The Electoral College and the First Primaries

Locked
dulcinea
Posts: 3466
Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2005 5:39 pm
Location: tampa, fl

The Electoral College and the First Primaries

Post by dulcinea » Sat Jun 10, 2006 10:32 am

Since presidential campaigns have become a four-year long process, we might as well start discussing now that feature of US elections that is unique to this country: the Electoral College. Should it be reformed or abolished? 'tis no secret that, because of their huge populations, states like CA, TX and NY get many more electoral votes than the states of the West, most of whom have such tiny populations that they rate only a handful of votes. This doesn't seem fair; how could it be fixed? Also, it's not quite reasonable that small constituencies in IA and NH cut down candidates that might possibly have greater success in other states. How come an idea as reasonable as regional primaries has not been adopted? Certainly the rather indifferent quality of all Democratic Party Presidential nominees since McGovern doesn't inspire confidence in the efficiency of the present system.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

Donald Isler
Posts: 3057
Joined: Tue May 20, 2003 11:01 am
Contact:

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Jun 10, 2006 10:47 am

I don't think you can describe Bill Clinton as a candidate of "indifferent quality." Love him or hate him he was a very strong candidate, much to the regret of Republicans.

Although it is true that what the Democrats have generally produced as candidates in recent years has not been terribly inspiring what the Republicans have offered us instead has been frightening.
Donald Isler

RebLem
Posts: 9117
Joined: Tue May 17, 2005 1:06 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA 87112, 2 blocks west of the Breaking Bad carwash.
Contact:

Re: The Electoral College and the First Primaries

Post by RebLem » Sat Jun 10, 2006 12:46 pm

dulcinea wrote:Since presidential campaigns have become a four-year long process, we might as well start discussing now that feature of US elections that is unique to this country: the Electoral College. Should it be reformed or abolished? 'tis no secret that, because of their huge populations, states like CA, TX and NY get many more electoral votes than the states of the West, most of whom have such tiny populations that they rate only a handful of votes. This doesn't seem fair; how could it be fixed? Also, it's not quite reasonable that small constituencies in IA and NH cut down candidates that might possibly have greater success in other states. How come an idea as reasonable as regional primaries has not been adopted? Certainly the rather indifferent quality of all Democratic Party Presidential nominees since McGovern doesn't inspire confidence in the efficiency of the present system.
Frankly, dulcinea, you have it exactly wrong. In the Electoral College, each state gets one vote for each representative in Congress and each senator. That means that even the smallest states, those with a single Congressional district, whether its Vermont on the left or Wyoming on the right, gets three votes in the Electoral College. This means that the system is weighted in favor of the small states, not the large states.

Furthermore, the Electoral College generally runs on the Unit Rule, though states have the right to change it. What that means is that the majority in each state, no matter how slim the majority is, compels the casting of all of the state's votes in the Electoral College for the candidate that the majority or plurality voted for.

My plan for reform does not call for the complete abolition of the Electoral College system. But I think each Congressional District should be represented in the Electoral College, and the vote of each should be determined by the majority in that district. No Unit Rule (except on an intra-district basis) and no votes for Senate seats, which gives small states too much say.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Re: The Electoral College and the First Primaries

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:00 pm

dulcinea wrote:Since presidential campaigns have become a four-year long process, we might as well start discussing now that feature of US elections that is unique to this country: the Electoral College. Should it be reformed or abolished?
Because it takes a constitutional amendment, i.e., 3/4 of both houses of Congress, and ratification by 3/4 of the states. That's a tough test to meet to reform a system that, by and large, is consistently unfair to both parties pretty equally. Once you dispense with the likelihood of changing the EC as a consideration, the fairness or unfairness of the system to individual states is far less important than its unfairness to the parties. Like Reb says, it allows the smaller states some voice, however faint (more because the smaller states are never "in play" - they are blue or red by exquistely large margins), in a process that would otherwise be dominated by the more populous states. I don't like the system myself because I've never lived in a swing state, so my vote has never counted, but reform is so unlikely its not even a matter for parlor discussions any more. Whenever pollsters ask if I think my vote matters, I respond 'no' because I know it doesn't. But hey, if I don't want to live in a swing state where my vote would count, it's my own damn fautl as Jimmy Buffet would say. I'd like to see candidates forced to compete in all 50 states, not just raise money in most and campaign in a handfull.

The question about primaries is a whole nother issue. We've tried all kinds of systems to nominate our candidates. The primaries were originally conceived of as a way to break the dominance of party bosses who ran the states' party caucuses or conventions. The primary system didn't really catch on until the bitter brawls over giving minorities a role in the process in the mid-60s. That finally played out in reforms that took effect in the Democratic party by 1972 and in the Republican party by 1976. They were populist reforms from beginning to end. However, existing dissatisfaction with the primary system has not gained enough traction yet to force the parties to reform the primary system or scrap it. Right now the state primaries exist primarily to screw money out of the national political parties and make sure that every state gets their fair share of the money amassed for the campaigns. The shares are doled out based on the swing-y-ness of the state, with less money being spent in the secure states, but at least get some.
Certainly the rather indifferent quality of all Democratic Party Presidential nominees since McGovern doesn't inspire confidence in the efficiency of the present system.
The problem with the Democratic offerings, which really are indistinguishable in their dismal quality from the Republicans, is not the primary system itself. It's the kinds of special interests that control both the party at the national level and the primaries at the voter level. However, there's no ground swell for reform because the voters are not mad enough yet at the results. Until the state party officials understand that they are in serious trouble, they are not going to sacrifice the money they get from the process, including media money, party money, and individual donor money. The primaries are very big cash cows for little states like New Hampshire and Iowa (which clings to its caucus system) and South Carolina. They will not give them up unless conflagration is imminent.
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

Corlyss_D
Site Administrator
Posts: 27663
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 2:25 am
Location: The Great State of Utah
Contact:

Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:20 pm

Don conveniently forgets that Clinton only became the nominee because no better, stronger candidate in his right political mind was going to throw in with Bush 41's Gulf War victory overshadowing all the opposition. Clinton didn't have anything to lose because he was a virutal nobody who could return to his Governor's chair. Smart money was not on him to win, and indeed if Perot hadn't syphoned off a majority of Republican votes in districts and states where it mattered, he wouldn't have won. He was not a majority president in either the 92 or the 96 election. Hardly a ringing endorsement of his "quality."
Corlyss
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26867
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 10, 2006 4:21 pm

It has been mathematically proven that there is no system of democratic election that cannot produce perverse results. (Election theory was actually one of the topics in the course in Discrete Mathematics I taught this year.) I'm not sure that means that the Electoral College system is as good as any other, but it does mean that direct popular voting could conceivably elect the "wrong" person.

In practice, what happened in 2000 is an extreme rarity. Under the EC system the election of 2000 was in fact a tie in statistical terms, because the vote was so close in Florida that necessary error could not have been overcome to determine it one way or the other with mathematical certainty, no matter what kind of recounting they did. The Supreme Court flipped the coin, and it didn't land on the side of the nominal loser.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Donald Isler
Posts: 3057
Joined: Tue May 20, 2003 11:01 am
Contact:

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Jun 10, 2006 5:11 pm

Corlyss is right that many other Democrats didn't run in '92 because they thought Bush 41 would be unbeatable after the '91 War.

However, I take great amusement from people who seem to question the legitimacy of Clinton's win in '92, as he didn't win a majority of the popular vote, but have no problem with Bush 43 winning the 2000 election, despite NATIONALLY losing the popular VOTE.
Donald Isler

Locked

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests