us the way on this too.  The rest of the country will follow, but it will just take them a bit longer --like maybe never on this one.

      Either go to direct election of the President or leave the damn thing alone -- there is nothing in between that improves it or make it more equitable, but there is a lot in between that will disproportianately benefit one Party or the other.  And right now most of those schemes seem to favor the GOP and those that don't are pipedreams.  

      •  The point of the OP (none)
        to stop looking at Washington. It has to be done locally, within states. Blue states must start, and more importantly, models like the CDC (California Democratic Council) and  similar statewide organizations must be put into all states to foster growth for active groups within municipalities or regions. These groups gather for all sorts of reasons, be they ethnic, geographical, members of orgs like Move On, and Democracy for America, for issues such as women's rights, etc. And they are then coordinated by their state councils or other local Dem authority.

        Then they have to start gearing them up about this time in the next election cycle for two years down the road. By early '07, should such groups be in place and active, they begin their fights. Swing states trending blue might be ready to enact such reforms along with stronghold states and we can be on their way no later than '08, in time for 2010.

  •  A Rat (none)
    If it (electoral college) looks like a sly rat, smells like a sly rat, and acts like a sly rat, it probably is a sly rat!  Unless you want to keep the sly rat in control of the presidency, then get rid of it.

    Political censorship is the root of all evil! It is the antithesis to a functional democracy!!

    by truthbetold on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:11:24 PM PST

  •  I say we monkeywrench the whole system (none)
    and start lobbying democraticly controlled states to choose electors without a direct vote in the first place.

    We say that we don't really want this - but that it just as bad as the current system.

    And then we push for 1 person 1 vote principle - which makes the electoral college obsolete.

    The 1 one person 1 vote principle is how I think the discussion should be framed.  Who, after all, is opposed to such a basic part of democracy?

    •  Monkeywrench is the word (none)
      The proposal to gid rid of the direct vote would be a death sentence to the party that proposed it.

      It's open rollback of representative democracy.

      Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

      by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:14:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  1 person 1 vote (none)
      This is so good, why not just advocate it from the outset? :)

      Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

      by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:14:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  1 person 1 vote (none)
      IS what we should use to frame the argument.

      In Bush v Gore in 2000, the United States Supreme Court (citing Reynolds v Sims) ruled that disputed votes in Florida could not be recounted because it violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The majority opinion states,

      "It must be remembered that 'the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen's vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise.'"
      The court is saying, in no uncertain terms, that every vote should have the same weight (one person, one vote...sound familiar?). The court felt that errors in manually recounting ballots could result in "phantom votes" (my term, not the Court's) which would dilute the real votes. Moreover, the different types of ballots (optical scan versus punch card) were not equal in terms of determining voter intent, so phantom votes would arise more frequently in one county than in another. Thus, the Court was saying that even the slightest dilution or inequality of the weight of votes is not tolerable. The Court was ruling only in terms of one Florida vote to another. Shouldn't the same apply across states?
      •  Don't forget majority rule. (none)
        Without runoffs we only have plurality now. So either IRV or Condorcet runoffs so we can get Marority rule.
      •  "1 person - 1 vote" isn't good enough (none)
        "One person - one vote" isn't good enough to frame the issue because it can be truthfully claimed that that is the case now.  Nobody gets more than one vote now (at least, not legally).

        We need a phrase that clearly captures the inequity of the current system, where a vote for president in Wyoming is worth five votes for president in California (I calculated it recently and I think that's what it came out to).  It's only in voting for president, because of the EC, that this particular inequity exists.

        •  That's why I site the SC... (none)
          ...Bush v. Gore decision. It is the perfect ammo for our side. We take a ruling that favored them and use it to our advantage.
          •  I don't see how . . . (none)
            . . . that ruling could be implemented to help rectify the cross-state inequity since the Constitution establishes the EC. The SC can't rule that the EC is unconstitutional even if the result is that a vote for president in CA is equivalent to only 20% of a similar vote in WY.

            How could that, or any, SC ruling rectify the cross-state inequity?

            •  Of Course... (none)
              ... the SC can't rule a part of the Constitution unconstitutional. I wasn't arguing they could.

              But, we want to get rid of the EC, right? To do so, we need to demonstrate that an inequality in the weight of votes should be addressed. That is where the ruling comes in. We use it to bolster our argument that the EC should be ditched because it creates exactly the kind of inequality of votes that the SC says we should not have.

              As you point out, the decision didn't rectify the problem because it couldn't change the reality of the EC. But that doesn't change the fact that the SC has ennunciated the principal that all votes should be weighted equally in order to comply with the 14th Amendment.

              I realized at the time that there was an irony to the ruling. The ruling was based on equal protection- every vote should have the same weight. But Bush won because of the EC, which guarantees that votes from different states will have different weights. To me, that makes the ruling ideal for arguing against the EC.

              •  Perhaps the SC could use . . . (none)
                ... that principle to force the House of Representatives to increase its size to a number of members where the variation in the relative weight between the heaviest and lightest votes are no more than a specified percentage (e.g., five percent).  

                Andrew Tanenbaum, over at, points out that:

                If Congress wanted to keep the electoral college but make it fairer, there is a simple (but unlikely) solution: increase the size of the House of Representatives. There is nothing in the constitution mandating a particular size except that each member must represent at least 30,000 people (which puts an upper limit on the House of about 10,000 members). In fact, the House has been expanded repeatedly in the past as the nation grew. The most recent expansion was in 1911, when the U.S. population was about 93 million, so a representative had 212,000 constituents. With the current population of 293 million, a representative has 674,000 constituents. To bring this number back to its 1911 value, the House should be expanded to 1370 members. Since a state's electoral vote is equal to its congressional representation, with 1370 House members, the effect of the 100 senators would be much smaller and the electoral votes would be almost proportional to population. To increase the size of the House, Congress would merely have to pass a law; the states would not be involved at all.

                I live in PA and my vote for president is only 28% of the value of a WY vote. It takes three-and-a-half PA votes to equal the weight of one WY vote. That's a simple way to put it that everyone could see is inherently unfair.

                Maybe large-state voters should all start complaining that they each want a full vote and not just a percentage of one.  

  •  Point of procedure (none)
    If the listed states can call the election, then those are the only states that candidates will visit.

    The rest would, for purposes of national government, be reduced to colonies.

    Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

    by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:12:33 PM PST

    •  Vote (none)
      Totally wrong, I'm afraid. The listed states would award their EVs to the winner of the national popular vote. While it WOULD be possible to win the national popular vote by winning something over 90% of the vote in those top 11 states, that's obviously not going to happen. You'd still need to campaign across the country to win the popular vote.
      •  Goes to representation (none)
        It creates a short list of 'super-elector' states, an Electoral Senate, as it were.

        It takes the problem of Wyoming having relatively more electoral oomph than California, and reverses the situation.

        It's EC welfare for states that already have the lion's share of the votes.

        The idea is very soundbite-vulnerable.

        I'm not even trying, here.

        Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

        by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:19:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Plan (none)
          This plan simply doesn't do what you're claiming it does. What it does do is allow the eleven largest states to force the other 39 to accept the (plurality) winner of the national popular vote as the winner of the presidential election. What is also does is force presidential candidates to campaign in major popular centers (NYC, LA, Houston, etc.) rather than in less-populous swing states.

          You could NOT win under this system by only focusing on the biggest states. You'd probably have to focus on the biggest cities (and suburbs), but many of those are not in the biggest states - such as Boston, Baltimore, Phoenix, etc.

          Perhaps it would be susceptible to sound-bite attack, but I think the response to that (or rather, the way you frame the issue initially) is to say, "This system enshrines one man, one vote."

          •  But it isn't representative (none)
            The plan disenfranchises persons in the majority of those respective states that vote for the losing presidential candidate.

            It depends on the logic that "Hey, my guy lost anyway. what difference does it make?"

            The plan also depends on people not taking to the streets when their states' EVs go for the 'wrong' guy.

            It obfuscates the results; the winner of a close contest is given a huge boost in the EC, and may be tempted to capitalize on a 'blowout' that never happened.

            Finally, the precedent of redirecting a citizen's vote by act of legislature, of reversing a statewide majority outcome, opens up a Pandora's box of trouble.

            Imagine being the party in opposition as, say, a California resident.

            You voted Kerry. Your state went for Kerry. The law says, tough shit. Your state is going for Bush, regardless.

            I predict the chief consequence would be a significant downturn in voter turnout, save by partisan hardliners in either camp, especially in states at risk of going the 'wrong' way, per the state majority's perspective.

            Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

            by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:45:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Throw out the electoral college... (none)
               every time your state goes go for a candidate other than the one you voted for you are being disenfranchised-your vote is not being COUNTED! Isn't that against the law?? If you feel your vote doesn't matter as opposite voters in very red and blue states do,than what's the point?? As an Ohioan at least I had hope that my vote would count but I can't imagine what a Democrat in Georgia or Texas must feel. Every other elected official in this country is chosen by popular vote and the President should be too!
              •  That's not my objection (none)
                I'm all for a national vote for President, confident that the Great Compromise that oversupplies small states with Senators will keep the country together.

                The issue is reversing some statewide electoral outcomes under law, in order to avoid disputed elections.

                In my opinion, forcing Texas to vote Clinton (Hillary) or New York to vote Bush (Jeb) would be controversial, and I think that I would have lots of company in either instance.

                Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

                by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:09:05 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  It Hurts (none)
                As an Ohioan at least I had hope that my vote would count but I can't imagine what a Democrat in Georgia or Texas must feel.

                I've lived in both and it hurts.  At least when I lived in GA I was represented by John Lewis.  In TX though, I have not yet voted for a winning candidate.  I bought a house in Martin Frost's district, hoping to have him represent me, only to have him redistricted out office.  If I thought I had a reasonable chance of winning a civil suit against TRMPAC, I would file.

            •  You are right and wrong. (none)
              It doesn't disenfranchise anybody. Further it's actually less complicated than the current system.

              But you are right about the uproar the plan could cause. And that will make it a wedge issue and force the true reforms at the national constitutional amendment level.

            •  OTOH (none)
              I live in California.  My incentive to vote now (federally) is low.  But, if my vote helps force Texas to vote Democrat?  Now, that is worth getting up in the morning.  

              The deeper problem is that you are mired in the a state-based approach to Presidential elections.  I do not think that people are so wedded to the blue-state/red-state (except, perhaps, Texas) that they would not gladly trade the system now (even if it meant CA went "red") for direct popular election.  

              Moreover, this could be an easy sell (now) to Republicans -- Bush got 3 million votes more -- do you want to subject furture republican presidents to 537 or 100,000 vote margins instead?

          •  Nope (none)
            I think you overestimate the value of direct campaigning.  The chances of you ever shaking the hand of a campaigner or him even coming to your town are very, very slim.  Elections these days are all about image, via the TV.  You could just as easily have a guy running on a cosmopolitan image as a country one.  Or an evangelical dominionist, or a dazzling celebrity, and so forth.  

            One wonders how these states would actually vote if they were forced to go against the will of their own state, particularly if doing otherwise changes the result of the election to one that better matches their population.  

    •  Not really (none)
      The point being made, I think, is that these states would throw their electoral votes behind whoever won the national vote.

      So you could come up with a senario where a candidate doesn't carry any of these states, but wins because they win overall, nationally.

      •  Electoral Leverage (none)
        It's elegant, until it happens.

        The largest states are not natural allies; from the outset, at least a couple of the country's most important states are going to be forced to hand their EVs over to someone that the majority of their constituencies did not vote for.

        It raises the scenario of state legislatures being placed under pressure to circumvent or contradict the statute...or leave the Union entirely.

        Also, when it comes down to it, I see it as a way of disguising close elections and declaring 'a mandate' based no EVs, and making it all the more difficult for an opposition party (such as the Democrats at present) mounting any sort of resistance.

        I see this proposal as conducive to single party rule, levering the advantage of the party in majority.

        If the gain is reduction in the frequency of contested elections, the price is too high.

        It risks fueling secession movements on both sides of the aisle.

        Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

        by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:31:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  True (none)
          Nobody will be comfortable with letting their state's electoral votes go to somebody who didn't earn them from the voters of that state.

          And they shouldn't.  The more I think about it, the more this system just seems more complicated than it needs to be.  Besides, it will never happen.

    •  welcome to the club. (none)
      New York State
    •  Not at all (none)
      In theory, you could win the EV votes of these states while losing the popular vote in all of them: just win the popular vote nationwide.  Where you get it is up to you.

      Candidates will go wherever they feel they can influence the most voters.  This means that Bush would care about the Hispanic vote in California, and Kerry would work GOTV in Austin instead of ignoring Texas.  

      Right now, candidates have no incentive whatsover to visit non-swing states, except for money.  I'd like to see voters in all states make a difference, not just dollars.

      •  Focusing on the Battleground (none)
        Is appropriate, since states where the races are close are laboratories in bipartisanship, in winning over or neutralizing opposition, and gaining and motivating supporters who are in common contact with the (dis)information put out by competitor parties.

        Sans the battleground, candidates would focus on mobilizing core support in core areas; the result would be a magnification of the disconnect between Republican and Democratic worldviews, as candidates played to the Deep Reds and Deep Blues, and eff the riffraff in the middle.

        This might appeal to persons who feel that the opposition is already as radical as they can become and one's own party could use a little more radicalism on its own account.

        However, I think the end result is schism, the mutual secession, perhaps preceded, perhaps followed, by war.

        Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

        by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:35:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  We already have... (none)
      ...a situation akin to this. They are called swing states, midsized states that may go either way in each election. Nearly every other state is ignored.

      More likely is that rural areas will be ignored. A candidate can get far more exposure, bang for the buck, whatever you want to call it by visiting all of the major cities in each state, instead going to small towns and farm areas.

      •  Candidates will go (none)
        Where the decideds are, not the undecideds, looking to boost the party faithful.

        The Pubs will hit conservative districts.

        THe Dems will hit liberal districts.

        There will be little incentive to cross paths, even in debate; the candidates will let the pundits do the talking, let their ground troops do the walking.

        Beware the Frumious Coultersnatch :)

        by cskendrick on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:51:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Kind of a neat idea (none)
    Given that this corrects some of the electoral college imbalances, it actually helps the large states, so I think it might have a chance of passing - it would make a voter in Wyoming count no more than a voter in California, as opposed to now, where Wyoming voters have 3.71 times the power of a California voter.

    If you lost some of the smaller ones on the list, a couple of the ones further down the line would do the trick.

    This is one of the best, most creative ideas I've seen out there. Congrats to the thinker.

    •  3.71 to 1? (none)
      A voter for president in Wyoming had exactly the same power as a voter in California in the last election. Zero. Exactly the same as my vote in Illinois.

      Your vote only counted if you lived in Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, or New Hampshire (And maybe not some of those.)
      Theoretically, your vote also count in Ohio and Florida, but there is reason to think it wasn't necessarily counted, even it should have counted.

      And if you need anything...there's some ants.

      by Skipbidder on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:04:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  An easy reform (none)
    would be to get the biggest states (CA, TX, NY, OH, FL) to award their electoral votes to the candidate that wins a plurality over 45% of the popular vote.

    Except in the most bizarre of circumstances, we'd never again have a situation where a minority candidate won the election.

    Outside the box solutions at low, low prices!

    by Jonathan4Dean on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:13:16 PM PST

  •  Lots of Promise (none)
    I would suggest though that the problem of a few blue states giving their electoral votes to the Republicans is not as trivial as you say.  The idea that Bush has a mandate would be considerably stronger if California had operated on such a system.  Even so, I think this idea has a lot of merit, especially with the proviso that many states have to adopt such a law before it goes into effect.  Personally, I've gone back and forth over EC reform and have come to the conclusion that 1) the uneven power to the small states in the Senate is quite sufficient and 2) we need to get more of the country directly involved in presidential elections.  For example, it occurred to me when reading this that urban citizens of rural states have virtually no influence in presidential elections.  
  •  You Don't Reform Cancer (3.33)
    You eradicate it or it kills you.  Ditto the EC.

    And don't anyone start in with any of that "we're a republic, not a democracy" rubbish.  Other republics elect their presidents by direct vote of the people, France being the most noteworthy example.

    "L'enfer, c'est les autres." - Jean Paul Sartre, Huis Clos

    by JJB on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:15:34 PM PST

    •  Abolish (none)
      I don't want to let the pefect be the enemy of the good. I'd love to get rid of the EC - I just think it will never happen. This is a neat end-run around it. And in fact, it basically abolishes it in all but name. Yes, I grant that pesky legislatures could eventually go back and try to monkey with it, but this is the best, most VIABLE proposal I've yet seen.
    •  Um... (none)
      ...not to nit-pick...but maybe France isn't the best example to use when arguing a point with a winger? ;-)

      Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us. -- P. J. O'Rourke

      by floundericiousMI on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:23:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  France maybe isn't a good example (none)
      "At age 69, Chirac faced his fourth presidential campaign in 2002. He was the first choice of fewer than one voter in five in the first-round of voting of the presidential elections of April 2002. It had been expected that he would face incumbent prime minister Lionel Jospin on the second round of elections; instead, Chirac faced controversial right-wing politician Jean-Marie Le Pen of the law-and-order, anti-immigrant National Front, and won re-election by a landslide; most parties outside the National Front had called for opposing Le Pen, even if it meant voting for Chirac"

      So, essentially Chirac became President though less than 20% had him as a first choice...

      •  How many first choice vote for Kerry? (none)
        Many of those who ended up voting for him had other first choices in the primary. Kerry wouldn't get to 20% as a first choice.

        And if you need anything...there's some ants.

        by Skipbidder on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:08:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'll Trade An Electoral System That Produces (none)
        DeGaulle, D'Estang (sp?), Mitterand, and Chirac for one that produces Nixon, Reagan, and the twin Bushes any day.

        Anyway, my point was to demonstrate that the argument given by so many, that republics don't elect the heads of state directly, is wrong.  I've seen this POV advanced many times by people trying to rationalize the EC, and I wanted to nip it in the bud.  IIRC, the marginal comment I received comes from one who is so misinformed, hence his little act of ratings abuse.  Hope it made him feel better.

        "L'enfer, c'est les autres." - Jean Paul Sartre, Huis Clos

        by JJB on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 06:22:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Smaller, compact democracies (none)
      Take a look at those countries with direct elections - they're much more compact than the US.  (The exceptions would be Canada and Russia.)  Their elections are run nationally and anything serious enough to affect one part of the country will probably affect the entire country.

      The US lacks that unity - elections are run locally (at the county level) and there are severe constitutional problems with federalizing them.
      It's easy to imagine a situation where part of the country is in extremis while the rest of the country has a normal election.  E.g., imagine a severe earthquake in California shortly before the election, or several late-season hurricanes that directly hit Miami and Tampa.

      These may be unlikely events, but our elections have to be able to handle these cases in order to avoid the chaos that would result if we're unprepared.

      •  So (none)
        How does abolishing the EC and having direct vote by the people conflict with that?  States can still organize and run the elections as they see fit, we just won't have that stupid winner gets all electoral vote system that gives us presidents with losing vote totals and Supreme Court appointments.  If you like things that way, just say so.  I don't, and abolishing the EC is the most obvious way to rectify what ails us.

        BTW, if you think there are instances in which the French Channel coast doesn't get pummelled by bad weather while everything is fine and dandy on the Riveria, you're mistaken.  Not to mention what might go on at higher elevations in the Pyrannes, the Voges, and the Alps.

        "L'enfer, c'est les autres." - Jean Paul Sartre, Huis Clos

        by JJB on Sat Jan 08, 2005 at 09:13:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  proportional.. (none)
    I think the Colorado system is the most equitable -

    We need a Constitutional Amendment that awards all EV proportionally.

    It preserves the integrity of small states' importance (which must be preserved to have politically viable EC reform) and also enfranchises those individuals who live in deep red/blue or swing states that end up losing the total count.  

    A straight up popular vote system would still focus on "swing states" and Democrats would push out votes in cities, confining us more and more to the idea we are a party of big cities and not rural America.

    Of course....I expect a vigorous debate to ensue.

    Democrats Protect America. Republicans Forget Americans.

    by pdx bertrand on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:16:06 PM PST

    •  Proportional allocation by state doesn't work. (none)
      Ugh... among its many flaws, the Colorado solution would throw close elections into the House, where the gerrymandered Republican majority would decide things, at an even more outrageous "small-state to big-state" vote ratio (53:1, in the canonical Wyoming:California example).
    •  About Colorado (none)
      The problem with strict proportionality is that it still makes the little states feel left out. Hence, they won't ever go for it. I've been thinking (and have posted previously) that we need a compromise.

      If we want to enact EC reform nationwide, we should go with a split slate: proportional representation for the "Representative" share of electors, and state popular vote winner for the "Senate" share of electors. Candidates in each state will then be vying for essentially 2-4 electors, depending on the race; the rest are pretty much fixed by the electorate beforehand.

      We have to be careful about this - we can't have "Representative" electors assigned based on Congressional District outcomes; they have to be assigned on a statewide basis, or gerrymandering becomes even more of an issue.

  •  This type of approach only works (none)
    if you have all the states involved or its federal- any piecemeal approach would be detrimental. Just putting that out there.
  •  I've advocated this for some time. (none)
    But I think the Amar Brothers came up with it first, thus The Amar Plan.

    Here's Colorado Luis' take on it.

    I think it's been discussed elsewhere, too.

  •  The Amar Plan (none)
    Hey, I'm glad to see the Amar Plan made the front page of dKos!  Somebody tell Drew!

    I was one of those Coloradans who was violently opposed to Amendment 36, and I always pointed to this idea as an example of real, not bogus, reform.

    While I would still support this, I now think it is not a pipe dream to just flat out abolish the EC.  Except for the extreme example of Wyoming, the supposed benefit to small states is pretty marginal, and is overriden by the advantage big states have because winner take all makes them so much more valuable.

    Put simply, a voter in New Mexico can never influence more than 5 EVs, while a voter in Ohio can influence 20.  This is why voter suppression in New Mexico was not debated on the floor of Congress yesterday.

    Small states that can be made to understand this can support abolition.  We can get to 38 and do this.

  •  hmmm - problems? (none)
    Yes, the constitution gives the states the power to do this, but there are some problems

    • unless this proposal is adopted extensively--not just by 1 or 2 states--it would hurt the ones that did adopt it.  This is going to require coordination, and I think that will be hard to secure, esp. since you've got some pretty disparate red and blue states on that list.

    • it's going to open up anyone who proposes it to in-state jingoism--ie, "What's wrong with Texans deciding Texas's electoral votes?  Why should them lib-ruls in NY, Mass, California, etc. have any say in our electoral votes?"
    •  work around for #1; but not #2 (none)
      1.  individual states could adopt, but with the proviso that it would not be effective in that state until some threshold of other states (as determined by # of states, or better EVs) had also approved it.  

      2.  this still looks like a killer to me
      •  sloppy reading - sorry (none)
        Of course #1 is exactly what DavidNYC said -- my apologies for hasty reading (this is why I shouldn't actually try to participate here and work at the same time)
      •  Work around for #2 - sort of (none)
        Well if all 50 states are going to have Texas' attitude, then yes it is a killer.  However, all it will take is for the provision to kick in when states with enough EVs to add up to 270 decide to go along.  If you can make up for a Texas with a couple mid-size states, that's just as good.
        •  yes - but even 1 or 2 large states (none)
          could go a long way to killing it, since (once you exclude the states already on the list) it will take at least 3 small states to make up for the loss of Texas.  And the more that are required, the more ungainly and difficult it gets.
  •  Right To Vote Amendment (none)
    The necessary reform needed before any other proposals could be expected to have a positive effect is to ensure a consistent system of elections nationwide.

    The Constitution leaves it up to the states how to run Presidential elections--thus every four years we get yet another haphazard, unforeseen morass of inconsistency and corruption.

    Jesse Jackson Jr's Right to Vote Amendment is the necessary first step.

    •  Amend (none)
      This is the one part of of JJJr.'s amendment I don't like:

      [The state laws] shall ensure that each Elector votes for the candidate for President and Vice President who received a majority of the popular vote in the State or District.

      That would not only make this plan (which people are referring to as the Amar plan) unconstitutional, but it would also invalidate ME and NE's systems as well.

