THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

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Should The Electoral College Be Abolished?

Yes
30
43%
No
23
33%
I'm Not American but...Yes
12
17%
I'm Not American but...No
5
7%
 
Total votes : 70

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby Minneapolitan » 14 Feb 2017, 04:14

Donald Trumps's victory in the 2016 US presidential election is the fourth time in US history in which the majority of Americans voted for a candidate that lost. If we consider the chaos of the 1824 election, it's the fifth. But this is by design.

I'm no expert on the matter, but the architects of the US Constitution lived in a time when the name of the US was to be taken much more literally: These were thirteen separate states that were loosely united. Uniting together under one single government in the way these men envisioned was something the world had never seen before. This great American experiment was extremely fragile - these were self-governing states that were still highly provincial. At this time it would be normal, for example, for one to identify himself as a Virginian or a New Yorker before identifying as an American (at least in North America). It was understood by these Founding Fathers that these separate states were not equal in population. So when it comes to electing the federal government's executive branch, measures must be taken so the needs and opinions of smaller states like Georgia and New Hampshire could not be drowned out by larger states like Massachusetts and Virginia. Additionally, the Founding Fathers understood that most of the governed were not highly educated on top of being highly provincial and that virtually all media was very local. Their solution was the Electoral College.

Obviously, the United States doesn't live in those times anymore. But there are fundamental ideas at work here that some would argue for maintaining the Electoral College.

But after George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 by roughly half a million votes, and certainly after Donald Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by an unprecedented ≈2,864,903 votes, the arguments against the Electoral College seem to be more valid. Personally, I'm livid with this system and believe the US is very much NOT a true democracy because of it. Here's a short, excellent, and quite popular video that explains very well what's wrong:



(Here's the 2016 addendum on this video)


Additionally, I think the Electoral College is a major reason why the US has such notoriously low voter turnout. If you're a Democrat in Tennessee or Idaho, or a Republican in Massachusetts or Hawaii, then you're vote really doesn't count. So why show up at all? Because of the sheer magnitude in importance of the presidency, I suspect the Electoral College plays a part in alienating countless Americans from voting altogether. I can't imagine the Founding Fathers approving of this!

Should the United States abolish the Electoral College?

If so, what would it realistically take to do it? With what would we replace it?


And let me add that 270ToWin.com is an absolutely fantastic and user-friendly website where you can toggle states to see different outcomes, find historical maps of past presidential elections accompanied by a brief synopsis, Senate and House maps, and much more. If you need some quick reference, I encourage you to check it out!

8-)
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby asudevil » 14 Feb 2017, 04:27

But then the only states that would matter are Texas, California, NewYork, Florida, Ohio, and a handful of others (Illinois/Wisconsin/Michigan/Virginia) and the rest really just wouldn't matter.

I think we could tweak it so that maybe you only get congress + 1 senator instead of 2...but abolishing it is not the right move...(BTW, Im a major anti-Trumper who wanted to feel the Bern.)
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby Shyvve » 14 Feb 2017, 05:39

There is a movement afoot in the U.S. to sidestep the E.C. and I cannot for the life of me now recall the name. Not only does it sidestep the E.C., but it also sidesteps the issue of passing a Constitutional amendment to dissolve or replace the E.C. (It is rather impossible to envision Congress passing any Constitutional amendment nowadays as they can barely agree to not reneging on the US debt as is).

A number of the larger population states have already signed onto the petition. Basically, it goes as follows. As soon as enough states sign on (enough states meaning their combined E.C. votes reach the necessary number to elect), then these states vow to cast all their E.C. votes for whatever candidate wins the popular vote. In effect, once enough states have signed on, then the winner of the popular vote is by agreement also guaranteed to win the E.C.

I have often heard the counter-argument that ok, say this proposal is adopted by enough states. Then, the only states which matter are the most populated ones. Fair enough, but as it is now, the only states that matter are the "battleground" states. So I think the proposal at least has the merit that it ensures that "one person, one vote" is preserved regardless of where that person resides.

