what about the popular vote?

After the elections in 2000 and 2004, a lot of people were muttering about the “popular vote”, and why we can’t just get rid of that stuffy old Electoral College and elect the President directly.

Why don’t we, then?

Well, here’s a list of the ten biggest cities in the United States:

  1. New York City, NY
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Chicago, IL
  4. Houston, TX
  5. Philadelphia, PA
  6. Phoenix, AZ
  7. San Antonio, TX
  8. San Diego, CA
  9. Dallas, TX
  10. San Jose, CA

These ten cities alone can practically outvote every last patch of flyover country between NYC and LA.  California and Texas each have three cities on that list.  If you count the urban agglomeration (people not strictly living in the city, but in the mass of cities and towns making up the respective metropolitan area), the ten biggest cities in our country account for 100 million people, or a third of our population. 

If we elected the President by popular vote, there’d be no point for politicians to campaign outside of Texas, California, Illinois, and New York, and there’d be no point for voters living outside of those states to even cast their ballots.

When they came up with the Electoral College, they set it up for different reasons, but in the 21st Century, it comes in handy, because with a popular vote system, the entire country would have to dance to the tunes whistled in a handful of major cities.

The Founding Fathers deliberately set up a system where the majority can’t just vote themselves the right to pee into the cornflakes of the minority, on Election Day or otherwise.  They limited the extent of majority rule, because they knew that it’s not the majority which usually needs protection.

40 thoughts on “what about the popular vote?

  1. ublock says:

    While I agree that campaigning would shift more to large urban areas, how can you say the following with a straight face:

    “…there’d be no point for voters living outside of those states to even cast their ballots.”

    Without the electoral college, EVERY SINGLE vote counts the SAME. What exactly do you mean by “no point”?Their vote still counts just as much as Mr. NYC or Mrs. LA. Sure, they may not see as many ridiculous TV commercials in their area, but there would be no reason to *not* vote.

    I, for one, do not agree with the electoral college system. A Californian’s vote should be worth as much as a Wyoming resident. I’ve lived in three states during my adult life (rural upstate NY, New Mexico, and California) and it is tough to see two of those three almost completely ignored and just 4 or 5 states targeted each year. With no electoral college, there would be complete nationwide coverage… this is the age of TV, web, radio, etc., afterall.

    Not to mention, with only a nationwide popular vote it would be much harder for political operatives to cause trouble to the whole system by targeting certain swing states and working — often illegally — to keep certain voters away from the polls.

  2. theflatwhite says:

    Exactly.

    It also keeps the country on an even keel and is a hedge against extremism.
    The electoral college keeps a few populous states with extreme views from totally dominate the direction of the other 45 states (looking at you CA NJ NY MA IL).

    ublock, you are wrong. Consider this:

    Say you have 5 states.
    Each state has 10 people except state A who has 20 people.
    State A is very extreme and votes 90% for the communist party.
    All other states are 60%-40% split for the Libertarian party.

    In a purely popular vote, the Communist party wins 34-26.
    In an electoral college system where each state gets 1 voter per 10 people, the Libertarians win 4-2.

    This is a good thing because 1 populous, extreme state can’t dominate the direction of the other 4 more balanced states.

  3. LabRat says:

    Ublock- I live in New Mexico too.

    Electoral votes are apportioned based on state population, which is why New Mexico only has five and Ohio has twenty. (And why it’s a very novel experience to be considered a battleground state this year. Dear Democratic Party, please stop war-dialing me.)

    Campaigns concentrate on a few battleground states not just because they need the electoral votes to win, but because they have limited amounts of time and money, and there are only so many positions from which to pander from that they can adopt without losing credibility. These limitations would not change in a world without an electoral college.

    Given that, what on earth makes you think that campaigns would adopt a truly national strategy in a popular-vote system rather than concentrating even MORE exclusively on states with large population centers? Why bother with New Mexico at all when even our largest city is modestly sized compared to any number of cities considered middling in California? We don’t have the population to make our residents’ popular vote worth spending the money, time, and political triangulation to go after.

  4. Regolith says:

    Here’s a good article on why the electoral college makes sense mathematically:

    http://discovermagazine.com/2004/sep/math-against-tyranny/?searchterm=math%20against

  5. ublock says:

    theflatwhite: I am not “wrong”, I have a differing opinion. I feel that voting for President is something that everyone should get an equal stake in. We already have the Senate that gives all states equal input. Your use of “Communist” is unfairly making this look evil. I’ll keep personal politics out of this… Let’s just call the two parties A and B, where A has 90% support in one big state. There are two ways to look at it: you prefer the election go to party B because one “extreme” state shouldn’t get to have as much say per person. I prefer that all people get an equal vote. Even your “extreme” states are nowhere near 90/10, so this is kind of a moot point. In fact, the most “extreme” state is probably Utah, which has very few electoral votes and always goes for B, followed by a bunch of other small states. So in your case the B candidate wins because many small “extreme” states have slightly more influence that the large states.

    LabRat: No, the number of electors does not scale with population, especially not for the small states. If it did, then the smallest states would have one and not three electors. Montana gets 3 votes per ~1M people and TX gets 34 for 24M people. Thus a Montana resident gets over twice the influence of a TX resident. In my book, that is not fair.

    In my opinion (and I’m certainly not alone), a national popular campaign would be _more_ of a “national” campaign than the current system. Yes, they’d spend extra time in populated places _because_ the majority of Americans live there. But they would still need to rake in lots of votes from the sum of all the smaller states (that all tend to shift toward the same party) and would still put out their message to these folks.

    Watching the debacle in FL eight years ago very well highlights the problems with the electoral college. You set up a system where the whole thing can literally come down to counting a few hundred votes, when we all know that you can’t count millions of votes with that type of accuracy… talk to any statistician.

    BUT… I think the electoral college would work OK if the states divided their electors by their own popular votes. Wouldn’t this appease you guys? The small states would still get their voting advantage. The counting accuracy would not become so critical. People that are B’s in extreme A states would still be helping the nationwide campaign, and vice-versa.

  6. ublock says:

    Regolith: Just read your linked article and it was very insightful. Unless I missed it, he did not discuss why we give small states a disproportionate number of electors (i.e., 3 instead of 1 in the smallest ones). None of his arguments would be invalid if you gave out electors in a way that scaled with population.

    Let’s all remove our personal politics from this for a second. Forget that the small states tend to vote Republican. Why do Montana voters get twice the vote of Texas voters?

    theflatwhite: Your example explicitly used *this very model*. You said one vote per ten people. That is not how our current system works. Our current system in your model is more like 2 votes per 10 people in four states and 1 vote per ten in the big state. Are you opposed to assigning electors based strictly on population?

    As of yet, nobody’s given a reason why the small states get extra electors.

  7. BobG says:

    “As of yet, nobody’s given a reason why the small states get extra electors.”

    It has to do with geography. A popular vote would work if the population of the US was homogeneous. It is not; different geographical regions have different cultures and physical needs. Why should a physically small state in one area have more input than a larger state? By giving extra electors, it helps with the disadvantage to the less populated states. There isn’t much sense in a state such as New York making all the decisions that would effect less populated states in the southwest US, where the conditions and culture are completely different.

  8. ublock says:

    BobG: Thanks for the input — you are absolutely right, it is system that gives extra advantage to small states, whether or not that why it was initially devised.

    The thing many people seem to forget is that our “red” and “blue” states are all fairly purple. I’ve lived in rural NY, known lots of Dem’s and Repub’s, fired lots of guns, etc., etc. The current system for electing presidents puts a massive amount of influence into a few states simply because they are very close to being 50:50.

    The Senate and House make sure that NY and CA don’t dominate legislation, already. The chief executive works for the people. I don’t see why the election should be so narrowly focused on swing states and disenfranchising in others. As I said, the other reasons for the electoral college (like preventing tyranny as in the article and keeping a massively extreme state’s power at bay) can still be had without giving tiny states like WY two or three times the vote per person.

    The interesting thing to me is that most of the people arguing *for* the electoral college are on the right end of the political spectrum (because the small states are almost all voting Republican) and you just said that the system “helps with the disadvantage to the less populated states.” Sure sounds a little socialist to me. Giving extra power to the disadvantaged — not exactly how a “free-market” election would work, eh?

  9. LabRat says:

    Just because electoral votes aren’t given out in direct SCALE to population does not mean they are not BASED ON population. Don’t be disingenuous. Larger populations still have more sway than smaller ones, but it gives smaller ones more influence than the noninfluence they’d otherwise have. The EC isn’t an either/or entity with regards to population versus state representation; it was created as a political compromise to make ratification of the Constitution possible. Remember, at the time there was no guarantee of union- the various former colonies had very little fellow-feeling for one another, especially the ones heavily marked by colonization by a particular ethnic group, religion, or class.

    “But they would still need to rake in lots of votes from the sum of all the smaller states (that all tend to shift toward the same party) and would still put out their message to these folks.”

    In your opinion. In practice you can garner a lot more votes strictly on population by going strictly along population center descending lines- after California, Texas, New York, and Washington, tailor your campaign to appeal generally to “the South”, which tends to vote fairly uniformly and is fairly populous. Western states would be a near-total waste of time and money, as would most of New England and the northern Midwest. You can see this in the way campaigns are currently run, as the EC votes are BASED ON population- making it explicitly population-based would merely magnify all effects you see currently in where they spend their time and energy. You haven’t yet given a reason as to why this would not happen other than unsupported assertions that it wouldn’t because “all small states vote the same”. Okay. Vermont and Wyoming and Rhode Island vote just alike and have the exact same concerns. Sure they do!

    You’ve said none of us have defended the current system. That’s because we take its utility as a given that preventing large urban majorities from trampling rural communities is more valuable than having every single person’s vote count more directly. As for your assertion that it doesn’t matter anyway because it’s really Congress that sets policy… the President not only sets the party agenda as the leader of the party, he appoints hundreds of people that control federal agencies. Do you honestly think it’s a great idea to have the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Fish and Game led chiefly by people who have never lived in a rural environment and get their ideas on what constitutes sane farm, forestry, and wild-land policy from urbanites who maybe get the Seirra Club newsletter?

    BUT… I think the electoral college would work OK if the states divided their electors by their own popular votes. Wouldn’t this appease you guys?

    Why would it? It’s still functionally a dilution of the entire point of the system. If you can subvert the majority state opinion with the minority that goes along with the big-coastal-cities popular vote- and any underpopulous states has its islands of immigrants from big cities, in New Mexico it’s Santa Fe- the entire point is lost.

    You have said we have not defended adequately why we find it acceptable for a Montanan’s vote to count twice as much as a Texan’s. As I said, we take it as a given why- to prevent the tyranny of the majority, which generally needs no protection, over the minority, that generally does. YOU have not at any point given why your way would not lead to that exact tyranny of the majority- in fact, your argument seems to be that it is preferable in order to be “fair” to everyone.

    Incidentally? Hinting at right-wingers that their position looks like scary socialism doesn’t convince them of anything except that a)you’re not one of them, and b)you don’t understand them a whit.