      It's also poorly worded because what happens if a candidate doesn't get a majority of the popular vote? Often times the winner of a particular state will get only a plurality.

  •  Why not a hybrid? (none)
    Since things happen slowly, especially with 50 independant bodies, why not a hybrid?  It tempers the "bait a politician to lobby for popular votes here" with "we're a red/blue state, and don't want to risk giving our EVs to the other side".

    Consider CA, which currently has 55 EVs.  Why not say:

     * 50% (round up) of the EVs go to the candidate with the plurality of the state
     * 50% (round down) of the EVs go to the candidate with the plurality of the USA

    There are some problems though.  Voter eligibility varies from state to state.  Think felons, etc.  Furthermore, some states do a better job of managing their voting process than other states.  So, in this example, Califorinia would be putting 27 of their EVs at the "mercy" of the other 49 states' election laws and ability to hold a fair election.

    Should California (or any other state) put their EV eggs in the other states' baskets?

  •  Worst case scenarios (none)
    Something that's often overlooked in these discussions is that we must be able to hold elections even in the worst case scenarios.  Doing direct elections on a national scale can produce all sorts of nightmare situations.

    E.g., let's say that the election is extremely close and a latter-day Ohio is even more egregious in its partisan voter suppression.  A court issues an injunction to prevent the Sec. of State from certifying the results - and the national results make it impossible to determine a winner without this latter-day Ohio.

    (The fact that the results were, say, 55-45 are irrelevant.  If you don't trust the results then you don't trust the results at all - maybe the true split should have been 45-55 and the election would go the other way.  Look at Washington state this year.)

    One of the fundamental precepts of our democracy is that all votes are cast at the same time - a revote in the latter-day Ohio would require a national revote.

    And while the state legislature could (and in this case, must) decide on how to cast its EC votes, that leaves the other states twisting in the wind since there are no meaningful national results.  Again the respective state legislatures must decide on how to cast their EC votes.  Ideally they would proportion their EC votes in a somewhat proportional manner, but there's nothing to prevent a legislature from deciding "loser takes all".

    This isn't the only nightmare situation.  Besides terrorism, imagine a 9.2 quake hitting LA the Monday before the election.  There's absolutely no way the California vote would be meaningful that year.  Under a state-by-state system California could still throw the question to the legislature, but what would other states that depend on the national count do?

    (P.S., by an analogous manner I prefer the Maine/Nebraska approach over the pure proportional approach.  It limits the damage of a latter-day Palm Beach to a single well-defined EC vote.)

    •  maine/nebraska (none)
      The maine/nebraska approach would be a horrible idea for democrats.  In 2000, bush won the congressional districts 239-196.  And Republicans will always win more states than Democrats.  The gerrymandering and the inequities of the E.C. are extreme in terms of how much they advantage Republicans.
    •  NO! (none)
      Maine/Nebraska are proportioned out based on Congressional Districting. This perpetuates and exascerbates gerrymandering fights.

      If you want not-quite-proportional representation, at least make it statewide proportional for all but two electoral votes, and statewide popular for those other two. That eliminates the stupid gerrymandering problem. If you have enough votes in a minority district to elect a Democrat in the first place, you'll have enough to elect a Democrat in the statewide proportional voting. But if you get an opposition-controlled legislature who gerrymanders everything to the nines, you'll NEVER get a Democrat in.

  •  Eh (none)
    I feel like Brett Hull after the NHL thought about making hockey games have 4 15 minute periods instead of 3 20 minute ones (right now I'd take any at all). Changing the way votes are allocated doesn't matter if a) the Democrats can't field a strong progressive candidate willing to fight for liberal values and b) all votes are counted in private with no oversight by companies beholden to one of the parties. Once we get those two things taken care of we can start talking about how votes would be allocated (how about just awarding 10 EVs to the winner of the popular vote?).
  •  electoral college (none)
    I've argued strenuously against aboloshing the electoral college in the past, because I think most of the arguments for getting rid of it are too reflexive.  The "disproportionate power" thing is something that was deliberately built into the system (and no, slavery does not explain all of it).

    But, I'm starting to change my mind.  I'm not sure what my conclusion is yet, but the real problem with the E.C. has always been the tension between two ratios - the number of voters per representative, and the number of representatives per senator.

    It turns out that if we had kept creating new representatives as the population grew, at the same rate as we used to, the E.C. would pretty much mirror the national vote all the time anyway.  But, I'm not sure that's what the founding fathers wanted, to have representatives have so much diluted power compared to the Senators.

    Yet another way in which our democracy really doesn't scale with larger and larger populations...

    Y'all should go read the dkos page on the E.C. if you don't want to repeat a lot of the same older arguments here.  Could help raise the bar on the discussion here.

    •  Another thing designed into the system (none)
      ... was a weak presidency. Modern Presidents (and the modern federal government) have vastly more power than that imagined by those who drafted the Constitution. As the power of the office has increased, to have more power over people, the people should be given more say in who holds the office.
  •  how about.... (none)
    What if we did a system of "priority voting" where you could mark your votes in terms of (1st, 2nd, 3rd) with 1st place getting 3 "points", 2nd place getting 2 "points", and 3rd place getting 1 "point"....

    I think there are some real benefits and it doesn't dramatically change the current structure... anybody out there live in a place that HAS this system (any Aussies in the house?) and can comment on it's good/bad traits? :-)

    Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us. -- P. J. O'Rourke

    by floundericiousMI on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:27:13 PM PST

    •  voting (none)
      That's a common voting system.  It's great for non-emotional topics - actually the best voting system there is in that way - but, it's also very open to strategic voting, meaning, that if you want to heighten the chances of your desired result being true, then it's to your interest to lie about your preferences.  That creates big problems.
      •  Yes (none)
        This system is extremely prone to strategic voting.

        Your might find that your second choice vote, if actually given to your second choice candidate, would decrease the chances of your first choice candidate winning. You might be better off simply not casting a second choice at all.

        Straight Approval is much, much better than this. Vote yes or no on all candidates. the candidate with the most votes wins. It is simpler than the ranking example, and eliminates some of the strategic voting.

        And if you need anything...there's some ants.

        by Skipbidder on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:14:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  borda (none)
          I momentarily spaced the ranked voting name, but it's called Borda Count.

          I like Approval voting too, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to have much mileage for political races.  Many state constitutions make explicit allowance for ranked ballots, but don't for approval voting, so there's extra difficulty there.  Others don't like that if you also "approve" your second choice candidate, it increases the odds of them beating your first choice candidate - that is how it comes across to the public oftentimes.  And while I unfortunately don't have a source, I know I've read that communities have adopted Approval voting and then voted to abandon it for that very reason.

  •  While we're at it - a PLAYOFF SYSTEM for Coll FB (none)

    While we're talking about untenable systems...

    My idea for a College Football playoff (I have never seen this anywhere else):

    A 12 team playoff.

    The TOP 4 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS as seeded by the BCS (or a selection committee- makes no diff to me) receive seeds 1-4 and a first round BYE.

    Seeds 5-12 are then chosen:
    5 additional CONF CHAMPIONS (meaning 9 of the 11 Div. I Conf. Champs get in) and 3 AT LARGE TEAMS, seeded according to their rank in the BCS.  If done this year it would look like this:

    1  USC
    2  OK
    3  AUBURN
    4  UTAH
    5  TEXAS (at large)
    6  CAL (at large)
    7  VA TECH
    8  GEORGIA
    9  BOISE ST
    12 BOWLING GREEN (I am just guessing here- the top 20 BCS didn't include the 9th listed conf champ- they appear next in line according to Sagarin- either way- its them or North Texas).

    First round:
    6 CAL vs. 11 MICHIGAN
    8 GEORGIA vs. 9 BOISE ST.

    Second Round:
    1 USC vs. 8/9 Winner
    2 OK vs. 7/10 Winner
    3 AUBURN vs. 6/11 Winner
    4 UTAH vs. 5/12 Winner

    Third Round:
    1 Winner vs. 4 Winner
    2 Winner vs. 3 Winner

    Final Game!

    This seems to give us the games we'd need to see (Utah for real- likely matchup with #5 seed Texas to prove it) and keep the COnf. Championships important (ask Iowa and LSU, who are higher ranked than a couple of the conf champs who made the field).

    What do you all think?

    And yeah- its off topic, so file a protest and get Barbara Boxer to sign it.

    Bush will be impeached.

    by jgkojak on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:30:23 PM PST

    •  Any playoff system in college would ruin the bowls (none)
      Colleges need to play for conference championships and bowl bids, like the Rose Bowl used to, and forget about a National Champion.
    •  Pittsburgh (none)
      9th Conference Champ would have been Pittsburgh of the Big East.
    •  booo (none)
      keeping the conference champ as an automatic bid is just as bad as the EC.  Pittsburgh being the best example this year - why did they deserve an automatic bid?  or, what about the Big East and the Pac Ten this year?  both had more than one team that deserved a major bowl bid (or a playoff berth).  

      i say, just go with national rankings.  either 8 teams or 16 teams.  if it's an 8 team playoff, maybe  make it the top 10, but #7,8,9,10 compete for the last two spots in a preliminary round game.

      and for all those people who whine about how playoffs would kill bowls, who cares???  if they're so sacred, why are they called the Nokia Bowl and the Tostitos Bowl and the Capital One Bowl?  in fact what is a bowl?  is it a place?  no, it is a game and a game can be played anywhere.  the Rose Bowl doesn't HAVE to be played in Pasadena.  it can be played anywhere.

    •  One week too many.... (none)
      You only need 8 teams and three weeks of play-offs to gaurantee a true national championship.

      Take the conference champs of the five major conferences, SEC, Big 12, Big 10, PAC, ACC, (sorry, but with the loss of VT and Miami, Big East football is all but done). If you add to those five an additional three more teams as determined by a compendium of the polls, (which could include a Notre Dame, a Big East or WAC or other mid-major champ, or a 2nd place powerhouse from one of the major conferences), and you could have a NCAA football playoff that wouldn't entirely screw either the fans, or the academic schedule.

      It gets better. Use the existing major bowls as permanent hosts of the quarter and semi finals. (the weekend before New Year's, and the weekend after), and then have a NCAA Super Bowl game sometime in mid to late January. If you did this you could preserve the status quo, and you would get all but two teams off the playing field before the start of the 2nd semester.

      If NCAA football was smart enough to do this, it would keep the Bowl system intact, and actually increase revenues as the result of increased fan interest. Who wouldn't catch all seven games?

      Anti-War, Anti-Joe! "If a Dem wants to be "good friends" with Sean Hanntiy, well, he deserves to be primaried..."

      by DeanFan84 on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:40:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yeah, but (none)
        i used to believe that the bowls would be the perfect play off locations.  but then on NPR the other day, they had a panel talking about this and the guy who runs the Rose Bowl made a good point.  he said that at first it would work great.  then in a couple years, the Rose Bowl, for example, would host Boston College vs. Virginia.  and sell about 25 tickets.  the next day, the college presidents and the ncaa would decide that keeping the bowls hurt ticket revenue (how many BC and UVA fans are really gonna travel to LA to see a semi-final game?).  so they would then decide that the host of the playoffs should just be the higher ranked team, like in the NFL.  that would help keep ticket revenue high, no matter what.  and then the bowls would wither and die.

        so, as i alluded above, just call one of the games in the playoffs the Rose Bowl, call another the Sugar Bowl, etc.  kinda like they used to do in the NHL.

        •  Um, regional seeding (none)
          USC would have played in the Rose Bowl.
          Oklahoma would have played in the Cotton Bowl.
          Auburn would have played in the Sugar Bowl.

          There is the reason the Bowl System persists. Think BIG INSIDER MONEY.

          I used to think it was all about tradition, but now with the BCS system specific conferences are no longer tied into specific bowl games.

          Please understand. The bowl system is a big revenue generator for teams ranked 1-30. No way you have a football playoff that took five weeks. So the only way you keep the money and fun in it for teams 9-30 is to keep the bowl system, and just modify it to produce a true champion. imho.

