Print Story Electoral College
Diary
By cam (Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 05:59:07 AM EST) (all tags)
Muchagecko commented that when she first found out about the electoral college she found it unfair. There is method to it though as it satisfies a federal character requirement to veto an inappropriate executive. A worst case scenario would be that an electoral college would be able to veto the election of a Saddam Hussein (who was democratically elected periodically with 99% of the vote courtesy of a non-secret ballot). Mostly though it was designing the system so that it was balanced between a federal (state-based) and national character so that the subsidiary political units (states) and the people got sufficient voice in the political system.


I wrote this back when Schwarzanegger vetoed the legislation from California that would make the Presidential election a national one, as opposed to one of a federal character. It goes through Federalist No.39 where Madison discusses the balance of the federal/national characters. Madison wrote:
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.
Consequently the Electoral College becomes a technology that allows for both federal and national approval and veto. The national character means that the people can veto an executive through democratic means - by not voting for the candidate - or approve a candidate by giving them a local majority in the state. The electoral college follows the popular will, but if the states decide the executive is no good and a bum, or titled, or a tyrant, then they can veto them too. This is Hamilton's argument in Federalist No.68:
It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.

A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief.

The choice of several, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of one who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.
The national character, ie its democratic nature, means that executive cant ignore Wyoming and other small states for the big ones like New York and California which they would in a national voting system.  If the US was to adopt the Californian proposal it would make the executive a national body as the popular vote would become the mechanism for the executive being elected.

Then again, the American founding fathers were trying to balance many political factions, small states, a rural south, a manufacturing and financial north, large states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, etc, so a mixed federal/national system allowed a political settlement that could bring a written constitution with separate executive to being approved in referendum.

The US has proved that it can transfer power without 'disorder or tumult' and has survived being co-opted by a monarch. There is an argument that the electoral college is an unnecessary addition to a state based voting practice. I dont think a popular vote would improve the quality of the executive. The House is designed to be the hopelessly populist democratic body with national character, so that voice is well heard as it controls half (originally all) of the purse strings.

The electoral college itself and the strong federalist nature of the US system means that states can innovate around the institution. Some states for instance split their electoral college votes based on the proportion of votes going to candidates. I think the electoral college is largely transparent and won't be revised unless the college itself defies popular will.

The method by which most states grant 'winner takes all' college votes means that the executive generally comes in without a contestable result that is within the margin of error of the system as Bush-Gore in 2000 was. They tend to be over-riding electoral college results even though the national vote has 5% difference. This gives the President elect legitimacy that theymight otherwise lack in a system that is based on the national character. Prime Ministers in parliamentary systems are chosen in a similar manner though with electorates rather than state-based.
I think it is a decent technology for the transferral of power between executives.
< Freecycle fails it | Standard Pablum >
Electoral College | 39 comments (39 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Electoral College by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 06:14:55 AM EST
I haven't read the writings of the founding fathers, with the exception of the Jefferson Bible, since I was in high school.  I tend to view the Constitution through the document itself and the structures with in it.  Since the Electors were originally chosen by the State Legislatures it become apparant that the Federal Government was never intended to represent the people.  The Federal Government was intended to represent the individual states and the states were expected to have a large degree of self governance.  Naturally this isn't the view that's in practice today.




---------------
Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
(Comment Deleted) by jxg (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 08:22:26 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by jxg



except by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #15 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 04:50:41 PM EST
Love doesn't exist

--
Click
[ Parent ]
Regional votes by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #3 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 08:30:11 AM EST
The whole "Red vs. Blue" thing seems to me to be pretty good evidence that there are still regional differences which, in turn, suggests that we shouldn't be dumping a system that takes regional differences into account.  If the US were to dump those structures that elevate the votes of the states over the popular vote (i.e. the Electoral College and the Senate) I suspect that the center of the country (i.e. "flyover country") would be left to decay entirely.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
(Comment Deleted) by jxg (2.00 / 0) #7 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:34:46 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by jxg



[ Parent ]
Look up the phrase by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #29 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:05:18 AM EST
"tyranny of the majority".


Is Mike keeping up with his riding?
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by jxg (2.00 / 0) #32 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:45:34 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by jxg



[ Parent ]
Really? by ObviousTroll (2.00 / 0) #39 Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 08:58:33 AM EST
And here I thought it was the foundation of the modern civil rights movement.



Is Mike keeping up with his riding?
[ Parent ]
I was reminded of my childhood response by muchagecko (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:03:36 AM EST
to the electoral college by witnessing my children's responses. It was like someone had told them there was no Santa.

The electoral college destroys the equality of each vote. Shouldn't all votes be equal? Isn't that what democracy is about?

I wonder what the Carter Center would think if monitoring a nation that was using the electoral college system?


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

That was what I was trying to describe by cam (3.00 / 2) #5 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:20:39 AM EST
the electoral college is a 'federal' as opposed to 'national' technology. Making it run off the popular vote would be making the executive a 'national' character. They were trying to mix both federal and national for the executive to give the system greater resilience and legitimacy. 

A federal system immediately makes votes unequal. States are represented as discrete political units, such as in the Senate or Electoral College. The trade off for a federal system is wider legitimacy and having minority voices heard in at least one house. The electoral college also has a veto if they wish on the executive, if there was an executive elected that was repugnant to the confederate nature of the federation.

They are trade offs and choices. Given the history of the US and the political stability it has had with a separate executive, they got more right than wrong. I dont think the electoral college gets in the way, and it does mean that the executive usually comes in with a strong majority of EC votes which gives them greater legitimacy too.

cam 
Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by jxg (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:38:32 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by jxg



[ Parent ]
Good write-up. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #10 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 11:02:07 AM EST
I suspect her gripe is with the winner-take-all system for EC votes, which does seem unfair, but I knew you wouldn't change her mind. :D

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Democracy by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #6 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:34:46 AM EST
Is three wolves and two lambs voting on what to have for dinner.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Note to Muchagecko by ucblockhead (2.50 / 2) #9 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 10:36:24 AM EST
Three wolves = West Coast, East Coast, The Upper Mid-west.

Two lambs = The rest of the US.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Of course. by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #18 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:07:11 PM EST
Poor, poor rest of the country.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
but all votes are equal by StackyMcRacky (2.00 / 0) #11 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 11:26:33 AM EST
your vote, and your neighbor's vote both go towards choosing who your state's electors vote for.

it just seems unfair because there are "swing states" that don't have an obvious party majority like many do. 

my non-R, non-D vote still counted, it's just that most of the people in my state (just barely) voted R, so the electors went R.

[ Parent ]
also by StackyMcRacky (2.00 / 0) #12 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 11:29:00 AM EST
it makes votes from lightly populated areas just as equal as votes from heavily populated areas.

the people living in Oklahoma & Kansas actually have a chance of getting "their guy" elected, instead of always having to go with whoever the biggest cities decide they like.

[ Parent ]
But, but, but . . . by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #13 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 11:46:03 AM EST
people from the biggest cities are alllways right!

Can you imagine me rolling my eyes really hard before I wrote that? Good, because I did.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
heh by StackyMcRacky (4.00 / 1) #14 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 04:01:56 PM EST
considering the pathetic state Houston is in, I'm glad that isn't true.

[ Parent ]
If all votes were equal, by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #19 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 09:15:07 PM EST
we wouldn't have 4 presidents elected that didn't win the popular vote (George W. Bush in 2000, Andrew Jackson in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes 1876 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888).


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
Andrew Jackson by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #22 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:11:17 AM EST
Andrew Jackson won the popular vote in 1824.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I'm just taking my info by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #27 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:55:21 AM EST
on presidential elections from the internet. Someone thought Jackson was one of the presidents elected without the popular vote.

Doesn't really matter - at least 3 presidents have been elected without winning the popular vote. It's most obvious that the electoral college failed with Mr. Cleveland.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
It didn't "fail" by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #31 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:12:21 AM EST
It included the importance of differing regional opinions.

The point of the electoral college is to making it harder for one region to force its views on another.  It didn't "fail" on President Cleveland.  It rejected him because his political base wasn't regionally broad enough.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I disagree. by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #33 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:02:09 AM EST
He won in the previous and the later elections.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
So? (nt) by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #34 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:21:08 AM EST

---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Clearly Americans found him by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #35 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:24:30 AM EST
regionally broad enough.

According to the internet, his campaigns are the cornerstone of the anti-electoral college argument.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
fuck the internet, by garlic (4.00 / 1) #37 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:57:30 PM EST
and the series of tubes it rode in on.


[ Parent ]
Clearly not in '88 (nt) by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #38 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 05:24:44 PM EST

---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
you keep forgetting by StackyMcRacky (2.00 / 0) #25 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:43:37 AM EST
the popular vote doesn't choose the president.  it never has.

so yes, all votes are equal.  you vote for the electors/whatever in your state.  you do not vote directly for the president.

and before you go on about democracy, remember that the US is not a pure democracy. 

i understand your ideals, but that's not how the system was set up.

[ Parent ]
All votes are not equal by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #26 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:52:44 AM EST
In the presidential elections, which is what we've been talking about. There is no electoral college in state elections.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
Exactly by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #24 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:13:25 AM EST
Can you imagine how much California could extort from Presidential candidates if the race in that state was close?
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
As if states don't extort candidates now? by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #30 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:08:17 AM EST
I don't see that it would be any different - except the state names would change.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
it is fair. by garlic (1.00 / 1) #20 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 04:36:51 AM EST
you are a resident of a state, not of the USA. The states choose the president. Your state may let you participate in this choice.


[ Parent ]
Different opinions. by muchagecko (2.00 / 0) #28 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:56:24 AM EST
That doesn't make your opinion more fair.


A purpose gives you a reason to wake up every morning.
So a purpose is like a box of powdered donut holes?
Exactly
My Name is Earl

[ Parent ]
I don't think that makes any sense. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #36 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:56:16 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Electoral College by duxup (4.00 / 1) #16 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 06:50:53 PM EST
My concern with with a non Electoral College that say you have an epically close election.  Then say you get a flurry of lawsuits in various precincts in order to invalidate or gather more votes.   At least under some states with the electoral system where the majority is NOT a question lawsuits in those sates would be not worth it.  Where in a purely direct election means you could gather up votes anywhere drawing in the whole nation.

How likely that is is beyond me and itself might be a non issue but the prospect of a national Florida of 2000 scares me.


____
Proposed: by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #17 Sun Nov 09, 2008 at 07:06:56 PM EST
All states not currently doing so should switch to the proportional electoral vote method.
Understood that this changes nothing for the states with tiny populations, but that's the breaks.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
sure by garlic (2.00 / 0) #21 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 04:41:07 AM EST
if they want to forfeit their power in choosing the president they should.


[ Parent ]
Note by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #23 Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:12:29 AM EST
This does not at all change the fact that the votes of smaller states are "worth more".  At all.
---
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Electoral College | 39 comments (39 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback