Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Politics Government

Analyzing the Electoral College 193

Posted by michael
from the one-man-2.6-votes dept.
cft_128 writes "David S. Bennahum of has an article that breaks down the numbers in the electoral college, backing up his original 'One Voter One Vote' talk (listen to the mp4). In summary, a vote in Wyoming (has the smallest number of voters per elector) is worth 2.6 votes in Pennsylvania (has the largest number of voters per elector). He has some PDFs of charts, an outline of the talk and a spreadsheet."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Analyzing the Electoral College

Comments Filter:
  • by jbarr (2233) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:01AM (#10393234) Homepage
    While this information may be "true", there still remains a misunderstanding about just how a U.S. President is elected. The point of the Electoral College is not to give individual votes different "weights" (though that may be the effect) but to provide a method of giving States fair representation. The general public needs to understand that U.S. Presidents are NOT elected (or defeated) by majority popular vote but that they are voting for Electors who, in turn, cast THEIR votes for the President at the State level. And to further complicate matters, States have different laws governing how electors are assigned and selected.

    This is not to say that the Electoral College is the best system, but we need to remember that if switch to a strict popular vote, then Smalltown, USA or Smallstate, USA would never get fair representation.
    • This is not to say that the Electoral College is the best system, but we need to remember that if switch to a strict popular vote, then Smalltown, USA or Smallstate, USA would never get fair representation.

      Sure they would. Smalltown gets a house rep, Smallstate gets two senators. And both of THOSE are elected by popular votes.

      • Sure they would. Smalltown gets a house rep, Smallstate gets two senators. And both of THOSE are elected by popular votes.

        Yes, they get House and Senate representation, but I was refering to representation in the Presidential election. If it is left to a strict popular vote in the Presidential election, then more populous cities and states would probably become the sole targets of campaigns because the smaller, less populous cities and states could become proportionatly and statistically irrelevent to th

        • Aaargh.

          If 1 vote in New York counted exactly the same as 1 vote in North Dakota, I guarantee you there would still be campaigning going on in ND as well as NY, because reaching voters is a hell of a lot cheaper in rural areas than in urban ones. You could, at a guess, buy advertising that would blanket both Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming for days at the same price as a single ad running on a network channel in NYC in primetime. Tell me that wouldn't make a difference.

          Actually, of course, the way things a
          • If you don't like how the electors are assigned, I would recommend going to your state legislature. They are responsible for how those votes are assigned. I personally like the Maine system whereby all but two of the votes are assigned to the winners of each of the Congressional districts with the overall winner of the state picking up the last two.

            The electoral college does exactly what it was meant to do: it keeps larger states from steamrolling smaller states. That was the same idea behind the US Senate

    • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:35AM (#10393569)
      The point of the Electoral College is not to give individual votes different "weights" (though that may be the effect) but to provide a method of giving States fair representation.

      True. But aside from the force of tradition, it's hard to defend why we need to enforce fairness amoung states, since states are not alive. Shouldn't we care more about actual people than states?

      Back when the Constitution was proposed, it was seeking approval from each state, so it's understandable that a compromise was made to attract smaller states. But just because we know there was a pragmatic reason for it once, doesn't mean it's the best thing to continue with.

      The general public needs to understand that U.S. Presidents are NOT elected (or defeated) by majority popular vote

      Everyone (besides a scattering of idiots) knows this. That's not the question. He's not asking how things are now, but how they should be. Imagine you were building a semi-democratic nation from a blank slate (hmm, that's a hobby of President Bush...). Would you try to make each citizen's vote equally powerful, or give extra-weight to the residents of certain areas?
      • by KilobyteKnight (91023) <`bjm' `at' `midsouth.rr.com'> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:55AM (#10393826) Homepage

        True. But aside from the force of tradition, it's hard to defend why we need to enforce fairness amoung states, since states are not alive. Shouldn't we care more about actual people than states?

        You fail to mention one of the main reasons the states choose the President. The Federal government is meant to govern the states, not the people. The states are partially autonomous. The reason for that is to get the direct governance closer to the people, where the people have more control over the government directly affecting them.

        The US Civil War shifted more power to the federal government; contrary to popular opinion, it wasn't just about slavery. Yet the laws and the Constitution did not change. The years since the Civil War have shown an increasing level of power grabs from the federal government.

        The fact that control of the government has been slipping away from the local level is not, I believe, a good reason to say that more control should be shifted that direction.

