The Electoral College: A Threat to Democracy?

In summary, the Electoral College and the Supreme Court can give an election to someone who doesn't win a majority of the popular vote, even if the person has won the majority of the electoral votes. This was seen in the 2000 election when George W. Bush won despite Al Gore having more popular votes. This problem could become even worse in the future if voter turnout continues to be low.
  • #1
SW VandeCarr
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The Electoral College (and the Supreme Court) gave the 2000 US presidential election to GW Bush over Al Gore despite that fact that Mr Gore won the popular vote. It wasn't the first time this happened. In 1876 the Electoral College, based on an electoral margin of one vote (181 to 180), gave the election to Rutherford Hayes (R) over Samuel Tilden (D)despite the fact that Mr Tilden had popular vote majority of over 5%! Al Gore's popular vote majority was about 0.5%. But this is not the most dangerous aspect of the Electoral College.

There have been a number of presidents who did not win popular majorities, but with two exceptions (Jefferson, 1800 and John Quincy Adams, 1824) all won electoral majorities. The US Constitution provides that in the case of no one winning an electoral majority, the newly elected House of Representatives chooses the president from among the top two or three candidates. The governing 12th amendment says "...But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by the states, the representation from each state having one vote." In other words, does each state have just one vote regardless of the size of its delegation in the House?

I can a see a very serious dispute over just what "the representation" means. The 12th amendment was revision of the language in the original Article II. The revision concerned changing the election of the Vice-President as the one having the second most electoral votes, to the election of President and Vice-President running on a single ballot. However, it's clear from the original language of Article II that the founders wanted each state to have just one vote in choosing the president if such a vote were necessary.

Should a world power like the US have any ambiguity in how its leader is chosen? And if it is interpreted as one state, one vote; is that something the American people can live with?
 
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  • #2
SW VandeCarr said:
The Electoral College (and the Supreme Court) gave the 2000 US presidential election to GW Bush over Al Gore despite that fact that Mr Gore won the popular vote...

Should a world power like the US have any ambiguity in how its leader is chosen? And if it is interpreted as one state, one vote; is that something the American people can live with?
These sentences are all I read.

1. Your first sentence is just plain wrong (the USSC didn't "give" Bush anything and "won the popular vote" isn't how the electoral process works - it isn't relevant).
2. The second sentence further illustrates that you don't understand how elections work (there is no ambiguity - the rules are clear).
3. Yeah, I can live with the electoral college. It exists for a reason and a good one.
 
  • #3
SW VandeCarr said:
The Electoral College (and the Supreme Court) gave the 2000 US presidential election to GW Bush over Al Gore despite that fact that Mr Gore won the popular vote. It wasn't the first time this happened. In 1876 the Electoral College, based on an electoral margin of one vote (181 to 180), gave the election to Rutherford Hayes (R) over Samuel Tilden (D)despite the fact that Mr Tilden had popular vote majority of over 5%! Al Gore's popular vote majority was about 0.5%. But this is not the most dangerous aspect of the Electoral College.
You may think this is self-evident, but could you please explain why you consider this dangerous?
 
  • #4
russ_watters said:
These sentences are all I read.

1. Your first sentence is just plain wrong (the USSC didn't "give" Bush anything and "won the popular vote" isn't how the electoral process works - it isn't relevant).

Of course this is the way it works. Is the best way? Is it democratic? No other modern democracy has such an institution.

2. The second sentence further illustrates that you don't understand how elections work (there is no ambiguity - the rules are clear).

The rules aren't clear if no one wins an electoral majority. Read the whole post before you comment.

3. Yeah, I can live with the electoral college. It exists for a reason and a good one.

Perhaps in the 18th century, but what are good reasons in the 21st? If no one wins a majority of the popular vote in the first election, why not a run-off? Again, we are only democracy which does not provide for run off elections for the chief executive.
 
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  • #5
Gokul43201 said:
You may think this is self-evident, but could you please explain why you consider this dangerous?