          Anti-War, Anti-Joe! "If a Dem wants to be "good friends" with Sean Hanntiy, well, he deserves to be primaried..."

          by DeanFan84 on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 04:07:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  again, yeah, but (none)
            back to the Rose Bowl example, what if USC isn't in the playoffs (or any other Pac-10 team)?  ok, maybe you'll argue that conference champs still get automatic bids.  so a Pac-10 team gets into the Rose Bowl every year.  but that doesn't solve the problem of, say Oregon State vs. Northwestern.  that's another game that would sell about 25 tix.  now, while that's a current risk the Rose Bowl faces, if we imagine a world with playoffs, it won't take the NCAA long, as i said above, to get rid of the bowls and just have the higher ranked team host the game.

            the money in bowl games comes from three sources:

            • tv revenue
            • ticket sales
            • corp. sponsorship

            in a playoff system without bowl games, or with games hosted at the higher ranked team's stadium, but called the Orange Bowl for the sake of tradition, all three revenue sources are still available.

            the way you keep money in it for teams 9-30 is that you continue to split "bowl" or "playoff" revenue with the entire conference.

  •  The only good thing about the EC (none)
    and living in a non swing state is you don't have to watch all those horrible comercials on tv.

    But seriously, the EC needs to go. If Bush had lost the EC but won the popular vote it would be gone. I think that is what it's going to take. The party in power losing the EC.

  •  No One Says To Abolish The Senate (none)
    I don't know why people are so exorcised over the Electoral College when no one cares about the Senate being geared so much toward small states.  How is it that both California and Delaware get 2 Senators?  And if that is not unfair, why is the EC unfair?

    I personally like the EC for one reason: it encourages protectorates and other territories to become states.  

    Right now the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have no vote for President, because they do not live in a state.  If they vote to become states (the last to do so was almost 50 years ago!) and grow the country to 51 and 52 states then they would get a say in the Presidental race as well as representatives in Congress.

    I am a died in the wool liberal, but I beleive in the position of states within our Constitution, and regret some of the federalization of their powers.  I prefer the EC because it does favor the small states -- though I live in a pretty good one -- and think that the minority deserves protection against the majority.

    Patridiot Watch
    The best blog ever written by Poppy McCool.

    by poppymccool on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:38:40 PM PST

    •  But that is just what we don't have, (none)
      the minority has decided the last two elections, and a corrupt minority at that.
      •  last two elections (none)
        I agree that Bush got fewer votes than Gore in 2000, but it seems to me that Clinton got more votes than Dole, and Bush got more votes than Kerry (indeed, Bush got a majority of the votes, the first time this has happened in a while) so I am not sure what you mean by your statement.  The winners had a plurality, not a majority?

        Of course, few candidates get more than 50% of the electorate, but that number is very few.  

    •  Senate (none)
      Actually I do think the Senate is un-democratic and should be reformed. But since that will never, ever, ever happen in a bajillion years, I don't bother discussing it.
      •  Yes, and... (none)
        it's also worth remembering that the thing that both the Senate and the EC are supposed to guard against -- big states oppressing small ones -- is not in fact a problem and doesn't look like it's going to be one, EC or not.  Instead, what we have is some big states and small states on one side of a divide (New York, Delaware), and other big states and small states on the other side (Texas, South Dakota).
    •  Senate (none)
      And, since you ask, some people have discussed radical changes to the Senate.
  •  As a resident of a state with a small population (none)
    and a large area (Montana), it seems to me that this proposal would guarantee in perpetuity that we would never see a Presidential candidate in our state.

    What can you say to convince me otherwise?

    This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

    by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:45:07 PM PST

    •  NH (none)
      Do you see them under the current system? I have to believe the answer to that is no. Right now, size does not determine whether a presidential candidate comes to your state - only swinginess does. That's why NH (4 EVs) got a lot of attention this year.
      •  it would completely swing us to majoritarianism (none)
        The US was deliberately set up with a government that's only sort of majoritarian, and sort of geographically based.  The idea is that a 51% majority shouldn't be able to control everything, unless they also have that majority spread out in various areas.

        A similar principle is used in countries with multiple ethnic groups.  For example, the Maori population in New Zealand gets more seats in parliament than their raw numbers would warrant.

        Otherwise, we devolve into "whichever group makes babies fastest wins".

        •  yeah, but (none)
          it wasn't set up that way (here or in NZ) because that's an inherently better way to structure a government, it was set up that way because at the outset, minority populations wouldn't ever go for it otherwise.

          i know it's a useful tool to say, "but that's not what the framers wanted," but don't forget, a lot of what the framers "wanted" was what was politically possible to achieve.  

          •  and for good reason (none)
            There's good reason the Maori wouldn't go for it otherwise, because otherwise they'd have no voice at all.

            I guess I come down on the side of thinking that various groups should be represented, and running a government should require some sort of consensus among those groups.  Big groups are more important, but a group with 1,000,000 members isn't, IMO, 100 times more important than a group with 10,000 members.

            One way to partly get around this is to have strictly proportional voting, but also proportional representation in a parliamentary system.  Since it's unlikely anyone would ever get 50% outright in a system with, say, 10 parties, the small parties would have a say in government, because the larger parties would need them as part of a coalition.

            Another way is to stick to a 2-party system, but weight not strictly in proportion to population.  (Some countries, like New Zealand, do both.)

            •  asdf (none)
              but, back to the situation here, look at who got all the attention this election cycle.  all the "swing" states.  what makes them swing states?  i would argue, the states with the largest percentage of stupid people.

              i'm a reasonable person, so i can understand how other reasonable people can be Republicans and therefore vote for Bush.  but people who can't make up their minds?  the differences between the two candidates couldn't have been starker.  yet a dozen or so states couldn't figure it out and they, the dumb ones, are the minority who got the power to decide the president this election.

              •  that, I agree with (none)
                I think there's a fundamental problem with this sort of winner-takes-all system.  If someone gets 49%, they get nothing; if they get 51%, they get everything, despite 49% and 51% both qualitatively being approximately the same levels of support.  A proportional-representation system, where 60% just means twice as many seats as 30%, would make more sense.  Of course, only one person can be president, but it'd at least make the legislature more representative.

                The more I think about it, the more I like a system like Israel's...

                •  asdf (none)
                  what's the Israeli system?  put everyone you don't agree with in a small area and build a fence around it?  i vote we use Utah.

                  i kid.  (well, only kind of kidding.)

                  but seriously, what's the Israeli system?

                  •  straight proportional representation, pretty much (none)
                    If your party gets 10% of the nationwide votes, you get 10% of the seats in the Knesset.  The parties thus elected then have to form a coalition to get a majority cobbled together to form a government.  There's a minimum of 5%, to keep things vaguely reasonable.

                    (Recently there was some experimentation with directly electing the Prime Minister by popular vote in combination with this system, although I think they got rid of that again.)

                    Actually there are quite a few countries that do this, but I mentioned Israel because theirs is among the purest proportional-representation system.  Many other countries have hybrid systems that tend to be somewhat complex.

                    •  1.5 (none)
                      Actually, Israel's threshold is very, very low - 1.5%. That's why you get so many wackadoo parties which, while tiny, can really wield too much power in a parliamentary system.
                    •  Israel (none)
                      Yes, they got rid of direct election of the PM. The problem was with the option of ticket-splitting, the votes for small parties went WAY up. Before, when the PM was not elected, lots of voters who might have sincerely liked a small party voted Labor or Likud as their only way to have a voice in determining the chief executive.

                      When they had direct election, those people could have their cake and eat it, too. That is, vote for the little party (in the Knesset) but vote for the Labor or Likud PM candidate.

                      Now they are back to pure parliamentary.

                      But it is not true--not quite--that lots of countries have electoral systems like Israel's. Hardly anyone else has a single nationwide district. It is true that most countries use proportional representation, but most use several multi-seat districts, rather than one for the whole country. (And, as you mentioned, there are some hybrids out there, too.)

              •  Perhaps ye should... (none)
                rephrase that.

                I'm from one of your "dumb" states - Colorado - and I think I can honestly say that we're not a state of people too dumb to figure it out. Colorado is probably one of the most representative states in this Union. We've got a largely minority community that dominates one district, a liberal university/technology district, a conservative military district, a conservative suburban/farm district, a conservative affluent district, a balanced suburban district, and a balanced ranch/resort district. Most of us know what we want - it's just that our state ranges from left of Berkeley to right of Virginia Beach.

                •  didn't mean to offend (none)
                  i was mostly kidding.  i say mostly rather than entirely because i had the pleasure of seeing lots of "swing" voters from OH, FL, WI, etc., interviewed on TV and in print and, boy were they uninformed.  but i'm also of the opinion that if there was an uncorruptable way limit the right to vote to smart and informed people, we should do it.

                  in fact, most of the people i've met from colorado are pretty smart.  (ironically, including my old boss who is the guy who filed suit to stop Prop. 36.)

                  as a final note, there is no where to the left of Berkeley.

      •  Your answer doesn't seem to address my concern. (none)

        I won't even get into the specifics of what you said, because it seem so totally off-topic to me.

        If  MT awarded their electoral votes based on the natioal popular vote (that is the proposal, right?), what would the incentive be for a Presidential candidate to campaign here or address our concerns, considering the entire state, which is expensive to campaign in because of its size and multiple, non-overlapping media markets, has a population equal only to a small city somewhere else?

        The same goes for NH ( other than the geographic considerations).

        This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

        by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:57:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Point (none)
          Um, I think I responded pretty on-point.

          Right now, there is little incentive for presidential candidates to visit small states - especially geographically big ones like MT that are expensive to campaign in, and especially ones like MT which (at least on the presidential level), tend to vote very heavily in one direction.

          The Amar Plan does nothing to change this problem. That's because this problem has nothing to do with the electoral college, or anything related to it - it has to do with democracy's insistence on majority rule. Smaller groups will always have a problem getting heard. That's the principal reason we have the Senate today, which gives a louder voice to smaller groups than strict proportional representation (as in the House) otherwise would.

          •  Well, your answer is why I will never support (none)
            changing the Electoral College  -- unless someone has a better answer someday.

            Um, I think I responded pretty on-point.

            Right now, there is little incentive for presidential candidates to visit small states - especially geographically big ones like MT that are expensive to campaign in, and especially ones like MT which (at least on the presidential level), tend to vote very heavily in one direction.

            There is incentive to visit small states.  Your characterization of that incentive as 'little' doesn't really mean anything to me.

            The Amar Plan does nothing to change this problem. That's because this problem has nothing to do with the electoral college, or anything related to it - it has to do with democracy's insistence on majority rule. Smaller groups will always have a problem getting heard. That's the principal reason we have the Senate today, which gives a louder voice to smaller groups than strict proportional representation (as in the House) otherwise would.

            The Amar Plan would guarantee that there would never be any reason whatsover for a candidate to visit Montana or any other small state

            You seem like you just want to dismiss this concern... but you will never get a Constitutional Amendnent ratified unless you do.

            This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

            by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:52:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  i think you're misunderstanding him (none)
              first, no presidential candidates go to Montana under the current system, so the "Amar Plan" wouldn't change anything for you guys anyway.

              second, the "Amar Plan" isn't a constitutional ammendment.  in fact the whole point of it is that it is NOT an ammendment to the Constitution.  it is a plan, as i understand it, to encourage individual states to pass legislation awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

              •  Your assertion is wrong (none)
                as you can see in my response to your post below.

                And your second point is irrelevant, because just as we won't ratify an amendment that lessens our clout, we won't pass legislation that lessons our clout (Colorado ballot initiative is a case in point).

                This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

                by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:01:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  yeah i saw below (none)
                  but still, the point is the MT doesn't get a lot of love on the national stage either way.

                  as to my second point, this plan could/would be enacted regardless of MT's desire to participate.  MT can continue to give its electoral votes to the winner of the MT popular vote.  

                  if this plan was enacted, only those states whose legislatures voted for it (or passed state constitution ammendments if required) would allocate their electoral votes based on national popular voting.  

                  unfortunately, if this idea actually catches on, there's nothing that MT or the other 38 states could do about it.  the whole point of it is that it is an end run around the difficult process of amending the Constitution which the small states COULD prevent.

                  •  You know, when you think about it. (none)
                    Any state that passed such legislation, big or small, would be diminishing their clout.

                    I remain unconvinced.  And, it's folks like me that would need to be convinced in order for this to fly.    So, the short version of the story is, I think it's a non-starter.

                    This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

                    by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:20:31 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  Post (none)
              There is incentive to visit small states.

              What is that incentive? I truly don't see it. Presidential candidates did not visit MT, ID, ND, SD, etc. this year.

              You seem like you just want to dismiss this concern... but you will never get a Constitutional Amendnent ratified unless you do.

              I am not dismissing this concern - I am saying it is a problem no matter what system you have. You keep claiming that candidates currently have an incentive to visit small states like MT. I have no idea how that's the case.

              And further - the Amar Plan specifically does not call for a constitutional amendment. That's the whole point of this blog post.

              •  You are ignoring the facts. (none)
                It is true that no candidate visited Montana this year. But they have in the past. That is reality, history, not conjecture or guesswork.

                What is that incentive?  

                The incentive is Montana's 3 electoral votes, an incentive that would not exist under this proposal.

                This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

                by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:31:44 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Incentive (none)
                  The incentive is Montana's 3 electoral votes, an incentive that would not exist under this proposal.

                  As I say below, the incentive to visit MT is not because of its 3 EVs - it's because, on occasion in the past, its 3 EVs were up for grabs.

                  This year, no one thought (correctly) that MT would be in play, and hence it got no visits. So there was zero incentive.

                  The incentive does not exist automatically because of the electoral college - it exists only when a state is politically close to 50/50.

                  •  That is precisely my point. (none)
                    With a winner take-all 3 electoral votes, there is a possible incentive, if the candidate thinks there is a chance of winning the state.

                    With the Amar Plan there is no possible incentive under any scenario.

                    This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

                    by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:46:36 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The incentive (none)
                      Is Montana's 450,000 popular votes.

                      Currently, a candidate only visits a state if the candidate can win a majority of the state's voters.  Under the Amar Plan, a candidate has an incentive to visit a place if it will win the candidate more votes, period.  Thus it would behoove a candidate would visit, say, Montana, even if the visit wouldn't win the candidate a majority of Montana's votes.

                      •  asdf (none)
                        that's actually a really good point.
                      •  Again, ignoring reality. (none)
                        No one is going to come to Montana to woo such a tiny number of voters, especially since they'd have to visit 5 different cities and buy ad time if 5 different media markets to do so.

                        This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

                        by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 04:49:35 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Wrong. (none)
                          Candidates visited plenty of small towns this year in search of every last vote - at least in the states where it was worth their while.

                          This would make it worth their while in every state.

                          •  Disagree (none)
                            I disagree. Under the current system, when you have a state with a population of, say, 5 million, it makes a lot of sense to go into even a small town there because winning a few thousand voters could swing the state your way.

                            Under the national vote system, you need to maximize your bang for the buck. Reaching out to a few thousand voters at a time out of 280 million is a much less worthwhile endeavor.

                            I believe even in a national vote system, politicians would still occasionally go to rural or other low-population areas, but only for appearances sake. They would really have to spend their time in places where they can reach the greatest number of people at once, because the denominator is so huge under this system.

                          •  You presume (none)
                            That time and money spent in a high population area will always yeild more votes for a candidate than an equal amount of time in a low population area.  I don't agree.

                            While a candidate may wring a large number of votes from an area on the first day, with each additional day, the candidate wrings less votes; there are simply less to win.  Thus at some point, it behooves the candidate to go elsewhere, where a day might yeild more votes.  That elsewhere could easily be Montana.

                            Furthermore, it's possible to look at voters in small towns as, essentially, a special interest group: although geographically disparate, they are politically united.  Thus a visit to a small town in Montana would reap benefits in all similar small towns, so the number of votes won would be greater than those won in one small town.

                            Fact is, we don't know what the best strategy is for winning the national popular vote in the United States, because no one has ever run a campaign to win it.  It may mean more face time for Montana, or it may not; it's really impossible to say, definitevely, that it would not.  It's quite possible, for the reasons I outlined above, that Montana would see more of candidates.  

                            Really, under a popular vote, wouldn't it benefit a Democratic candidate to do a two- or three-day loop from Blaine County, Idaho, through western Montana and Wyoming, to Colorado?  It could easily net them a few thousand votes they wouldn't otherwise have received.

                          •  Vote (none)
                            I agree that it's still something of an open question. BUT, I will add this point: We're only talking about face-to-face campaigning, which I think most strategists on both sides would say is a minor component compared to TV advertising. And in the case of TV ads, I have to believe that candidates would focus heavily on the biggest cities.

                            But you're right - we don't really know the answers here. I would love to interview, say, ten top consultants and ask them how they think campaigns would be different if we had a national popular vote.

    •  I see your point (none)
      I do see your point, small states with low populations would not receive attention by presidential candidates. But most of the states
      that ARE NOT swing states do not have Presidential candidates campaigning there now! I am not sure another system would change that. We in battleground states would love not to be as bombarded as we are. I have lived in PA my entire life and we get absolutely drowned in TV ads and campaign visits.

      Perhaps if the EC were abolished, a rule could be set forth that now the candidates must campaign at least once in all 50 states. That is possible with campaigns beginning 2 years before the national election.

      •  Rules (none)
        are meant to be worked around (or so it seems...)

        The EC was designed for 2 reasons: (1) to allow "informed men" to choose the President, because average citizens were not expected to know enough, and (2) to give more power to small states.

        What's gone wrong? The large states are now so large that they overwhelm the small states' advantage. The winner-take-all system is non-functional in our current situation, where a couple of relatively large states provide the major focus. CO, NM, and NH got some attention this year, but the major focus was in the Midwest and Florida, because that's where the real EC power is.

        We need to break it up, but we need to break it up in a way that small states still might get some attention. If we go strictly proportional, we switch to a major media market campaign strategy. Anything outside of Chicago, LA, and NYC are left watching reruns. But we cannot stay on our current course, either. By returning to the original "kick" provided to small states - a 2 vote level playing field, we force the candidates to spread out a bit - major media markets still get more airtime (and why not - they're a large portion of the population), but swing states still retain some advantages - the candidates will be fighting to turn a 2-4 vote advantage.

        More states will be "swing" states - Montana proves that this year. In short, more people get to see the Presidential candidates, and some people don't have to see them quite as much.

    •  how about this... (none)
      when was the last time you saw a presidential candidate?  

      when was the last time BOTH candidates went to montana?

      •  Partial answer (none)
        Clinton came here in 92 (lo and behold, he won the state).  I think Dole came here in 96 (lo and behold, he won the state).

        Both, I'm not sure.

        This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

        by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:58:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  1992 (none)
          Clinton came in 1992 because the MT (very likely due to Ross Perot's candidacy) was actually one that he might win - and he did win it, by a mere 2.5%.

          Dole also visited in 1996 - presumably because the campaigns felt MT might still be in play. Indeed, Dole won the state that year by less than 3%.

          The fact that candidates visit small states has ONLY to do with their likely closeness - in other words, whether they are swing states. They did not visit MT because they cared about issues that are important to Montanans - though they might in fact have cared. They visited Montana because they thought they could win Montana's EVs.

          The only factor which determines whether a candidate visits a state is whether he thinks he can plausibly win it. (I'm excluding fundraising trips to places like NYC or L.A.) In other words, the fact that MT got candidate visits was because it was "lucky" enough to be close in 1992 and 1996 - just like Ohio was in 2004.

          A small state that is never close will never get visited - not under the current system, and not under the Amar Plan.

          Again I say, I am not dismissing your concerns. I am saying that neither the current system nor the Amar Plan can address your concerns.

          •  Unpersuasive. (none)
            I'm fully aware of the dynamics of the 1992 and 1996 races.  And it is obvious that if the Amar plan had been adopted by Montana prior to that time, neither Clinton nor Dole would have come here.

            This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

            by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:48:55 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Visit (none)
              That is correct. But had the Amar Plan been in place then, the candidates would have bothered to visit New York's 18 millions and California's 31 millions, and so forth. From this perspective, it would have been a boon to the millions and millions of Americans who get ignored because they live in states that are never close.
              •  Precisely why your argument is unpersuasive (none)
                to a Montanan.

                This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles -- it is a time to stand firm. -- John Kerry

                by Feanor on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 04:03:33 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Argument (none)
                  Granted - but you're pointing up a failing which the Amar Plan is supposed to have. It preferences the interests of big states over small ones quite deliberately, and is designed such that the big-state interests can over-ride the small-state interests.
              •  i couldn't agree more (none)
                i don't mean to pull "rank" here, but i think it is much more unfortunate that the candidates didn't campaign in California where i live than it is that MT didn't get any love either.  if the choices are keep it the same where neither state sees the presidential candidates or change it to a system where California and it's 30 million residents get attention from presidential candidates, but Montana continues to be left out in th cold, then i vote for the former.
  •  If anyone ever needed (none)
    an example of Hugh Hewitt's disengenuousness, I heard him talking about Diane Feinstein's proposal to eliminate the elevtoral college. He was screaming, I'm positive his face was red, that before she does that she should do something that could kill her job. "There's no reason for Rhode Island to have two Senators" he bellowed.

    Taking for granted that his listeners are less than MENSA candidates it still struck me as an assinine thing to say. First off the chance that this would kill HER job is even with him being honest. But what the hell does Rhode Island have to do with her?

    •  Diane and Hillary ... (none)
      Four years ago, Hillary Clinton promised to do the same but hasn't even lifted a finger these past four years. And since both Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein (an Arnold Democrat IMO) are both centrists and have nearly identical voting records, I seriously doubt the Feinstein will even consider it. And by the way, where the F*** was Ted Kennedy and John Kerry when they could have supported Boxer in trying to expose the election fraud ?!?!?
  •  Abolishing EC might help.... (none)
    Abolishing EC might help lower the cases of
    reported voting fraud, voter disenfranchisment,
    intimidation and irregularities in battleground swing states like Ohio and Florida. It would make
    it harder for Republicans to cheat and fewer allegations of voter fraud would be reported is my guess. I think there will always be some cases of voting problems reported with or without the electoral college. But the candidates would have to quit concentrating on only a handful of states to manipulate. And we in PA, OH, FL< get so sick of seeing Shrub campaign here 41 times.
  •  Won't matter ... (none)
    ... if we can't guarantee that our elections are honest -- and right now, we can't.

    I'd much  prefer that we spend our energies on establishing clear, uniform voting standards -- including voter-verifiable paper trails.  

    FWIW, however, there are a quite a few serious problems with your proposal.  But essentially, what you're suggesting is that we replace a bad system (winner-take-all based on statewide results), with an even worse one (winner-take-all based on national results).  The notion, for instance, that a clear majority of New Yorkers could vote for Kerry -- and then have their electors cast their ballots for Bush -- is worse than undemocratic, it's downright perverse.  It'll never fly, nor should it.

    Forget about the electoral college.  Worry about open, auditable, elections.

    •  System (none)
      But if we could have a system which purely gave the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote (say, via a constitutional amendment), no one would be calling that system perverse. This is just an end-run around an unfortunate bit of the constitution.
      •  That doesn't change my core point... (none)
        ...which is that our time & energy is far better spent worrying about the integrity of the voting process itself (e.g., paper trails).

        Any way you slice it, any "end run" practiced by one state (or a group of states), but not by all, is potentially rife with unintended consequences -- which leaves you back with the amendment process, which is unlikely.

        •  Point (none)
          If your core point is that I should be discussing other things, then... I don't have a response to that. This is just a blog, where we talk about what we like. This particular topic interests me. I certainly don't think it should be our #1 national priority, but I enjoy thinking about it and discussing it.
          •  Phoenix rising, below, get's it exactly right: (none)
            We need voting integrity before electoral college reform.

            Granted, the electoral college is in serious need of a makeover.  Granted, the form of that makeover is even a worthy topic of discussion.

            But first things first, folks.  Voting integrity, voting integrity, voting integrity.

            Tinkering with the EC won't do a damn bit of good if you can't trust the vote.

            •  Issue (none)
              We need voting integrity before electoral college reform.

              I didn't say this wasn't true - or even that it was. I didn't address the issue of priorities. You can't chide me for my priorities when I haven't even discussed them.

