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In making the case against the Electoral College, I frequently encounter the argument that the "popular vote" not only doesn't determine the winner but is a meaningless concept in our system. The argument goes as follows. Because of the Electoral College, candidates focus their campaigns in particular states and this influences the outcome. Al Gore may have received half a million more votes than George W. Bush, but that was the end result of two campaigns that had been conducted on a state-by-state basis. We have no way of knowing what the nationwide totals would have been in a non-Electoral College system, because the campaigns would have been conducted differently, yielding different results. Therefore, Gore's apparent popular-vote lead doesn't mean anything.

I heard this argument several times from Republicans in 2000. I heard it most recently from Charles M. Kozierok, a blogger and self-described Democrat who is presumably not speaking from partisan bitterness over what happened eight years ago. Whoever makes the argument and whatever motives there may be in making it, it is rooted in flawed logic.

The essential fallacy in this argument is that it confuses the causes of public opinion with the measurement of public opinion.

The purpose of an election is to ascertain the will of the people. It cannot ever be a perfect measure, since we can't read minds. A flat tire on the way to the polling station can distort the outcome. So can a medical emergency, or bad weather, or problems in the voting machines, or any number of other factors unrelated to people's intentions. Nevertheless, an election is meant to reflect as accurately as possible what the public thinks at a particular moment in time.

Campaigns do influence the outcome, of course. But they have have little to do with the accuracy of the election in measuring public opinion. Instead, they have an effect on public opinion itself before it is measured.

Say a candidate campaigns in Missouri but not Kansas. The election may turn out differently than if the candidate were to campaign in both states. But all that means is that the candidate has influenced the voters in a particular way, before their views were measured in the voting booths. The combined vote total in both states is still an accurate and meaningful measure of the collective will of Missouri and Kansas voters. So too with the collective will of voters in all fifty states (plus DC). It may not determine the winner, but it is independently significant.

There is plenty to debate about the Electoral College. Let's retire silly arguments that distract from the obvious, which is that electoral-popular splits like what happened in 2000 do great damage to public confidence in our system. We can't conjure this problem away with sophistry.

Originally posted to Kylopod on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 11:23 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Can't believe your diary did not include this -- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jeff in CA, Kylopod

      -- a link to the National Popular Vote Project.

      The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia).

      Under the U.S. Constitution, the states have exclusive and plenary (complete) power to allocate their electoral votes, and may change their state laws concerning the awarding of their electoral votes at any time. Under the National Popular Vote bill, all of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).

      http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/...

      Tipped anyway, for raising the discussion.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:47:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Moving target (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HeyMikey, Kylopod

    The other point is that even if you could magically measure popular opinion to determine the percentage who like Candidate X vs Candidate Y, it's something that changes on a daily basis.  Thus the tracking polls demonstrating McCain falling and Obama gaining during the fall, etc.  The election is a snapshot of the opinions of however many million people on one (fairly arbitrary) allotted day.  If you took the same snapshot on another day you wouldn't get the same answer.

    I agree with you.  The fact that any given state might have had different results without the Electoral College - because the candidate's strategies would have been different, thus engendering different results - is not an argument to keep the EC.

  •  I don't like the EC... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marchmoon, HeyMikey, Roadbed Guy

    ...but I think you are misunderstanding the argument.  It's not that targeted campaigning will necessarily change the % outcome of individual states (though that is possible), but that it will change the turnout.  Turnout in states like New York or California is typically lower than in swing states because everyone knows how these solid blue states will vote.  However, if you increase the turnout in these states, even if the % margin stays the same, you will be contributing more Democratic votes into a total popular vote.  And the same can be done on the other side for Utah or Kansas, etc.  

    The argument does have some validity, but the EC still sucks.  ;-)

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." -- Dom Hélder Câmara

    by SLKRR on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 11:38:53 AM PDT

    •  The EC does still suck (2+ / 0-)

      and I'd love to put your theory to the test. I only hope we have the chance.

    •  I did anticipate that argument (0+ / 0-)

      And that's why I worded the following sentence this way: "But they have have little to do with the accuracy of the election in measuring public opinion." I said they had little to do with it, not nothing.

      I realize that the decision whether to vote or not--and indeed, the get-out-the-vote effort by campaigns--influences the results. But I still think that falls in the category of influencing people before their views are measured. In a sense, not voting can be a way of making a statement. "I don't know and I don't care" is a bloc that influences every election to varying degrees.

  •  Myth-conceptions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marchmoon

    The biggest misconception is this:

    The purpose of an election is to ascertain the will of the people.

    That really doesn't apply in the case of the Presidency.  We do not live in a Democracy.  We live in a Republic.

    By Constitutional design, the Presidency is awarded to the person receiving a "Majority of the whole Number of Electors"

    This was designed to maintain the independence of the individual states.  I don't know why this simple concept is so hard for so many people to understand.

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

    by Skeptical Bastard on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 11:42:11 AM PDT

    •  Easy to understand (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      markw, Aspe4, HeyMikey, NoBigGovernment

      Hard to agree with, in 2009, when more than just white male landowners are now considered "good enough" to have a say in our government.  

      •  That makes absolutely no sense (0+ / 0-)

        Please explain..

        "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

        by Skeptical Bastard on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 11:51:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  In other words (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SLKRR, markw, Aspe4, bustacap, HeyMikey

          The idea that a select group of electors picking the president is superior to allowing all of us to have an equal say in it, seems like a remnant of a time when only a minority of the population were allowed to vote.  I understand why they did it the way they did, but it is out of step with our modern way of looking at rights and equality.  There is no good reason why a Wyoming resident should have four times the say of a Californian when it comes to electing the president.

          •  Ok.. but making it a purely popular vote (0+ / 0-)

            swings it the other way.. You could very possibly have a few very large states with large urban populations continually electing presidents time after time.

            "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

            by Skeptical Bastard on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:08:57 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Are urbanites (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SLKRR, markw, bustacap, elmo, HeyMikey

              equal to the people who live in rural areas?  Or are the rural people more important, thus their votes should be counted more?  That's how it is right now.

              I can certainly understand why residents of small states would object to the EC being thrown out because right now they enjoy an unfair over-weighting of their votes.  I don't see how it's justifiable, though.

            •  MYTH: "a Republic versus a Democracy" (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Kylopod

              NationalPopularVote.com:

              MYTH: A national popular vote is contrary to the concept that the United States is a republic, not a democracy.

              In a republic, the citizens do not rule directly but, instead, elect officeholders to conduct government business in the period between elections. In the United States, the executive branch is run by a President who serves for four years, and legislation is crafted by officeholders who serve for two years (in the U.S. House of Representatives) or six years (in the U.S. Senate). The division of power between the citizenry and elected officeholders is not affected by the boundaries of the region used to tally up popular votes in choosing presidential electors. The United States is neither less or more a "republic" based on whether presidential electors are selected along state boundary lines (used by 48 states), along district lines (used by Maine and Nebraska), or on a nationwide basis.

              The meaning of the word "Republican" in the U.S. Constitution is unrelated to the method used to elect the chief executive. The Constitution (article IV, section 4) refers to a "republican form of government" by providing:

              "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government."

              Almost all governors were selected by the state legislatures when the Constitution was written. Today, the governor of every state is elected by a direct popular vote. No one has ever argued that the states denied their citizens a "Republican Form of Government" when they switched to direct popular election of their governors.

              The question of whether the United States is a "republic" has no connection with the issue of whether the chief executive is elected under the current system (of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each separate state) or a national popular vote (in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia).

              Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. - FDR

              by Jeff in CA on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:18:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  You describe, but do not analyze. (1+ / 0-)

              You could very possibly have a few very large states with large urban populations continually electing presidents time after time.

              Yes.

              (1) And that would be bad . . . why?

              (2) And whatever problems you set out in response to #1 would be worse than the problems of the current system . . . why?

              We do not live in a Democracy.  We live in a Republic.

              By Constitutional design, the Presidency is awarded to the person receiving a "Majority of the whole Number of Electors"

              Yes. And that is better than direct popular election of the Pres . . . why?

              "Because the Founders did it that way" is not a sufficient reason. The Founders, recall, were revolutionaries. They did not merely defer to the way their predecessors did things.

              "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

              by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:25:04 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  OT -- your sig (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                HeyMikey

                "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from...the new puppy that is coming with us to the White House."

                http://www.youtube.com/...

                Sorry, couldn't help myself. The video still cracks me up.

              •  Easy (0+ / 0-)

                #1. Rural states have very different concerns than industrialized high density states.

                There are many millions of people in this country who would strongly consider secession if all elections were decided by New Yorkers, for instance.

                #2. And whatever problems you set out in response to #1 would be worse than the problems of the current system . . . why?

                Without defining the "problems with the current system", it's hard to answer.  What are they?  And are they damaging enough to turn warrant changes that would cause problems like the ones I mentioned above?

                "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

                by Skeptical Bastard on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 01:27:43 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Keep going . . . (2+ / 0-)

                  #1. Rural states have very different concerns than industrialized high density states.

                  Yes. But so what? Assemble any group of Americans, and you'll find people in that group with "very different concerns" from each other. My next-door neighbor and I voted for different Pres candidates. My office co-worker and I voted for different Pres candidates. Why should their "very different concerns" than mine give them 1.2 votes and me .8 vote? Why should rural voters' "very different concerns" give them 1.2 votes and urban voters .8 vote? [Note: I am making those numbers up for the sake of illustration.]

                  Without defining the "problems with the current system", it's hard to answer.  What are they?

                  Oh, come on, you're being obtuse. The big, obvious problem with the current system is that a rural voter gets 1.2 votes (or whatever the number is, it's greater than 1.0) and an urban voter gets .8 votes (or whatever the number is, it's less than 1.0). And yes, I'm aware the actual numbers vary from state to state, but the larger point remains. The problem with the current system is that it subverts equality. And while equality is certainly an ideal that can never be perfectly achieved, it should not be subverted without compelling reasons. The reasons for the Electoral College that the Founders found compelling either don't exist any more (technological difficulty of counting all votes; accommodating slave states) or are no longer accepted as just (favoring property owners).

                  So, stop describing what the EC does -- we're all aware what it does, thanks very much -- and start telling us why what it does is (a) good, and (b) better than the alternative.

                  In case my position and the reason for it aren't obvious: I favor direct popular election because I think equal voting power among citizens is more important than favoring rural interests.

                  "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                  by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 01:58:57 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  So, throw Congress out as well? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    HeyMikey

                    The whole point of the EC is to mimic Congress.. we might as well just let all the citizens vote for each bill on the internet.. hey! Not a bad idea!  Throw those bums outta Washington!

                    But seriously.. I understand your concerns against the EC, but those concerns exist only because we have bastardized our elections by creating the so-called two-party "system"... which is really no "system" at all except for the blockades the two parties have put in place to prevent more parties from getting in the running.

                    The EC was set up not only so that the states have a say, but so that there is a consensus.. and that one regional candidate, especially in a populous region, or even a few populous states could win the presidency with a great majority of the states not voting for him/her.  You gotta remember.. it's all about the states.

                    A pure popular vote would give much more advantage to populous states.  You folks who argue for that ignore the fact that it is the states that elect the President, not the people.

                    I have always thought the fairest way to elect the Prez would be for a more granular makeup of each state's electoral college.  In other words, each Congressional District's elector would vote for whatever candidate won the majority in that district.  The two extra electors would go to the winner of the state overall.  This scheme would still be in keeping with the way the founders designed the election of the President, but much closer to the people.. I think Nebraska and another state do it like this.

                    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

                    by Skeptical Bastard on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:54:44 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Getting better, not there yet . . . (0+ / 0-)

                      The whole point of the EC is to mimic Congress..

                      More description without analysis. Yes, but is that good or bad? Why?

                      we might as well just let all the citizens vote for each bill on the internet.. hey! Not a bad idea!  Throw those bums outta Washington!

                      Not really. The Pres acts on a bunch of different bills, and leads foreign policy, and does a lot of stuff other than write laws. Two different sets of concerns.

                      I understand your concerns against the EC, but those concerns exist only because we have bastardized our elections by creating the so-called two-party "system"... which is really no "system" at all except for the blockades the two parties have put in place to prevent more parties from getting in the running.

                      OK, but deal with reality. We're not comparing a national popular vote plan with a hypothetical EC envisioned 230 years ago, we're comparing NPV with the EC as it functions today and is likely to keep on functioning for the foreseeable future. Saying "the EC wouldn't be so bad if American political history had turned out differently" doesn't help your position.

                      The EC was set up not only so that the states have a say, but so that there is a consensus.. and that one regional candidate, especially in a populous region, or even a few populous states could win the presidency with a great majority of the states not voting for him/her.

                       

                      OK, now that's the best point you've made in this whole discussion. Now we're getting somewhere. I can see how regional tension would raise some risk of states desiring to secede, which of course would be Very, Very Bad. But I just think that risk would be Very, Very Small. Even if the Pres were elected by NPV, the small-population states would retain their disproportionate representation in the Senate, and their Senators'  power would remain even further amplified by the filibuster rule. So the potential for urban interests to run roughshod over rural ones would remain well-checked. Given that built-in protection for regional interests, I don't think further accommodation of those interests is worth putting up with the inequality in individual voting power built into the EC.

                      You gotta remember.. it's all about the states.

                      A pure popular vote would give much more advantage to populous states.  You folks who argue for that ignore the fact that it is the states that elect the President, not the people.

                      Sigh. More description without analysis. Been over this in another comment, to which you're still not responding: http://www.dailykos.com/...

                      I have always thought the fairest way to elect the Prez would be for a more granular makeup of each state's electoral college.  In other words, each Congressional District's elector would vote for whatever candidate won the majority in that district.  The two extra electors would go to the winner of the state overall.  This scheme would still be in keeping with the way the founders designed the election of the President, but much closer to the people..

                      I recall reading some analysis of this (on DKos?) in the last few months, which talked about some ramifications of such a plan that weren't obvious, but I don't recall the details and can't locate whatever it was with a quick Google. Sorry. Basically, that would reduce the inequality problem but not eliminate it; and I think the onus is still on those opposing an NPV plan to come up with some reason that controlling more land should give one set of citizens a greater vote than another set of citizens. As noted in the comment linked above, I don't buy your "it's all about the states" reasoning -- you're going to have to explain why it SHOULD be "all about the states."

                      I think Nebraska and another state do it like this.

                      Nebraska and Maine, I believe.

                      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                      by HeyMikey on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 08:50:57 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I think the onus is on you (0+ / 0-)

                        to argue why it shouldn't be about the states.

                        Granted, we have become a much more heterogeneous society.. and that amendments and Supreme Court rulings have all but made state's rights a thing of the past.  But, I have no problem with each state having it's own personality, for want of a better word.

                        Some states outlawed the death penalty, some embrace it.  Some states are dry others very wet.. there are blue laws in some and in others anything goes.

                        I have no problem with that and that, along with the way we elect a president, is how it was designed.  To me, it still works.  I don't want a president elected by only a few populous states.  I think the reasoning 230 years ago stands up quite well today.  The president needs to be elected by a consensus of states.  The large, populous states still have a far greater impact on the EC than small states do.. I think you give way too much advantage to rural states in the EC setup than is really the case.

                        "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

                        by Skeptical Bastard on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 09:09:27 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Why it shouldn't be about the states. (0+ / 0-)

                          States are only aggregations of citizens. Instead of aggregating citizens geographically, a political system could also aggregate them by drawing other lines. For instance, some old European systems had the first, second, and third estates (clergy, nobility, and commoners). The Brits have the lords (hereditary and appointed peers) and commons (everybody else). The Israelis have a multiparty mess. All these have geographic representation factored in, but go well beyond mere geography in determining who's aggregated with whom, and who has more power than whom.

                          Why should certain aggregations of citizens -- geographic or non-geographic -- have more power than other aggregations of citizens? There are a number of potential reasons:

                          (1) Because some aggregations include more citizens.

                          (2) Because some aggregations include more land.

                          (3) Because some aggregations include more of other valuable resources -- money; metallic ores; petroleum; wind power; solar power; slaves; whatever the current economy makes valuable.

                          The rationale behind (1) is immediately obvious, and consistent with democratic or republican (small-d, small-r) values. The rationale behind (3) is immediately obvious, and probably not consistent with those values. Please explain why (2) is more like (1) than it is like (3). Or else defend (3).

                          I believe it is bad for democracy for any group of people to have disproportionate power. That results in those with diminished power believing (a) they are not responsible for their own problems, or (b)  the political system does not give them a fair remedy for their problems. These are bad for democracy because: (a) One of democracy's chief values is that it forces us to face the fact that we are responsible for our own predicaments, leading to more responsible decisionmaking. (b) Those who do not believe the political system gives them a fair shake start to address their problems outside the law, leading to development of durable, pervasive criminal institutions; corruption; violence; and, in severe enough cases, civil war.

                          Again: please explain why (2) is more like (1) than it is like (3). Or else defend (3).

                          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                          by HeyMikey on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 10:21:19 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't buy your premise (0+ / 0-)

                            that smaller population states necessarily have disproportionate power.  I have heard this over and over, yet no has satisfactorily shown me any proof that it always works that way..  

                            It could, and has happened to work that way, but the opposite is also as likely to happen that the EC method skews in favor of larger, more populous states, especially given the winner take all approach.

                            Even if I did, you are arguing against the most basic premise upon which this country was built.  It is the United States of America, not the united bunch of people of America.

                            Each state is an entity unto itself.  Even its methods for conducting elections are allowed great variances.

                            We are a representative form a government.  If you want to completely change the form of government we have, well, ok.. be my guest.  But you cannot pick and choose which parts you don't like and selectively change them.

                            "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

                            by Skeptical Bastard on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 12:49:26 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Sheesh. Gimme a break. (0+ / 0-)

                            I don't buy your premise that smaller population states necessarily have disproportionate power.  I have heard this over and over, yet no has satisfactorily shown me any proof that it always works that way.  

                            It could, and has happened to work that way, but the opposite is also as likely to happen that the EC method skews in favor of larger, more populous states, especially given the winner take all approach.

                            Dude, the laws of mathematics are not up for debate. There are about 20,000 people per elector in Wyoming, versus around 60,000 people per elector in California:

                            http://en.wikipedia.org/...

                            It works out this way because regardless of how small a state's population is, it's guaranteed one House rep and two Senators. And regardless of how large a state's population is, it gets only two Senators. (And a state's EC votes = # of House reps + # of Senators.)

                            If the EC count favors populous states, that's only because so many more of the states are populous.

                            you are arguing against the most basic premise upon which this country was built.

                            Um, no. Liberty, equality, due process -- these are all more basic than geographically dispersed power to elect the Pres.

                            It is the United States of America, not the united bunch of people of America.

                            Each state is an entity unto itself.  Even its methods for conducting elections are allowed great variances.

                            Again the description without analysis. "We've always done it that way, so it must be sacred." If that were true, there would be no federal income tax, women wouldn't vote, and black people would still be slaves.

                            We are a representative form a government.  If you want to completely change the form of government we have, well, ok.. be my guest.

                            Oh, so now you're saying that with a popularly elected President, we would no longer have a representative form of government? Or that despite the NPV plan making no changes to the Senate or House, it would "completely" change our form of government?

                            But you cannot pick and choose which parts you don't like and selectively change them.

                            Well, to borrow a phrase, yes we can. See: federal income tax, civil rights of women and African-Americans, Presidential succession (changed by the 25th Amendment in 1967).

                            You have still not explained why people who live in small-population states should get extra voting power. Other than saying it ensures no "regional" candidate is elected; and on that point, you still have not responded to this:

                            Even if the Pres were elected by NPV, the small-population states would retain their disproportionate representation in the Senate, and their Senators'  power would remain even further amplified by the filibuster rule. So the potential for urban interests to run roughshod over rural ones would remain well-checked.

                            Y'know, perhaps I'm being too hard on you. I genuingely appreciate your interest and taking the time for this exchange. Please forgive me if my tone has been too sharp.

                            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                            by HeyMikey on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 02:50:28 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  You are putting the cart before the horse (0+ / 0-)

                      I understand your concerns against the EC, but those concerns exist only because we have bastardized our elections by creating the so-called two-party "system"

                      The two-party system and the suppression of third parties is the chief practical consequence of the EC today. (The electoral/popular dichotomy is more theoretical than practical, since there have been only three cases in history where there was a split, and two of those cases were controversial.) Take the '92 election. Perot got 19% of the popular vote but not a single electoral vote. He had actually been leading in polls early in the race. What if he had maintained that lead into November? Most likely he would have gotten enough electoral votes to throw the race into Congress, which would then almost certainly have gone for one of the major-party contenders (Bush or Clinton).

        •  Pat of Butter's point (2+ / 0-)

          is that the EC was meant as a failsafe device to insure that the commoners don't elect the "wrong" person. The electors could then step in and override the popular vote of their respective state and vote for the "right" candidate. At the time the U.S. Constiution was written only white male landowners could vote. Correct me if I'm wrong about your intent Pat of Butter

          McCain/Failin '08.

          by Aspe4 on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 11:56:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, the EC is an artifact produced by deadlock (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            markw, Kylopod

            The Electoral College is a "last-minute compromise," "an artifact produced by deadlock," and a flaw of "the real demon dooming direct national election of the president."

            Michael Waldman, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law:

            It was the end of a long, sweltering summer at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Delegates were anxious to finish, but a looming question remained: How would the new office of president be filled?  Some delegates wanted Congress to choose. Others wanted popular election. That idea was overwhelmingly voted down—it would be "unnatural," warned one foe.

            Southern states had extra representation in Congress because slaves were counted in the population, under the grand compromise that allowed the Constitution to move forward; a popular vote would wipe out that advantage, since slaves didn't vote.  The delegates referred the mess to the Committee on Detail

            At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the method for states' representation in the national legislature had been resolved by the 3/5 compromise over slavery in July, 1787.  

            However, the method for selecting a president vexed the framers throughout July and August.  Finally they dumped the thing into the Committee on Details and then the Committee on Unfinished Portions.  

            Various means of Electoral College apportionment had been debated, some of which (including one by Madison) did not rely upon the census count for determining EC apportionment.

            On September 4, with the end of the convention approaching, the Committee on Unfinished Portions reported out a solution that included the Electoral College concept, with apportionment of members equal to the numbers of senators plus representatives for each state. What was reported out of this committee was "quite different from what had gone in with it a little over a week earlier-essentially, the basic Electoral College system pretty much as it appears in the body of the original Constitution was presented to the Convention that day."

            If there had been no 3/5 compromise, southern states would not have agreed to this method of apportioning electors, and therefore establishing greater influence in selecting the president.  

            The 3/5 compromise essentially provided an easy out for the Committee to apportion electors in the same manner as they had legislative seats.  

            And then having wrapped this up in the last few days of the Convention, the framers could get out of Philadelphia to lobby their states to ratify the document.  

            Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. - FDR

            by Jeff in CA on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:49:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Personally (5+ / 0-)

      I understand it just fine. I just think it's outlived it's usefullness, and a popular vote makes more sense to me today.

      Doesn't mean I don't understand why it was put there in the first place.

      •  It would mean changing our entire way of (0+ / 0-)

        governing.  Personally, I think states should have a say in how they govern/live.  I think too many rights have already been stripped from states in that regard.

        "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." - G. Marx

        by Skeptical Bastard on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 11:50:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exaggerate much? (2+ / 0-)

          "Changing our entire way of governing?"  

          Yeah, we wouldn't want to let women, blacks, or Indians have the vote, 'cause that will surely change our entire way of governing.  

          For the record, if a change in our way of governing will make things more fair and equitable, then I consider that a good change to make.  And compared to previous changes, this one would be fairly minor.

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." -- Dom Hélder Câmara

          by SLKRR on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:25:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  "States?" Who are "states?" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          markw

          States are only aggregations of citizens. Why should certain aggregations of citizens have more power than other aggregations of citizens? There are a number of potential reasons:

          (1) Because some aggregations include more citizens.

          (2) Because some aggregations include more land.

          (3) Because some aggregations include more of other valuable resources -- money; metallic ores; petroleum; wind power; solar power; slaves; whatever the current economy makes valuable.