The most passive response on the part of a population that no longer believes their government is democratic is not to vote. US voter turn out is among the lowest among democratic nations now This means the country will more and more be governed by special interests. Do I have to convince you that this in itself is dangerous?

If a presidential election is decided in the House of Representatives by each state having just one vote, what real authority does the winner have if those states represent 30% of the people?
 
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  • #6
SW VandeCarr said:
Of course this is the way it works. Is the best way? Is it democratic? No other modern democracy has such an institution.
There is certainly a legitimate argument to be made that it isn't the best way, but the OP was about a "time bomb".

If you wanted this discussion to be just a blank-slate debate about what the best way to elect our leaders should be, you shouldn't have used such rhetoric and certainly should never use false facts!
The rules aren't clear if no one wins an electoral majority.
To you, maybe - they are clear enough to me. Besides - if that's your only issue, why did you bring up all that other wrong stuff?
Read the whole post before you comment.
I have now. It didn't get any better: lots of rhetoric, lots of wrong assertions, no clear point.
Perhaps in the 18th century, but what are good reasons in the 21st?
The big state vs small state issue is just as important today as it was in the 1800s.
If no one wins a majority of the popular vote in the first election, why not a run-off? Again, we are only democracy which does not provide for run off elections for the chief executive.
Why not? Because the Constitution says so and I see no "time bomb". You're viewing this backwards: you are the one who is saying there is a flaw so you must explain exactly what the flaw is. So far all I see is factually wrong claims (and opinions listed as facts) about what you see as flaws.
 
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  • #7
SW VandeCarr said:
The most passive response on the part of a population that no longer believes their government is democratic is not to vote. US voter turn out is among the lowest among democratic nations now This means the country will more and more be governed by special interests.
None of that follows logically or can be taken without proof:

1. Prove that votor turnout is low because of the Electoral college.
2. Prove that votor turnout is low due to people not thinking the government is democratic.
3. Show a logical connection between special interests and the above claims you made.

In fact, the conventional wisdom is that votor turnout is low because of apathy.
Do I have to convince you that this in itself is dangerous?
Yes, you really do. You're shooting from the hip here, throwing a lot of crap against the wall and hoping some will stick. You haven't made concise points, provided facts (you have actually provided false claims of fact) nor made logical connections between facts and implications.
If a presidential election is decided in the House of Representatives by each state having just one vote, what real authority does the winner have if those states represent 30% of the people?
Huh? Representatives are proportioned on population (with a minimum of 1). That claim is a mathematical impossibility.
 
  • #8
russ_watters said:
There is certainly a legitimate argument to be made that it isn't the best way, but the OP was about a "time bomb".

If many thought the election of 2000 wasn't legitimate, are the American people prepared for how much worse it could be? Most people don't even know about the 12th Amendment.
I call it a 'time bomb' if a 'legal' election is where the loser could have twice the popular vote as the "winner". An election in the House where each state has one vote could produce such a result. The Democrats tend to win in larger urban states, while the Republicans tend to win the smaller more numerous states. If the 2000 election had gone to the House, Bush would have won 2/3 of the states which would have been an even larger distortion of the popular vote

If you wanted this discussion to be just a blank-slate debate about what the best way to elect our leaders should be, you shouldn't have used such rhetoric and certainly should never use false facts!

What false facts? What did I assert as fact that you say is false? It's true that the Supreme Court decided to halt any further contesting of the Florida vote. Bush was subsequently declared the winner of the state's electoral votes and the election. The Electoral College certainly can and has allowed those with fewer popular votes to win elections and I gave historical examples which are easily checked.

What's wrong with "time bomb"? News organizations talk about a demographic "time bomb" with an aging population. It can refer to any fact or trend that has clear and possibly dangerous consequences if not addressed.
 
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  • #9
russ_watters said:
h? Representatives are proportioned on population (with a minimum of 1). That claim is a mathematical impossibility.

You haven't read what I said about the 12th amendment. States vote as a block, each state having one vote regardless of population when the presidential election is decided by the House of Representatives.

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/thepoliticalsystem/a/electiontie.htm.

Of course what I say about possible consequences of such an election is necessarily speculative. It's completely inappropriate to expect that I or anyone could deduce the future. I gave a speculative answer to a speculative question regarding a real possibility. What do you honestly think could be the consequences of a clearly undemocratic election of a US president, meaning the majority lost? Do you think it would not be a bad outcome?

I never said that voter apathy is necessarily a consequence of an undemocratic election. I said the most passive response would be diminished voter turnout. Perhaps there would be no response. Do you really believe that?
 
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  • #10
russ_watters said:
SW VandeCarr said:
If a presidential election is decided in the House of Representatives by each state having just one vote, what real authority does the winner have if those states represent 30% of the people?
Huh? Representatives are proportioned on population (with a minimum of 1). That claim is a mathematical impossibility.
Russ, I think you've misunderstood this point, which is referring to the process used after it is found that no candidate has an absolute electoral majority. If you go by a one vote per state count, you could theoretically (unlikely though it may be) win with only about a 10% support from the total population - the 26 smallest states make up about 20% of the total population, and you only need marginally more support within the state than the other candidates to win the vote of that state.
 
  • #11
SW VandeCarr said:
In other words, does each state have just one vote regardless of the size of its delegation in the House?

Yes.

The Election of 1824 went into the House, and each state had one vote.
 
  • #12
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes-that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

So there would never be a tie in the electoral vote, because the compact always represents a bloc consisting of a majority of the electoral votes. Thus, an election for President would never be thrown into the House of Representatives (with each state casting one vote) and an election for Vice President would never be thrown into the Senate (with each Senator casting one vote).

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possesses 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com
 
  • #13
Under the current system of electing the President, presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided "battleground" states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 "battleground" states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.
 
  • #14
The Founding Fathers said in the U.S. Constitution: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all rule) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote.

In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all rule to award electoral votes.

There is no valid argument that the winner-take-all rule is entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all rule.

As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all rule is used by 48 of the 50 states. The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.
 
  • #15
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, and ignored, in presidential elections. 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 concept of a national popular vote for President is far from being politically "radioactive" in small states, because the small states recognize they are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system.

In small states, the National Popular Vote bill already has been approved by eight state legislative chambers, including one house in Delaware and Maine and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It has been enacted by Hawaii.
 
  • #16
SW VandeCarr said:
Of course this is the way it works. Is the best way? Is it democratic? No other modern democracy has such an institution...
Most other democracies use a parliamentary system, but if you mean by that statement that no other democracy uses proxies or elected officials to choose or remove the head of state (prime minister), then of course they do - see, e.g., vote of no confidence, coalition governments, etc.

As to the reason's why the college was chosen:
http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed39.htm
http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/fed68.htm
39 said:
The next relation is, to the sources from which the ordinary powers of government are to be derived. The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular State. So far the government is NATIONAL, not FEDERAL. The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress. So far the government is FEDERAL, not NATIONAL. The executive power will be derived from a very compound source. The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. The eventual election, again, is to be made by that branch of the legislature which consists of the national representatives; but in this particular act they are to be thrown into the form of individual delegations, from so many distinct and coequal bodies politic. From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a mixed character, presenting at least as many FEDERAL as NATIONAL features.
 
  • #17
mheslep said:
Most other democracies use a parliamentary system, but if you mean by that statement that no other democracy uses proxies or elected officials to choose or remove the head of state (prime minister), then of course they do - see, e.g., vote of no confidence, coalition governments, etc.

No. Whether a "presidential" or parliamentary system is used, other democracies use direct popular election. There is no intervening institution in the election of members of parliament. The prime minister is the leader of the parliamentary majority. Essentially, a vote for an MP candidate is a vote for the candidate's party and its leader.
.
The Electoral College was a good solution for the time. The idea was that electors would be elected for their personal qualifications to choose a national leader. However, by 1800 the only qualification that mattered was who the electors were going to vote for: Jefferson or Burr. Both candidates fielded slates of electors pledged to vote for them in most of the states. The College became a mere political tool for "winner take all" elections. Read mvymvy's posts. He or she makes some excellent points regarding the current system and ways to improve it without a constitutional amendment.