              •  Go back to your original poll question (none)
                You didn't ask "should we pursue EC reform?" You asked "What kind of EC reform should we pursue?"  

                By framing the question in this manner, you imply that some type of reform should be pursued. To lightly underscore your point, you include only one negative response: "None - the current system is fine."

                I happen to disagree on both counts.  We should not pursue EC reform at this time, not because "the current system is fine" (it isn't), but because (a) it's not a winning issue politically, and (b) because fundamental election reform is far more important.

                It does come down to a question of priorities, whether you explicitly raise it or not.

                •  Priorities (none)
                  I can't win, under your system, no matter what I do. You can discuss priorities no matter what issue I bring up. I could write a diary calling for stronger environmental laws, and you could respond by saying that our first priority must be to ensure fundamental election reform.

                  Many people have written many posts and diaries on WHAT our priorities should be. A lot of other posts are written on specific issues of interest to various among us. My post was of the latter sort. I'm interested in discussing electoral college reform itself - hence my reason for posting this. I was not interested in discussing priorities.

                  Not everything I write is going to be in the prism of "what is the best way for us to proceed politically." Sometimes, hell, nerds like me will just write wonkish pieces on policy, like this one.

      •  That assumes... (none)
        ...we don't have a corrupted national election result.

        This has been hashed over and over again in the election corruption threads. While we may not agree as to how corrupt this past election was, I think we should reasonably agree that there is no way to actually validate the election results in 2004.

        Just because it was 3,000,000 votes, that's only a couple per precinct average. When we've got precincts out there with error rates in the hundreds (4)thousands and (-25)millions, and exit polls contradicting official tallies, calling this vote decisively for ANYONE is not possible. Scientifically, this election is within the margin of error(s).

        The state-by-state approach decentralizes the counting issue, as others have pointed out. We need voting integrity before electoral college reform.

  •  What's wrong with the Holt Bill? (none)
    I'm not being snarky here.  The Holt bill already exists, and the verifiability problem seems a lot more urgent than the unequal distribution of EC votes.  As long as votes can be hacked at central locations and never verified after the fact, giving EC votes to the nationwide popular winner just shifts the problem to a different place.  

    What you're proposing makes it harder to steal a national election, but not nearly as hard as a paper trail would...

    The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice. --MLK Jr.

    by radish on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:53:52 PM PST

  •  this is a terrible idea for the electoral college (none)
    although I agree it isn't perfect, there is something to be said for its creating a balance of power between rural and urban spaces.  just because the republicans currently control those rural spaces now, doesn't make it a good idea to try to dismiss that balance.

    this is why I favor the maine-nebraska plan, where you receive one elector per district, and two for wining the general state vote.  this would open up the map to competition, and give rebulicans in Illinois and California, Democrats in Texas, Mississippi or Georgia a chance to have a voice.  of course, as part of that deal, you'd want to get rid of the Texas-style gerrymandering process as well, but that would be even better.

    on that last point, you'd think they could develop a non-partisan computer program to redraw boundaries...

    don't give up, don't ever give up!...Jimmy V

    by Dont Tread on Me on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:55:39 PM PST

    •  addendum (none)
      perhaps the easiest solution, however, would be to have a statisical margin of error rule, where if a state like Florida fell within 1%, it would be declared a tie and the vote would split, with the nominal winner receiving thr odd vote where applicable.  this would have given Gore the presidency in 2000, but kept Bush in 2004...

      don't give up, don't ever give up!...Jimmy V

      by Dont Tread on Me on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 01:57:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem with ME/NE (none)
      is that it puts the presidential election in the hands of the gerrymanderers.
    •  CDs are a bad thing (none)
      What makes Congressional districts sacrosanct?

      Why don't states create multi-member districts and reduce the effects of gerrymandering?

      •  Multi (none)
        CDs are wretched - look how horribly gerrymandered they are. Only two incumbents in unchanged districts lost in 2004 - blech!

        BTW, Carl, here's an interesting article about multi-member districts that you might enjoy.

        •  Illinois example (none)
          Multi-member districts would remove the need to artificially create majority Black and Latino districts.

          Here's how I'd like Illinois done.

          • 4/19 of the stat--roughly equal to Chicago--would send the top four vote getters
          • 4/19 of the state--roughly equal to suburban Cook--would send the top four vote getters
          • 5/19 of the state--roughly equal to the collar counties plus a little--would send the top five vote getters
          • 3/19 of the state--roughly northern Illinois minus the metro area--would send the top three vote getters
          • 3/19 of the state--roughtly southern Illinois--would send the top three vote getters
          •  Threshold (none)
            What would your minimum threshold be? Too low and you get people with almost no support in Congress; too high and you wind up tossing out the votes of lots of people.

            In Israel, for example, the national threshold is only 1.5%, which is terrible - you get some real whacko parties with tiny (but influential) blocs. In Turkey, on the other hand, the threshold (I believe) is 10%, which meant that lots of parties which got 7, 8, 9 percent of the vote wound up with no seats in the parliament at all.

            I'm sure there have been studies done about optimal levels. Do you know anything more about this?

    •  see above (none)
      Bush won the 2000 congressional districts 239-196 even though gore won the popular vote.  horrible idea for the democrats.
      •  well (none)
        I agree that the gerrymandering is a problem, which is why you'd have to get rid of that in the process.  but I don't think you could go by the re-elect numbers of members of congress, because those fights often feature an incumbent with name recognition versus a journeyman with little or no political experience (plus no money).  that's not a problem a presidential candidate would have.

        second, if such a system would have made bush the winner in 2000, then so be it.  we need to stop thinking in terms of what would be best for our party, this minute, because that is simply being rove-republican.  we should not be trying to come up with cute ways to win these elections, we should be concentrating on going out into the rural areas, into the south, and kicking republican butt!  for too long we have sat back and tried to figure out the cheap way to win (i.e., trying to get that 51% to win), rather than figuring out how to pull apart a fragile republican coalition...

        don't give up, don't ever give up!...Jimmy V

        by Dont Tread on Me on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:32:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  no no (none)
          I'm not saying my reasoning is just because of partisan thinking.  I'm saying that that scheme is too reliant on things that are naturally to the Republicans advantage.  Meaning, it's a scheme that by definition is not representative of the population.  That is a valid concern.

          Even without the gerrymandering, the republicans will always have an advantage in terms of the number of states they get, because rural voters go for republicans on average, and the population centers - by definition small geographical areas - are more democratic.  If we actually got exactly half the states, we'd be demolishing the GOP.

  •  amending Const; question on N. Larson system (none)
    Ya'll that are holding out for a Constitutional amendment are not helping the cause.

    Partisanship aside the small states have strong incentive to vote against abolishing the Electoral College. And swing states have an incentive to keep the Electoral College too.

    There are people with a partisan interest in abolishing the Electoral College, but only the big states have a long-standing interest in abolishing the EC.

    There's always going to be plenty of opposition to block a Constitutional amendment. That's why it ain't happened yet.

    One of the things I like about the EC is that it does confine recounts to individual states. Could you imagine doing a nationwide recount. Ugh!

    One question that needs to be considered about this reform is, what happens if the election is close enough the winner is in doubt? And what if it's not a two-way election? What if A and B are relatively closely aligned and get 60+% of the vote, but C gets more than A or B? Do the Electoral votes go to C or does the vote go to the House?

    •  Question (none)
      Interesting question. I presume the state laws would say that their EVs go to the plurality winner - in your case, C. Perhaps you could have a situation where the plurality winner has no more than a shade over 33.3%, but that strikes me as unlikely.

      Looking at years where there were strong third-party challengers, Clinton got 43% overall in 1992 and Wilson got 42% in 1912. Both times were enough for (actually quite sizable) EC majorities according to the traditional way.

      •  mulling scenarios (none)
        But just because something hasn't happened recently doesn't mean it should be dismissed as a possibility.

        If Nader got 8%, Gore got 45% and Bush got a shade under 46% should Bush get the EVs of the big states? Or should the matter go to the House? Or should the big states only lump their EVs if one candidate gets over 50%?

        The last option is probably the easiest to sell. There would be no change to the status quo unless a candidate broke 50%. But the obvious question is: why bother? Has anyone broke 50% and not won in the Electoral College?

    •  aligned (none)
      two closely-aligned candidates that split the vote is called the "clone" problem, and some voting systems are susceptible to it and some aren't.  Most Condorcet methods aren't.  There you just take the candidate that would beat every other candidate head-to-head.
  •  Go for the whole enchildada (none)
    It is much easier to go for the abolition of the electoral college than trying to explain why another version of it is better. The American populace at large will not get excited about it, or understand it.

    1 man = 1 vote.

    all or nothing.

    Simplify, simplify, simplify.

  •  Amar Plan with Condorcet - (none)
    Or at least IRV.

    This plan is very very intriquing. It may be more of a wedge plan than a plan with real possibility. As soon as enough states did it to generate significant momentum, then there would be a Constitutional Convention to do something for the whole country. That's why it's worth it to throw in the Condorcet or IRV at the start in the Amar plan.

  •  One problem (none)
    Who certifies the winner of the National popular vote?  Do we let the media do that for us?  There's no governing body to do so, and would have to be created either by the federal government or the 11 states involved in the plan.  
  •  A minor issue with a great idea. (none)
    Great idea.  However, I have one issue with it: It would break a nice tradition.

    Specifically, that George Washington was the only unanimously elected president.

    If all states passed such a law, every president thereafter would be elected unanimously.

    I'm not saying this is a show-stopper, of course; it can be gotten around.  But it should be thought about.

  •  Large states do not see campaigning... (none)
    This is an artifact of the largest states, e.g. CA TX NY IL for four, being very heavily for one candidate or another.  If CA were a swing state, it would be very heavily contested.

    Remember, when the NY Times et al finally did a recount of Florida, almost every combination of standards for counting votes led to the same outcome, namely that Gore barely lost.

    States setting their own rules are interesting.  Adjusting the constitution under the current circumstances strikes me as being inadvisable, even though on this topic it will rarely make any difference.  

  •  House of Representatives (none)
    Another thing to do is to get rid of the law that says there are a maximum 435 Represenatatives in the House.  This, in addition to the existence of the Senate, artificially inflates Wyoming's representation at the expense of California.  This will in turn also make the EC more fair.
  •  EC is the Spinning Jenny of U.S. Constitution (none)
    From: "The Electoral College", by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC Office of Election Administration. (I am excerpting only a very small part of a long article.  There's much more at the link and it's well written):

    In order to appreciate the reasons for the Electoral College, it is
    essential to understand its historical context and the problem that the Founding Fathers were trying to solve. They faced the difficult question of how to elect a president in a nation that:

    -- was composed of thirteen large and small States jealous of their own rights and powers and suspicious of any central national government;
    -- contained only 4,000,000 people spread up and down a thousand miles of Atlantic seaboard barely connected by transportation or communication (so that national campaigns were impractical even if they had been
    thought desirable);
    -- believed, under the influence of such British political thinkers as Henry St John Bolingbroke, that political parties were mischievous if not
    downright evil; and
    -- felt that gentlemen should not campaign for public office (The saying was "The office should seek the man, the man should not seek the office.").

    How, then, to choose a president without political parties, without national campaigns, and without upsetting the carefully designed balance between the presidency and the Congress on one hand and between the States and the federal government on the other?

    So, I think the first thing to note is that the EC was a creature of a specific time and place.  Many of the reasons for its creation no longer exist.  The nation now has almost three hundred million people spread across an entire continent, but the obstacles of inadequate transportation and communication for conducting national campaigns have now been completely overcome due to technology. Political parties remain as mischievous as ever, but they are no longer viewed as "downright evil" per se.  Furthermore, how many politicians since Dewey have been foolish enough not to campaign hard for public office? (Remember "Give 'Em Hell" Harry holding up the Chicago newspaper that said "Dewey Defeats Truman"?)  Ike played coy about running for office, but once he was nominated, he campaigned.   I suspect that one reason for the EC was that the Founders feared a tyranny of the majority -- and I agree with them -- but that reason is not listed in the article I am excerpting.

    So the reasons for the creation of the EC no longer exist.

    ...The Constitutional Convention considered several possible methods of selecting a president....

    Finally, a so-called "Committee of Eleven" in the Constitutional Convention proposed an indirect election of the president through a College of Electors.