          The rationale behind (1) is immediately obvious, and consistent with democratic or republican (small-d, small-r) values. The rationale behind (3) is immediately obvious, and probably not consistent with those values. Please explain why (2) is more like (1) than it is like (3). Or else defend (3).

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:37:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  You're speaking theoretically (3+ / 0-)

      based on what the Founders set up. Much has changed since then.

      At the beginning of our Republic, there was no guarantee that individual citizens would take any part in the process of selecting a president, except very indirectly. The electors could be chosen by the state legislature. Now, they are chosen directly by the people in each state.

      Furthermore, the Founders intended the electors to have independent will, not to be effectively forced to vote along party lines as they do today.

      We live in a very different time from when Thomas Jefferson referred to Virginia as "my country," and when the term United States was treated as a plural.

  •  "Let's retire silly arguments that distract..." (0+ / 0-)

    Amen.

    The point is that it IS TRUE that in a popular vote system you are going to have a completely different GOTV effort, and the individual state results and the overall popular votes will be different.

    If you want to have a debate about which system is better, PV or EC, DO that.

    Anything else is a distraction and doesn't matter.

    The bottom line is that if things would have been different they would have been different.  What is the point?  Move on.  If you think PV would create a better system then argue that.  Make the world a better place!

  •  Electoral College is archaic and irrelevant (0+ / 0-)

    but not worth the political effort to discard.  There is no inherent bias in the system toward crazy would-be dictators in a close election, and the legitimacy issues it poses for electoral winners who lose the popular vote are an important tool of moderation when the public is divided.  That we failed to wield that tool against Bush in his first term is our fault, not a failure of the Electoral College to protect us from him.

    "Religion isn't the opiate of the masses, it's the placebo of the masses." - House

    by Troubadour on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 11:46:28 AM PDT

    •  Bias toward agricultural interests. (0+ / 0-)

      The bias in the Electoral College is toward small-population states. Which means generally western, agricultural states. I believe it is bad for democracy for any group of people to have disproportionate power -- eventually that results in people believing they are not responsible for their own problems. One of democracy's chief values is that it forces us to face the fact that we are responsible for our own predicaments.

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:41:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Should not consider how campaign may be run (3+ / 0-)

    a popular argument for keeping the EC is that it forces candidates to campaign in small states but I don't think we should use the possible campaign strategies of candidates to dictate how our votes are counted. Under any regime, states are going to be ignored. Solid red states like Mississippi will rarely see a campaign (yes, I know Ronald Reagan began his campaign in Philadelphia, MS but when will that happen again?)and solid blue states like Rhode Island will hardly ever see a campaign. We should think of the country as one big jurisdition and stop thinking in terms of "states" visited.

    McCain/Failin '08.

    by Aspe4 on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:02:11 PM PDT

    •  It does depend (2+ / 0-)

      on how culturally attached we are to the idea of states. As I pointed out in another message, Thomas Jefferson called Virginia "my country," and the term United States was originally treated as a plural. The concept of states has greatly weakened over the past two hundred some years, but it still carries significance to many Americans. And I do think our federalist system has its uses, such as experimentation with policy.

      •  True (2+ / 0-)

        I wasn't advocating abolishing the federal system. I meant to say that in terms of vote-counting for the prez election, we should eliminate this concept of winning states. Of course we and the media will break-down who won the most votes in each state and say this person "won" Virginia, for example. But who "won" Virginia would have no bearing if the EC was eliminated--it would simply be an interesting factoid.

        McCain/Failin '08.

        by Aspe4 on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:09:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, I understood (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HeyMikey

          And I agree with you. I'm just pointing out one of the barriers to convincing other Americans to get rid of the EC. Though it won't be equivalent to taking away the entire federalist system, it will be seen as a blow to the power of states.

          •  oh ok. i see (0+ / 0-)

            that's possibly true. But I think if you argue to people that they don't popularly elect the president and their vote can potentially be overriden by a random guy then they may support eliminating the EC. It's true that a lot of people have pride in their states but I think most average people will agree that the EC is too undemocratic.

            McCain/Failin '08.

            by Aspe4 on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:30:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I do think the majority would support it (0+ / 0-)

              But it would probably be a slim majority. I remember a poll from years ago suggesting that around 60% or so of Americans favor abolishing the EC. But even a majority wouldn't be enough to amend the Constitution, which requires three-fourths of the states.

              Of course, if all the states opted to divide up their electors like they do in Maine and Nebraska, it would make the system far more representative.

              •  Our survey says . . . (0+ / 0-)
                #    Southern Voters Support National Popular Vote

                   * Arkansas 80%, Mississippi 77%, North Carolina 74%, Virginia 74%

                # Battleground State Voters Support National Popular Vote

                   * Colorado 68%, Florida 78%, Iowa 75%, Michigan 73%, Missouri 70%
                   * New Hampshire 69%, Nevada 72%, North Carolina 74%, Pennsylvania 78%
                   * Ohio 70%, Wisconsin 71%

                # Small State Voters Support National Popular Vote

                   * Delaware 75%, New Hampshire 69%, Maine 77%, Rhode Island 74%
                   * Vermont 75%

                # 70%-79% Public Support National Popular Vote in Other States

                   * California 70%, Connecticut 73%, Kentucky 80%, Massachusetts 73%
                   * Minnesota 75%, Nebraska 74%, New York 70%, Washington 77%

                http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/...

                "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:51:09 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The question is (0+ / 0-)

                  Do we know that three-fourths of the states would support it?

                  And even if the public feels a particular way right now, that may change if the issue ever reaches the forefront, where advocates on both sides would have to present their case. Inevitably, you'd also hear paranoid hysterics from some quarters about how we'll be dissolving the government or making way for a Hitler-like takeover from an extremist minority candidate.

                  The issue has to be on the public mind. The aftermath of the 2000 election was an opportunity, but it was squandered. Maybe it was partly because the public didn't like Al Gore that much. If a figure like Obama were to get a majority of the popular vote and lose the presidency (the only candidate that ever happened to was Samuel Tilden in 1876), it might inspire genuine electoral reform. Also, if a third-party candidate were to win the popular vote but lose the presidency after the race is decided by Congress (an outcome that could have happened in 1992), that might also inspire a need to abolish the EC.