My real concern is when an election goes to the House of Representatives. IMO, such an event has the makings of a major political, if not constitutional crisis. I was unaware of the National Popular Vote movement that mvymvy has described. It's not ideal in that it would seem to require states that voted for candidate B to direct their electoral votes to candidate A if A won the national popular vote, but it's a "bottom up" compact among states that could avoid the kind of crisis I'm talking about without relying on Congress to initiate a constitutional amendment.
 
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  • #18
The winner-take-all systems is intended in part to prevent the population centers from solely determining the outcome of elections. If you want to see voter apathy, make the votes from 25 states moot by removing the winner-take-all system.

There are several concepts in play here: The electoral college, winner take all, and the point of the op - elections deferred to a House vote - which I agree is a concern. However, there was a reason for the one-state, one-vote approach. Do we know the reasoning behind this?

Here is something else to consider: Electors are not required to vote according the their State's mandate. They almost always do vote according to the popular vote but there are exceptions. This is a safety mechanism. In the context of this discussion, in order to prevent a vote from going to the House, electors may opt to change their vote.
 
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  • #19
I just did a search using a word string that mvymvy posted. Mvymvy is all over the Internet with this same set of replies.

Are you there, mvymvy? I'm just curious.
 
  • #20
SW VandeCarr said:
No. Whether a "presidential" or parliamentary system is used, other democracies use direct election. There is no intervening institution in the election of members of parliament. The prime minister is the leader of the parliamentary majority.
What? Parliamentary government's use direct election but they don't? As I said, the head of state, i.e. the PM, is NOT necessarily elected by direct election. In Israel for instance the Knesset chooses the PM. In 2001 Israel abolished direct election. In fact, current Israeli PM Netanyahu's Likud party received the second most votes in the http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.knesset.gov.il%2Felections18%2Fheb%2Fresults%2Fmain_Results.aspx&sl=iw&tl=en", Livni's Kadima party came in first, but Livni didn't have enough collateral support from minority parties to form a government.

Edit: Furthermore, most parliamentary legislators I know of have the power to remove the PM for any reason whatever, i.e. absent any criminal wrongdoing, regardless of the popular will. That can't happen in the US system.
 
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  • #21
mvymvy 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, and ignored, in presidential elections.
Without an electoral college, small population states would truly be ignored. See all the current press for instance on the Iowa and Vermont primaries? Do away with the college and those states would never see a presidential candidate other than in his/her airplane flying over on the way to TX, CA, OH, FL, NY, MI, PA and the large population centers therein. Others need not apply.

Edit: I see Ivan already scooped me in #18
 
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  • #22
mheslep said:
What? Parliamentary government's use direct election but they don't? As I said, the head of state, i.e. the PM, is NOT necessarily elected by direct election. In Israel for instance the Knesset chooses the PM. In 2001 Israel abolished direct election. In fact, current Israeli PM Netanyahu's Likud party received the second most votes in the http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.knesset.gov.il%2Felections18%2Fheb%2Fresults%2Fmain_Results.aspx&sl=iw&tl=en", Livni's Kadima party came in first, but Livni didn't have enough collateral support from minority parties to form a government.

Edit: Furthermore, most parliamentary legislators I know of have the power to remove the PM for any reason whatever, i.e. absent any criminal wrongdoing, regardless of the popular will. That can't happen in the US system.

The parliamentary system is very different than the American system. For one thing, the PM is not a true head of state. He/she is head of government and holds office based on the retaining the confidence of parliament. This is a separate subject entirely. My point is that when people vote for an MP candidate, they are effectively voting directly for the candidate's party and party leader. When you vote for president in the US, you are really voting for a slate of electors (of whom you usually know nothing about), not directly for president. If your candidate loses your state, your vote has no effect. In a national popular election, every vote counts regardless of what state you voted in.

