Re: NYTimes.com Article: Abolish the Electoral College

From: charlie strauss <cems_at_earthlink_dot_net>
Date: Mon Aug 30 2004 - 20:36:38 CDT

-----Original Message-----
From: David Weintraub <david_at_weintraubworld_dot_net>

>The Electoral College was put into place for one purpose and one
purpose only -- slavery.

Someone has been reading too much Howard Zinn :-) I'd have to disagree with this absolutist remark. Moreover in swing states it actually give inordinate power to minority groups since their turnout determines which way the WHOLE vote goes, so in some sense it has come full circle on the intent you ascribe.

>The Electoral College never worked as planned and in the first truly
contested election, the election of 1800, it failed miserably and
almost brought down the republic.

I assume you are refering to the Burr case. It was amended and it was contentious but it actually showed how stable the system was. But how can you say it never worked as planned. Its been working as planned since 1800.

>I am convinced that the Electoral College is one of the factors
responsible for low voter turnout. After all, if you live in Texas,
California, or New York, why bother voting? Your vote won't make one
bit of difference in the election anyway.

Yep. That's the huge problem. Though it does make primaries important. And also it makes co-option of third parties imprortant to prevent spoiler votes.

>There are many federated states (such as Germany and Canada) that do
not bother with an Electoral College.

Germany is tiny and has serious no geographical obstacles. Canada votes on the parlimetary system which elects the party. One could easily strike a strong analogy between the the party selecting the members of parliment and the electoral college. Indeed the electoral systemis more of direct vote for the person than a parlimentary system.

> we should get rid of this
completely undemocratic institution.

its not supposed to be entirely a vote by the people its supposed to be a vote by the states. it is somewhat closer to a republic than a pure democracy.

>After all, how many more elections
do you think we can have with the person getting a majority of vote
losing in the Electoral College before we have a major political crisis
on our hands.

This may cause unrest but if people understood that it is supposed to pick a president who is both popular in an absolute sense and also is popular in many regions then there would be no problem. The best man is not the one who gets the most votes its the one that can govern effectively and represent the whole country. You cant govern effectively, given the senate structure, if your vote is not broadly spread out across many states. The electoral college biases it towards thisoutcome.

however I still think a better way of meeting this desiderata is to make it explicit. Simply apportion electors by the popular vote plus a bonus of 2 for the winner of the plurality in each state.

On Aug 29, 2004, at 3:11 PM, Alan Dechert wrote:

> Initiatives to abolish the Electoral College are among the most common
> is US
> history. It's been tried something like 700 times. These initiatives
> always fail--rightfully so--because they misinterpret the basis of our
> organization of states.
>
> We have a FEDERATION OF STATES. States have rights, not just the
> individuals that live in those states. To abolish the Electoral
> College
> would bring into question the very nature of the federation. In
> essence, to
> maintain logical consistency, we'd have to re-write the US
> Constitution.
>
> The same argument against small population states being
> overrepresented in
> the Electoral College would also apply to the Senate. California has
> 2 US
> Senators, as does Wyoming, Rhode Island, etc.
>
> Statehood is an important concept because there are regional issues
> need to
> be taken into account that are not best handled by popular demand. For
> example, Wyoming has lots of coal. However, people in Wyoming might
> not
> care to have the entire state ground to a pulp just to satisfy the
> electrical demands, say, of Las Vegas. If Wyoming did not have the
> strength
> of Statehood, residents would have little say in the matter.
>
> Standard disclaimer: This is my opinion and does not represent the
> position
> of the OVC.
>
>> The editorial below from NYTimes.com
>>
>> Abolish the Electoral College
>>
>> August 29, 2004
>>
>> When Republican delegates nominate their presidential
>> candidate this week, they will be doing it in a city where
>> residents who support George Bush have, for all practical
>> purposes, already been disenfranchised. Barring a tsunami
>> of a sweep, heavily Democratic New York will send its
>> electoral votes to John Kerry and both parties have already
>> written New York off as a surefire blue state. The
>> Electoral College makes Republicans in New York, and
>> Democrats in Utah, superfluous. It also makes members of
>> the majority party in those states feel less than crucial.
>> It's hard to tell New York City children that every vote is
>> equally important - it's winner take all here, and whether
>> Senator Kerry beats the president by one New York vote or
>> one million, he will still walk away with all 31 of the
>> state's electoral votes.
>>
>> The Electoral College got a brief spate of attention in
>> 2000, when George Bush became president even though he lost
>> the popular vote to Al Gore by more than 500,000 votes.
>> Many people realized then for the first time that we have a
>> system in which the president is chosen not by the voters
>> themselves, but by 538 electors. It's a ridiculous setup,
>> which thwarts the will of the majority, distorts
>> presidential campaigning and has the potential to produce a
>> true constitutional crisis. There should be a bipartisan
>> movement for direct election of the president.
>>
>> The main problem with the Electoral College is that it
>> builds into every election the possibility, which has been
>> a reality three times since the Civil War, that the
>> president will be a candidate who lost the popular vote.
>> This shocks people in other nations who have been taught to
>> look upon the United States as the world's oldest
>> democracy. The Electoral College also heavily favors small
>> states. The fact that every one gets three automatic
>> electors - one for each senator and a House member - means
>> states that by population might be entitled to only one or
>> two electoral votes wind up with three, four or five.
>>
>> The majority does not rule and every vote is not equal -
>> those are reasons enough for scrapping the system. But
>> there are other consequences as well. This election has
>> been making clear how the Electoral College distorts
>> presidential campaigns. A few swing states take on
>> oversized importance, leading the candidates to focus their
>> attention, money and promises on a small slice of the
>> electorate. We are hearing far more this year about the
>> issue of storing hazardous waste at Yucca Mountain, an
>> important one for Nevada's 2.2 million residents, than
>> about securing ports against terrorism, a vital concern for
>> 19.2 million New Yorkers. The political concerns of
>> Cuban-Americans, who are concentrated in the swing state of
>> Florida, are of enormous interest to the candidates. The
>> interests of people from Puerto Rico scarcely come up at
>> all, since they are mainly settled in areas already
>> conceded as Kerry territory. The emphasis on swing states
>> removes the incentive for a large part of the population to
>> follow the campaign, or even to vote.
>>
>> Those are the problems we have already experienced. The
>> arcane rules governing the Electoral College have the
>> potential to create havoc if things go wrong. Electors are
>> not required to vote for the candidates they are pledged
>> to, and if the vote is close in the Electoral College, a
>> losing candidate might well be able to persuade a small
>> number of electors to switch sides. Because there are an
>> even number of electors - one for every senator and House
>> member of the states, and three for the District of
>> Columbia - the Electoral College vote can end in a tie.
>> There are several plausible situations in which a 269-269
>> tie could occur this year. In the case of a tie, the
>> election goes to the House of Representatives, where each
>> state delegation gets one vote - one for Wyoming's 500,000
>> residents and one for California's 35.5 million.
>>
>> The Electoral College's supporters argue that it plays an
>> important role in balancing relations among the states, and
>> protecting the interests of small states. A few years ago,
>> this page was moved by these concerns to support the
>> Electoral College. But we were wrong. The small states are
>> already significantly overrepresented in the Senate, which
>> more than looks out for their interests. And there is no
>> interest higher than making every vote count.
>>
>> Making Votes Count: Editorials in this series remain online
>> at nytimes.com/makingvotescount.
>>
>>
> http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/29/opinion/29sun1.html?
> ex=1094801844&ei=1&en=a9ac8e189434eac3
>>
>> Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
>> --
>> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ----
> -----
>> Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA 94303-4507
>> tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
>>
>
>

=======================================
Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, doctor,
and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it."
-- Elwood P. Dowd
=======================================

David Weintraub
david@weintraubworld.net
david@weintraub.name
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Received on Tue Aug 31 23:17:21 2004

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