  10. LabRat says:

    Two more things:

    a)Given that neither the difficulty of counting votes nor the potential for political operatives to use dirty tricks to swing the vote would change under a popular-vote-rules system, this means your entire line of argument here is that close elections are bad. I, along with most of the rest of the commenters here, would instead regard them as a sign the system is working right, if neither party is able to dominate easily in elections.

    b)If you’re so concerned about properly representing “purple” states, why not propose what my friend Unix-Jedi has and apportion electoral votes along house district lines? That way liberal enclaves in red states will be represented- and so will the conservative communities in states with big coastal cities. Outside of their largest population centers, the overall sentiment in other areas of California, Washington, and New York is… conservative-leaning. That might actually put those states into play as battlegrounds for Republicans. Wouldn’t that be a hoot and a half?

    Would that appease YOU? Given my first point, I’m kind of thinking not.

  11. ublock says:

    LabRat: Thanks for again taking the time to respond. I’m truly learning a lot here and really trying to understand everyone’s side. That’s my favorite part of this blog… so many readers have such different opinions than me that I’m always sure to learn something and I have actually had my opinion changed by things I’ve seen written on the site… not to mention Marko is a great writer.

    I have actually tried to keep partisanship out of my posts… you’ll recall the earlier poster bring up Communists v. Libertarians to prove a point. I think I’ve been quite neutral… both the R’s and the D’s have plenty of faults and there are plenty of issues that I agree with on both sides. But it is certainly true that the EC favors the R’s, this is why I brought up the ‘sounds like Socialism’ thing.

    I was never attempting to be disingenuous regarding elector counts. My first response to you said “the number of electors does not scale with population, especially not for the small states”, which is absolutely true by the definition of scale. Later I said “if you gave out electors in a way that scaled with population” when responding to another person. I am in no way trying to attack others’ positions, just trying to have a civil discussion about the pros/cons.

    This all comes down to a difference in our very basic opinions. You’ve stated you “take [the EC’s] utility as a given that preventing large urban majorities from trampling rural communities is more valuable than having every single person’s vote count more directly” and I can understand your opinion. Myself, I have lived mostly in rural and suburban areas, yet do not fear “urban trampling”. Presidential campaigns revolve around large, national issues. This year’s: war, national economy, health care, etc. I believe that in a 1-person/1-vote system the candidates will get their opinions out via speeches, interviews, press conferences, debates, etc., and everyone gets the same vote. I don’t care much for candidates visiting small towns in a few states to pander to local issues that will never come up again. I want to hear about the big issues that face our country. As for the various departments… hopefully whatever wise man or woman gets elected will choose the appropriate people for the cabinet. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. I actually would LOVE it if the candidates would tell us who their appointments might be BEFORE the election. The cabinet choice is so critical! Knowing the team’s composition to me would be a way bigger deal than niggling over a few extra electoral votes in some areas.

    I don’t care if using the “socialism” line seemingly showed my true colors, but I do think it was an interesting point. How would people feel if we used the census to determine racial populations and then slightly increase the vote weight for groups of lesser population? There have certainly been some periods of time during our years as a nation that some races were severely trampled by the majority in ways that urbanites and country-folk have never done to eachother. Again, I’m not trying to stir anyone up, just posing an interesting question.

    Regarding political operatives’ dirty tricks… they’ll always exist, but in a larger single election they will be diluted more and cancel out with eachother more. As it is now, an entire election can come down to a county and everyone then goes nutso over every tiny detail. Hanging chads. Disenfranchised voters. Supreme Court involvement. I don’t think there are enough operatives to make as large a dent in a nationwide election when compared to smaller, winner-takes-all elections as we have.

    Re: using district lines… I’m fine with more of CA, NY, etc., getting to vote for Republicans. As long as more of UT, FL, WY, CO, OH, etc get to vote for Democrats. I haven’t thought about this option before, but I guess it would likely end up being more in-line with the popular vote, as long as electors are strictly scaled to population. Again, my opinion is that is fair. Everyone, of every party, in every state getting to vote is exactly what I want. Certainly wouldn’t always favor the D’s, as you have suggested. Could’ve put Gore in the White House if those were the rules. Right?

    I think I’ll just agree to disagree at this point. You’ve made great points and I think I have a little more respect for the EC after this discussion, but I still would prefer a popular vote.

    Everyone, please… go out and vote in November.

  12. ublock says:

    Ooops… should’ve said “Certainly wouldn’t always favor the R’s, as you have suggested.” in the third-to-last paragraph above.

  13. Tam says:

    A lot of people seem to forget that (at least by original design) we live in the United STATES of America.

    You are a citizen of the sovereign state of East Dakota or North Virginia. You elect your congresscritter, your governor, and your state reps and senators.

    Every four years, the States get together and elect a president. If they choose to consult their citizens in the process, that’s their business. Every six years the states send their representatives to the Senate (or they did until the Progressives broke the Constitution near a hundred years ago…).

    Really, this is all elementary school AmGov 101 stuff….

  14. Unix-Jedi says:

    ublock:
    Maine and Nebraska implement what I’d like to see.
    The popular vote winner in the state gets the 2 “Senate” votes, and then the popular vote winner in the House district gets the “House” EC vote(s).

    But the single biggest reason to not have a nationwide, popular election? You think Florida in 2000 was bad?

    Think about 2000 in Florida nationwide. (and Theresa LePore was trying to help people and make voting easier. No good deed, unpunished, etc.)
    Right now, for example, it doesn’t matter how much the, oh, say, “mythical” Chicago dead votes outnumber those with blood pressure and register on an EEG. The best that you can do is swing Illinois. (Or in 2004, with MI sewed up, the industrious Union cheaters wandered over to WI to swing that vote). But it was just the 1 state that they (might have) affected. They couldn’t swing the whole election.
    Change that to a popular vote, and golly, now it’s really worth cheating in the places where *everybody’s* on board…

    Without the electoral college, EVERY SINGLE vote counts the SAME. What exactly do you mean by “no point”?Their vote still counts just as much as Mr. NYC or Mrs. LA. Sure, they may not see as many ridiculous TV commercials in their area, but there would be no reason to *not* vote.