Consider that some 13 states have 50% of the electoral vote. If candidate A wins all 13 with small margins, and loses the remaining 37 states + DC by large margins, A could win an election with as little as 30% of the popular vote. This is very unlikely, but a popular margin like 45% A and 55% B (with A winning the EC) would not be too unlikely.
 
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  • #23
Ivan Seeking said:
the point of the op - elections deferred to a House vote - which I agree is a concern. However, there was a reason for the one-state, one-vote approach. Do we know the reasoning behind this?

I don't know the reason for sure. It might be stated somewhere in The Federalist Papers, but I suspect it's an other compromise between large state and small state interests. If no one wins a majority in the EC (which favors large states) then the House chooses the president. However, the House also favors large state interests, unlike the Senate. Therefore the one vote per state in the House might have been a compromise to placate the small states.
 
  • #24
SW VandeCarr said:
The parliamentary system is very different than the American system. For one thing, the PM is not a true head of state. He/she is head of government and holds office based on the retaining the confidence of parliament.

I don't think that posters on this thread need a lesson on parliamentary governments...

But regardless, it's not clear why you (appear) to think that party selection of the PM is similar to direct election, nor why it is preferable to the Electoral College.

I would love to get rid of the Electoral College, but I wouldn't want to replace it with a PM appointment system.
 
  • #25
CRGreathouse said:
I don't think that posters on this thread need a lesson on parliamentary governments...

mheslep said:
As I said, the head of state, i.e. the PM, is NOT necessarily elected by direct election.

I think mheslep might.
But regardless, it's not clear why you (appear) to think that party selection of the PM is similar to direct election, nor why it is preferable to the Electoral College.

I would love to get rid of the Electoral College, but I wouldn't want to replace it with a PM appointment system.

I'm not arguing for a parliamentary system in the US. I just pointed out that nothing like the US Electoral College exists in other democracies afaik. In the UK and Canada, a vote for a MP candidate is effectively a direct vote for a party and party leader, given the party discipline associated with parliamentary systems. Your MP will remain in parliament either with the government or the opposition.
 
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  • #26
SW VandeCarr said:
I don't know the reason for sure. It might be stated somewhere in The Federalist Papers, but I suspect it's an other compromise between large state and small state interests. If no one wins a majority in the EC (which favors large states) then the House chooses the president. However, the House also favors large state interests, unlike the Senate. Therefore the one vote per state in the House might have been a compromise to placate the small states.

That is pretty much what I expect as well. So, what you are really talking about is diluting our Federalism in favor of Nationalism. Given that by design we operate under a hybrid system, would that be wise? Obviously this is a non-issue at the moment, but, if the nation continues to fracture politically, I can see a third party or more causing problems. However, I also think it would be prudent to have a complete understanding of the motives underlying the existing model before abandoning it. Is this just some archaic compromise that has no relevance in today's world, or, in the extreme, could this be a failsafe of some sort intended to prevent more complicated problems?

I think it is clear that we are not and were not intended to be a direct democracy. We were designed to be in balance between federal and national representation. We have safety mechanisms, checks and balances, and correcting mechanisms in place to prevent, or at least to limit the potential damage caused by social and political aberrations. I tend to refrain from strong moves towards a more direct system, at the Federal level. While I agree that the scenario that concerns you is very bothersome on the face of things, I need to know a lot more about it before I would support changing any laws. Within the general context of the discussion, the great danger with democracy is that in the extreme, it can lead to mob rule. This is in part the reason for the system that we have.
 
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  • #27
SW VandeCarr said:
The parliamentary system is very different than the American system.
Yes, I suspect most of us know that.
For one thing, the PM is not a true head of state. He/she is head of government and holds office based on the retaining the confidence of parliament. This is a separate subject entirely.
That's right, they're the effective head of state. The legal parliamentary monarch or president has very little or no power.

My point is that when people vote for an MP candidate, they are effectively voting directly for the candidate's party and party leader.
Yes, similar to the way US citizens do when they vote US Senators/Representatives.