    The function of the College of Electors in choosing the president can be likened to that in the Roman Catholic Church of the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope. The original idea was for the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State to select the president based solely on merit and without regard to State of origin or political party.

    The structure of the Electoral College can be traced to the Centurial Assembly system of the Roman Republic. Under that system, the adult
    male citizens of Rome were divided, according to their wealth, into groups of 100 (called Centuries). Each group of 100 was entitled to cast only one vote either in favor or against proposals submitted to them by the Roman Senate.
    In the Electoral College system, the States serve as the Centurial groups (though they are not, of course, based on wealth), and the number of votes per State is determined by the size of each State's Congressional delegation. Still, the two systems are similar in design and share many of the same advantages and disadvantages.

    The similarities between the Electoral College and classical institutions are not accidental. Many of the Founding Fathers were well schooled in ancient history and its lessons....

    Bully for them. However, they weren't well schooled in how the Republic would look in 2005.  Here are some excerpts about the arguments for and against the EC from the same article (each of which is discussed in some detail in the article):

    Those who object to the Electoral College system and favor a direct popular election of the president generally do so on four grounds:
    -- the possibility of electing a minority president;
    -- the risk of so-called "faithless" Electors;
    -- the possible role of the Electoral College in depressing voter turnout; and
    -- its failure to accurately reflect the national popular will....

    Proponents of the Electoral College system normally defend it on the philosophical grounds that it:
    -- contributes to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a distribution of popular support to be elected president;
    -- enhances the status of minority interests;
    -- contributes to the political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system; and
    -- maintains a federal system of government and representation.

    He makes an interesting argument about the third "argument for" above:

    ...Proponents further argue that the Electoral College contributes to the political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system. There can be no doubt that the Electoral College has encouraged and helps to maintain a two- party system in the United States. This is true simply because it is extremely difficult for a new or minor party to win enough popular votes in enough States to have a chance of winning the presidency. Even if they won enough electoral votes to force the decision into the U.S. House of Representatives, they would still have to have a majority of over
    half the State delegations in order to elect their candidate -- and in that case, they would hardly be considered a minor party.

    In addition to protecting the presidency from impassioned but transitory third party movements, the practical effect of the Electoral
    College (along with the single-member district system of representation in the Congress) is to virtually force third party movements into one of the two major political parties. Conversely, the major parties have every incentive to
    absorb minor party movements in their continual attempt to win popular majorities in the States. In this process of assimilation, third party
    movements are obliged to compromise their more radical views if they hope to attain any of their more generally acceptable objectives. Thus we end up with two large, pragmatic political parties which tend to the center of public
    opinion rather than dozens of smaller political parties catering to divergent and sometimes extremist views. In other words, such a system forces political coalitions to occur within the political parties rather than within the government.

    A direct popular election of the president would likely have the opposite effect. For in a direct popular election, there would be every incentive for a multitude of minor parties to form in an attempt to prevent whatever popular majority might be necessary to elect a president. The
    surviving candidates would thus be drawn to the regionalist or extremist views represented by these parties in hopes of winning the run-off election.

    I found his short discussion of the second "argument for" ("enhances the status of minority interests") even more interesting, but you'll have to go to the link for that.  If this post is way, way, way too long and wrecks the thread, just delete it.  It was fun putting together but I will survive.

    "Now watch this drive."

    by tompaine2004 on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 02:21:02 PM PST

    •  Don't forget slavery... (none)
      Let's also not forget that, good Enlightenment arguments aside, the balancing of state and federal powers was always done with an eye on appeasing the slave states without sacrificing the financial interests of the North. Not knocking the fine federalist principles that were hammered out, much of it has obviously stood the test of time (and much of it hasn't, there was that, like, Civil War thing...). But let's keep in mind the historical conditions under which the founders were operating.

      If nothing else, it should force us to acknowledge the historical conditions under which we're operating, i.e., constitutional democracy is under direct attack by an extreme right-wing Republican Party.

      Look, we're facing a party that has declared perpetual war, has thrown out the Geneva Convention, has started a war of aggression that is almost assuredly a capital crime if Nuremburg is a true precedent, is jailing people in political prisons with no charges, has no compunction against fixing or undermining elections, is unapologetically undermining the separation of church and state, is trying to overturn every progressive reform of the 20th century and, oh yes, is working for a de facto overthrow of the Constitution that they have all sworn to preserve and protect.

      Abstract arguments over principles of governance are fine, but let's always keep them in the context of the hard fight we face right now.

  •  Electoral Reform -> A Fight, Not a Compromise (none)
    << Eliminating the electoral college outright would require a constitutional amendment - an amendment which would never pass because Republicans, who rely on the small states to win, would never support it. >>

    And so what? Call for it anyway. Make the Republicans the party of the Electoral College, sore losers who can't win without a stacked deck against the majority.

    If Democrats only choose to act on things that they can win a vote on--they lose. Two words: Minority party. And the Republicans are organized and powerful enough, right now, to ward off any intraparty splits except at the relatively meaningless margins--they are willing and able to punish those who stray. Why Democrats would choose to confine themselves to working with them is beyond me. Such a tactic isn't "pragmatism." It's abject surrender.

    Hasn't everybody figured out what "bipartisan" means now? Frist made it clear on the opening day of the Senate: You do everything we tell you to do, we won't hurt you--as bad as we would otherwise. Or so we say.

    And, oh yeah, there's "bipartisan" legislation, like No Child Left Behind and the Help America Vote Act and other goodies from the Freakish Republican Orwellian Naming Cadres. We're supposed to applaud all the "good" reforms in the legislation, and then ignore the fact that they then don't fund or outright ignore the parts of the law they don't like. What's the point?

    Dems should have said in challenging the Ohio vote, for example, Hell yes we want to overturn the election! You scum stole it. Yes, the Republicans wouldn't vote to overturn the election. So what? Why hand it to them? Why not force them to come out and back Blackwell, who committed prima facie vote fraud under Ohio law? Why not get them on record, actually denying the findings of the Conyers report, so that we can use it against them later? Who knows, maybe they'll feel they have to throw out the Electoral College so that they can win the next election--and if we play our cards right, we'll be in a position to win politically, as that would have been established as a Democratic idea. See how this works? It shouldn't be hard to see, as that's how the Republicans have operated for years, and I respect it in the way that any strengths of a serious enemy deserve respect.

    << So what about reform at the state level instead? >>

    Absent a coordinated national effort to abolish the EC altogether, this plays into the Republicans' hands, as do all efforts that shore up state power over national elections.

    BTW, taken in isolation, elimination of the EC is not much a goal if we're looking to gain power, as we should be. The Republicans still control the media, will continue to have better access to big-stakes funding, and are in a much better position to run truly national campaigns. Gore's and Kerry's pick-and-choose strategies (which worked) are out the window. And don't think Republicans don't understand this damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation; they create them, they thrive on them, we can't avoid them, we can only fight back on our own terms. Elimination of the EC only makes sense as part of a larger, long-term national strategy, the kind of thing the Democratic Party has so far proven incapable of sustaining. But must.

  •  Sour grapes (none)
    Personally I think that the Electoral College exists for a good reason, and that Democrats would not be complaining had we won via the EC without the popular vote.  However I do think that Maine/Nebraska/Colorado reforms are in order.

    I'm also unclear what would possibly inspire the large states to give up their voting independence to just go along with what the rest of the country was doing.

    •  and what... (none)
      ...would that good reason be?
      •  Reason for the Electoral College (none)
        The same reason why we have one legislative body with equal representation by population and one legislative body with equal representation by state.  If you oppose the Electoral College, do you also oppose having a Senate?

        State governments exist and compete for funding from the federal government.  Without some recognition of this fact, all funding, all legislative efforts, all federal-level concern of any sort would be divided up among the more populous states only, and the needs of the smaller states would be ignored completely.

        The Electoral College is just another a part of our country's elaborate system of checks and balances.

        •  Not a good reason (none)
          While I think they could be linked, really the senate and the electoral college are separate issues.

          The senate has a very clear logic in federalism--the upper house as the chamber of states. ALL federal systems around the world follow this logic, though not all of them give EQUAL representation to states, regardless of their population. Many do, but not all.

          The electoral college, on the other hand, is not a necessary feature of federalism. In fact, there are lots of federal systems and lots of federal systems with elected presidencies, but no other electoral colleges to mediate between the voters and the presidential selection. (Argentina had one almost exactly like ours, and got rid of it about a decade ago.)

          The president is the NATIONAL executive. There is no reason whatsoever why you can't have direct elections and federalism together. Checks and balances on the presidency are not any less effective if the president is elected by direct vote than than they are if it is elected via an electoral college.

          On the other hand, if you got rid of the senate, you would be really obliterating the whole concept of federalism.

          They really are separate questions, and no attempt to defend the electoral college by hding behind federalism or checks and balances makes any logical sense.

        •  asdf (none)
          I do not oppose having a Senate.  I the Senate is swell.  I would argue (as have others above in this thread) that the way Senators are allocated is undemocratic just like the Electoral College is.  So, I guess the question I asked above should be rephrased, "Why do you think it is a good idea to have the Electoral system and the Senate seat allocation?"

          The reason is because back in 1789 or thereabouts, there was no way to get small states to agree to ratify the constitution without giving them something in return.  The thing they got was disproportionate representation in one house of Congress and disproportionate say in the election of the President.  I think that the problem today is that the relationship between the states and between the states and the federal government has changed dramatically.  We are much less a confederation of states and much more a single nation.

          I think that the Senate is less offensive than the Electoral College because there are 100 of them rather than just one President.  So, in the Senate, their disproportionateness is mitigated.  It is also mitigated by having a second chamber in Congress in which the representation is not disproportionate.  But with the election of the President, the unfairness is not mitigated by anything.  Somewhere up above some one calculated that a WY vote is 3.7 times more powerful in a presidential election than a CA vote.  That's undemocratic.

          The Amar plan proposed here and elsewhere seeks, at it's most basic level, to make every vote as equal as possible.

          The only really strong argument I've heard for keeping the Electoral College is to prevent corruption.  It would be relatively easy to corrupt a single state and add a bunch of fraudulent votes.  But, with the EC system, the pay off would only be that one state's Electoral votes which, even if you added 20 billion votes fraudulently, wouldn't hand you the election.  You'd need to corrupt a whole bunch of states.  And that would be near impossible without getting caught.

          •  sorry (none)
            I do not oppose having a Senate.  I the Senate is swell.  I would argue (as have others above in this thread) that the way Senators are allocated is undemocratic just like the Electoral College is.

            And I would argue that what makes the Senate different than the House is its statewise allocation, and if you oppose this "undemocratic" then really you oppose the existance of the Senate.

            Although I do think that there most certainly is room for reform, such as in redistricting, proportional representation, and affirmative voting (which I personally think would be a better bet than IRV or Condorcet voting, although certainly none of them are perfect).

            The reason is because back in 1789 or thereabouts, there was no way to get small states to agree to ratify the constitution without giving them something in return.  The thing they got was disproportionate representation in one house of Congress and disproportionate say in the election of the President.

            So if you are proposing nullifying this founding principle of the nation, would you also propose offering small states the opportunity to withdraw from the Union when you break the agreement?  Actually, peronally, I'd love to see the country break apart into smaller regional countries, if not just breaking off "Jesusland" from the rest of the country.  I think that would do a lot to mitigate the danger the United States represents to the world (although there would be a short-term risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of Christian fundamentalists), and of course it would mean an era of freedom and properity for the blue states (while the red states devolve into bitter Kool-Aid cults and such).

            I think that the problem today is that the relationship between the states and between the states and the federal government has changed dramatically.  We are much less a confederation of states and much more a single nation.

            Yeah, you see, I just haven't been convinced of that.  At the same time the Electoral College does not inspire within me deep feelings about preserving it either.  But I do think this is something that ain't never going to happen, and it's something that really doesn't matter anyhow, so to me it seems like nothing but a distraction and a huge waste of political effort.  There are just so many better things to "fix" out there.  But go on, do what you want.

  •  contrary to popular belief (none)
    the small states are not overwhelmingly republican. they are majority R, but the smallest states go about 50-50.

    montana 3
    wyoming 3
    n dakota 3
    s dakota 3
    alaska 3
    idaho 4
    utah 5
    w virginia 5
    nebraska 5
    kansas 6
    askansas 6
    mississippi 6
    oklahoma 7

    vermont 3
    delaware 3
    DC 3
    maine 4
    new hampshire 4
    rhode island 4
    hawaii 4
    connecticut 7
    oregon 7

    nevada 5
    new mexico 5
    iowa 7

    and yes, i'd be happiest with abolishing the EC, but if we can do it this way, with the assumption that it only goes into effect after all 50 states agree, then that's fine too.

  •  How many of those states (none)
    Are initiative states? Because they could get the ball rolling. Hell some of us in smaller states that don't like the EC and have initiatives could add ourselves to the list.

    My blog The Washington State Political Report.

    by Carl Ballard on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:13:51 PM PST

  •  Just DUMP the EC (none)
    It's antiquated and runs against everything we're supposed to stand for in the world.

    The founder fathers had legitimate reasons for electing presidents via the EC.

    The arguement FOR the EC goes something like this:  The candidates will only visit large states in order to get more popular votes. flash...that's what they do now.  Did Wyoming or Montana or Rhode Island or Delaware get a visit from Bush or Kerry last year?  


    Let's do this the OLD FASHIONED WAY, shall we.

    A straight up popular vote, where citizens marke their vote on a piece of paper.  

    If it works in Canada, it can work here.

  •  Republicans will be for EC reform this year... (none)
    Remember, their guy, won the Popular Vote, but came very close to losing the Electoral College.

    How would you feel if you lived in an overwhelmingly Red State, voted Republican, watched Bush win the popular vote by 3-4 million, and then had Kerry installed as President?

    The bullshit which is the EC cuts both ways. And the Republicans just had a very close call. If you included a provision for a run-off until one candidate receives a majority of the popular vote, you could get it passed. (how many Repubs still blame Perot for Clinton's eight years in office?)

    If ever we want to dump this relic, now is the time!

    Anti-War, Anti-Joe! "If a Dem wants to be "good friends" with Sean Hanntiy, well, he deserves to be primaried..."

    by DeanFan84 on Fri Jan 07, 2005 at 03:47:34 PM PST

    •  And what an irony (none)
      Yes, Bush came perilously close to losing the electoral college despite winning just over 50% of the popular vote.

      But it is ironic. Not too long ago, you had just started hearing about how the electoral college now had a Democratic "lock." I wish had the references, but I know that was said a lot after 1996, and in the run up to 2000.

      And I am convinced that the reason Bush's campaign spent a lot on advertising in California at the end of the 2000 campaign was to run up the popular vote.

      Why else? They had no chance to win California, but in the closing weeks of the 2000 campaign there were a bunch of stories about how Gore was likely win win the electoral college, but might not win the popular vote.

      I think the Bushies bought into that, and decided to go for the popular-vote plurality by mining California for extra votes. Then they would have tried to undermine the legitimacy of the Gore victory by pointing to their own guy's popular vote margin.

      While it would be folly to speak of a lock after 2004, I still believe the EC favors us more than them, because of the block-vote rule use everywhere but ME and NE. Most of the large states are either Dem or trending our way. It would not take much for a Democrat to win the EC even without the popular vote if those trends continue.

      I still think we should be against it, however. It is an undemocratic vestige of the 18th century.

  •  This is the Patriot Act of the Democratic Party (none)
    It's a panic reaction to what was/is a statistical anamoly in 2000.

    Make it a pure popular vote, and every General Election goes to court in every state to recount by hand every precinct's vote.

    I, for one, do not wish to give lawyers that much work.

    Better energy is put into federal election standards: established ratio of registered voters to machines that do not vary from state to state.

    Making the election fair through other means is the way to go, the EC was well thought out and works fine.

    •  Act (none)
      Make it a pure popular vote, and every General Election goes to court in every state to recount by hand every precinct's vote.

      Why, exactly, would this happen? Do you mean to say this would have happened in 1996, when Clinton beat Dole by 8 points? Or 1984, when Reagan beat Mondale by 18 points? Or 1936, when FDR beat Alf Landon by 24 points? You said "every general election," so these fall under that description.

      I grant this might have happened in 1960, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

      And it sure isn't outrageous hyperbole or anything to compare a proposal for electoral college reform to the actuality of an outrageous act that threatens our civil liberties.

      •  Alright... (none)
        ...I'll amend the 'every' comment to 'every one for the forseeable future.'

        Also, I could easily see 92 & 2000 going into the courts. This period of a nearly 50/50 split country is neither the timenor place to do this.

        And something else doesn't get mentioned: the EC also confers legitimacy onto the victor. As much as you might like Clinton, he never hit 50% of the vote but the allocation of EC votes gave him a legitimacy he would not have otherwise had hitting 46% of the vote average for his 2 elections.

        •  IRV (none)
          the EC also confers legitimacy onto the victor.

          To the contrary - the right argued among its own for years and years that Clinton was never legitimate because he couldn't win a majority. It certainly helped fuel their hatred and attacks on him.

          The only way to truly avoid a plurality president is some kind of IRV, or Condorcet, or what have you, system.

    •  False (none)
      The chances of one state out of fifty (well, 51) being close enough that a recall would matter is a million times greater than the chance that the nationwide vote would be.

      Bush won Florida by 537 votes in 2000.
      Gore won nationwide by a half million (a thousand times difference).

      Bush won Ohio by 100,000 votes in 2004.
      Bush won nationwide by 3 million (30 times difference).

      It is much, much, much, MUCH more likely that the race will be close in one state than overall.

      •  Redo your math... (none)
        ....465,000 votes seperated Bush Gore in 2000.

        That's a difference of less than 10000 votes/state.

        How many is that per county? CD? Precinct?

        Any lawyer worth his salt could argue those gaps could be closed with a national lawsuit to find those votes in each state, forced by recounts. Suppose they were confident they could find twice that many each in New York and California for instance.

        There's the idea out there right now that Kerry could pick up over 25,000 in Ohio alone through a hand recount.


        Just because you say false doesn't make it so.

        •  Every (none)
          Any lawyer worth his salt could argue those gaps could be closed with a national lawsuit to find those votes in each state, forced by recounts.

          You'd be arguing that every state (or precinct, or CD, or what have you) systematically undercounted the votes for your guy. EVERY state. I don't see how any judge would ever accept that, given that the odds would say, in any given precinct, that your guy is just as likely to lose votes as to gain them. (Assuming a 50-50 nation, which is basically what we've got.)

          •  Thta's my point.... (none)
   could argue in every state as both a delaying tactic for others OR cherry pick your way through half the states, while your opponent attacks the other half.

            There would/could be both sides suing.

            Also, I think it would involve numerous judges in numerous states, and NOT a single judge.

            It'd be a huge mess, something the EC currently protects us from.

  •  Maine and Nebraska are NOT proportional--please! (none)
    Please do not refer to the method of allocating electoral votes in Maine and Nebraska as "proportional" or even "sorta-proportional."

    In no election since these states went to their current methods has the winning candidate in the state taken less than 100% of the state's electors. That's not even a little bit proportional.

    In Maine in 1992, for example, Clinton won well under 50% of the vote. If it had been proportional, Clinton would have won 2 electoral votes, Perot 1 and Bush 1. But Clinton got all 4.

    These states give 2 electors to the statewide winner and 1 to the winner of each congressional district. Only by complete accident would that turn out to be proportional.

    And, given how gerrymandered and uncompetitive congressional districts are, this would NOT be a reform we should support.

    I'm not fond of the Amar proposal either, but that's been amply discussed by now.

    •  Explain (none)
      Oh, whatever. I was just trying to think of a way to phrase it that didn't take ten sentences to explain. And I've repeatedly said, both in the main post and the comments, that I think the NE/ME system is bad.
      •  One sentence (none)
        Maine and Nebraska allocate two electors to the statewide winner and one to the winner of each congressional district.

        There, nine sentences less than ten!

        And, yes, it is a bad method. And one of the things that's bad about it is that it's not proportional.

        •  Amar (none)
          Fair enough - and I apologize for my testiness. I was really just trying to cut as much fat from the post as possible, especially since I didn't want to get into a discussion about the ME/NE system but rather the Amar Plan.
  •  I would prefer a straight up/down vote... (none)
    ...for president, eliminating the Electoral Chances, but the chances of that are about as great as Lydon Larouche winning the Democratic nomination in 2008.  This Amar plan is at least possibly possible.
  •  Not Viable (none)
    It's an interesting idea, but the Amar plan isn't any more viable just because it could be done by the states rather than a Constitutional Amendment. There's a huge disincentive for a state legislator to suggest that his state's electors go to a candidate that lost the state, perhaps by a wide margin. The idea that states would legislative this sweeping change on the premise that other states would do the same seems unrealistic.

    It may be that a lot of systems would have been as good or better than the Electoral College, but it's not going to be changed by Constitutional Amendment absent something even more dramatic than 2000.  Same for this.

    •  Framing (none)
      There's a huge disincentive for a state legislator to suggest that his state's electors go to a candidate that lost the state, perhaps by a wide margin.

      Surely - which is why you'd want to frame it as, "This system will allow us to virtually get rid of the electoral college and have a national popular vote."

      •  Framing Won't Matter (none)
        I really don't think most issues are won by which competing elite has the better slogan. People can readily understand most issues, and in this instance there isn't going to be much support for giving a state's electoral vote to a candidate that didn't win the state. Nice on paper, but not at all viable.
  •  Alternate proposal - "The Popular State" (none)
    My proposal is along similar lines but it mitigates the drawbacks of the Amar plan.

    I propose a system where the states that have a large number of electoral votes allocate 1 electoral vote each (from its existing number of electoral votes) to the "Popular State". The winner of the overall country-wide popular vote wins the "Popular State".  

    For example: California will allocate 1 out of its 55 electoral votes to the winner of the overall popular vote. If the other large states do the same thing, then the winner of the overall popular votes gets around 15-20 more electoral votes and hence it would be almost impossible to win the election without winning the popular vote.

    This system addresses the perceived drawback of the Amar plan, where the voters of a large state dont feel that they are disenfrachised if they chose a candidate who did not win the popular vote, since only 1 electoral vote is allocated to the winner of the overall popular vote instead of all the electoral votes of that state.

    The other benefits of this system are:

    1. It does not require any constitutional amendment as it does not change the existing number of electoral votes awarded to each state.

    2. It forces the candidates to run a national campaign.

    3. It will also not require the smaller states to give up any power (nor it is up to them as to how the larger states allocate its electoral votes).

    4. It also does not have the limitations of a system in which the winner is determined entirely by popular vote.

    5. It preserves the benefits of having the electoral college and eliminates the drawbacks it has.

    About a couple of months ago, I had also written to the Senators of California - Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer, Senator Clinton of New York and California Assebmlywoman Sally Lieber to explore this idea.

    I would really appreciate any comments you have.

    Arun Jayendran

  •  The Electoral College is unconsitutional. (none)
    This is the smartest website and responses I have found in four years.   In 1958, after a lifeftine of study, a political scientist named Lucius Wilmerding concluded that the Electoral College was unconstitutional, but that, due to the advantage it appears to give to some Americans over others, it could not, as a practical matter, be amended out of the Constitution.  

    That was before Baker v. Carr when the court said that when the only appeal of a violation of the 14th Amendment was to a malapportioned legislature, then the court could provide an alternative.   Baker v. Carr allowed the one person one vote cases to reach the court.  

    If the 14th Amendment applies to all votes cast in November for the President, then the candidate with the most votes prevails, because equality implies majority.   All that is necessary to bring this about is a lawsuit.   Six such have been filed.   I was an attorney in three of them.  

    The Electoral College was part of the package of subsidies given to Slavery so the South could prevail in all branches of government (except the House).   The Civil War abolished the slavery and the Electoral College along with it.   All three of the Civil War Amendments are inconsistent with and repugnant to the Electoral College.   It needs only a court to declare this to be so in an actual case or controversy.  

    The Electoral College violates the Declaration of Independence.   The Civil War was fought to conform the Constitution of the US to the Declaration of Independence.   The Electoral College was never constitutional in the first place.  

    Gary Michael Coutin, Esquire

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