    Yes. And it takes a *lot* more effort to *get to those people*. And they’re more spread out, and often very different. It’s easier to *ahem* appeal to voters in one area. Their interests tend to be similar. But a corn farmer in Iowa and a pig farmer in Virginia have quite different motivations. Easier to try and win their votes, or promise their taxes to improve I-405?

    Not to mention, with only a nationwide popular vote it would be much harder for political operatives to cause trouble to the whole system by targeting certain swing states and working — often illegally — to keep certain voters away from the polls.

    As I said above, a nationwide popular poll means those political operatives can impact not just their state, but the whole shebang. That wouldn’t decrease their efforts.

    As of yet, nobody’s given a reason why the small states get extra electors.
    I don’t understand what you’re asking. The smallest states get 3. Bare minimum. That’s it. How are they getting “extra?”

  15. Unix-Jedi says:

    *sigh*

    Preview *would be* my friend…

    Sorry, Marko.

  16. Joat says:

    Tam got it right, you don’t vote for president, you vote for a group of electors to decide who the president should be. Your vote counts equally with every other person in your state. The states get two electors each for being states plus one or more based on relative population. This is a compromise between the states picking the president and the people deciding. We are a republic, not a democracy the national government should have very limited powers and the majority of the power was left to the States.

  17. theflatwhite says:

    ublock,

    The choice of Com or Lib was merely for purposes of demonstration, not to make a point. Considering the times, I figured they were less divisive than using R and D.

    The example was merely a scale model demonstrating a hypothetical situation (and made extreme on purpose…why nit-pick?) where the electoral college does its job.

  18. kbiel says:

    ublock,

    Unfortunately what you and a lot of Americans have forgotten is that the federal government is not a government for individuals but for the states. We are supposed to interact with our state and local governments, while the states interact with the federal to provide a common defense, interstate commerce, and a united foreign policy. As Tam said, the seventeenth amendment broke our system. Our check on the federal government was supposed to be through our representatives. Otherwise it was the states who had an interest in what went on in DC.

    The loss of that perspective has led to more and more federal involvement in our lives through subsidies, tax incentives/disincentives, and laws that effect us individually by tendentiously claiming that every aspect of our lives is in some way connected to interstate commerce.

  19. Mike in Kosovo says:

    Ublock – state electors are equal to the number of Senators and Representatives in Congress for each state – that’s why the smallest states have 3 instead of one (2 Senators and one Representative minimum).

    The rest of it is as Marko and other have said, above – without the electoral college to balance out the population centers, people in Nebraska (for example) might as well not bother voting at all.

  20. ublock says:

    Mike: Yes, I know how they distribute electors. That’s exactly my point that the small states get “extra”, where I meant that they had more than they’d get if the number strictly scaled with population because of the two “Senate” electors.

    As far as people should “not bother to vote” if they live in rural America in a popular election… that still doesn’t make sense to me. Those votes count the same as everyone else’s. The rural voters may not have gotten as many visits from the candidates during the campaign, but they still get equal shot at getting someone of their mindset in office.

    Very rarely has the EC given an outcome differing from the popular vote. It’s a very minor tilting of the scales towards the rural areas. To say that a popular election would mean people in Nebraska shouldn’t vote at all is a very extreme opinion. A conservative (or liberal) vote from Nebraska would get added to all the conservative (or liberal) votes from Columbus, New York City, Oakland, etc., etc. This was my original complaint with Marko’s initial wording and I still don’t understand this view. Why should someone from rural America not bother to vote in a popular election? Let’s look at the last election. GWB won both the EC and popular vote. Are you guys saying that if we had decided on the eve of election day to use the popular vote that all the rural voters should have stayed home and given the win to Kerry?

    theflatwhite: Your example definitely showed how the EC does it’s job of stopping an extreme group from dominating. And as I said earlier, your example used an elector distribution that perfectly scaled with population — which is not how our system works. I agree with all of your points. You do not need the “extra” electors (the two from Senate seats) to stop the “urban trampling”, just as your example showed.

    And everyone here is right… the country was set up as a union of individual states. And I agree, it no longer operates like that — yet the election still does. The federal gov’t has way more power than it used to — yet we still elect the leader as if it was the old system.

    In summary, I am not fanatically anti-EC, I just have minor issues with it. There are way more important things to change with our government and I think time would be better spent elsewhere.

  21. theflatwhite says:

    Very rarely has the EC given an outcome differing from the popular vote.

    So? That’s not the point. In the ideal, the EC and the popular vote DO agree. What the EC gives you that a purely democratic vote does not is insurance against mob rule. Those situations are, of course, expectedly rare. I would also argue that our current electoral system has not only been a hedge in critical times against mob rule, but has been more than an ounce of prevention against such.

    and I think time would be better spent elsewhere.

    Only because you got your tail handed to you on this one.

  22. ublock says:

    theflatwhite: Again, your example shows how it stops mob rule with a purely population-scaling elector count. So why do we also have to give a bonus to rural America?

    Why is urban America considered a “mob”? Just because some urban areas have a different viewpoint? Why is the sum of all the rural areas never called a “mob”? Others have pointed out that the elector distribution of the EC helps weight the vote a bit by geographical area. I think that is a valid point. But that has nothing to do with preventing “mob rule” and “urban trampling”. And again, I cite your example as proof. You can limit the the influence of one region by using electors whose numbers scale exactly with population, as in your example.