        In contrast to you opinion, I believe the people are better represented by moving the power back down to the State, County, and local level. Let them decide what is best for their State, and the State will represent them Federally.
        • Mod parent up, please.

          It's worth reading, whether you agree, or not.

          As a comment on the parent, it's much easier to tear down and replace a state government by voting than it is the federal. The more power that can be pushed down to the states, the more you can directly effect change with your vote.

          Keep in mind that a ??AA "takeover" of California mostly affects California, but ??AA "takeover" of the US government affects the rest of us. I know "takeover" is a bit strong, but essentially the various indu
        • I believe the people are better represented by moving the power back down to the State, County, and local level. Let them decide what is best for their State, and the State will represent them Federally.

          That viewpoint supposes (or desires) that the national President is fairly weak. But that isn't the case- he's very powerful, and can make decisions that tremendously influence the people of each state.

          When Bush pushes the nation into an Iraqi war, the effort and sacrifice is borne not by the states, but
          • When someone joins the military they effectivly become a member of the federal government. An remember its a voluntary military, just because people signed up thinking they wouldn't go anywhere is no excuse. Hell by now a large amount of our military signed up post 9/11 and have no excuse to say they didn't know. Either way if there was a draft I would agree with your statement, but there isn't these people left their states voluntarily.
          • That viewpoint supposes (or desires) that the national President is fairly weak. But that isn't the case- he's very powerful, and can make decisions that tremendously influence the people of each state.

            Really? and what exactly can the president do to which congress can not say no?

            When Bush pushes the nation into an Iraqi war, the effort and sacrifice is borne not by the states, but by the people. Does Montana share a bigger proportion of the costs of national-level action than California does? No. Treas

            • Really? and what exactly can the president do to which congress can not say no?

              Apparently fight a war- since the Iraq war was supposed to happen only under certain circumstances that were not fullfilled.

              Some would say that in fact there was no true authorization for War in Iraq since the President failed to:
              1. Go back to the UN and get consensus before we acted.
              2. Actually verify the rumors of an Iraqi Nuclear or Biological Warfare Program.
              • Apparently fight a war- since the Iraq war was supposed to happen only under certain circumstances that were not fullfilled.

                Really? wow can you point the the part of the authority they gave him in which they said you must meet these conditions? Can you point to how he did not meet those conditions.

                Congress (the peoples represenatives) really messed up, I would never give a blanket 'authorization' you either say yes were going to war or no were not. This was not the examploe of the president making war,

                • Really? wow can you point the the part of the authority they gave him in which they said you must meet these conditions? Can you point to how he did not meet those conditions.

                  Yes, but why should I? It's all on Kerry's website- in his rather detailed response to why he voted FOR authority.

                  Congress (the peoples represenatives) really messed up, I would never give a blanket 'authorization' you either say yes were going to war or no were not. This was not the examploe of the president making war, congress
                  • Yes, but why should I? It's all on Kerry's website- in his rather detailed response to why he voted FOR authority.

                    No Kerry has said, "what I thought" not "what signed".

                    Some would say that the *resolution* to give the president this authority itself is even unconstitutional

                    And I would be one of those people, the act congress took was unconstitutional. They never specifically requested evidance, or international support (no in the measure itself).

                    • And I would be one of those people, the act congress took was unconstitutional. They never specifically requested evidance, or international support (no in the measure itself).

                      But more damning against Bush- they never actually declared war against the Ba'athists. Thus the entire war becomes unconstitutional.
                    • No they gave him authority, and yes it it just *as* dammning. It was also damn stupid of him not to request a specific document for Iraq.

                      Im sorry I think you have me confused with a Bush supporter...

                    • Im sorry I think you have me confused with a Bush supporter...

                      I am too- but it doesn't change the fact:

                      No they gave him authority, and yes it it just *as* dammning. It was also damn stupid of him not to request a specific document for Iraq.

                      BTW, thank you for forcing me to research this- I never knew *why* the Constitutional Party had a problem with this. It turns out that this is an authority that Congress can't delegate- to have troops involved in war for more than a specific amount of time, Congres
                    • It turns out that this is an authority that Congress can't delegate- to have troops involved in war for more than a specific amount of time, Congress MUST reconvine and declare war officially- and they haven't.

                      Actually we are also not supposed to have a standing army (the constitution does allow for a Navy. Were we in the first gulf war long enough for it to be illeal?