When you vote for president in the US, you are really voting for a slate of electors
Yes. Similar to the way in which there are no direct elections for PM in some parliamentary countries.
(of whom you usually know nothing about)
Not true. Most importantly, you know they're almost certainly obligated to vote for your party's Presidential candidate. Other than electing the President they have no other relevant role.
, not directly for president. If your candidate loses your state, your vote has no effect. In a national popular election, every vote counts regardless of what state you voted in.
Yes, and? Make your argument on the pros/cons of that system, but not on false claim that no other country has proxy electors for (effective) head of state.
 
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  • #28
Gokul43201 said:
Russ, I think you've misunderstood this point, which is referring to the process used after it is found that no candidate has an absolute electoral majority. If you go by a one vote per state count, you could theoretically (unlikely though it may be) win with only about a 10% support from the total population - the 26 smallest states make up about 20% of the total population, and you only need marginally more support within the state than the other candidates to win the vote of that state.
You're right, I missed it. Actually, it's even worse, though: The way I read it, the House can vote for any of the top three candidates, which means you could theoretically get a winner who had arbitrarily close to zero popular votes.
 
  • #29
SW VandeCarr said:
If many thought the election of 2000 wasn't legitimate, are the American people prepared for how much worse it could be?
Worse than what? We had a month long media circus, then a peaceful and orderly transfer of power. There weren't even any demonstrations that I can recall, much less any civil unrest. Yeah, some crackpot bloggers still gripe over it, but it really wasn't all that traumatic. I think the system worked, though not without a little flaw: the system favors the challenger based on the squeaky wheel principle. Instead of letting the challenger drive the verification of the vote, the courts or an election commission should handle the entire thing themselves.
Most people don't even know about the 12th Amendment.
I must admit I wasn't aware of the requirement for an electoral college majority until reading the thread. But so what? It doesn't bother me at all.
I call it a 'time bomb' if a 'legal' election is where the loser could have twice the popular vote as the "winner".
Ok. I just figured that a "time bomb" meant something bad happening as a result. You getting upset about it really doesn't cause me concern.
An election in the House where each state has one vote could produce such a result. The Democrats tend to win in larger urban states, while the Republicans tend to win the smaller more numerous states. If the 2000 election had gone to the House, Bush would have won 2/3 of the states which would have been an even larger distortion of the popular vote.
Yes. So what?
What false facts? What did I assert as fact that you say is false? It's true that the Supreme Court decided to halt any further contesting of the Florida vote. Bush was subsequently declared the winner of the state's electoral votes and the election.
It's your first sentence and I already discussed it, but you've now confirmed it: Those two sentences I just quoted are much better than the first sentence of your OP, highighting the fact that you actually do understand the facts of what happened and can present them in an objetive way. Start making a habit of that.

The first sentence of the OP is intended to give the false impression that the USSC acted corruptly to realize a pre-selected outcome. You may even believe that's true, but it is factually wrong (when unproven).
What's wrong with "time bomb"? News organizations talk about a demographic "time bomb" with an aging population. It can refer to any fact or trend that has clear and possibly dangerous consequences if not addressed.
It's vague and inflammatory if you don't explain what "dangerous consequences" you are referring to. And you still haven't. Are you suggesting, for example, that there is a risk of civil war?
 
  • #30
mheslep said:
Without an electoral college, small population states would truly be ignored. See all the current press for instance on the Iowa and Vermont primaries? Do away with the college and those states would never see a presidential candidate other than in his/her airplane flying over on the way to TX, CA, OH, FL, NY, MI, PA and the large population centers therein. Others need not apply.

***

In fact, Iowa and Vermont do not see presidential candidates. New Hampshire is the only small state that sees presidential candidates, because it is one of the few battleground states.

TX, CA, and NY, even with their large population centers, are among the majority of states that do not see presidential candidates either.

Under the current system of electing the President, presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided "battleground" states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 "battleground" states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.
 