    And for the record, I would never post on this blog in opposition to Marko or the usual commenter’s views without a complete understanding that I will have “my ass handed to me” by every person who has a moment to type. And that is specifically why I’ve posted here. I’ve had my views changed in the past on other issues discussed here. A year ago I was pretty neutral on gun control. I’m now against most gun control due to things I’ve learned here. As for the disproportionate elector distribution issue: I still believe (as in your example and the article linked to above) that you don’t need it to stop mob rule from heavily populated areas. The only reason for it is to give extra influence to certain geographic areas. The arguments given as to why this is needed have basically been “you need to give more vote to the under-represented so the majority doesn’t dominate.” I, on the other hand, still feel it should be one-person/one-vote for all geographies, races, genders, etc., etc. My opinion might likely be different if in fact our federal government were still as small and weak as it was 200 hundred years ago.

  23. theflatwhite says:

    Again, your example shows how it stops mob rule with a purely population-scaling elector count.

    You are quibbling over electoral distribution, but the demonstrated principal and benefits of an electoral system still holds.

  24. Unix-Jedi says:

    Why is the sum of all the rural areas never called a “mob”?

    Because a … dispersed group of not many is the exact opposite of a “mob”?

  25. ublock says:

    Unix-Jedi: “Mob” was brought up by others as something to call a large, spread-out “urban agglomeration” that might one day all vote similarly. Sure, the smaller states are even more spread out than, say, LA. But by this thread’s own twisted use of the word “mob”, there is no reason to not look at the voting habits of areas outside these “urban agglomerations”. It’s just not correct to think of all these urban areas as being so homogeneous, both between cities and within a single city. In fact, I’d wager that the cultures, values, and presidential voting records of the urban areas Marko listed are more diverse than the ten or fifteen states with the least number of electors. In a presidential election where you are usually just choosing A vs. B, where A and B are usually at opposite ends of the political spectrum, I’d actually say that those ten urban areas behave less “mob”-like** than the sum of the fewest-elector states. **Again, I use “mob” here with this thread’s definition, not the traditional “lynch-mob” definition.

    theflatwhite said:You are quibbling over electoral distribution, but the demonstrated principal and benefits of an electoral system still holds.
    … Well, we just keep agreeing! Yes, the EC prevents this so-called mob-rule and doesn’t need the extra two electors per state to do so (as beautifully shown in your example way above). And extra-double-YES, it has specific benefits… in the current political age it specifically benefits the Republican party in presidential elections. To some this is a positive, to others it is a negative. Whether you and I are D’s or R’s or Libertarians, etc., is irrelevant. Nobody can argue the fact that it certainly helps Republican candidates. This is in fact the only benefit that has been clearly demonstrated in modern times — our current president won by 5 electors.

    Everything comes down to Marko’s original post, which was way more focused than all our comment rambling: They limited the extent of majority rule, because they knew that it’s not the majority which usually needs protection. In this case the minority are people who choose to live in less-populated states, whether or not they live in an urban area. If the minority were defined by socio-economics, race, gender, etc., this would not be tolerated. If the goal is a system that evens out minority/majority influence, you wouldn’t use state borders as the divisions. C’mon… a DC resident gets THREE times the voting strength of his next-door neighbor in MD.

    If you really aim for equality for the under-represented, you’d map where all the policians live and then give extra weight to other areas. Me? I don’t care for complicated systems to help correct for possible minority/majority influence yet give places like DC three electors and which I feel make political shenanigans easier to accomplish. If equality is the goal, then just vote and count it up. The federal gov’t is not the same beast as in the 18th century.

  26. Unix-Jedi says:

    “Mob” was brought up by others as something to call a large, spread-out “urban agglomeration” that might one day all vote similarly.

    For the same motivation(s), more correctly. One that’s in a small area, with a small set of concerns, that can – as I’ve already said be much more easily promised bread and circuses than the same diffuse numbers across thousands more square miles.

    But by this thread’s own twisted use of the word “mob”

    Only by you, to call a non-mob a mob “equivalent”.

    there is no reason to not look at the voting habits of areas outside these “urban agglomerations”.

    Many people do. Notice that different promises are made in Iowa and Missouri. Or Georgia and Florida. Or Idaho and Washington. When you spread people out, it’s much harder to win votes.

    Which is easier, promising to have infrastructure built in Montana, Idaho, North and South Dakota, or expanding I-405? In terms of “vote buying power”, the urban centers are far more concentrated and “worth more”, to use your terminology and thinking. A large part of the reason we have a republic for the government, we have the federalist system was to prevent the cities from “outvoting” and reducing the rural areas to virtual slavery. (Along with the irony that quite a few of the rural folks were practicing actual slavery….)

    . In fact, I’d wager that the cultures, values, and presidential voting records of the urban areas Marko listed are more diverse than the ten or fifteen states with the least number of electors.

    In terms of their votes? No.

    This is in fact the only benefit that has been clearly demonstrated in modern times

    Other than, you know, the lack of a civil war over vote fraud and attempting to steal elections. Other than that, yeah, it’s been useless.

    C’mon… a DC resident gets THREE times the voting strength of his next-door neighbor in MD.

    DC = 3 electors. MD = 10 electors.

    So using your math, the MD vote’s worth 3x the DC vote. Or the DC vote is 3x the MD, but the MD vote is for more electors. Other than just using numbers in random ways for 30x the impact in 1/3 the time, what’s your point?

    I don’t care for complicated systems to help correct for possible minority/majority influence yet give places like DC three electors and which I feel make political shenanigans easier to accomplish.

    You can feel it all you want, but you’ve yet to refute my previous examples. Until then, the EC still stands as a serious firewall limiting cheating effects.

    in the current political age it specifically benefits the Republican party in presidential elections.

    The week before the 2000 election, the (D) talking heads hit the airwaves in a big way. To promote the Electoral College.
    Polling showed GWB was going to win the popular vote and lose in the EC. It doesn’t specifically benefit the (R) party. That’s your revisionist spin, largely (apparently due to which points you’re making, repeating the left’s main points) due to the left’s frothing (still) over the 2000 election.

    It may benefit the party seen to be most in line with the non-Metro states – which is now the Republicans, but that’s a change inside of the last 25 years. And could change back just as quickly. If the Democrats (or another party) were to address the needs.

    Attempting to “level the field” while you have a massive fundamental misunderstanding of the basics is an effort doomed to failure. Those basics include the very simple fact that addressing 100 people living in 10 square miles is a lot harder than 1000 people in 1 square mile.

  27. Don Meaker says:

    It is a really good idea that voter fraud in Cook County Illinois can’t cross the state boundary into Indiana.

  28. ublock says:

    Unix-jedi said:
    DC = 3 electors. MD = 10 electors.

    So using your math, the MD vote’s worth 3x the DC vote. Or the DC vote is 3x the MD, but the MD vote is for more electors. Other than just using numbers in random ways for 30x the impact in 1/3 the time, what’s your point?

    Hmmm…. do you suppose that perhaps MD has 10x the population of DC???? Saying I’m trying to twist numbers is insulting. This has been my point all along (votes/person) and we all understand how the numbers work. It’s just that we disagree on the fundamental merits. So be it.

    And you are right that right now it benefits the R’s. I don’t care if it’s the R’s or the D’s or whoever, I just don’t think it is the best way to count votes. Period. Of course I’ll use “R’s” as the example because that is the current trend. And the R’s aren’t the same party as 20/50/100 years ago, nor are the D’s. It all changes over time.

    I’m running out the door. If I have time later I’ll try to enunciate why I think it’s easier to cheat the EC system than the popular vote. Not that it matters… nobody’s opinion will be swayed.

    Don: Yeah… Cook County is pretty pitiful. But if you believe that voter fraud is a strictly Democratic problem than you are quite naive. Both sides are pretty rotten and both have their battlegrounds.

  29. Tam says:

    ublock,

    This is still all just so much mouth noise and hyperbole in a country where you do not have the right to vote for the chief executive.

    You are arguing over the honor of belling the cat when you have neither bell, nor ribbon from which to hang it.

  30. Unix-Jedi says:

    Hmmm…. do you suppose that perhaps MD has 10x the population of DC???? Saying I’m trying to twist numbers is insulting. This has been my point all along (votes/person) and we all understand how the numbers work. It’s just that we disagree on the fundamental merits. So be it.

    No, it don’t be.

    You *are* playing with numbers. This whole exercise is *nothing but playing with numbers*. You might as well start talking about the number of people registered and the number of people disenfranchised. It’s not impossible and in fact when I’ve done some election cartography where areas with large populations had less eligible voters *to register* than a nearby area would have *voters show up and vote*.

    If I have time later I’ll try to enunciate why I think it’s easier to cheat the EC system than the popular vote. Not that it matters… nobody’s opinion will be swayed.
    Not if you can’t manage to prove it. I saw the election in 2000, and my weak faith in the US was reinforced and enhanced.
    WI in 2004 was swung by illegal voters, in my opinion. Mostly union-organized, who bused in from MI. Without the EC, the cheating could have “stayed home”, been much less on the radar, and made a (potentially) bigger difference.

    But if you believe that voter fraud is a strictly Democratic problem than you are quite naive. Both sides are pretty rotten and both have their battlegrounds.
    I’m hardly naive. I’ve never seen any serious voter shenanigans that are part and parcel with the Democrats. And *if it did*, I’m certain the republicans would kick them out of the party.

    Tell me how that works in King Co, WA. Chicago. etc. It’s not currently a evenhanded problem. Don’t take it that I think republicans are paragons of virtue – in large part it is quite likely because they know that any hint of cheating would cause massive screaming, press investigations, criminal investigations, and end of careers.

    Let’s just say that’s not really the same set of negative incentives in the democratic party.

    And Tam: Yeah, it’s a very good point you’re making. But the de facto situation is what we’re discussing.
    And anyway… yeah….

  31. theflatwhite says:

    Well, we just keep agreeing!
    That is only true because your position keeps…ah…evolving.

  32. ublock says:

    I find it interesting that you claim whole states (WI) were swung by mere busloads of voters, yet think it proves that the EC keeps the cheating at bay. In your case study, loading up some buses swung an entire state. In a popular vote with over 100M votes, cheating across the board would require massive numbers of operatives. But as you state later, you think cheating is primarily a Democrat’s game. So of course you would oppose this…

    And *if it did*, I’m certain the republicans would kick them out of the party.

    What?!? Please tell me that was sarcasm. If not, then it tells me I should most certainly not spend a moment more time here. You’re comic is quite right: this conversation is worthless.

  33. Unix-Jedi says:

    I find it interesting that you claim whole states (WI) were swung by mere busloads of voters, yet think it proves that the EC keeps the cheating at bay.

    In that case, you simply can’t read and are an idiot.
    Which I think we’ve done a decent enough job of finding that out.

    I didn’t say that, I specifically explained my views, they’re not hard to read or understand (I believe), and despite your repeated promises to “demonstrate” how the EC doesn’t work , you’ve yet to do it. (Lots of smarter people than you have tried.) At least, I presume they’re smarter, since they could read my example and explanation and then repeat it back to me without mangling it.

    If that’s what you take out of my explanation, I can see why the concept, benefits and system of the Electoral College is well over your head.

  34. ublock says:

    In that case, you simply can’t read and are an idiot.

    First off, thanks for taking the high road and resisting the urge to start throwing out insults. It really helps your case.

    Here’s my interpretation of what you wrote, which part is wrong?… You said busloads of voters crossed state lines to vote in WI and ended up swinging the state. The EC kept this problem to a minimum because in a popular vote they could have stayed home and caused a bigger problem. Is that about right?

    How many buses were used? Perhaps a couple thousand voters boarded? So your saying that these busloads were able to swing an entire state, but if they’d stayed home (where they could legally vote, I assume) and their votes were added to the other 100M it would have caused more problems. I’m completely at a loss here as to how staying home (where you are supposed to vote) is a problem. Please, explain in more detail to this idiot.

    Here’s the basics of why I think an EC is an easier system to cheat: It is more complicated. Period. When you start adding arbitrary rules to a system, you introduce more ways to tweak the results. It’s similar to how our current bloated tax code is used to the advantage of the wealthy. They can hire people to most advantageously shield their money from the gov’t. A very simple tax system would be much harder to cheat (not to mention save buttloads in IRS administration costs). Likewise, a simple election (i.e., add up each American’s vote) would make it much harder to play. Each stolen/rigged/illegal vote requires the effort of an operative. If these operatives can focus on just a few small regions (check out what’s happening in Nebraska right now) then they have the potential to swing the whole country if they play their cards right. In a national popular vote, each operative can reach however many targets they can, but the two sides will hopefully average out more across the whole country. Of course, this fails if one side is way better at cheating than the other. You’ve already stated you think Republicans are less corrupt — so I understand your opposition. I, on the other hand, see no evidence that one side is much better than the other.

    And yes, I’m an idiot. Primarily because I keep checking in here to see the comments even though I have a job, family, etc., that are more important at the moment.

    Since the top of this thread I’ve agreed that it boosts the vote of the minority states (as Marko wrote and others discussed). I just don’t agree with this concept in today’s system.

  35. Unix-Jedi says:

    First off, thanks for taking the high road and resisting the urge to start throwing out insults. It really helps your case.

    It does. I explained, you malformed it, attacked your malformation, and then implied that I was an idiot.
    That’s not the hallmark of someone who’s thought the situation through and your attempts to win victimhood are meaningless. You’ve promised to make proofs you’ve failed to deliver, you’ve misunderstood some incredibly simple concepts. This does not add up to Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius. Or maybe it actually does.

    The EC kept this problem to a minimum because in a popular vote they could have stayed home and caused a bigger problem. Is that about right?

    Only barely.
    They voted illegally. They violated the law in a clear attempt to throw the election.

    With that as their motivation and goal, why would they somehow retard their efforts?
    In a popular vote, their efforts would be much maximized by staying home and cheating there. With the local networks. (See Machine, Chicago).
    Because of the EC, they had to go across state lines, in a barely-disguised attempt that withstands no scrutiny. And they swung one state.

    That’s not good. But it’s better than the alternative of something on the order of 15,000 Florida-2000 lawsuits and recounts and allegations and the entire breakdown of the trust in the voting system. But that’s a feature of your plan, not a bug. But that’s the opposite of the EC. The EC limits how much cheating gains you.

    With the EC, you can’t have just a few corrupt areas. Like, say, King County, WA, and Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA. All of those had some massive irregularities in 2004. But they ended up not mattering. After all, all they had to do was win. As Joe Kennedy once said “Goddammit, I’m not paying for a landslide!”

    Change that to popular voting, and it’s kitty-bar-the-door for the result.

    Here’s the basics of why I think an EC is an easier system to cheat: It is more complicated. Period.
    Not in any substantiative way.

    When you start adding arbitrary rules to a system, you introduce more ways to tweak the results.
    Not necessarily, and again, it’s not any different today than other voting.

    It’s similar to how our current bloated tax code
    Not in the slightest. Not even close. No way, no how. The EC rules fit in a few sentences. The tax code fills dozens of books. With hundred of pages of errata. The EC rules are easily explained (to most). Tax rules, nope. They’ve got loopholes and exceptions and…

    Thanks for that comparison, it does demonstrate that you’re not arguing actual fact, but a generalized theory. Complicated is bad, mmmmkay? Yes, it is. But the EC isn’t. It simplifies an election rather greatly by breaking up the votes into blocks, and putting an upper limit on the return on investment that cheating can bring.

    Likewise, a simple election (i.e., add up each American’s vote) would make it much harder to play. Each stolen/rigged/illegal vote requires the effort of an operative.

    It’s not a 1:1 issue. Cases I’m aware of, Democrat/ACORN “volunteers” arrive at nursing homes and help fill out “absentee” ballots. That came to my attention when one of the women had actually filled hers out and sent it in, before falling, hitting her head, and going into a coma. the D/ACORN people dutifully “helped” her. Somewhat surprisingly, her ballot and the one she was “helped with” didn’t gibe up. Many others in comas, and 2 who’d died the week before still managed to vote with their assistance.
    2 “volunteers”, and about 80 total votes. 1 day of work. 1:40. For that home.
    ACORN’s been attempting to destroy the voter registration records for years, reducing them to meaningless junk.

    but the two sides will hopefully average out more across the whole country.

    So your solution is to devalue the system further!
    Ok, so remove the mostly-respected, mostly honesty system, and replace it with Chicago!
    Why didn’t I think of that?

    Of course, this fails if one side is way better at cheating than the other.
    Uh, yeah. Or if you respect honesty and truth. Or if you expect those running for office to have ANY respect for honesty and truth. You’re suggesting total nilhistic greed for power, and power alone.
    Gee, what could be wrong with THAT?

    You’ve already stated you think Republicans are less corrupt — so I understand your opposition. I, on the other hand, see no evidence that one side is much better than the other.

    ACORN. Google it. Can you point me to any widespread voting insanities benefiting or run by Republicans/those leaning toward it?

    So so sum up your point: You don’t know the current state of election fraud, believe that more election fraud would be better and would cancel out other election fraud, and that the Electoral College is “too complicated” and your system would be less complicated. And better.

  36. ublock says:

    Your first one said WI in 2004 was swung by illegal voters, in my opinion. Mostly union-organized, who bused in from MI. With nothing more to go on, one would assume you simply meant that bus loads of people voted in MI that were WI residents. Without further info, one has no way of knowing what havoc they could wreak if staying home in MI. You say they swung a state… that’s 10 electors out of 538. That is HUGE. If those people stayed in MI, could they have swung a popular vote by nearly 2% of 100M??? Please answer: Do you think they could have added 2M votes for Kerry in Michigan (pop 10M)??? I think there are certainly benefits of the EC in regards to cheating… but this example is not one of them.

    Of course the EC isn’t incredibly complicated. I said it was more complicated. No matter what, votes have to be added. The process of adding votes is monotonous, but not complicated. But it does add extra rules. No argument there, I’m sure. And yes, my intuition is based on a generalized theory. I’ve never claimed to be an expert.

    It simplifies an election rather greatly by breaking up the votes into blocks, and putting an upper limit on the return on investment that cheating can bring.

    Hmmm… Your example shows that groups small enough to fit on a fleet of buses can swing a Presidential election by 2% in a nation of 300M — and that surely isn’t yet the upper limit for the EC, just one case of cheating out of likely many that year. Even if EVERY Chicago resident voted together, that is only 1% of the population. Your EC upper limit looks pretty bad.

    So your solution is to devalue the system further!
    Ok, so remove the mostly-respected, mostly honesty system, and replace it with Chicago!

    You pose this as if the EC is loved by all. We know it is not. I in no way want Chicago fraud spreading. I would love a perfectly honest election with large voter turnout. That will never happen.

    You’re suggesting total nilhistic greed for power, and power alone.

    Wow. Uh. No, I’m not. I would work toward honest voting through any means necessary, but would think that localized regions (like Chicago) of corruption would in part balance with regions that are corrupt in the other direction.

    Let’s stick with ACORN for a moment. According to their site, they registered 1.3M voters for this election. That’s registered, not “filled out absentee ballots for them”, other fraud, etc. … 1.3M voters out of 300M Americans… 0.4%. Wow… five times less than the electorate swing created by a group of busses in MI and WI. Not to mention the number of fraudulent votes would be much smaller than the 1.3M registered voters. I’m thinking ACORN is not as influential in a popular election as the bus group is in the EC.

    And one more item… voter turnout would certainly go up in a popular vote. All the D’s in Utah and R’s in Massachusetts, etc., would show up at the polls as if it actually mattered. The total number of legal votes goes up, diluting the fraudulent cases even more.

    [you] believe that more election fraud would be better

    That is a bald-faced lie.

    and would cancel out other election fraud,

    It would, just as it does now within individual states, which are generally more left- or right-leaning than the country as a whole. Adding up the “noise” terms across the whole country will more accurately reach a “correct” value (i.e., the value if no fraud existed).

    If you’re willing, I’m happy to end it here and agree to disagree. Neither of us is going to persuade the other. Though I will admit that I have more respect for the EC after this. Not because of the fraud issue, but on the case for a slight geographical weight to the vote. I think there is some merit to that, but I think it could be done better in another way. A way, for instance, that doesn’t give DC residents 3 times the vote PER CAPITA as the guy a mile away in MD.

  37. ublock says:

    Upon rereading, this should have saidI think there are certainly _some_ benefits of the EC in regards to cheating… but this example is not one of them. In addition, there are some drawbacks.

  38. Unix-Jedi says:

    [you] believe that more election fraud would be better
    That is a bald-faced lie.

    and would cancel out other election fraud,
    It would, just as it does now within individual states,

    I think that quite clearly demonstrates the gulf between us.
    You accuse me of making a bald faced lie… and then agree with me that I was right.

  39. ublock says:

    …and then agree with me that I was right.

    Rather than call you an idiot as you did to me for misunderstanding a short response, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and rephrase in more words… Nowhere have I ever stated that I want *more* election fraud. You assume that to be true because in your world the EC is unquestionably less prone to fraud and anyone who dislikes it must *want* more fraud. Continuing, I said that there is some cancellation of fraud between the two parties within individual states. Any realist knows this to be true — there is undoubtedly fraud from the left AND the right. Your claim that this meant I was agreeing with you was just not true. I was extending the “balancing”/”canceling”/etc to a national vote, as opposed to just within each state. Just as Chicago has had a history of fraud and dead voters casting votes, there have been plenty of areas where large numbers of D’s were turned back at the polls or mysteriously found themselves no longer registered. Go ahead, Google it.

    The Right pound their fists on their desks and scream about voter fraud… yet we find *very* few convictions ever – even though the Bush administration made a point of stating they were going after voter fraud with the justice dept. Hmmm. And the Left pound their fists and scream about voter suppression activities from the right. Search Google, you’ll find just as many stories as you do about ACORN (like here). And yes, many will be from left-leaning sources — just as nearly all of the ACORN publicity comes from right-leaning sources.

    Oh well. I was hoping to at least hear your response to my main question in that last post… the one I prefaced with “Please answer”. Do you think the bus cheaters in MI/WI could have stolen 2% of a national popular vote without the EC??? Because according to your story, that’s what they did with the EC. I’m sure it would be easy to ring up 2M+ illegal votes in a state of 10M, right?

    Somehow I’m guessing you’re not going to bless me with an answer. But please, prove me wrong.

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