Friday, November 17, 2017

#321 / Learning To Love The Electoral College?



As most are aware, and painfully so, the person who got the most votes in last year's presidential election did not get the job. The election was won, as the Constitution provides, by the person who obtained the most votes in the Electoral College. That was Donald J. Trump, and since Donald J. Trump may well be the most unsuitable and unworthy person ever to hold that office, there is a natural temptation to blame the Constitution, and the role of the Electoral College, for what has come to pass. 

Surely we should abolish the Electoral College, don't you think, so the candidate who wins the most votes, on a nationwide basis, is declared the winner? In an article titled, "The Unloved Electoral College," Amanda Foreman discusses this question, and outlines some arguments on both sides. 

There are, of course, arguments in favor of the Electoral College system. I tend to think they are  pretty good arguments, too.

If you believe Joe Simitian, for instance, the Democrats lost the 2016 presidential election because voters in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, who had previously voted for President Obama, "flipped." The main reason they flipped, Simitian says, is because the federal government wasn't paying attention to their very real economic problems. If a nationwide vote were held, and that was all that counted, political parties wouldn't have to pay attention to smaller states. Obviously, the government should pay attention to voters who live in the smaller states, and the Electoral College system rewards the candidates who understand that. That's a pretty good argument for keeping the system as is. 

In addition, if you believe Hannah Arendt, the key to the success of our democratic system comes from the many different power centers it establishes, which will often oppose one another, preventing the development of a centralized, totalitarian regime. Once again, the Electoral College system fosters that kind of independent source of political power. A system that counts votes only on a national basis undermines the federal system that our Constitution has relied upon since 1789.

Maybe, upon reflection, and despite the person who won the prize the last time around, we could learn to love our political system once again - and that would mean falling back into love with the Electoral College.


Image Credit:
https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-history-of-the-unloved-electoral-college-1509723881

6 comments:

  1. California has enacted the National Popular Vote bill.

    The bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
    Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes, that don’t represent any minority party voters within each state.
    No more handful of 'battleground' states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states, like California, that have just been 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes among all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    In 2017, the bill has passed the New Mexico Senate and Oregon House.
    The bill was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    Since 2006, the bill has passed 35 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 261 electoral votes.
    The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most popular votes in the country

    NationalPopularVote.

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  2. With National Popular Vote, when every popular vote counts and matters to the candidates equally, successful candidates will find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Ohio and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support. Elections wouldn't be about winning a handful of battleground states.

    Fourteen of the 15 smallest states by population are ignored like the big ones because they’re not swing states. Small states are safe states. Only New Hampshire gets significant attention.

    Support for a national popular vote has been strong in every smallest state surveyed in polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

    Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.

    Now political clout comes from being among the handful of battleground states. 70-80% of states and voters are ignored by presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns.

    State winner-take-all laws negate any simplistic mathematical equations about the relative power of states based on their number of residents per electoral vote. Small state math means absolutely nothing to presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, or to presidents once in office.

    In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

    In 2012, 24 of the nation's 27 smallest states received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. They were ignored despite their supposed numerical advantage in the Electoral College. In fact, the 8.6 million eligible voters in Ohio received more campaign ads and campaign visits from the major party campaigns than the 42 million eligible voters in those 27 smallest states combined.

    The 12 smallest states are totally ignored in presidential elections. These states are not ignored because they are small, but because they are not closely divided “battleground” states.

    Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

    Similarly, the 25 smallest states have been almost equally noncompetitive. They voted Republican or Democratic 12-13 in 2008 and 2012.

    Voters in states, of all sizes, that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

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  3. Because of state-by-state winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. . .

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 was correct when he said
    "The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president,"
    “The presidential election will not be decided by all states, but rather just 12 of them.

    Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    With the end of the primaries, without the National Popular Vote bill in effect, the political relevance of 70% of all Americans was finished for the presidential election.

    In the 2016 general election campaign

    Over half (57%) of the campaign events were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).

    Virtually all (94%) of the campaign events were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country's population).

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  4. Because of state-by-state winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. . .

    Issues of importance to 38 non-battleground states are of so little interest to presidential candidates that they don’t even bother to poll them individually.

    Charlie Cook reported in 2004:
    “Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out yesterday that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [the then] 18 battleground states.”

    Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009:
    “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

    Over 87% of both Romney and Obama campaign offices were in just the then 12 swing states. The few campaign offices in the 38 remaining states were for fund-raising, volunteer phone calls, and arranging travel to battleground states.

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