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QotD: Electoral College

Question: If you were to design your own electoral college, how would it be designed?

My Answer: I don't like that the views of Californians (55) are 1375% as important as those of people living in Maine. I think that there's a great disparity. I don't think that DC should have its own three votes. I'd drop every state's electoral votes by three - the smallest number of any state - and then raise them all twenty (or just add 17 to everyone, yes). This would give CA 72 and a state like Maine 21, a difference of only 343%. Elections are too easily monopolized by the "big states" - New York, Florida, Texas, and California. Does the color of the states of Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Montana, Alaska, or Hawaii matter? No. Not really.

Scholars have debated this, so I'm hardly some kind of expert. It just seems a little skewed to me that the opinions of Californians (of which, yes, there are many more) matter 1375% as much as those "Mainians." (What are people from Maine called?)

You are encouraged to answer the Question of the Day for yourself in the comments or on your blog.

17 Responses to "QotD: Electoral College"

  1. People from Maine are called Maniacs.

    I like my Maine vote and am happy with it because it has such a greater influence on Maine's electoral votes than California's electoral votes. So, in effect, my vote counts more than the vote of someone from California.

  2. Yeah, the votes of people in California are already worth less than those in smaller states. If you did something lame like give each state the same number of electoral debates, I'm sure you'd see California broken up into 10 states or something. States are pretty artifical these days.

  3. Impressive - you've managed to disenfranchise even more voters than the current system.

    These are some numbers we worked up for an article we wrote in early 2001. They may not be exact anymore because of population changes, but should be close enough to illustrate the point.

    In 2000, California had 54 electoral votes, for about 33,000,000 people. So each electoral vote "represented" about 611,000 people. Wyoming, the smallest state, had 3 electoral votes but only 500,000 inhabitants, thus they received one electoral vote for each 167,000 people. Is it fair that a vote in Wisconsin is "worth" almost four times a vote in California?

    Under your new systems, California would receive 71 electoral votes, or one for every 465,000 people. That looks better, but not when you look at Wyoming's and their 20 electoral votes, or one for every _25,000_ people.

    The EC wasn't designed to be completely fair, but the current system is bad enough - I can't see wanting to make it worse.

  4. Who says that having an electoral college at all isn't just bad to begin with? Why not just a good ol' popular election.

    A candidate could lose 15 states 49% to 51%, and win 35 states 100% to 0% yet lose the election. That seems rather odd to me.

  5. There are only two changes that would make our system more equitable.

    First, we could reduce the number of Electors for each state by 2. As I hope you know, Electors equal the number of a state's U.S. Senators (always 2) plus the number of its U.S. Representatives (which may change each decade according to the size of each State's population determined in the Census). If we were going to be sure each member of the population got a "fair" vote, we'd reduce each state's number of Electors by 2, bringing the numbers in line with population.

    Second, if it seems unfair that we employ a "winner take all" method in 48 states, each state could look into adopting the methods used by Maine and Nebraska. Of course, this is up to each state to determine, and apparently, with just two exceptions, the states like the "winner take all" approach.

    Your crazy math would wreak havoc on the system. It's too arbitrary, and would unquestionably make some votes more powerful than others. One person, one vote, my friend. Not one person in Maine, 1.5 votes, and one person in California, 0.67 votes.

  6. That didn't answer the question I asked: why not just a popular vote? You've done nothing but - and only slightly - modify the existing system.

    Why should a 49/51 vote in CA afford the victor 55 electoral votes? That alone seems pretty silly.

  7. I think a popular vote would make each vote equal. Whereas in the electoral college, states with the larger number of electoral votes clearly have an advantage. States like Florida, New York have also have a greater number as well.

    The popular vote is the true democratic method. One person, one vote. Seems fair to me.

  8. Why not just propose a system similar to what the Daily Show had, where those pesky blue states on the outer edge of the U.S. provided a "buffer" against terrorists and to make up for those states inability to vote, the red states in the middle would receive double the votes.

    As ridiculous as it sounds, the way the system is currently setup is similar to the three-fifths compromise counting slaves as 3/5 of a person! I don't see how we can argue that in this country that is supposed to lead the world in democracy can allow this system to continue. In the elections of senators, house representatives, governors on down, it is done by popular vote. Why would it be so horrible to elect the president of the free world by popular vote?

  9. It's up to CALIFORNIA (or any other state) to choose for itself whether it wants a "winner take all" approach. That's the law. And forty-eight states like that approach. There's a lot of resistance to change, because any deviation from "winner take all" will clearly favor the less dominant party for each particular state. The party in power wouldn't want to start sharing its presumptive 100% share of Electors, would it?

    Besides, given our two-party system, "winner take all" probably hurts each candidate as much as it helps.

  10. At one point (and technically this is still the case) we are a republic. The electoral college system was set up so that states could elect the President, because the federal government was designed to govern certain aspects of the relationships between states. In fact, at one point, until an amendment altered it, it was state legislatures that elected senators. Frankly, I wish we still had this structure in place, because our federal government is involved too deeply in local affairs and cannot possibly tend all of them well.

    I'm opposed to a direct popular vote because I'd rather not give too much power to the urban areas. If nothing else, our current system forces candidates to get out of the major population centers if only for a little bit. Of course, districts are so gerrymandered right now that most Congressional races are virtually uncontested, and politicking has come down to "swing states." Quite disgusting, because true debate on issues that matter (i.e. the goals each candidate has, and the specific actions that will be taken to meet those goals) get buried.

  11. The EC was designed in a day and age when information proliferation hardly existed, and people were largely uneducated. Since that is no longer really the case, we could probably do away with the EC and go popular vote. However, rallies would still go on mostly in the same places as they are now, because thats still where the population centers are.

  12. Here's a fun article I just got around to writing.

  13. Phil Libin actually did the math out for each state, and while it's not quite as bad as you make it sound (Maine is, after all, a whole lot smaller than California), the results are still pretty interesting.

    Anyway, he writes better than I can, so read his post here:

  14. I probably wouldn't have an electoral college. The eighteenth century us so over.If I did, then I'd want to do something like:Allocate a state's electoral votes to candidates in proportion to their standing in the popular vote. You get 51% of the great state Of's voters then you get about 51% of their electoral votes.Prorate them according to voter turn out. The more a state's voters care the more their vote counts.

  15. Oops, 'is' for 'us' -and if you want to add a comma somewhere in 2b. CH said:

    Besides, given our two-party system, "winner take all" probably hurts each candidate as much as it helps.

    'Winner take all' is why we have a two party system and why candidates pander to the extremists in their own party to get nominated then 'run to the center' for the general election. And the justification the winner uses to claim a "mandate" for his programs. 'Wow, 40% of the 25% of people who voted chose you over the other schmucks, you must be a god among men, command and I will obey.'

    The best way to elect a President would be a direct election using a Condorcet method (try Google or Wikipedia). In a nutshell, each voter lists each candidate for a position in order from best to worst as they see it, then the tallying (loosely a series of two person runoffs between each pair of candidates) chooses the one who is most preferred overall. Personally, I'd also suggest adding a Nobody option to the ticket to be ranked with the candidates. It's nice to be able to reject a ticket full of losers [for example the 2000 or 2004 U.S. Presidential elections] and to spell out clearly to a candidate, can you say Buchanan, that they are unwanted.

  16. "M," until you learn proper HTML and/or begin leaving a real name and email address, further comments from you will be removed. Leave a URL - even if it's - to mask your email from spambots. But, as it says in bold just above this form, Have some guts and use a real name, email, and URL.

  17. M, whoever you are, I like your idea of using a Concordet, but it too is riddled with problems. The main problem would arise from media's involvement in elections.

    The media acts as a filter for the information that almost all of us receive on candidates. If they tried to be unbiased and put the picture of everyone running on their front cover they still have the opportunity to choose which picture they place there. No matter what they wanted to do certain figures would get more attention from media sources than others.

    I'd like a system that addresses the following issues/problems, but I haven't managed to think of one just yet.

    -Tactical voting (Voting to have more influence rather than stating true preference or opinion) (I think that this is why Kerry is the dem nominee this year)

    -Media Influence

    -Ignorance of issues


    -General ignorance / lack of intelligence

    -Plato and Aristotle's point that some people are better educated and can therefore make more informed decisions, but still their vote is counted the same as someone completely ignorant and possibly even duped.