Politics and Whatnot

Just another liberal political blog

Bipartisan support for ending electoral college, but no action. Why not?

The latest Gallup poll shows that majorities of Republican, Democrat, and Independent voters support an amendment to do away with the electoral college and replace it with a popular vote, and only 35% are in favor of it.  It’s easy to see why – the electoral college is a relic of a voting system that never really existed.  The idea was that each state would choose electors, and that the electors would then vote according to their own will.  In reality, every state either actually requires or effectively requires its electors to vote in accordance with the majority of voters in each state.  Instead, all the system really does is create an arbitrary winner-take-all system that effectively disenfranchises voters in solidly red or solidly blue states, and results in the complete disregard of almost half of the votes in swing states where the difference between winning and losing may be less than a percentage point.  It’s no wonder that the US is the only remaining system that elects its executive in this bizarre manner.

Despite the massive opposition to the electoral college, there is not the slightest iota of attention in Washington, and very little attention in the media, for the idea of changing it.  Why?  Let me speculate up a few reasons:

1. The Republican Party (not Republican voters) is particularly fond of it – Since 1980, Republicans have dominated US policy.  The Republican ideas of deregulation, low taxes, preemptive invasions, unrestricted military/CIA, drug wars, etc. have become the official policies of the Federal Government, regardless of what the public thinks about them.  The Democratic Party has largely accepted the dictated Republican positions while ignoring even widely supported liberal ideas like socialized healthcare, drug deregulation, and limits on government intrusion.  Thus it is no surprise that the Republican Party position on the Electoral College is the only position in Washington.  Why is the GOP so fond of the electoral college?  Simply because it helped them get Bush elected in 2000.  There’s no reason whatsoever to think that it couldn’t go the other way in the future, but the Gallup poll clearly shows that this made a number of Republicans favor the electoral college.

2. The Democratic Party (not Democratic voters) is particularly fond of it – What?  The Democratic Party got screwed by the electoral college in 2000, why would they be for it?  Because in the long run, it’s the only reason they’re in power.  The Democratic Party is essentially an amalgamation of all the different groups in the country that have a reason to be angry with the way the Republicans have been running the country for the last 30 years: the working class, minorities, social liberals, the well-educated, etc.  Under the electoral college, the only way these groups can stop the Republicans is by voting together for whatever party is most likely to defeat the Republican candidate.  Under a national popular vote, which would likely involve a runoff election, each of these groups would be free to vote for their own favored third party, and then choose the strongest among those in the runoff election.  If this were to happen, it would be the end of the Democratic Party as we know it (really, the same exact thing is true of the Republican Party also) and the birth of many new third parties that would more accurately represent the people.

3. Lobbyists and corrupting influences like it – Probably the largest means of semi-legal bribery used by special interest groups is the attack ad.  The attack ad is especially useful under the electoral college because the ads can be targeted at swing states, which gets more bang for the buck than advertising across the whole country.  In addition, the attack ad makes far more sense in a two-party race, because then a decline in support for one candidate directly translates to an increase for the other.  As discussed above, the end of the electoral college would allow third parties to gain support, and the lobbyists would find themselves becoming increasingly irrelevant.

In short, we don’t have a democracy, so it’s not up to the people to decide whether we should have an electoral college or not.  So forget about it, sit back, and enjoy your shitty elections.


4 responses to “Bipartisan support for ending electoral college, but no action. Why not?

  1. mvymvy October 25, 2011 at 6:40 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), without needing to amend the Constitution.

    Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state and district (in ME and NE). Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don’t matter to their candidate.

    With National Popular Vote, elections wouldn’t be about winning states or districts (in ME and NE). No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in the current handful of swing states. The political reality would be that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

    Now, 2/3rds of the states and voters are ignored.

    States have the responsibility and power to make their voters relevant in every presidential election. 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, without needing 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, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, RI, VT, and WA.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, RI, VT, and WA. It has been enacted by DC (3), HI (4), IL (19), NJ (14), MD (11), MA (10), CA (55), VT (3), and WA (13). These 9 jurisdictions possess 132 electoral votes — 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


    • Polnwhat October 25, 2011 at 7:20 pm

      I actually had no idea that there was such a bill, and it’s smart to do an end-around Capitol Hill like that. However, I do have one very major criticism – the NPV system only requires a plurality for the winner, not a majority, and there is no runoff provision in case there is a three-way split with no majority. The effect is that this would continue to shut out competition from third party candidates because of the spoiler effect. It’s better than nothing, but it’s fixing the small problem and missing an opportunity to fix the big problem.

      I suppose a fix could be that the states that pass the bill would provide their own runoff elections, but that would of course require passing the whole thing all over again. Since we’d have to count on the two major parties to pass a bill that would cause their own demise, I’m not counting on it.

      • mvymvy October 25, 2011 at 7:38 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). Why are you so sure that a third party candidate would never get the most popular votes under the new system?

        With the current system of electing the President, no state requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than the most popular votes in order to receive all of the state’s electoral votes.

        Not a single legislative bill has been introduced in any state legislature in recent decades (among the more than 100,000 bills that are introduced in every two-year period by the nation’s 7,300 state legislators) proposing to change the existing universal practice of the states to award electoral votes to the candidate who receives a plurality (as opposed to absolute majority) of the votes (statewide or district-wide). There is no evidence of any public sentiment in favor of imposing such a requirement.

        Since 1824 there have been 16 presidential elections in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote.– including Lincoln (1860), Wilson (1912, and 1916), Truman (1948), Kennedy (1960), Nixon (1968), and Clinton (1992 and 1996).

        And, FYI, with the current system, it could only take winning the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in just these 11 biggest states — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.

        Americans do not view the absence of run-offs in the current system as a major problem. If, at some time in the future, the public demands run-offs, that change can be implemented at that time.

        • Polnwhat October 25, 2011 at 9:08 pm

          A third party wouldn’t get the most votes for the same reason Nader’s popularity abruptly dropped off after 2000 – the spoiler effect. Say Nader runs again in 2012, under the NPV system. A typical Nader voter would still prefer Obama to the Republican candidate. Obama currenly polls at around a 2% advantage over Romney. So if he loses just 3% to Nader, he is likely to lose. A Nader voter, realizing Nader is long shot, rationally should choose Obama because its the only likely way to stop a Republican from getting elected. As voters deal with this dilemma, Nader’s numbers can never rise to a significant level.

          I agree there’s no major push for runoff elections, but that’s probably because such elections aren’t really conceivable under the current system, and because the two parties dominate the political conversation.

          However, polls do show majority support for a third party (http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/160021-gallup-poll-sees-growing-support-for-third-party-in-gop-tea-party). Yet, a third party can’t happen without runoff elections. I’d imagine if a poll were done where people were told that runoff elections are necessary to allow multiple party competition, it would be overwhelmingly supported.

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