                      The point is its congress asleep at the wheel, and thats really dangerous! I would rather have the pres not doing his job than not have c

                    • Actually we are also not supposed to have a standing army (the constitution does allow for a Navy. Were we in the first gulf war long enough for it to be illeal?

                      I'm not sure- but it did take more than 72 hours, which seemed to be Reagan's limit before recalling the troops.

                      The kind of things people demand from the fed creates a concentration of money which can not help but suck the power from the states. I could never understand why my state taxes are so much lower than the fed. I go to school in the st
                    • Keep in mind there are also hidden federal taxes (phone bill, gas, cigerette, ....)
                    • True enough- though in my state, the state taxes on similar items outdistance these 2:1. It's part of the complaint that brought us to the mess Oregon is in right now- anti-tax activists, tired of the hidden taxes, reduced Orgon basically down to a one-legged stool for major taxes (no sales tax, minimal state property tax, major state income tax) and ignored the user taxes- thus the user taxes had to go up to make up the difference. Unfunded federal mandates like No Child Left Behind just make the problem
        • In contrast to you opinion, I believe the people are better represented by moving the power back down to the State, County, and local level. Let them decide what is best for their State, and the State will represent them Federally.

          Except that is not what happens. My congressional district has 90% chance of going Democratic this election, like in all recent elections. However, most other districts in my state are usually Republican. So the state will give all of its electoral votes to a candidate, even t

        • The US Civil War shifted more power to the federal government; contrary to popular opinion, it wasn't just about slavery. Yet the laws and the Constitution did not change. The years since the Civil War have shown an increasing level of power grabs from the federal government.

          Except that the laws and the Constitution did change: as a condition for re-entry into the Union after the Civil War, the southern states were required to ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the constitution. The 14th ame

        • The biggest erosion of States' rights occurred when the consitution was amended to allow Senators to be picked by direct election instead of being appointed by state legislatures.
        • Why do people think that State and Local governments are so unimportant. I hear a lot of complaints about the effect of Bush's domestic policies. Every time someone complains about them, they should bear in mind that when Clinton was in office, people in conservative states were disadvantaged by his more liberal domestic policy. The problem is not that Clinton and Bush have/had Liberal and Conservative domestic polities, but that the federal government itself has too much power. Despite what people ofte
      • by barawn (25691) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:58AM (#10393865) Homepage
        True. But aside from the force of tradition, it's hard to defend why we need to enforce fairness amoung states, since states are not alive. Shouldn't we care more about actual people than states?

        No.

        For one, it avoids tyranny of the majority - something that's very, very difficult to deal with. For two, it allows a more even distribution of resources, and allows the country to utilize its resources efficiently.

        The problem is pretty simple - people in communities tend to vote similarly, because they have the same concerns. People in California are less likely to be concerned about farmers in Iowa, for instance. Equal voting would mean that California would far, far outrank Iowa (more than it does). But that would also imply that Iowa's not important - and it is. Neglecting Iowa at the expense of California would mean that you'd essentially create a mecca of civilization, surrounded by an expanse of decaying towns.

        This is exactly the case in a lot of other countries - specifically, Argentina, where Buenos Aires is akin to a first-world country, and everywhere else might as well be a third world country.

        (Point of note: it only ensures fairness among states in that it gives two votes per state, and has a minimum number of representatives of one. Other than that, population reigns. Hence the reason why Wyoming ranks so high - because the population's nothing.)
        • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @10:19AM (#10394108)
          For one, it avoids tyranny of the majority

          Funny thing is that the Electoral College system creates tyranny of the majority- within each state.

          Let's use Texas as an example (although something similar happens in most states). There are a majority of Republicans and a minority of Democrats. When they vote for President, however, ALL the electoral votes go to Bush, instead of the Democrats sending their 30% to Kerry.

          But that would also imply that Iowa's not important - and it is.

          If Iowa was really important, then the voters in California would see that (especially when they start paying those farmers for food).

          Let's think of some other cases where something important is represented by only a minority of the population...

          You know what? I think that the USA is unfairly biased towards the uneducated. Equal voting means that high-school graduates far, far outrank PhDs. But that implies that learned people aren't important- and they are. Neglecting collegians in favor of ignoramuses would mean creating a blanket of idiocy, sinking the country towards the lowest common denominator. So I suggest multipling each person's vote by the number of diploma's she's recieved.