                  •  3/4 of states not necessary. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Kylopod

                    Only states accounting for 51% of electoral votes necessary. The consent of only the most populous 11 states would do the trick. Those states could do it by "interstate compact," no Constitutional amendment needed.

                    http://www.dailykos.com/...

                    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                    by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 03:28:44 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  The media.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Kylopod

          ...yup, you're right that the media would still look at who "won" each state.  Just look at the recent Democratic primaries for an example.  Every last one of 'em has been proportional since the 1970s, and the media still got all bent out of shape about who was winning big states or small states, while completely forgetting that the margin a candidate won by was what was critical.  

          "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." -- Dom Hélder Câmara

          by SLKRR on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:30:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Excellent point (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SLKRR

            I didn't even think about that. Many observers have attributed Hillary's loss to putting too much stock in big states. She kept winning big states, but it wouldn't matter much--she'd get a net gain of 10 or so delegates, and both she and Obama would be pushed much closer to the end of the race, which ultimately benefited him because he was consistently in the lead since March.

            •  Media too shallow. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SLKRR, Aspe4

              The Repub primaries, like the EC, are winner-take-all, so who wins a state is critical. The Dem primaries awarded delegates (mostly) proportionately. There was enough media coverage to understand this for people who were paying attention, but I think the distinction was missed by a lot of the public.

              "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

              by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:55:11 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not entirely true... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Aspe4, HeyMikey

                ...only a few of the Republican primaries were winner-take-all.  Many were proportional as well and others were divided by districts.  That's actually what launched McCain into his big lead.  He won all the winner-take-alls with 35% of the vote, while Romney won all of the proportionals by a similar margin.  So, Romney's small-margin wins gave him little advantage, while McCain's small-margin wins gave him overwhelming advantage.

                "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." -- Dom Hélder Câmara

                by SLKRR on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 01:53:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Got a state-by-state breakdown? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  SLKRR, Aspe4

                  The Repub Party allows each state Repub party to choose its method of awarding primary delegates, so you're right, I was overstating it. But I think most state Repub parties chose winner-take-all.

                  "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                  by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 03:33:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  List here: (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Aspe4, HeyMikey

                    http://www.thegreenpapers.com/...

                    Just doing a quick count, I see 10 states with winner-take-all statewide (AZ, CT, DE, DC, MO, NJ, NY, UT, VT, VA) and 9 states with winner-take-all by district (CA, FL, GA, MD, MI, OH, OK, SC, WI).  So, it is more than "a few," as I earlier mentioned, but certainly far from being all of them.

                    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." -- Dom Hélder Câmara

                    by SLKRR on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 03:45:29 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/ (2+ / 0-)

    Go to this site http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/... to get the answers to 20 myths about the National Popular Vote:

    1 Myths about the Constitution

    2 Myths about Small States

    3 Myths about Recounts

    4 Myths about Faithless Electors

    5 Myth that "Wrong Winner" Elections Are Rare

    6 Myths about Proliferation of Candidates

    7 Myths about Public's Desire for "State Identity"

    8 Myths about Big States and Big Cities

    9 Myths about Post-Election Changes in the Rules

    10 Myths about Campaign Spending

    11 Myths about Federalism

    12 Myth about "a Republic versus a Democracy"

    13 Myths about "Mob Rule"

    14 Myth about an Incoming President's "Mandate"

    15 Myths about Congressional Consent

    16 Myths about the District of Columbia

    17 Myths about the 14th Amendment

    18 Myths about the Voting Rights Act

    19 Myths about Administrative or Fiscal Impact

    20 Myths about Congressional or Proportional Allocation of Electoral Votes

    Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. - FDR

    by Jeff in CA on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:11:46 PM PDT

  •  Impossible to change. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, jrooth

    The legislatures of the 13 least populous States will never ratify a Constitutional Amendment reducing their influence.

    •  Const. Amendment not necessary! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jeff in CA

      Amazing but true. It can be done by "interstate compact," which (a) needs only enough states to form an electoral majority to sign on (the 11 biggest-population states would do it); (b) is already in the works.

      http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/...

      Thank God for clever lawyers!

      "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

      by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:44:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interstate compact (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HeyMikey

        An interstate compact is an agreement between two or more states of the United States of America. Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution provides that "no state shall enter into an agreement or compact with another state" without the consent of Congress.

        The consent of Congress would be a problem.

        "We must fight their falsehood with our truth, but we must also fight falsehood in our truth." Niebuhr

        by Void Indigo on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:57:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Congressional consent probably NOT required. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jeff in CA

          http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/...

          MYTH: The National Popular Vote compact requires congressional consent to become effective.

          Under prevailing U.S. Supreme Court rulings, congressional consent is not be required for the National Popular Vote compact. However, because there will undoubtedly be time-consuming litigation about this aspect of the compact, National Popular Vote is working to introduce a bill in Congress for congressional consent.

          Article I, section 10, clause 3 of the Constitution provides:

          "No state shall, without the consent of Congress, ... enter into any agreement or compact with another state...."

          Although this language may seem straight-forward, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, in 1893 and again in 1978, that the Compacts clause can "not be read literally." In deciding the 1978 case of U.S. Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission , the Court wrote:

          "Read literally, the Compact Clause would require the States to obtain congressional approval before entering into any agreement among themselves, irrespective of form, subject, duration, or interest to the United States.

          "The difficulties with such an interpretation were identified by Mr. Justice Field in his opinion for the Court in [the 1893 case] Virginia v. Tennessee. His conclusion [was] that the Clause could not be read literally [and this 1893 conclusion has been] approved in subsequent dicta."

          Specifically, the Court's 1893 ruling was in the case of Virginia v. Tennessee:

          "Looking at the clause in which the terms 'compact' or 'agreement' appear, it is evident that the prohibition is directed to the formation of any combination tending to the increase of political power in the states, which may encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States." [Emphasis added]

          The state power involved in the National Popular Vote compact is specified in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 the Constitution:

          "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors...."

          In the 1892 case of McPherson v. Blacker (146 U.S. 1), the Court wrote:

          "The appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the states under the constitution of the United States" [Emphasis added]

          The National Popular Vote compact does not "encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States" because there is simply no federal power — much less federal supremacy — in the area of awarding of electoral votes in the first place.

          The 1978 case of U.S. Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission dealt with a compact that specified that it would come into force when seven or more states enacted it. The compact was silent as to the role of Congress. The compact was submitted to Congress for its consent. After encountering fierce political opposition from various business interests concerned about the more stringent tax audits anticipated under the compact, the compacting states proceeded with the implementation of the compact without congressional consent. U.S. Steel challenged the states' action. In upholding the constitutionality of the implementation of the compact by the states without congressional consent, the U.S. Supreme Court applied the interpretation of the Compact Clause from its 1893 holding in Virginia v. Tennessee, writing that:

          "the test is whether the Compact enhances state power quaod the National Government."

          The Court also noted that the compact did not

          "authorize the member states to exercise any powers they could not exercise in its absence."

          Of course, there is always the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court might change the legal standards concerning congressional consent contained in its 1893 and 1978 rulings. Some have argued, for example, that congressional intervention in what would otherwise be an exclusively state matter might be required if the compacting states exerted some kind of adverse "political" effect on non-compacting states. In a dissenting opinion, U.S. Supreme Court Justice White suggested, in U.S. Steel v. Multi-State Tax Commission, that courts could consider the possible adverse effects of a compact on non-compacting in deciding whether congressional consent is required.

          Because each state has independent power to award its electoral votes in the manner it sees fit, it is difficult to see what "adverse effect" might be claimed by one state from the decision of another state to award its electoral votes in a particular way. It is especially not clear what adverse "political" effect might be claimed, given that the National Popular Vote compact treats votes cast in all 50 states and the District of Columbia equally. A vote cast in a compacting state is, in every way, equal to a vote cast in a non-compacting state. The National Popular Vote compact does not reduce the voice of voters in non-compacting states relative to the voice of voters in member states.

          The electoral votes of non-compacting states would continue to be cast in the manner specified by each state's law. That means that most non-compacting states would presumably continue to award their electoral votes based on the winner-take-all rule. The compact does not invalidate or negate the electoral votes cast by non-compacting states. The National Popular Vote bill does not require non-compacting states that do not wish to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote to do so. Non-compacting states can continue to cast their votes for the winner of the statewide popular vote (or district-wide popular vote), even when the National Popular Vote compact is implemented. No non-compacting state is compelled to cast their votes for the winner of the national popular vote.

          Of course, it has always been the case that one state (by its choice of method of awarding its electoral votes) can exert an effect on the value (in a political sense) of a vote cast in another state. For example, the use of the winner-take-all rule by a closely divided battleground state, such as Florida, diminishes the political value of the votes cast by citizens in the three-quarters of the states that are not battleground states. Because of the use by battleground states of the winner-take-all rule, presidential candidates concentrate their polling, visits, advertising, organizing, and attention on the concerns of battleground states, while ignoring the concerns of the remaining states. In 2004, for example, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in just five states (spending the most in Florida); over 80% in just nine states; and over 99% of their money in just 16 states. The use of the winner-take-all rule by closely divided battleground states marginalizes voters in the spectator states. Three-quarters of the states are currently disenfranchised in presidential elections because of the use of the winner-take-all rule by the closely divided battleground states. It is not California's winner-take-all law or Wyoming's winner-take-all law that makes votes in these states worthless and irrelevant in presidential elections. Instead, it is the winner-take-all law in the closely divided battleground states (such as Florida) that renders votes meaningless in California and Wyoming.

          Florida could, of course, eliminate this effect on other states by changing its method of awarding its electoral votes. For example, if Florida awarded its electoral votes by congressional district, presidential candidates could then simply ignore all of Florida (except for its competitive 2nd, 10th, 18th, and 22nd districts) and focus their attention on other states. However, under the U.S. Constitution, Florida is clearly under no obligation to make such changes to accommodate other states. Indeed, it is inherent in the Constitution's grant to each state of the independent power to choose the method of appointing its presidential electors that one state's decision may have a political impact on other states.

          The U.S. Supreme Court has already declined to act in response to a complaint concerning the political impact of one state's choice of the manner of appointing its presidential electors on another state. In 1966, Delaware led a group of 12 predominantly low-population states (also including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Florida, and Pennsylvania) in suing New York in the U.S. Supreme Court. The 12 states argued that New York's decision to use the winner-take-all rule effectively disenfranchised voters in the 12 plaintiff states. The pleadings are available online , and New York's (defendant) brief is especially pertinent. Despite the fact that the case was brought under the Court's original jurisdiction, the Court declined to hear the case (presumably because of the well-established constitutional provision that the manner of awarding electoral votes is exclusively a state decision).

          The fact that the 1966 case was initiated by predominantly small states reflects the political reality (and recognition by the small states) that each state's bonus of two electoral votes is an illusory benefit to the small states in presidential elections. Only one of the 13 smallest states and only five of the 25 smallest states are battleground states in presidential elections. The political reality is that 12 of the 13 smallest states are almost totally ignored in presidential elections because they are politically non-competitive in presidential elections. Six states (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska) regularly vote Republican, while six others (Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and the District of Columbia) regularly vote Democratic. These 12 jurisdictions together contain 11 million people. Because of the two-electoral-vote bonus that each state receives, these 12 non-competitive small states have 40 electoral votes. However, Ohio has 11 million people and has "only" 20 electoral votes. The 11 million people in Ohio are the center of attention in presidential campaigns, whereas the 11 million people in the 12 non-competitive small states are irrelevant. In the real world of presidential politics, 20 electoral votes in a battleground state are far more important than 40 electoral votes in spectator states. Nationwide election of the President would make each of the voters in the 12 smallest states as important as an Ohio voter.

          Under the National Popular Vote compact, every voter throughout the United States would be equal. The votes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia would be added together to determine the national popular vote. Then, the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states the District of Columbia would be guaranteed enough votes in the Electoral College to be elected President by the Electoral College.