EDIT: Found a link explaining the concept and current status: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_ ... te_Compact
Last edited by Shyvve on 14 Feb 2017, 05:43, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby historiadorlatino » 14 Feb 2017, 05:41

Obviously the system and its inability to reform itself reflect some old beliefs, policy choices and open wounds concerning American federalism... in this sense it's not anachronistic, because it reflects history and the current balance of forces in American politics. But in an exercise of political engineering, I would get rid of both district system and electoral college, hoping this would also carry away bipartidarism, which today is not the same as bipartisanship, but the opposite of it.
The system makes sense for those who believe that states are or should be the focus of the national political system, not individual citizens or groups of people... but in my personal opinion, as a citizen (political citizen with democratic concerns, not from USA) it is anachronistic, inadequate for a country in which presidential elections are national events that debate matters of national policy, and not the balance of parochial interests at state and local level. In national elections the electoral college tends to harm legitimacy in some ways. One of them is that the winner doesn't always win by popular vote. Another problem is that elections can be decided by a handful of votes in a single state, as in 2000, with the additional trouble of irregular electoral disenfranchisement at local and state level. Another one is one very unlikely to happen until it happens, that is, a rebellion of delegates against the will of their home state. In a close election, decided by a few electoral votes, this could be a problem someday.
The brother of electoral college is the district system of voting for the House of Representatives (and its anomaly called gerrymandering), that in an ideal system should also be dumped, I think. With gerrymandering, democracy is often rigged by commissions at state level that draw districts in an arbitrary way. But those changes are a huge exercise of imagination and political engineering that is unlikely to happen. At least districts take people into account as groups, being drawn considering demographic and social factors, but all in all it is vulnerable to all sorts of manipulation of majority rule.
Anyway, I think, as I said, it reflects the political culture of an entire country, so it does make sense considering its own historical background. I'm speaking ideally, as a foreign observer from Brazil and a PhD candidate in American political history.
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby numberwang1 » 14 Feb 2017, 05:48

Until voter registration laws are uniform accross the country, the electoral college should be tweaked and not abolished. If the election was conducted based on a pure popular vote, red states (which is most of them) would intensify their disenfranchisment efforts, and the election would become a battle of voter turnout where one side tries to depress it. Until that time, a time I doubt we will ever see, I think that an electoral college where electors are split proportionally rather than awarded fully, would be best. This would give incentive to win by more than just a tiny margin, reward candidates for accross the board competitiveness, and would keep it from being a pure turnout contest while still making things more closely resemble a popular vote.
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby Keirador » 14 Feb 2017, 06:35

Minneapolitan wrote:So when it comes to electing the federal government's executive branch, measures must be taken so the needs and opinions of smaller states like Georgia and New Hampshire could not be drowned out by larger states like Massachusetts and Virginia. Additionally, the Founding Fathers understood that most of the governed were not highly educated on top of being highly provincial and that virtually all media was very local. Their solution was the Electoral College.

For what it's worth, to my knowledge that was NOT the thinking behind instituting the Electoral College, it was the thinking behind assigning each state equal representation in the Senate, and making the Senate the branch of the legislature with greater oversight of the other two branches. The thinking behind the Electoral College was two-fold: to act as an emergency break in the system to prevent an unqualified populist from ascending to the Presidency, because Hamilton and other Federalists were concerned that the popular vote could simply choose wrong, and to serve as the mechanism of implementation whereby slaves were represented as 3/5 of a person for the purpose of selecting the President but could not actually vote. We've long abandoned our sympathy for the Slave Power, and the election of Donald Trump just proved that the Electoral College does not act as the sanity check that Hamilton intended. The idea that the EC is meant to somehow more evenly distribute power geographically is a much more recent justification that doesn't really withstand scrutiny.
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby Keirador » 14 Feb 2017, 06:50

asudevil wrote:But then the only states that would matter are Texas, California, NewYork, Florida, Ohio, and a handful of others (Illinois/Wisconsin/Michigan/Virginia) and the rest really just wouldn't matter.

This kind of thinking is the result of the Electoral College's disenfranchising effect. Right now, "Texas" and "California" etc. do vote as a block, but under a popular vote system "Texas" and "California" would not be voting entities, Texans and Californians would be the voting entities and they would not vote as a block. Right now the votes that matter the most are marginal votes in states that are both relatively large and relatively evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. That means that the 4 or 5 million Republican voters in California do not matter, the 3 or 4 million Democratic voters in Texas do no matter, etc. Politicians therefore have no reason to campaign in these states, and accordingly they don't. If every vote everywhere counted, a winning candidate could not afford to ignore GOTV operations and more local concerns everywhere they could get votes. Conservatives would be campaigning in upstate New York, downstate Illinois, California's Inland Empire, eastern Washington, and liberals would be campaigning in Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Madison, Omaha, etc. A gun-owning god-fearing farmer upstate and a gay young actor in Manhattan are never to unite in some power-broking cabal just because they're both New Yorkers, even if your campaign platform was to just give every New Yorker $1,000. And if you did that, it would piss off all the NON New Yorkers whose votes you also need. This thinking about big cities or big states "dominating" less popular areas is not a problem the Electoral College was designed to solve, it is a problem that only exists because the Electoral College does. States are only ever power-blocks because the Electoral College has forced that approach. Get rid of it, and it immediately stops making sense to even talk about states in a conversation about the nation's president.
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby Keirador » 14 Feb 2017, 06:56

numberwang1 wrote:Until voter registration laws are uniform accross the country, the electoral college should be tweaked and not abolished. If the election was conducted based on a pure popular vote, red states (which is most of them) would intensify their disenfranchisment efforts, and the election would become a battle of voter turnout where one side tries to depress it. Until that time, a time I doubt we will ever see, I think that an electoral college where electors are split proportionally rather than awarded fully, would be best. This would give incentive to win by more than just a tiny margin, reward candidates for accross the board competitiveness, and would keep it from being a pure turnout contest while still making things more closely resemble a popular vote.

While I agree voter registration laws are very important, I'm not sure I see the connection here between these issues. If you're worried that a popular vote would create more disenfranchisement, why would proportional representation, which would have a very similar effect in terms of electoral outcomes, not do the same?
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby PatCleburne » 14 Feb 2017, 08:56

But then the only states that would matter are Texas, California, NewYork, Florida, Ohio, and a handful of others (Illinois/Wisconsin/Michigan/Virginia) and the rest really just wouldn't matter.


I hear this kind of argument, and I throw up my hands. Yes! That's where the people live! Of course the places where there are more people should matter more in a democracy -- there are more people there! The 580,000 people in Wyoming shouldn't matter more than the 2 million in DC: land doesn't vote.
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Re: THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE: Time To Abolish?

Postby PatCleburne » 14 Feb 2017, 10:21

Keirador wrote:
asudevil wrote:But then the only states that would matter are Texas, California, NewYork, Florida, Ohio, and a handful of others (Illinois/Wisconsin/Michigan/Virginia) and the rest really just wouldn't matter.

This kind of thinking is the result of the Electoral College's disenfranchising effect. Right now, "Texas" and "California" etc. do vote as a block, but under a popular vote system "Texas" and "California" would not be voting entities, Texans and Californians would be the voting entities and they would not vote as a block. Right now the votes that matter the most are marginal votes in states that are both relatively large and relatively evenly divided between conservatives and liberals. That means that the 4 or 5 million Republican voters in California do not matter, the 3 or 4 million Democratic voters in Texas do no matter, etc. Politicians therefore have no reason to campaign in these states, and accordingly they don't. If every vote everywhere counted, a winning candidate could not afford to ignore GOTV operations and more local concerns everywhere they could get votes. Conservatives would be campaigning in upstate New York, downstate Illinois, California's Inland Empire, eastern Washington, and liberals would be campaigning in Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Madison, Omaha, etc. A gun-owning god-fearing farmer upstate and a gay young actor in Manhattan are never to unite in some power-broking cabal just because they're both New Yorkers, even if your campaign platform was to just give every New Yorker $1,000. And if you did that, it would piss off all the NON New Yorkers whose votes you also need. This thinking about big cities or big states "dominating" less popular areas is not a problem the Electoral College was designed to solve, it is a problem that only exists because the Electoral College does. States are only ever power-blocks because the Electoral College has forced that approach. Get rid of it, and it immediately stops making sense to even talk about states in a conversation about the nation's president.


And I agree with all this too --
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