Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Americans, Why Don't You Just "Delete" The Electoral College?

A half a century ago, gevalt, am I old, when I first learned about American Government in Social Studies class in New York City, and later in Nassau County, NYS, I couldn't understand why the United States Presidential Elections were still decided by that archaic dinosaur, the Electoral College. 

If you're dealing with a national election, the results should be simply the count of each voting citizen.  Of course there can be a rule, like in many countries that the winner must get 40% of the popular vote or have a runoff between the two top vote-getters.

I just read that some states which oppose the Electoral College are trying a rather "double-jointed" way of bypassing it

"...requiring the state to assign all of its Electoral College delegates to the candidate who wins the national popular vote..."

It would be so much easier to have a simple popular vote.  By eliminating the Electoral College, there would be less bureaucracy, too.


Anonymous said...

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

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

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). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. The National Popular Vote bill does not try to abolish the Electoral College, which would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President (for example, ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote) have come about without federal constitutional amendments, by state legislative action.

The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska -- 70%, DC -- 76%, Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, Minnesota -- 75%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 30 state legislative chambers, in 20 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

mordechai said...

Well if you want to make it easy for Obama to steal the next election lets get rid of the electoral college.

The in states run by the democrat like NY he can just enter millions of fake votes and poof he wins the election.

Right now he could enter millions of fake votes in NY and it doesn't help him at all because the dems always win NY electoral votes.

The electoral college forces candidates to have a national campaign and win votes in a variety of states to win.

Thank G-d they can never get rid of the electoral college

Batya said...

Two different opinions here. Mordechai, I don't see how this new bill is any less democratic than the old way.
a, thanks for the info

Unknown said...

The point of the Electoral College was to prevent the heavily populated states from running roughshod over the less populated states. It was an attempt to balance "popular" electoral choices, "regional" electoral choices, and "pragmatic" electoral choices.

If it was totally a national count, the results could be that the presidential candidate could concentrate even more than he does now on the fanatical base rather than trying to win in each state.

The point about "stealing" the race by deliberately inflating the phony vote in the most corrupt locations (such as Chicago) would also apply.

Unknown said...

I forgot to mention that the whole point of the United States is not to be a pure "democracy" as in the New Englan "town councils" or the Athenian city state as that does not scale up properly to run an entire country. It is a "Representative Republic" which is designed to balance the wishes of the majority against the desires and needs of the minority.

An example from Israel would be the kibbutz movement. Even those who claim that a kibbutz can be a successful model for a new settlement admit that it cannot be scaled up to run the country.

In fact, the entire set up of the United States is designed to make it more difficult for the government to take over and exert power. This is due to the fact that by its very nature government tends to become tyrannical and attempt to accumulate as much power at the top as it can.

Even in our history we can see this, where we needed a Gad Hanavi to rein in Dovid HaMelech, or Yeshaya Hanvi to tell Chizkiyah HaMelech when he did something wrong. In spite of having a direct connection to Hashem, we still wound up with Menashe HaMelech and Yerav'am ben Nevat (who was originally correct and told to revolt by the Navi).

Batya said...

It's not a true democracy when residents of rural areas have votes more powerful than urban.

Unknown said...

Keep in mind that the main media at the moment, namely TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. So, if you just looked at TV, candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

For example, in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles.

If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a "big city" approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn't be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

Unknown said...

And, unfortunately, it is much easier for a radical candidate focused on only a few divisive issues to win now, under the Electoral College system. In the U.S. last presidential election, over half of all campaign visits and spending were in 4 states and 98% of visits and spending were in only 15 states. The reason for this is that those are "swing states," places where the race is tight enough that the Electoral College votes could fall to either candidate. The other 35 states are so solidly one way or the other that neither candidate has any incentive to campaign there, and they don't. This means the swing state issues will receive a heavily unbalanced amount of focus both in the campaign and once the candidate is elected President, since he or she will have to fulfill those campaign promises.

Finally, even votes for the losing candidate within your state would count for his or her national total, something that does not occur now and makes votes for the losing candidate within a state have literally zero impact on who the next President will be. That does not fit with the idea of "one man, one vote" and everyone having a say in who will lead the country-National Popular Vote corrects that failing.

Robertcw72 said...

Actually its a simple reason. Federalism. Each citizen techinically is not a citizen of the United States. Instead, more accurately we are a citizen of the state we reside in. I live in Arizona. I am a citizen of Arizona and because of that I am a citizen of the United States. In the recent Healthcare Debate many citizens wanted to take the US to court, but we would like legal standing. Instead our statement governements are the proper standing to take the US to court to challenge the Health Care law. And the Electoral College was established essentially as a check on mob rule, the founding fathers did not trust the masses. And up until the election of Andrew Jackson there was limited ability to vote. Personally I wish we would remove the Constitutional amendment that allowed popular vote for US Senators as a check on the House of Representatives.

Robertcw72 said...


The US is not a true democracy. Never has been, and I HOPE never will be.

The US is a Republic.

A Democracy and a Republic are not the same.

Batya said...

Thanks for all the comments. This is reallly fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Democracy is 5 wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch; If you were the sheep, which would you rather live in—a republic or a democracy?

Anonymous said...

National Popular Vote has nothing to do with whether the country has a "republican" form of government or is a "democracy."

A "republican" form of government means that the voters do not make laws themselves but, instead, delegate the job to periodically elected officials (Congressmen, Senators, and the President). The United States has a "republican" form of government regardless of whether popular votes for presidential electors are tallied at the state-level (as has been the case in 48 states) or at district-level (as has been the case in Maine and Nebraska) or at 50-state-level (as under the National Popular Vote bill).

Anonymous said...

Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, along district lines (as has been the case in Maine and Nebraska), or national lines.

Anonymous said...

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote. Later, state laws gave the people the right to vote for President in all 50 states.

The National Popular Vote bill would end the disproportionate attention and influence of the "mob" in a handful of closely divided battleground states, such as Florida, while the "mobs" of the vast majority of states are ignored. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided "battleground" states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 "battleground" states.

The current system does not provide some kind of check on the "mobs." There have been 22,000 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 10 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. The electors are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

Anonymous said...

The potential for political fraud and mischief is not uniquely associated with either the current system or a national popular vote. In fact, the current system magnifies the incentive for fraud and mischief in closely divided battleground states because all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state.

Under the current system, the national outcome can be affected by mischief in one of the closely divided battleground states.

Senator Birch Bayh (D–Indiana) summed up the concerns about possible fraud in a nationwide popular election for President in a Senate speech by saying in 1979, "one of the things we can do to limit fraud is to limit the benefits to be gained by fraud. Under a direct popular vote system, one fraudulent vote wins one vote in the return. In the electoral college system, one fraudulent vote could mean 45 electoral votes, 28 electoral votes."

Batya said...

This has been very interesting. Thanks for all the comments. But I still think that if you're going to have elections, each vote must have equal weight, and that means that there shouldn't be the Electoral College.