          Also, CEOs and entrepeneurs are the drivers of economic growth- they push the creation of wealth that benefits everyone. Let's give business owners one extra vote per $250,000 annual income.

          How can you attack my proposals, while defending your own? They have the same basis- a person deserves more power, because he's got more of something- real estate, or education, or money, or whatever.

          Neglecting Iowa at the expense of California would mean that you'd essentially create a mecca of civilization, surrounded by an expanse of decaying towns.

          If that's where fairness leads, then so be it. If equal voting power and equal ability to participate in the free market aren't enough to give those towns viability, then let them die.

          PS. The use of the word "expense" in your post was completely nonsensical. In that sentence, "at the expense" should've been "in favor".
          • Funny thing is that the Electoral College system creates tyranny of the majority- within each state. [...] There are a majority of Republicans and a minority of Democrats. When they vote for President, however, ALL the electoral votes go to Bush, instead of the Democrats sending their 30% to Kerry.

            This is not the fault of the EC itself. This is a fault at the state level, because each state decides how to assign the EC votes. Nebraska and Maine divvy the votes proportionally to the popular vote. Colorad

            • That is, in fact, the primary reason for federalism (as opposed to nationalism) - it's supposed to keep more power at the state and local levels rather than centralizing it.

              If so- federalism has been a miserable failure. Never at any other time in history has the central government had more power over our lives. And the central government is controlled by the same people who decide what franchises get to put stores in your local mall.
            • This is not the fault of the EC itself. This is a fault at the state level, because each state decides how to assign the EC votes.

              No, it's the nearly inevitable result of the EC. Given that states are controlled by humans, and all humans want power, then states will choose the method that gives them the most power. Winner-Takes-All allocation does this. Texas is controlled by Republicans, therefore the assignment of Electoral Votes is entirely up to them. Will they give all 34 to Bush, or send 11 to K
              • "Power in proportion to your population" is somewhat different from "completely ignore"

                If everyone in California thought independently, I'd agree with you.

                However, the simple fact that distinct mindsets exist in certain areas (why does Bush always win certain states? because the population in that area has concerns/beliefs that mirror his. The area drives the mindset) indicates that this isn't true.

                followed by a national amendment to impose one allocation regime on all states

                What if one community doe

          • Funny thing is that the Electoral College system creates tyranny of the majority- within each state.


            Depends on how the state wants to distribute its votes. The Constitution leaves that open to the states to decide.

            It's less worrying to have state's decisions be driven by the majority than it is to have the country's decisions be driven by the majority. States are at least geographically close. One can't expect the worries of the population of Maine to correspond with the worries of the population of Haw
      • Back when the Constitution was proposed, it was seeking approval from each state, so it's understandable that a compromise was made to attract smaller states. But just because we know there was a pragmatic reason for it once, doesn't mean it's the best thing to continue with.

        Well at least you know why it was done, not consider the consiquences of undoing it. You are essentially breaking the contract which forms this nation and every small state would wonder why join whatever replaces it?

      • Imagine you were building a semi-democratic nation from a blank slate (hmm, that's a hobby of President Bush...) Would you try to make each citizen's vote equally powerful, or give extra-weight to the residents of certain areas?

        I think we can all agree that everyone's vote

        should count equally in an election. However, in this new blank-slate nation, what happens when Campaigns and the Media target only the largest, statistically relevent areas and ignore the less populated and statistically less relevent

      • But aside from the force of tradition, it's hard to defend why we need to enforce fairness amoung states, since states are not alive. Shouldn't we care more about actual people than states?

        Our republic is built on a principle called "balance of power". There is a balance of power between the People, the States, and the Federal government. The People stand no chance against a corrupt Federal government without the States. The Federal government defends the rights of the people against the individual

        • The Electoral College effectively protects the smaller States from the tyrrany of the larger ones. Without it, a candidate could campaign only in the coastal states, where most of the people are, and ignore the inland areas.

          No. Even with the current Electoral College, anyone who wins both coasts wins the presidency. Coastal states have more than 270 electoral votes, which is enough to defeat all inland places. (If you counted the Great Lakes as coastline, it'd be even more lopsided)

          It is the States,
          • With the EC, winning all of the coastal states is one way to play it; without the EC, it would be the only thing that mattered.

            >The people doing the voting don't much like that idea.

            The people are not always right. Popular will swings back and forth, moving this way and that, sometimes tending to the extreme. The EC system tends to minimize the tyranny of the majority, which you obviously agree is something to minimize.

