Monday, August 18, 2008

Democrat wants electoral college abolished...

In Sunday's Pignanelli and Webb column (see here), Frank argues to have the Electoral College abolished. He uses the argument that Utah hasn't seen a presidential contender in any recent campaign. Utah is an anomaly. If the Electoral College is done away with, states like Nevada will never see a presidential contender. How many times has a presidential contender visited Nevada, Missouri, and several other "small" states in the past two presidential elections, Frank? How many times would Nevada and Missouri have seen presidential candidates in the past two presidential elections if the electoral college didn't exist?

The Electoral College still makes since for the United States of America.


Cameron said...

I think you nailed it. The electoral college makes small states matter. The fact that Utah doesn't get much presidential play has nothing to do with the college, and everything to do with nobody liking Democrats around here. Which is precisely why the 50 state strategy is a good one.

Jesse Harris said...

The problem with attempting to "fix" the electoral college is the false belief that we are responsible for directly electing the chief executive. This is absolutely false. The electoral college is meant to be a check against popular sentiment in the event that a dangerous executive is chosen by the people. Much in the same way that "progressives" dismantled the careful balance between the people and the states by pushing for the direct election of Senators, so too do they push for dismantling another vital check in our system of government by seeking to have a few populous states completely dominate the electoral landscape.

Davis Didjeridu said...

I think your title is misleading and you should change it. Frank Pignanelli is no more an official representative of Utah Democrats or Democrats in general than LaVarr Webb is of Republicans. I don't think he has had much influence since he ran against Rocky in 2003, and hasn't held any Democratic office above maybe precinct chair since then. Just like La Var, he's just a lobbyist.

Fair Voter said...

Keep the Electoral College, but require states to elect Electors proportionally (and not by district).

Utah has five Electoral Votes.

Under a proportional system, if McCain won 60 percent of the vote and Obama won 40 percent of the vote, McCain would get three electors and Obama would get two electors.

That's a fair, proportional result rather than the distorted outcome that the winner-take-all system creates.

Under such a proportional system, presidential campaigns would have an incentive to compete for their political market share in every state. This would take away the disproportionate influence enjoyed by early primary and so-called "battleground" states.

Resolve any lack of a majority through round-by-round or ranked-choice voting by the electors, i.e., if no candidate gains a majority on the first round of voting, the candidate receiving the lowest number of electoral votes is defeating and the next-lowest ranked preferences are re-allocated to the remaining candidates until there is a majority winner.

See FairVote: The Center for Voting and Democracy for more information.

Perhaps you don't hear about these reforms from Webb and Pignanelli because decentralizing our democratic republic would undermine the two-party system that has been such a lucrative source of business to their political favor brokerages.

Thad said...

davis didjeridu,
I'll keep the title. My main reason for putting that title on it is many democrats want the electoral college abolished because it appears that Obama could win the popular vote and lose the Electoral College vote. If it were swapped, it would be Republicans clamoring for abolishing the Electoral College.

Davis Didjeridu said...

Care to name another Democrat with that view? I think most Democrats are pretty confident (perhaps over-confident) that with Obama's grassroots strategy, he will win the most electoral states ever.

Rob said...

Wouldn't your title be more honest if it said, "A DEM" wants the electoral college abolished?

Just asking.

Rob said...

Looks like DD and I are on the same wave length.

Jason The said...

Another Democrat here who finds the title misleading. I'd challenge the author to find statistics to back up his statement that this is something "Dems" want.

CraigJ said...

70 percent of Americans want to abolish the electoral college. This is not a partisan issue.

Thad said...

And 97.3% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

CraigJ said...

Two examples among many.

john said...

I'm all for the abolition of the Electoral College, and I'm a Republican. The college system is an age old solution to a problem that no longer exists (the assumption that information wasn't easy to spread in the early years of our nation, and creating a college to represent the voters with a single vote). But it must be abolished nationwide, not state by state. Make every vote count.

Jesse Harris said...

"Basically, it’s one person, one vote," said Judy Middelkoop, who is co-chairing the League of Women Voters of Schenectady County’s National Popular Vote committee.

See, this is why the people driving attempts to change or eliminate the electoral college come off as hopeless uninformed in history and basic Constitutional principles. Prior to this "one person, one vote" concept, states often assigned senators equally amongst the counties. Much like at the national level, this ensured that rural areas wouldn't get steamrolled by urban ones. In Nevada particularly, this was critical as the population at the time was heavily concentrated in the Reno area. Now the state has significant problems with both houses being dominated by urban interests with rural voices going largely ignored. Apparently that's more "fair".

What we must remember is that the Constitution was setup in such a way as to provide balance between various power groups. That balance plays off of the natural friction between these groups to ensure that despite the best efforts by one of them, none shall dominate. I'd argue we made a big mistake with the direct election of senators by creating, in essence, a second House. John, I'd also point out that in the Information Age, it's just as easy to get false and misleading information as none at all. The wisdom of a balance against popular sentiment is still proven.

Fair Vote raised a good point: states have the right to allocate electoral votes as they see fit. I've seen proposals that do proportional allocation based on the popular vote. Another awards by congressional district with the overall winner carrying the senate votes. The great thing about letting the states decide is that they can come up with individualized solutions that better meet the needs of the citizenry without having to force a Constitutional change down the throats of those that don't want it.

S said...

The small states are the most disadvantaged of all under the current system of electing the President. Political clout comes from being a closely divided battleground state, not the two-vote bonus.

Small states are almost invariably non-competitive in presidential election. Only 1 of the 13 smallest states are battleground states (and only 5 of the 25 smallest states are battlegrounds).

Of the 13 smallest states, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska regularly vote Republican, and Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC regularly vote Democratic. These 12 states together contain 11 million people. Because of the two electoral-vote bonus that each state receives, the 12 non-competitive small states have 40 electoral votes. However, the two-vote bonus is an entirely illusory advantage to the small states. Ohio has 11 million people and has "only" 20 electoral votes. As we all know, the 11 million people in Ohio are the center of attention in presidential campaigns, while the 11 million people in the 12 non-competitive small states are utterly irrelevant. Nationwide election of the President would make each of the voters in the 12 smallest states as important as an Ohio voter.

The fact that the bonus of two electoral votes is an illusory benefit to the small states has been widely recognized by the small states for some time. In 1966, Delaware led a group of 12 predominantly low-population states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania) in suing New York in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that New York's use of the winner-take-all effectively disenfranchised voters in their states. The Court declined to hear the case (presumably because of the well-established constitutional provision that the manner of awarding electoral votes is exclusively a state decision). Ironically, defendant New York is no longer a battleground state (as it was in the 1960s) and today suffers the very same disenfranchisement as the 12 non-competitive low-population states. A vote in New York is, today, equal to a vote in Wyoming—both are equally worthless and irrelevant in presidential elections.


S said...

The current system does not provide some kind of check on the "mobs." There have been 22,000 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 10 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. The electors are dedicated party activists who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

S said...

Evidence of the way a nationwide presidential campaign would be run comes from the way that national advertisers conduct nationwide sales campaigns. National advertisers seek out customers in small, medium, and large towns of every small, medium, and large state. National advertisers do not advertise only in big cities. Instead, they go after every single possible customer, regardless of where the customer is located. National advertisers do not write off Indiana or Illinois merely because a competitor has a 8% lead in sales in those states. And, a national advertiser with an 8%-edge over its competitor does not stop trying to make additional sales in Indiana or Illinois.
Although no one can predict exactly how a presidential campaign would be run if every vote were equal throughout the United States, it is clear that candidates could not ignore voters in any part of any state.

S said...


Question 22 of the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation-Harvard University Survey of Political Independents conducted in May-June 2007 asked:

For future presidential elections, would you support or oppose changing to a system in which the president is elected by direct popular vote, instead of by the electoral college?

Support 72%
Oppose 23%
Don't Know 4%

Support 73%
Oppose 23%
Don't Know 4%

Support 78%
Oppose 16%
Don't Know 5%

Support 60%
Oppose 35%
Don't Know 5%


Thad said...

So according to your quoted poll, 18% more Democrats than Republicans support changing to a popular vote. Interesting.

Bradley Ross said...

I favor the Electoral College. Here are two great (older) pieces on why we should keep it.

Pete du Pont in the Wall Street Journal
John C. Weicher in National Review