Re: NYTimes.com Article: Abolish the Electoral College

From: David Weintraub <david_at_weintraubworld_dot_net>
Date: Mon Aug 30 2004 - 20:39:43 CDT

What keeps us a two party country is our first-past-the-post election
system. Let's say there are five political parties with the following
voter distribution:

Party A: 24 %
Party B: 20 %
Party C: 19 %
Party D: 19 %
Party E: 18 %

According to first-past-the-post rules, Party A would win the election
with just 24% of the vote.

If Party C and Party D had similar policies, and both disliked the
policies of Party A, Party C and Party D would have a major incentive
to merge and field a single candidate. That Candidate could have
captured 38% of the vote and have defeated the candidate from Party A.
In turn, Party A might decide to form a coalition with Party B to fight
a Party C/D coalition. This would allow Party A/B to defeat Party C/D
44% to 38%. Meanwhile, members of Party E may decide to join one of the
two coalition parties since they will never win an election with just
18% of the vote.

This is why many people in the political fringe claim that the two
parties are so much alike. Our political parties (until very recently)
were not ideological parties, but a coalition of parties from the fifty
states. A first-past-the-post federal election would also encourage
presidential elections with only two major candidates.

However, I understand the fear that having a first-past-the-post
presidency would cause. Would we be able to stand behind a President
that was elected with only 24% of the popular vote? Unfortunately,
anything you do to help "correct" this problem will be more likely to
cause the parties to fracture and make things worse.

France use to have a proportional representation parliament with the
prime minister as the head of government. This caused dozens of parties
to form and made the government very weak. After World War II, France
switched to a presidential system of government and district elections
for Parliament. However, due to a history of multiple parties, there
was a fear that a candidate who didn't even get close to a majority of
votes could become President.

In order to quell this fear, France instituted run off Presidential
elections. The result is that there are still five major parties in
France instead of just two. In the last Presidential election, the two
candidates in the run off got less than 40% of the total vote. The
political left, although it might have included a majority of the
voters, had no candidate in the run off election. I am not too sure if
we would really like the results of such an election in this country.

On Aug 29, 2004, at 6:52 PM, Arnold Urken wrote:
> The electoral college problem is an interesting issue because there are
> so many paradoxes. For example, with direct election, there would be an
> incentive for multiple parties to run. This sets up a high probability
> of producing a tie or a paradox of voting (in which there is no
> transitive consensus. Attempting to compromise, the Century Foundation
> proposed a Bonus Plan discussed at
> http://www.digitalnpq.org/archive/2001_winter/how_to_reform.html
>
> The winner-take-all rule, even at the district level in the states, is
> the main distorter of the process.

=======================================
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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