            Your argument about the EC and protecting homosexuals is an obvious red herring; w
            • With the EC, winning all of the coastal states is one way to play it; without the EC, it would be the only thing that mattered.

              False. Without it, you could win one coast and not the other, for example. Just like you could today- 2 votes added to every state just isn't enough of a difference to make any major pattern succeed or fail. Nobody can ever win without serious coastal support, and Bush gets everything from Virgina southward.

              I've done the math, and even if we removed the "Senator bonus" within
              • Without the EC, you don't get 100% of any one state. You only get the votes you get. There are lots and lots more votes to be had on the coasts, so that's where the candidates would stay (unless, e.g., there were some event of national interest taking place inland).
          • > (If you counted the Great Lakes as coastline, it'd be even more lopsided)

            Absolutely. Anybody who's been to Duluth in mid-winter knows why the beachfront property there is so expensive.

      • Imagine you were building a semi-democratic nation from a blank slate ... Would you try to make each citizen's vote equally powerful, or give extra-weight to the residents of certain areas?

        Probably some version of the latter. I think people misunderstand that the USA (which was originally spelled with a lowercase 'u' in united) was intended to be better than a democracy because it included numerous checks and balances against the potential tyranny of pure democracies.

        The electoral voting system, combined
    • switch to a strict popular vote, then Smalltown, USA or Smallstate, USA would never get fair representation.

      At best, that's a circular argument- it hinges on non-standard definition of fair. In a dictionary, "fair" means "free from favoritism or preference". You are claiming that giving them voting power based only on the number of people would be "unfair"- but that is actually expressing favoritism right there. Looked at objectively, 3 votes beating 5 votes is plainly less fair than the alternative.

      E
  • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:03AM (#10393259) Journal
    Actually, because of the winner-take-all nature of the elections, an individual vote in Wyoming has essentially no chance of counting (since the state isn't a swing state), but in Pennsylvania it has a far greater chance of counting.
  • by mzs (595629) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:12AM (#10393333)
    The smaller more rural states were concerned about being dominated by the larger states with cities in the national arena. It was seen that the interests of the rural and city populations would be different. The scheme of the Senate with two votes per state regardless of population and the two to three bonus (there are no fractional electors after-all, consider this as round-off error depending on where the state falls in relation to other states in the last census) electors for smaller states was devised in part because of that concern.

    David is from NY, a state with a number of large cities and he feels underrepresented, but consider the point of view of farmers and ranchers. We can have raging debates ad nausea for example about whether the federal government does too much or too little to assist farmers and ranchers, but the fact of the matter is that if it were not for the systems in place to grant disproportionate weight to rural areas, there would indeed be less aid.

    Also, is there really a surprise that cities tend Democratic and rural areas Republican? Again this seems to be sour grapes from David based on his comments.
    • the fact of the matter is that if it were not for the systems in place to grant disproportionate weight to rural areas, there would indeed be less aid.

      The nation is full of minority groups that could potentially get more aid if only they had a disproportionate voting weight.

      Race, religion, gender, education, employment, income- we don't allow any of those categorizations to change the strength of someone's vote. Why should rural residents be special?
      • we don't allow any of those categorizations to change the strength of someone's vote. Why should rural residents be special?

        Because there was a desire for the states to unite. In order to unite the more populous states had to reach a compromise with the less populous (and more rural) states, so that the union would even be a possibility. Consider this in the same light as the northern states that allowed the 3/5 compromise so that the southern states would be willing to join the union.

        • Because there was a desire for the states to unite. In order to unite the more populous states had to reach a compromise with the less populous (and more rural) states, so that the union would even be a possibility. Consider this in the same light as the northern states that allowed the 3/5 compromise so that the southern states would be willing to join the union.

          Well fine, so then lets get rid of the EC then. The 3/5 compromise was removed.

    • David is from NY, a state with a number of large cities and he feels underrepresented, but consider the point of view of farmers and ranchers. We can have raging debates ad nausea for example about whether the federal government does too much or too little to assist farmers and ranchers, but the fact of the matter is that if it were not for the systems in place to grant disproportionate weight to rural areas, there would indeed be less aid.

      Actually, there are a lot of rural areas on New York State. Calif
      • The EC effectively disenfranchises these rural areas because they happen to be in the same state as large cities

        Very true- the Chinatown [imdb.com] effect.

        You can talk about rural-vs.-urban or small-state-vs.-large-state all you want, but the elephant in the living room of the electoral college is that the current shape and populations of U.S. states is the result of historic accident, not logical planning.

        True. The best example of this is to count the number of West Coast states (3) versus East Coast (15). T
      • Coming from a person who lived more than twenty years in Illinois and California I see exactly your points. Both states have large agricultural areas but tend to be dominated by large urban areas in national and statewide elections. (Well now I was generalizing, it IS more sophisticated than that in practice.) I agree it is in fact bad in many states for the rural areas where the more densely populated centers tend to dominate politics, the very issue that the Connecticut compromise addressed so long ago. Y
    • Your justification for weighting the vote towards the farmer is flawed. I can imagine any number of groups to favor. Why not give blacks 1.5 votes per person to make up for their lesser numbers in the population? Or gays 3 votes? Or cancer victims 2.5 votes? It doesn't make any sense.

      There will always be justification for giving one group power over another. You could even come up with a reason to allow insane people two votes (maybe a vote for each personality, or as a reason to compel sane people to vote
  • by CodeWanker (534624) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:16AM (#10393374) Journal
    The electoral college is designed to defend our Federal system: a nation made up of separate states. Saying that the electoral college is not fair is like saying the bicameral legislature is not fair: after all, why don't we trust the house of representatives to make laws free from the interference of the inordinately powerful votes of the small states' senators?

    The argument this guy is making ignores the fact that our system is based on one of the most successful compromises in history: many disparate states sacrificing some aspects of sovereignty to form a single nation. Our constitution is set up so that the states choose the president, not the undifferentiated mass of the people. That means that there is intrinsic power in being a state, no matter how small. Article 2 section 1 clause 2 of the united states constitution determines how members of the electoral college are chosen: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.

    So you see, the number is driven primarily by the population of the state (as the number of the representatives of the lower house of congress is) with a guaranteed minimum of votes to make sure each state gets a say in the process.

    Arguing for a number driven entirely by popular vote ignores the realities of separate states in our Federation, and invites secession and the possible dissolution of our nation.

    For the slower folks out there, I'll put the punchline here: the dissolution of the United States of America would be so bad for the stability, prosperity, and standard of living for the people of Earth that there aren't words strong enough to convey it.
    • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:42AM (#10393656)
      The electoral college is designed to defend our Federal system: a nation made up of separate states.

      Yeah, because citizens today really have a greater loyalty to Georgia than the USA.

      That means that there is intrinsic power in being a state, no matter how small

      Stating the obvious doesn't prove it is good, only that it is.

      Arguing for a number driven entirely by popular vote ignores the realities of separate states in our Federation, and invites secession and the possible dissolution of our nation.

      Right. That non-popular vote sure has done a good job at preventing secession [yale.edu].

      the dissolution of the United States of America would be so bad for the stability, prosperity, and standard of living for the people of Earth that there aren't words strong enough to convey it.

      If that's as obviously true as you say, then nobody will vote for secession, even in a popular election.
      • Yeah, because citizens today really have a greater loyalty to Georgia than the USA.

        Not the point, someone in WY has different needs than someone in Atlanta should they be ignored because Atlanta is bigger?

        Right. That non-popular vote sure has done a good job at preventing secession.

        Umm he did not say that keeping it prevents the issue, what he says is that getting rid of it encourages the act.

        • Umm he did not say that keeping it prevents the issue, what he says is that getting rid of it encourages the act.

          Which would be a damned good thing at this point, I would think. Now that the neo-whatever feds have sold all of our sovereignity to the WTO for a few shiny Euros- we might as well tell them to go fuck themselves.
        • by cft_128 (650084)
          Not the point, someone in WY has different needs than someone in Atlanta should they be ignored because Atlanta is bigger?

          Should my vote count less simply because my state has a large population?

      • Yeah, because citizens today really have a greater loyalty to Georgia than the USA.

        Actually, based on the actions of their governments, I would say I have a far greater loyalty to New Jersey than to the USA. My state Executive and Legislature have legalized State funded stem-cell research, provided equal rights laws for gays, and kept the economy and budget on track. The national Executive and Legislature seem to be going in the exact opposite direction.
    • Saying that the electoral college is not fair is like saying the bicameral legislature is not fair: after all, why don't we trust the house of representatives to make laws free from the interference of the inordinately powerful votes of the small states' senators?

      No, it's not. The bicameral legislature is a compromise that is functioning as it was designed. The electoral college is not, due to mathematical mistakes. The system was fine when it was created, but it didn't scale.

      The electoral college

      • The bicameral legislature is a compromise that is functioning as it was designed. The electoral college is not, due to mathematical mistakes.

        I don't really see what's that different between the 2 Senators and the 2 Electoral votes each state recieves regardless of population. Both are an intentional shifting of power to less populous states.

        The only real difference between them is that it's possible for a state's 2 senators to be of different parties, while the electoral votes (aside from 2 minor except
  • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:20AM (#10393414) Journal
    The electoral college is less of a problem than the fact that we have one vote, one choice. We can't preferentially vote, there's no instant run-off, and so our incentive is always to use our sole vote for the first candidate or the second candidate.

    I mean, there are issues with the electoral college, sure, but nothing really compares to the "single choice" model -- *that* is just screwed up.
  • by stankulp (69949) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:51AM (#10393771) Homepage

    Democracy is exactly what the founders sought to avoid when they framed the Constitution.

    Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

    A democracy is eternally threatened by the power of stupid people in large numbers.

    Our form of government is a "representative republic," in which all of the citizens choose a few of their fellow citizens to represent them in the legislature. These representatives are able to make more informed decisions than the mob rule that is democracy.

    The name of our country is the "United States." When the United States was formed from the original thirteen colonies, each of these colonies intended to maintain their own autonomy and internal governments.

    Each state in the union was intended to be a sovereign governmental entity. The centralized powers of the common federal government binding these united states was intended to be limited to powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

    In other words, the citizens of the United States federal government are the individual states. It is they who are voting for a President, not the individual citizens of the federation.

    That's why most states have a "winner take all" policy for their electoral votes.

    The last thing on earth the founders intended was "one voter, one vote," because that is democratic mob rule.

  • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday September 30, 2004 @09:57AM (#10393854) Homepage Journal

    The author of the article needs to do some research in both the history and the mathematics of the electoral college.

    From the historical perspective, what the author claims is a problem is *exactly* what was intended by the founding fathers. They were afraid that large, populous states would dominate small states so they made an explicit attempt to counter that large-state dominance.

    From a mathematical perspective, Bennahaum is wrong about the effect of the electoral college, and so were the founders. The reason he's wrong is that the method he's using for analyzing the power of a vote -- calculating each voter's "share" of an electoral vote -- is inadequate and fails to account for the fact that most states (all but Vermont, I think) allocate their electoral votes as a bloc.

    A better measure of voting power is the Bahnzaf Power Index, which defines the power of a vote as the probability that that vote will "swing" the election. In the case of the electoral college that means you have to do a two-level analysis. For each state, you have to calculate the probability that a single vote in that state will swing that state's electoral votes from one candidate to another. Then, for each state you have to calculate the probability that that state's electoral votes will swing the election.

    What comes out of this analysis is the discovery that the voters in the smallest states have far *less* power than the voters in large states. We saw evidence of this in 2000: Florida was not the only state with a very tight election but no one bothered fighting (much) about the others because they were smaller states and didn't matter. Whichever way Florida's 25 votes would win, regardless of the other outcomes.

    That said, more recent statistical analysis (which I can't find right now, but there are some papers on the web) that takes into account the current structure of political power in the United States shows that, in fact, the net effect of the electoral college is pretty close to zero. Beyond the math, history shows this pretty clearly as well: There have only been three presidential elections in the 200-year history of the US where the electoral college produced a different result than a purely popular vote would have.

    In my opinion, the founders were right about the need for something to shift power to smaller states, because as a resident of a smaller state it's quite clear that our voices are completely irrelevant. So, if you want to fix the electoral college, you should just modify it so that states allocate their electoral votes proportionally, based on the votes cast in that state. That will (mostly) eliminate the bloc voting effect while retaining the balancing feature that has, unfortunately, never worked.

    • In my opinion, the founders were right about the need for something to shift power to smaller states, because as a resident of a smaller state it's quite clear that our voices are completely irrelevant. So, if you want to fix the electoral college, you should just modify it so that states allocate their electoral votes proportionally, based on the votes cast in that state. That will (mostly) eliminate the bloc voting effect while retaining the balancing feature that has, unfortunately, never worked.

      There

  • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @10:37AM (#10394351) Homepage
    Here's an interesting question for you all. What do you think it would take to get enough political willpower in the U.S. to scrap this system?

