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Old October 26 2012, 03:05 PM   #1
sbk1234
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Electoral College; Yes or No?

First, Mods, please shut this down if it devolves into an Obama vs. Romney, Democrat vs. Republican thing. That's not the point of this.

As most Americans should know, we select our president through the Electoral College, and not by a popular vote. It has happened several times in history - the most recent being when George W. Bush became president in the 2000 election - that a president has lost the popular vote, but won in the Electoral COllege.

My question: Do you think it would be better to elect the president based strictly on popular vote, or is our system working, as is?

Please discuss, and give reasons for your answers. I'm really interested in people's reasoning in this.
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Old October 26 2012, 04:39 PM   #2
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

The Electoral College does spread around the decision on who becomes President, so that the people in the twenty biggest cities (mostly in the east) don't make the decision for the entire country.

Between popular vote, and electoral college vote, the latter is the better choice.

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Old October 26 2012, 04:49 PM   #3
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

Get rid of it. It's a stupid system that flies in the face of a government that is supposed to be of the people.
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Old October 26 2012, 04:51 PM   #4
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

I think it could stand to be reformed, but not necessarily eliminated. I also think we have bigger political problems to tackle at the moment, like SuperPACs.
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Old October 26 2012, 04:52 PM   #5
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

^^But those twenty biggest cities determine which states have the most electoral votes.

I've wavered between keeping and trashing the Electoral College over the years. I understand that it was set up to allow a body of informed voters to decide who would be president, since the citizens of the state of Georgia wouldn't be expected to know anything of a candidate from the state of New York, and vice versa. Back then the college served a useful purpose. Now, though, it's more or less a rubber stamp on the popular vote, except for the rare instances when the popular vote doesn't agree with the electoral vote distribution.

Last edited by Pavonis; October 26 2012 at 05:02 PM.
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Old October 26 2012, 04:55 PM   #6
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

T'Girl wrote: View Post
The Electoral College does spread around the decision on who becomes President, so that the people in the twenty biggest cities (mostly in the east) don't make the decision for the entire country.

Between popular vote, and electoral college vote, the latter is the better choice.

But under the electoral college, the only states that get campaigned in are the "swing" states with enough electoral votes to make or break the election.

So why shouldn't larger population centers make that decision? And before you bring the problem of "mob rule in democracy", this is only for the election of the the executive branch, which doesn't have the real power: that would be Congress (which is bicameral to prevent that very "mob rule" issue).


If I may, I'll leave this here: it would basically nullify the electoral college by way of interstate compact.

http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/
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Old October 26 2012, 05:02 PM   #7
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

The electoral college is definitely better. In a popular vote, the majority would always win and the minorities would be powerless. That's not democracy, that's just the tyranny of the majority. Democracy is about giving as much power as possible to each individual voter. The smaller the election, the greater the probability that it could come down to a single person's vote making the difference. So a lot of small elections are more democratic than a single big election.

And it's not just about statistics. This is a diverse country. It's not one big clump of people, but thousands of distinct regions and communities with their own demographics, values, priorities, and the like. The president needs to represent all those different communities and their varying needs. So it makes sense for the presidency to be decided by many regional elections rather than a single blanket election that doesn't take all that diversity into account. By having to target different states and regions, by having to balance electoral math rather than just go for the big number, presidential candidates have to campaign locally and pay attention to the views of many constituencies, including small ones.

Once I read a science magazine article about a statistician who'd done an analysis proving that the electoral college system was more fair overall (that's what made the point about many smaller elections giving the individual more chance of making a difference than a single big one). The article drew an analogy to sports tournaments like the World Series. In the World Series, or Wimbledon, say, it's possible for the team or player who scores more points to win fewer games (or matches) and thus lose the tournament. Because each game is different, and some have more points scored overall than others, or in some cases the win is by a larger margin, or whatever. It wouldn't make sense just to add up all the individual points across the whole tournament, to treat the whole thing as one single contest when it's actually a set of different contests. The reason we have tournaments with multiple games rather than just playing one big game is that it's a more valid and fair way of determining merit. Winning a single contest can come down to chance factors, but if you can win multiple contests in a row, that's more likely to be because you've earned your victory through the quality of your achievements.

So we determine the winners of sports tournaments not by how many points they score, but by how many games they win, because that's a better reflection of merit. In the presidential election it's the same way. We don't elect the person who gets more votes, but the person who wins more local elections -- who comes out ahead in the majority of the distinct regional contests, taking all the differences among the various contests into account.

Some people complain that because it's possible for the person who gets fewer votes to win the Electoral College, that's a corruption of democracy. But that's missing the point of democracy. Like I said, democracy is about spreading the power out to everyone as fairly as possible. And that means that sometimes, the minority gets to win. If the system is stacked so the minority never wins, then you don't have a fair distribution of power. After all, it's not about any single election. The minority may win one race and the majority the next. Nobody can win all the time, but the goal is to give everyone a fair chance of coming out ahead. By the same token, yes, certain "swing states" may be disproportionally important in determining the outcome of a given election, but since demographics, populations, and politics can shift, a state that's crucial in one election may become irrelevant in a later one, and vice-versa. It's not really possible to homogenize things in any single election; the goal is to balance out the distribution of power across elections in general, so one group's advantage in one has the potential to be balanced by a different group's advantage in another.
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Old October 26 2012, 05:02 PM   #8
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

T'Girl wrote: View Post
The Electoral College does spread around the decision on who becomes President, so that the people in the twenty biggest cities (mostly in the east) don't make the decision for the entire country.
Since the population of the 100 biggest cities amount to a whopping 19.4% of the total population, that's not a valid argument.

As of now Ohio and Florida make the decisions for the rest of the country and the campaigns spend an inordinate amount of their time trying to sway a tiny fraction of the country's population.

Christopher wrote: View Post
The electoral college is definitely better. In a popular vote, the majority would always win and the minorities would be powerless. That's not democracy, that's just the tyranny of the majority.
No, that's a democracy. There's no "tyranny of the majority" if the majority is allowed to change their minds on things.
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Old October 26 2012, 05:09 PM   #9
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

But under the electoral college, the only states that get campaigned in are the "swing" states with enough electoral votes to make or break the election.
I've lived in New York, Vermont, and Mass. It's practically set in stone how they will vote and consequently you never see any campaigning here. Just fundraising dinners. I'm sure the same is true in Republican stronghold states.

As of now Ohio and Florida make the decisions for the rest of the country and the campaigns spend an inordinate amount of their time trying to sway a tiny fraction of the country's population.
Pretty much. Throw Pennsylvania and Virginia in for good measure. Kinda sucks knowing your vote counts for nothing if the majority of people in your state vote for the other guy.
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Old October 26 2012, 05:16 PM   #10
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

Screamy wrote: View Post
No, that's a democracy. There's no "tyranny of the majority" if the majority is allowed to change their minds on things.
What? Tyranny is only tyranny if the tyrant never changes their mind?
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Old October 26 2012, 05:25 PM   #11
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

This is why it doesn't work:



It's failed several times and the nation has been given a President who we didn't "elect".
You can win by gaining only 22% of the popular vote.
Large states get screwed by small states.
A Republican's vote in Maryland is about as useful as a Democrat's vote in Alabama.
The entire election is won by changing the minds of a handful of people in a smattering of states.
In the event of a tie, the people's will can be totally ignored.
Most people don't even know what it is.

And so forth.

This was a rule written by men who never conceived of a country where most of their several states were totally entrenched into voting for a particular party. Hell, the first founding father ran without a party and actively campaigned against them and the last founding father who won the White House ran unopposed.

A totally different world.

Pavonis wrote: View Post
Screamy wrote: View Post
No, that's a democracy. There's no "tyranny of the majority" if the majority is allowed to change their minds on things.
What? Tyranny is only tyranny if the tyrant never changes their mind?
No, but the electoral college or the popular vote doesn't address that. A democracy is all about the person who convinced the most people that they're the better leader becomes the leader. It doesn't matter if their ideas are bad or tyrannical as long as that person has a way to be kicked out of that office. That's democracy, not a tyranny - and the electoral college doesn't protect against that
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Old October 26 2012, 05:29 PM   #12
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

All forms of demorcatic elections have their pros and cons. In general people are more willing to change form if it benefits their favoured candidate/party. If the change would have a negative impact on their facoured candidate/party they are less willing to support it.

If the argument is that it is the exception that winner of the US presidnetial elections wins the electoral college vote but loses the popular vote. Then why not change after all as an exception is something out of the norm and if the winner was determined by popular vote, they would normally have won the college vote anyway.
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Old October 26 2012, 05:30 PM   #13
Gryffindorian
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

Screamy wrote: View Post
T'Girl wrote: View Post
The Electoral College does spread around the decision on who becomes President, so that the people in the twenty biggest cities (mostly in the east) don't make the decision for the entire country.
Since the population of the 100 biggest cities amount to a whopping 19.4% of the total population, that's not a valid argument.