          A vote cast in a compacting state is, in every way, equal to a vote cast in a non-compacting state. The compact does not reduce the equal voice of voters in non-compacting states relative to the voice of voters in member states. The electoral votes of non-compacting states would continue to be cast in the manner specified by each state's law. That may mean that most non-compacting states would continue to award their electoral votes based on the winner-take-all rule. The compact does not invalidate or negate the electoral votes cast by non-compacting states. The National Popular Vote bill does not require those states that do not wish to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote to do so. States may continue to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the statewide popular vote, even when the National Popular Vote bill is implemented. No state will ever be compelled to cast their votes for the winner of the national popular vote.

          This incorrect argument is often raised in connection with the issue of congressional consent. The possible adverse effects of a compact on non-compacting states was raised in a dissenting opinion at the U.S. Supreme Court by Justice White in U.S. Steel v. Multi-State Tax Commission; however, the Court did adopt Justice White's view.

          Congressional consent (expressed or implied) can be conferred by a majority vote in both the U.S. House and Senate with approval of the President (or enactment by a two-thirds majority if the President vetoes the bill).

          The question of congressional consent is discussed in considerably greater detail in the book Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote (available on-line at www.every-vote-equal.com or from Amazon).

          "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

          by HeyMikey on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 01:06:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  MYTH: National Popular Vote compact is unconsti- (0+ / 0-)

          tutional.

          Here is a previous comment with an explanation on why such a compact would NOT require Congressional approval. Also see this link in Chapter 5, p. 219-230, "COMPACTS NOT REQUIRING CONGRESSIONAL CONSENT."

          Also consider:

          Tellingly, no one has yet to identify any specific section of the U.S. Constitution that they think might be violated by the National Popular Vote bill. A successful challenge to the National Popular Vote compact on constitutional grounds seems highly unlikely, given the fact that constitutional law concerning interstate compacts is well settled and given the fact that the National Popular Vote compact is based on the "plenary" and "exclusive" power of the states to award their electoral votes as they see fit.
          ...
          Second, there are no restrictions in the U.S. Constitution on the subject matter of interstate compacts, other than the implicit limitation that a compact's subject matter must be among the powers that the states are permitted to exercise.

          Third, we are aware of no case in which the courts have ever invalidated any interstate compact. Given recent tendencies of the courts to accord increased deference to states' rights (and, in particular, recent judicial support for even freer use of interstate compacts by the states), it seems highly unlikely that the courts would invalidate the National Popular Vote compact. The National Popular Vote compact is an example of states' rights in action.

          Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. - FDR

          by Jeff in CA on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 01:14:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I don't think that the PV (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jrooth

    in teh current system is at all significant.  The campaigns are structured in such a way as not to care about popular vote so they don't attempt to influence it.  (You seem to agree that campaign activities influence voters).  Thus, the mere fact that a Democrat can run up enormous numbers in California does not (and should not) be of any relevance to a Republican candidate because attempting to influence voters in California for the GOP candidate would be a wasted effort.  In that scenario a GOP candidate would much rather pull out a 1 vote victory in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan then worry about closing a million vote gap in California.  

    In a different system reverse would be true.  

    So in the current system the overall distribution of votes is irrelevant because the overall distribution of campaigning and influence on those votes was uneven.  Thus a California vote does not equal a Missouri vote.

  •  I have a practical question (1+ / 0-)

    regarding the popular vote idea:

    We see how difficult the process in Minnesota has been with regards to determining the winner of the Senate race.  And of course we all remember the Florida mess in the 2000 election.  So what would the process of a national recount look like, in the event of an extremely close national vote?  

    Could something which manifestly takes months to resolve on a single state level possibly be resolved in less than years on a national level?  And how much confidence could we possibly have in that process?

    "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jrooth on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:31:51 PM PDT

    •  Answer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kylopod

      Myth about recounts:

      Critics of a national popular vote have argued that there could be an extremely close nationwide count in the future (and historical data show that there would indeed be one such disputed election in every 1,328 years). However, even in that rare situation, there would also be, almost inevitably, one or more states with razor-thin popular vote margins. Thus, there would be controversy under both systems in an exceedingly close election.

      It is important to note that the question of recounts only comes to mind in connection with presidential elections because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

      More importantly, the possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.
      ...

      A recount is not an unimaginable horror or a logistical impossibility. All states routinely make arrangements for a recount in advance of every election. A recount is a recognized contingency that is occasionally required in the course of running elections (about once in 332 elections). The personnel and resources necessary to conduct a recount are indigenous to each state. A state's ability to conduct a recount inside its own borders is unrelated to whether or not a recount may be occurring in another state.

      Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. - FDR

      by Jeff in CA on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 12:57:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well ... (0+ / 0-)

        First of all, I don't buy their method of calculating the probability of a recount.  For any number of reasons, you can't just take the total number of state elections and the total contested state elections historically and extrapolate that to national election.  For just one thing, there have been state races close enough to contest which weren't because flipping those states would not have affected the final outcome of the race.

        Just anecdotally, I have personally been in the heart of a "500 year flood" and a "100 year" storm (not to mention many somewhat less statistically significant events) yet I'm less than 50 years old.  I'm congenitally suspicious of facile claims of unlikelihood.

        Second, pointing out that individual states have managed recounts doesn't address my issue, which is the fact that we would be doing that 50 times oveer simultaneously in the case of a national recount.  Bush and Gore used hundreds of lawyers, millions of dollars and pretty much full-time effort of their entire campaign staffs just to handle Florida - and it was nonetheless a holy mess.  How the hell does anyone do that in 50 states simultaneously?

        Again, I'm congenitally suspicious of breezy declarations that something will be easy.  Especially when we're talking about a massively scaled-up version of something that has been quite hard, at least sometimes.

        "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

        by jrooth on Mon Mar 23, 2009 at 01:59:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's all relative. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jeff in CA

    For instance, the last time Republicans thought popular vote numbers meant anything was when Bill Clinton won with only 43% (we'll just ignore that his electoral college margin was of landslide proportion). By the time 2000 rolled around, the popular vote was meaningless and the electoral college numbers were the only measure to be considered. And eight years later, they were in the rather difficult spot of having to argue that neither the popular vote nor the electoral college numbers matter, and that the election should be decided on which candidate can better convince some bloggers of his citizenship status. This is known as an evolution of thinking.

    I'd love to have my New Jersey vote carry as much weight as a Montana vote, but it ain't gonna happen.

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