    Four years ago, I would have said "Have someone lose the popular vote but win the electoral vote." Obviously I was wrong. But 2000 was a special case -- all the controversy swirling around Florida meant that by the time things were finally settled, no one wanted to think or hear about presidential elections anymore. In fact, there are any number of both Bush and Gore supporters from 2000 who probably don't even know, or quickly forgot, that Gore came in first in the popular vote overall.

    So, what if this year the same thing happens, but the parties reverse -- Kerry wins the Electoral College (and the presidency), Bush wins the popular vote? Would the two parties see the last two elections as enough impetus to change or scrap the EC? Even if the national parties agreed, could they enforce party discipline on the state level to push the necessary constitutional changes through the state legislatures?

    For my personal opinion -- I say scrap it, or at least modify it so that the whole country does a proportional or by-congressional-district apportionment like Maine and Nebraska. I know all the arguments about federalism -- I just don't find them that persuasive or relevant. The bottom line is that the Presidency and the U.S. central government are now so powerful, and so intrusive in people's lives, that to give some U.S. citizens extra voting power just because of where they happen to live extremely undemocratic. And yes, with modern American mobility, it *is* a matter of "where they happen to live" -- people move across state lines all the time, and I don't think loyalty to one's home state is anywhere near what it used to be.

    In addition, several of the founding concepts of the system seem to be to flawed or no longer relevant. States of a similar size don't necessarily have similar interestes -- compare D.C. and Wyoming (3 EVs), Maryland and Arizona (10 EVs), New York and Texas (31-34 EVs). And states don't necessarily have monolithic interests -- New York and California both contains regions with wildly different demographic and political profiles.

    jf
    • The problem is in the Congress. The Presidential elections are probably the only elections at the Federal level that the public has ANY chance to truly affect.

      House of Representatives? Not really. A large number run unopposed, nearly 3/4s win their district by 60%+, and in 2002 only 4 of them lost their seats!

      The Senate is nearly as bad. I don't have the statistics at hand (being at work) but the turnover in the Senate is near the House levels and worse the parties are not above using shennagins to pro
      • (on the previous post, NY and CA do not have wildy different political profiles, especially when you factor in the abundant influences of their cities - which is what the article author is aiming for - giving population centers more influence)

        Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. NY and CA as currently constituted do have similar political profiles. I meant that regions *within* each state have very different profiles from one another. Many people outside of CA think of liberal, urban SF and LA as the epitome
      • The problem is in the Congress.

        True, although you don't mention why this is: it's because the Congressmen themselves are allowed to modify their district boundaries, carefully working to maintain a majority of their own supporters. A household not voting for you? Push it into another district!

        If districts were laid down by a preset mathmatical formula that only went by head-count and no other factors, then the Congressional stagnation wouldn't happen. Allowing Congressmen to pick who gets to vote for
  • by Randolpho (628485) on Thursday September 30, 2004 @10:56AM (#10394611) Homepage Journal
    I am very much in favor of the Electoral College, although I agree that certain tweaks are necessary, specifically the winner-take-all system that nearly all of the States have adopted.

    Mr. Bennahum, you appear to be statistically oriented.... try applying those statistics to the inherit error involved in a nation-wide direct-vote Presidential election. Be sure to factor in electoral problems like the ones in New Mexico and Florida in the 2000 election.

    Pretty high, isn't it? That's right it is.

    Not only does the Electoral College ensure that a Presidential Candidate be palatable to most of the States in the country (as Luke White mentioned), it also ensures a final vote that has zero statistic error. Although whether or not a particular vote should have been one way or the other could come in to question, the vote itself, once cast, is solid and undeniable. There is zero doubt about the legitimacy of the Presidency in such as system.

    Invariably, whenever there is a close race, somebody calls for the abolishment of the Electoral College. The thing is... close races are when the Electoral College goes to *work*, not when it gets in the way.

    Fix the Electoral College, don't remove it.
    • it also ensures a final vote that has zero statistic error.

      It does no such thing!

      There is zero doubt about the legitimacy of the Presidency in such as system.

      Just because the final addition is too simple for any math errors to creep in, it absolutely doesn't protect the result from doubt about legitimacy. Or haven't you noticed the bumper stickers with "Let's not elect him in 2004 either" ?

      Mathmatically, error propagates throughout expressions. If term B isn't believed to be correct, then A+B+C isn

White dwarf seeks red giant for binary relationship.

Working...