  • #31
Ivan Seeking said:
Here is something else to consider: Electors are not required to vote according the their State's mandate. They almost always do vote according to the popular vote but there are exceptions. This is a safety mechanism. In the context of this discussion, in order to prevent a vote from going to the House, electors may opt to change their vote.
Frankly, that issue is of bigger concern to me than anything else being discussed here. The idea that an elector could randomly/without basis change their vote is troubling to me.
Obviously this is a non-issue at the moment, but, if the nation continues to fracture politically, I can see a third party or more causing problems.
This is also somewhat troubling to me, but the way I see it, you have the issue backwards. If a third party candidate ever becomes truly viable, presumably it would be due to true independence and as a result s/he would draw votes from both sides. But today, we have 3rd party candidates who are really just spinoffs of the two major parties. And rather than being viable candidates themselves, the ones who perform well just take votes from the party they broke from. Ralph Nader is a liberal and he won 2.8 million votes in 2000. Had he not run, the vast majority of those votes almost certainly would have gone to Gore. Similarly, Ross Perot, though he had many crossover ideas, was a rich, white Texan and therefore more appealing to Republicans than Democrats. He won 19.5 million votes in an election where the margin was 4 million for Clinton over Bush I.

Just think - if not for Nader, Bush II might never have been President. Alternately, if not for Perot, we might have had 30 straight years of Republican Presidents!
 
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  • #32
russ_watters said:
Frankly, that issue is of bigger concern to me than anything else being discussed here. The idea that an elector could randomly/without basis change their vote is troubling to me.


&&&&

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 of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.
 
  • #33
Theoretically, there's some really weird things that could happen that could possibly be considered a time bomb. In practice, I think the weirdest things would be extremely unlikely.

The most likely case where there's differences between the popular vote/electoral vote and the most likely case where the election would fall into a vote by Congress are extremely close elections where there is no real difference in support for the two candidates. With support so evenly split, having an orderly method of picking a winner becomes more important than which candidate wins. A coin flip would suffice if it didn't appear to be such a stupid way of resolving the matter.

There are major problems that should have been foreseen, though. While an objective view would see little difference between which candidate won, which one wins is still very important to the candidates involved. The atmosphere became so charged in both the Hayes-Tilden election and the Bush-Gore election that everyone involved lost credibility. By time the Bush-Gore election was decided, Bush, Gore, the US Supreme Court, Florida's Governor (Jeb Bush) and Secretary of State had all taken hits to their level of respect. That shows that the process has some problems.

Unfortunately, there isn't a federal remedy on how to conduct elections within a state or how to conduct recounts, etc. That is a shortcoming. For federal elections, federal rules should apply. The elections (state and federal) can occur simultaneously and could even share the same ballots, but the federal laws should govern federal elections. The only way any of that could change would be by Constitutional amendment, though.

Having federal laws to handle federal elections is still kind of a minor side issue, though. The more important point is to find a way where the procedures are automatic, leaving no way the election winds up in court.
 
  • #34
mvymvy said:
&&&&

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. ...
Interesting, where'd that come from? Googling only picks up this same post elsewhere.
 
  • #35
BobG said:
...
While an objective view would see little difference between which candidate won,
Agreed, in the sense of the fairness of the process.

which one wins is still very important to the candidates involved. The atmosphere became so charged in both the Hayes-Tilden election and the Bush-Gore election that everyone involved lost credibility. By time the Bush-Gore election was decided, Bush, Gore, the US Supreme Court, Florida's Governor (Jeb Bush) and Secretary of State had all taken hits to their level of respect. That shows that the process has some problems...
Yes though that's unavoidable in any close contest in any forum when the stakes are high, regardless of the of the system. There's always a gnashing of teeth when the contest is decided by the call of the umpire, regardless of the righteousness of the call. Yet the losing sportsman should no better than to blame the umpire; he knows it was his own responsibility for letting the contest draw so close it was decided by minutia. Likewise the winner of the coin toss should know better than to think of himself as all powerful.
 

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