As of now Ohio and Florida make the decisions for the rest of the country and the campaigns spend an inordinate amount of their time trying to sway a tiny fraction of the country's population.

Christopher wrote: View Post
The electoral college is definitely better. In a popular vote, the majority would always win and the minorities would be powerless. That's not democracy, that's just the tyranny of the majority.
No, that's a democracy. There's no "tyranny of the majority" if the majority is allowed to change their minds on things.
I have to agree with Squiggy. "Majority Rules and Minority Rights" is one of the tenets of democracy and is how I remember it.

Personally, I tend to favor popular votes, but since the electoral college system has worked well for the U.S., then why change it?

What I do believe is that there should more than two major political parties from which to choose candidates, not just Republicans and Democrats. And it would be interesting to see the U.S. switch to a parliamentary democracy system, which would never happen. But that's another story altogether.
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Old October 26 2012, 05:36 PM   #14
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

Democracy translates from the Greek as "rule of the people," not "rule of the largest subset of the people." The term for rule by the numerical majority is arithmocracy. Unless you're maximizing the potential of each individual, minorities included, to make a difference, then you're not practicing democracy.

After all, let's not forget: The president is not the king. He (or she) doesn't rule the country. The president is simply the chief executive, responsible for carrying out the laws determined by Congress. And Congress is elected by a series of local and regional elections so as to represent the full range of regions and constituencies within the nation. Because that's the only way to make democracy work in a country as large and diverse as this one. Just because the president is one person instead of a whole bunch of people, that doesn't mean the same principle doesn't apply.

(Although lately I'm thinking that having just one president is a model that needs to be changed. It worked when the country was much smaller, and when the responsibilities of the office were far fewer, but look how much modern presidents are overwhelmed by the burden, how quickly they go gray and get weighed down in just four years. It's unfair to ask that much of one person, and it would be a good idea to break Americans of the falsely monarchic expectations they have of the presidency. I think maybe we should have an executive triumvirate instead -- ideally a bi- or tripartisan one, so that the heads of different parties would have to work together and compromise.)


Screamy wrote: View Post
This was a rule written by men who never conceived of a country where most of their several states were totally entrenched into voting for a particular party. Hell, the first founding father ran without a party and actively campaigned against them and the last founding father who won the White House ran unopposed.

A totally different world.
But if political parties are the problem, doesn't that mean the better solution would be to get rid of the parties, rather than getting rid of the system they've undermined? Wouldn't it be better to try to restore the system to a healthier state of operation rather than tossing it out in favor of an intrinsically more unfair model?
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Old October 26 2012, 05:52 PM   #15
Gaith
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Re: Electoral College; Yes or No?

sbk1234 wrote: View Post
First, Mods, please shut this down if it devolves into an Obama vs. Romney, Democrat vs. Republican thing. That's not the point of this.
That's fine, but for the sake of accuracy, let's just start off by noting that, owing to the breakdown of the states (there are more rural/conservative ones than coastal/progressive ones), the Electoral College tilts the scales to the right. Not as badly as the Senate does, but it does have an effect.



sbk1234 wrote: View Post
As most Americans should know, we select our president through the Electoral College, and not by a popular vote. It has happened several times in history - the most recent being when George W. Bush became president in the 2000 election - that a president has lost the popular vote, but won in the Electoral College.
Such discrepancies have been rare, yes, but what that "several times" factoid conceals is the fact that campaigns are geared towards winning the Electoral College vote, not the popular vote. Who knows how many split results would have been produced over the years had the candidates ignored the electoral map and gone straight for the popular majority?



sbk1234 wrote: View Post
My question: Do you think it would be better to elect the president based strictly on popular vote, or is our system working, as is?
The electoral system is an unfair one that counts citizens differently based on where they live, and greatly contributes to one of the chronically lowest voter turnout rates in the free world. Of course the system doesn't work.



T'Girl wrote: View Post
The Electoral College does spread around the decision on who becomes President, so that the people in the twenty biggest cities (mostly in the east) don't make the decision for the entire country.
Rubbish. Most of the country lives in suburbs. Besides, the majority of citizens, no matter where they live, should make the decision. Just a little principle called fairness.

In any case, your statement is also objectively wrong in that, with modern campaigns, the Electoral College narrows the election to a handful of contested states.



Gryff O'Lantern wrote: View Post
Personally, I tend to favor popular votes, but since the electoral college system has worked well for the U.S., then why change it?
People said the same thing about presidential elections in which women, blacks, and men without property weren't allowed to vote. Here's a better question: why shouldn't each citizen get an equal vote?
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