Home > constitution, government > Movement to bypass Electoral College reveals lots of people failed government class

Movement to bypass Electoral College reveals lots of people failed government class

There is a movement afoot to make us more like Germany.  Specifically, the movement is to do away with the electoral college and select the president with a straight national majority vote.  Massachusetts is the latest state to jump aboard the band wagon built from years of whining (mainly by liberals who think elections they lost were “unfair”).  Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, and Washington have also passed the National Popular Vote.  This is a terrible idea, and without question contrary to the intentions of the founding fathers.  Hell, why don’t we just get rid of the Senate while we’re at it?

I know.  You think it sounds like a good idea.  You can admit it.  Well, you’re not alone.  According the National Popular Vote website, approximately 70% of the American population supports changing the electoral college.  Of course,  the 70% probably all graduated from public schools (just kidding…sort of).  Look, we have the electoral college for a reason, and it functions the way it functions for a reason.  I think a lesson on government is in order, and its going to be the quick and dirty version.

The United States is a federation (not the wrestling kind).  In other words, it’s a sovereign state, made up of  what are largely self-governing states.  The power of the federal government is specifically limited to its enumerated powers, with the majority of the governing to be left to the states (well, that’s what the dusty old Constitution says anyway).  Now, when the United States was founded, it had thirteen sovereign states.  Each of those states agreed to become a part of the United States because they benefited from doing so.

America is also a representative democracy, in which we elect representatives to run the government and represent the interests of their constituents.  Smaller states were understandably concerned that larger, more populous states would control the federal government simply because they had more people, and therefore, more representatives.  In an effort to have our cake and eat it too, the founders created two houses of Congress.  One house, the House of Representatives, consists of 435 representatives.  The number of representatives each state sends to the House is  based on the state’s population.  Thus, California has more representatives than Rhode Island.  The second house of Congress, the Senate, was created to give every state an equal voice.  As such, each state has two Senators.

Why does this matter to the electoral college?  Well, because how we set up the electoral college is based on the same rationale as Congress.  Each state has a certain number of electors (which are based upon the total number of Representatives and Senators in that state).  In other words, the more people in your state, the more electors you have.  The electors then formally cast their ballots for the President and Vice President.  All of the electors in the state cast their votes for the candidate selected by the majority of the state’s population. The candidate who receives 270 electors wins.

History lesson over.  There is a movement throughout the country to change the way we do the electoral college thing.  The movement isn’t to do away with the electoral college per se, but instead to force state electors to vote for the candidate that receives a national majority instead of a state majority.  This is, simply put, a horrifically stupid idea.  Once again, there is a reason for why the electoral college was set up the way it was.  A straight national majority vote would only result in an election dominated by urban areas in populous states, and basically get the president elected by California, Texas, Florida, and New York every time. The rest of us can stay home.

I find this to be another one of those definitional issues.  The United States of America is a federalist country, it’s not something else.  Those that argue the electoral college needs to be, for all practical purposes, trashed, base it on the fact that only a few swing states matter during an election.  This may be true, but that’s only because the other states’ populations generally vote for a certain party…it’s not because one state is simply more populous than another.  Our current system still allows for small states to matter, which it’s supposed to.  If we change the system, why not just get rid of the states, and go all NCAA Division I football and create five regional conferences.  Then whatever candidate gets three electoral votes wins.

But it appears that I’m just a quiet voice in the wilderness, since all of you who slept through fifth grade civics class appear to be in the significant majority.

  1. Mary
    July 21, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    And there are many who hope we remain asleep. It is so much easier to control when the citizenry sleeps. Look at Gulliver.

  2. mvymvy
    July 21, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    The 11 most populous states contain 56% of the population of the United States and a candidate would win the Presidency if 100% of the voters in these 11 states voted for one candidate. However, if anyone is concerned about the this theoretical possibility, it should be pointed out that, under the current system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in these same 11 states — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.

    The political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five “red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

    Moreover, the notion that any candidate could win 100% of the vote in one group of states and 0% in another group of states is far-fetched. Indeed, among the 11 most populous states, the highest levels of popular support , hardly overwhelming, were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
    * Texas (62% Republican),
    * New York (59% Democratic),
    * Georgia (58% Republican),
    * North Carolina (56% Republican),
    * Illinois (55% Democratic),
    * California (55% Democratic), and
    * New Jersey (53% Democratic).

    In addition, the margins generated by the nation’s largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
    * Texas — 1,691,267 Republican
    * New York — 1,192,436 Democratic
    * Georgia — 544,634 Republican
    * North Carolina — 426,778 Republican
    * Illinois — 513,342 Democratic
    * California — 1,023,560 Democratic
    * New Jersey — 211,826 Democratic

    To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004.

  3. mvymvy
    July 21, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as obscurely far down in name recognition as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States.

    When presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as in Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all rules, the big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004.

    Likewise, under a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. There will be nothing special about a vote cast in a big city or big state. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

    f the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn’t be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

  4. mvymvy
    July 21, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. 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. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but now used 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.

    Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided “battleground” states and their voters. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign events and ad money in just six states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). 12 of the 13 smallest states were NOT included. Of the 22 medium-smallest states (those with 3,4,5, or 6 electoral votes), only 3 have been battleground states in recent elections– NH(4), NM (5), and NV (5). Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). In 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states; over 80% in nine states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states, and 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.

  5. mvymvy
    July 21, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    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, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. It would no longer matter who won a state. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    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).

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. The National Popular Vote bill does not try to abolish the Electoral College, which would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President (for example, ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote), including current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action, without federal constitutional amendments.

    The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 30 state legislative chambers, in 20 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Maine (4), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), North Carolina (15), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California (55), Colorado (9), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), New Jersey (15), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11). The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes — 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  6. Mary
    July 21, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    Did you take a breath between each individual missive? Figures don’t lie but……

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