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in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct
September 14, 2011 5:15 PM   Subscribe

"Change Proposed for State's Electoral Vote Process." Gov. Tom Corbett and state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi are proposing that Pennsylvania divide up its Electoral College votes according to which candidates carried each Congressional district, plus two votes for the statewide winner. Talking Points Memo says that under the proposed plan Obama would have received only 11 of the state's 20 electors in 2008; Dave Weigel and Nick Baumann say gerrymandering could mean that in 2012 Obama could actually wind up with a minority of the state's electors even if he carries the state. GOP-led legislatures in other states, such as Wisconsin and Michigan, could make similar moves. But could this be a bridge too far for some members of the state's GOP caucus?

There is, of course, no Constitutional requirement that any election be held at all.
posted by gerryblog (128 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meh. I've long thought every state should do this. The only reason candidates pay attention to a handful of states is because of "winner takes all".
posted by parliboy at 5:20 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's douchey of the GOP to do this selectively, since it shows they're only interested in gaming the system for advantage, and not to promote democratic ideals.

That said, I'm in favor of doing this in every state, as a bridge to eliminating the electoral college, entirely and just having a direct vote. The rationale for the electoral college is long passed and now only perpetuates attempts to game the system through gerrymandering, winner-takes-all, etc.
posted by darkstar at 5:23 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


And if this doesn't work, the GOP will get the Supreme Court to install their candidate.

You gotta hand it to them: They just want it more than the Democrats. It's tough to fight determined cheats.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:23 PM on September 14, 2011 [35 favorites]


When are we going to bloody switch to one citizen, one vote for the president?
posted by lumpenprole at 5:24 PM on September 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


Eh, on preview, etc...
posted by darkstar at 5:24 PM on September 14, 2011


And if this doesn't work, the GOP will get the Supreme Court to install their candidate.

You gotta hand it to them: They just want it more than the Democrats. It's tough to fight determined cheats.


In this case the partisan hackery is truly bipartisan, the Dems tried this exact same thing in Colorado in 2004.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


The electoral college needs to be reformed, but I'm not sure this is the right direction. Certainly not if it's just one state. Perhaps if it was every state, as others have said. Instant runoff voting is still my reform of choice.
posted by postel's law at 5:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whether or not it's a good idea, this isn't being proposed for every state.

My understanding is that breaking things down to the level of Congressional district would not lead to an electoral vote that better matches the popular vote. Because the smallest states have a minimum of three votes, you would only see a split there in 66-33 landslides -- whereas the larger, states would split pretty closely down the middle every time. You'd wind up with just another badly distorted snapshot of the popular vote, perhaps one that is even more distorted than what we have now.
posted by gerryblog at 5:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


In this case the partisan hackery is truly bipartisan, the Dems tried this exact same thing in Colorado in 2004.

"Voters to decide measure to allocate votes by presidential candidates' popular result" is a little different than "GOP with rare control of Northern state decides to go hog wild."
posted by gerryblog at 5:27 PM on September 14, 2011 [17 favorites]


@lumpenprole: I don't know. But you're right; it will definitely be a bloody switch.
posted by parliboy at 5:27 PM on September 14, 2011


Doing this in every state would not lead to a direct-vote situation. It would only serve to further reduce the power of Democratic voting groups which are disproportionately packed into dense congressional districts. The best way to get to a direct vote is to get states to award their EVs to the national vote winner, with the caveat that they will only award those EVs to the national winner once states totaling 270 EVs (the winning number) sign up for this system.
posted by ofthestrait at 5:28 PM on September 14, 2011 [12 favorites]


If this fails, their next gambit is to pass a law that says for every vote Obama receives, he loses two.
posted by briank at 5:28 PM on September 14, 2011 [19 favorites]


from a forum comment following this piece, linked above:
"Also, if this is about fairness and good government, then how about pairing this with a proposal to de-politicize redistricting? "

That would be nice, but the only way we're ever going to de-politicize redistricting is to eliminate or severely cripple the impact of outside money in American politics. That's the bell that people need to keep ringing, because it's the most compelling thing that true electoral democracy craves - i.e. freedom from influence that can purchase policy, and platforms.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:29 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, now that I think of it, with 3 EV states you'd probably never see a split: you'd get one for winning the state's House districts and two for winning the state.

Didn't Nebraska (4 EVs) split only for the first time in 2008?
posted by gerryblog at 5:30 PM on September 14, 2011


whereas the larger, states would split pretty closely down the middle every time. You'd wind up with just another badly distorted snapshot of the popular vote, perhaps one that is even more distorted than what we have now.

But wouldn't the dilemma of a large state gerrymandering themselves into a split mean that they'd become irrelevant? Wouldn't be a choice between fair but uncertain district with the plus of the federal teet, versus a known result that makes candidates not care about you?
posted by parliboy at 5:31 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The best way to get to a direct vote is to get states to award their EVs to the national vote winner, with the caveat that they will only award those EVs to the national winner once states totaling 270 EVs (the winning number) sign up for this system.

The wheels are in motion to actually implement this: The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. They're almost halfway there, as eight states plus DC, with a total of 132 EVs, have passed it.
posted by zsazsa at 5:39 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sure it's been gamed out by poli scientists, but my gut says you'd get more bang for your buck campaigning in the large states under a district-by-district electoral college. A Dem could save money on travel, time, and advertising costs by directing firepower at certain highly-populated areas in Texas, whereas a Republican could make a huge splash focusing on the big shared media market near NYC. If you're scrapping on a district-by-district basis you'd probably want to focus on densely populated areas with a lot of districts close together; the opportunity cost of competing in sparsely populated states would be a lot higher.
posted by gerryblog at 5:40 PM on September 14, 2011


Wow, is this even something a state can do? I mean, can a state make changes to the Electoral College without some kind of Federal OK?
posted by Hoopo at 5:42 PM on September 14, 2011


While we're at it, can we do something to get rid of this f'-ed up primary system? It really chaps my hide that a few primaries in a few states always get to have an outsized say in who is going to be the party nominee. Seriously, Iowa and New Hampshire, you've had your turn to be kingmaker. Let someone else have a chance.
posted by darkstar at 5:44 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hoopo, check the last link. States can assign their electoral votes however they like; they don't even need to have an election technically. I saw somewhere today that this was actually a backup plan to resolve the Florida mess; the legislature was thinking of voiding the election and just assigning the votes to Bush.
posted by gerryblog at 5:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sure it's been gamed out by poli scientists

"Political scientist", I love it. I'm a scientist now!
posted by Hoopo at 5:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, is this even something a state can do? I mean, can a state make changes to the Electoral College without some kind of Federal OK?

Yes, states can determine how their own votes are decided. Maine and Nebraska are already set up this way. I personally oppose this for PA, but if they decide to ram it through there isn't much to be done to stop it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:46 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


PA's plan takes power away from the majority of voters in PA and assigns it to the minority of voters in PA. Regardless of whether the minority is Democrat or Republican, this is an anti-democracy move. We should shun it no matter who initiates it. That said, the Republicans are currently the ones advocating for it, so let's push aside false equivalencies and acknowledge that they are working on the side of tyranny and not freedom.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:48 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't we generally favor proportional systems in MeFi rather than winner takes all? Why is the PA electoral vote situation different?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:51 PM on September 14, 2011


Because you can't unilaterally disarm. All states need to change at the same time or you've simply handed permanent power to the party whose base states don't make the switch. In this case the Republicans.

PA making this change would guarantee a semi permanent Republican stranglehold on the White House.
posted by Justinian at 5:54 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


in many ways the original constitutional formulation strikes me as being more transparent than the circus we have now. at least we could hold the electors responsible for bad presidents...

Don't we generally favor proportional systems in MeFi rather than winner takes all? Why is the PA electoral vote situation different?

because it's proportional to congressional districts: it disenfranchises densely populated urban districts.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:54 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


You guys really desperately need an independent electoral commission, such as Australia's. In Australia, redistributions are entirely managed by the AEC, and there is zero consideration of 'red' or 'blue' (not our language) polling booths. Of course, the AEC also entirely manage the electoral process, and we've had guaranteed free and fair elections since federation. Using pencil and paper!
posted by wilful at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Proportional systems would be great if every state had them but doing in one of the larger blue states just to make sure that Obama doesn't get all the electoral votes here is sucky and cynical has hell.
posted by octothorpe at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2011


furiousxgeorge: “Don't we generally favor proportional systems in MeFi rather than winner takes all? Why is the PA electoral vote situation different?”

I was thinking that, too. But on reading it, this really, really doesn't sound like proportional voting.
posted by koeselitz at 5:55 PM on September 14, 2011


Because you can't unilaterally disarm. All states need to change at the same time or you've simply handed permanent power to the party whose base states don't make the switch. In this case the Republicans.


I agree, let me be clear. My point is this is all about choosing the system that gives your party the most power in the current situation, it's not about tyranny v. democracy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:56 PM on September 14, 2011


Justinian: “PA making this change would guarantee a semi permanent Republican stranglehold on the White House.”

Really? Pennsylvania is that important?
posted by koeselitz at 5:57 PM on September 14, 2011


Don't we generally favor proportional systems in MeFi rather than winner takes all? Why is the PA electoral vote situation different?

It's not really proportional. 18 of the 20 votes would be assigned based on who won each individual congressional district. Since Republicans control the state government, they can gerrymander it so that a Democrat might win the statewide popular vote (which would garner him two votes), wins six or seven congressional districts overwhelmingly, and loses the remaining districts by a small margin.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


PA making this change would guarantee a semi permanent Republican stranglehold on the White House.

...especially if Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio -- all states where the GOP have total legislative control -- follow suit.

But on reading it, this really, really doesn't sound like proportional voting.

Right. If you can win the state and still walk away with fewer electors the system is completely borked.
posted by gerryblog at 5:57 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I might be okay with Pennsylvania doing this if Florida did it as well. (Roughly the same size, roughly the opposite partisan split.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really? Pennsylvania is that important?

Well, no, a Democrat would still be able to win a landslide election. But it would mean Republicans always win the close ones.
posted by Justinian at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really? Pennsylvania is that important?

Republicans already have an EV bonus of about +5 due to malapportionment in the Senate. Spot them another 10 and you swing a couple more close elections their way.
posted by gerryblog at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, if we were going for proportional representation, we could just... y'know... count the votes. But this system seems to basically be saying: take away the electoral college and replace them with congressional districts by proxy.
posted by koeselitz at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2011


The electoral vote system sucks. This idea takes a crappy idea and makes it worse.
posted by humanfont at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not really proportional. 18 of the 20 votes would be assigned based on who won each individual congressional district. Since Republicans control the state government, they can gerrymander it so that a Democrat might win the statewide popular vote (which would garner him two votes), wins six or seven congressional districts overwhelmingly, and loses the remaining districts by a small margin.

You have to look at this from the perspective of the rural voter in PA though. Do you think they like it that their vote never really counts compared to that of Philly and Pittsburgh? If they their own big square rural state they would have their own electoral votes, aside from an accident of borders what do they care about Philly?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


*were their own
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:01 PM on September 14, 2011


koeselitz: "Really? Pennsylvania is that important?"

It's the sixth biggest state and has voted for the Democrat for President in the last five elections. 2012 is likely to be a tight race and PA could definitely swing it.
posted by octothorpe at 6:01 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


If they their own big square rural state they would have their own electoral votes, aside from an accident of borders what do they care about Philly?

Aside from an accident of borders, what does Philly care about Pittsburgh, or vice versa? Pennsylvania is really three states: Philly, Pittsburgh, and Pennsyltucky.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:02 PM on September 14, 2011


The electoral vote system sucks. This idea takes a crappy idea and makes it worse.

I actually think having the president elected by popular vote (which the current system essentially is) is not good. Having a popular and the electors is just cruft.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:02 PM on September 14, 2011


But this system seems to basically be saying: take away the electoral college and replace them with congressional districts by proxy.

Right, but it's actually saying do that only in select Democrat-leaning blue states, and keep it the old way everywhere else. A national switch is not being proposed.
posted by gerryblog at 6:03 PM on September 14, 2011


Aside from an accident of borders, what does Philly care about Pittsburgh, or vice versa? Pennsylvania is really three states: Philly, Pittsburgh, and Pennsyltucky.

Pretty much my point, if we agree on that level of disconnect why is it a problem that we divide the electoral votes?

Democratically it makes sense more than winner take all.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:03 PM on September 14, 2011


How does it make more sense democratically to give more votes to the loser than to the winner?
posted by gerryblog at 6:04 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real injustice is the lopsided distribution of Lombardi Trophies, anyway.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:05 PM on September 14, 2011


“Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other, with Alabama in the middle” -J.C.

(James Carville, that is.)
posted by R. Mutt at 6:06 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Loser and winner, it's all arbitrary. There are a lot of Republican voters in PA, why does it make more sense they get no electoral votes when they are near half the voters?

Because we are winner take all, I know, but it's not a sacred concept.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:07 PM on September 14, 2011


It makes more sense that they get no electoral votes because the losing party voters in virtually the entire rest of the country gets no electoral votes. The exceptions are so tiny as to be meaningless. Consistency is a virtue in and of itself when it comes to a voting system.
posted by Justinian at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2011


But you are assuming that the congressional districts will be setup to represet those groups evenly by the populations views. Once they are done gerrymandering it won't be fair representation. Instead a couple of districts will be overwhelmingly one party and the rest will lean the direction of the party in power.
posted by humanfont at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2011


Again, it would be great if we got rid of winner take all but it needs to be every state at once and not just one cherry picked blue state.
posted by octothorpe at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Loser and winner, it's all arbitrary.

You have to admit this is a pretty radical position to take with respect to an electoral system. We might as well decide the presidency by games of chance if it literally doesn't matter who gets more votes.
posted by gerryblog at 6:10 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


But could this be a bridge too far for some members of the state's GOP caucus?
I don't think they have ever seen a bridge they didn't want to cross and then burn and then no-bid the contract to rebuild it to a private entity.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:10 PM on September 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


There isn't much reason to pass this law aside from pure gerrymandering. In particular, there are vastly more effective proposals to kill the electoral collage, chiefly :

Convince some huge states like California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Florida to award their electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote.

Bonus : Some highly populous states like California might gain the right to inspect ellections elsewhere.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:10 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


FYI, jeffburdges, California's already signed on to the Interstate Voting Compact.
posted by gerryblog at 6:12 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have to admit this is a pretty radical position to take with respect to an electoral system. We might as well decide the presidency by games of chance if it literally doesn't matter who gets more votes.

It's the borders within you are counting that are arbitrary. The smaller the unit, the more an individual voice generally counts.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:15 PM on September 14, 2011


If we're going to divide up votes into arbitrary districts, we should do it with an algorithm that provably isn't biased for one party or the other. The current system of gerrymandering is absolutely insane.

If this plan goes through, I don't think we'd see a "guaranteed Republican" presidency though. In the long run, the parties are in a steady-state equilibrium in which each gets half the electoral votes. You'd see presidential candidates from both get a little more conservative in order to capture the rural Pennsylvania vote.
posted by miyabo at 6:16 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"You have to look at this from the perspective of the rural voter in PA though. Do you think they like it that their vote never really counts compared to that of Philly and Pittsburgh? If they their own big square rural state they would have their own electoral votes, aside from an accident of borders what do they care about Philly?"

That's idiotic. Their votes count the exact same as someone in Philly — they just have fewer of them. You can't pretend to argue for democracy if you don't understand the "One person, one vote" standard.

Arguing for this is saying that winner-take-all is a flawed system, so it should be made more flawed. I'm sort of baffled that you don't get that.
posted by klangklangston at 6:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Republicans would be idiots to pass this. There are big benefits to being a swing state. Lots of attention from national party leaders for your local issues, money flowing into local media outlets, etc. What was Obama 2008's spend in Alabama?
posted by humanfont at 6:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Standing in the headlights and spouting Bambiisms about Democracy is not going to help with this social illness. In Utah it is all the rage to remind people the US is a Republic, not a Democracy. In some school systems in Utah Valley, they are making history teachers not teach that the US is a Democracy. WHAT? (big Bambi eyes), are too a Democracy, are not!
posted by Oyéah at 6:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's idiotic. Their votes count the exact same as someone in Philly — they just have fewer of them.

You could say the same thing if California and Wyoming were the same state. Suddenly Wyoming would go from being a few reliable electoral votes to none. That's my point, it's all arbitrary. There's a lot of talk about gerrymandering, but from their perspective the state borders themselves have the same sort of result.

A state that votes in an entirely Republican state government is probably more democratic if it is also giving a few votes towards a Republican in a federal election for President.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:36 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Naked power grab in a display of utter desperation. God save us all if it works.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:37 PM on September 14, 2011


Does anyone know what the motivation for the Nebraska electoral split was?

With Penn. it makes sense because Republicans are currently in power, but usually aren't, so they want to change the rules while they can.

Kansas is pretty much red all the time though right? What did they gain from that change to the system? It game Obama an electoral vote, but hasn't otherwise mattered since they changed it in 1996. Did they just think it sounded neat?
posted by Winnemac at 6:41 PM on September 14, 2011


The difference between state borders and district borders is that state borders were set a long time ago and almost never change. It is unlikely that a state's borders were designed to benefit anyone in particular. District borders are almost always designed to benefit one party or the other, and change every ten years to keep it that way.
posted by miyabo at 6:47 PM on September 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Err, 1991 not '96 for NE
posted by Winnemac at 6:48 PM on September 14, 2011


There's a lot of talk about gerrymandering, but from their perspective the state borders themselves have the same sort of result.

Really? Could you show me in which states the borders can be altered every 10 years in order to disenfranchise voters from one side or another, depending on which party controls the process? Because otherwise this is just a really silly argument.
posted by rollbiz at 6:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I have to start previewing.)
posted by rollbiz at 6:50 PM on September 14, 2011


Really? Could you show me in which states the borders can be altered every 10 years in order to disenfranchise voters from one side or another, depending on which party controls the process? Because otherwise this is just a really silly argument.

I know, it isn't one to one. The disenfranchisement from the state borders is far more permanent because changing the state government in a democratic election doesn't shift them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:52 PM on September 14, 2011


Alternative voting or a truly winner-take-all system. It just won't really be right until it goes to something where every vote ends up deciding who the final winner is.

As opposed to this, I decide who x/358ths(?) of who the final winner is. Or being ignored (like Idaho).
posted by Slackermagee at 6:54 PM on September 14, 2011


furiousxgeorge: "A state that votes in an entirely Republican state government is probably more democratic if it is also giving a few votes towards a Republican in a federal election for President."

Right, but if you only make a single state or handful of states "more democratic" in a way that benefits one party like Republicans are proposing, then you're not making the system more democratic, you're tilting it towards one side.

If this were done in every state simulatenously, then yeah, POTUS elections might be fairer. Liberals in Austin and Tucson would get more of a voice, as would conservatives in rural Pennsylvania and upstate New York. But selectively empowering one group or the other is utterly unfair and anti-democratic.

(And yes, this was already done to the benefit of Democrats in Nebraska's Omaha district that Obama won, but that was electorally inconsequential and would only be won in a near-landslide. This divvying-up of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, would cut a large and fairly reliably blue state in half.)
posted by Rhaomi at 6:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


*simultaneously
posted by Rhaomi at 7:00 PM on September 14, 2011


Right, but if you only make a single state or handful of states "more democratic" in a way that benefits one party like Republicans are proposing, then you're not making the system more democratic, you're tilting it towards one side.

On the federal level sure, but on the state level you are being more democratic. When I am considering state issues I look at the state, not the country as a whole.

The people of Pennsylvania democratically elected this government and if they don't like these changes they can democratically remove them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:03 PM on September 14, 2011


I know, it isn't one to one. The disenfranchisement from the state borders is far more permanent because changing the state government in a democratic election doesn't shift them.

The consequences on your single vote might be much more permanent when it's based on a state border, but I guarantee you the disenfranchisement of the party that does not hold the redistricting powers will be drastically higher if EVs are passed out on that basis. And yet you advocate for this system?
posted by rollbiz at 7:04 PM on September 14, 2011


^ If you don't like the districting you can vote for the other party and get them changed. The state borders are a lot harder to shift.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:06 PM on September 14, 2011


^ If you don't like the districting you can vote for the other party and get them changed.

Do you understand how gerrymandering works? The people who already vote for the "other" party are the very people having their power taken away in a gerrymander.
posted by rollbiz at 7:10 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


furiousxgeorge: "On the federal level sure, but on the state level you are being more democratic. When I am considering state issues I look at the state, not the country as a whole."

But this is an election to federal office, and one that has become less state-centered and more nationalized since the College was first established. The people proposing this change are arguably reducing the importance of their state in national politics by splitting their own vote and sacrificing prized swing-state status, but are pursuing it anyway to benefit their national political party.

Sure, people in central PA are being empowered, but they're being empowered in a selective way by a single party for the sole purpose of crippling one of the other party's most critical voting blocs.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:13 PM on September 14, 2011


Do you understand how gerrymandering works? The people who already vote for the "other" party are the very people having their power taken away in a gerrymander.

The state government districts are different than the congressional districts. It's not so easy to gerrymander when you are talking about 50 state senators and 253 general assembly reps rather than 19 congressional districts. Pennsylvania is fundamentally a purple state, and neither party gains permanent power here.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:22 PM on September 14, 2011


Suppose there were 1000 voters and 10 districts. 60% of the voters are Democrats and 40% are Republicans. Theoretically one could gerrymander 7 Republican seats. Each seat must have 100 voters. First create 3 seats which are 100% Democrat. Now divide the remaining 7 seats between 400 Republicans and 300 Democrats.
posted by humanfont at 7:23 PM on September 14, 2011


On the federal level sure, but on the state level you are being more democratic. When I am considering state issues I look at the state

This is a federal issue, not a state issue. That's why it is so anti-democratic. They can spin it as a state thing but that's just bullshit they're shoveling to fool people. It appears to be working since you seem to have bought it.
posted by Justinian at 7:25 PM on September 14, 2011


This is a federal issue, not a state issue. That's why it is so anti-democratic. They can spin it as a state thing but that's just bullshit they're shoveling to fool people. It appears to be working since you seem to have bought it.

Hey, I know there are federal implications, I've already said I oppose this. Let's just be honest about why though, giving the rural and suburban voters who are going to give Perry/Romney at least 45% of the vote here some electoral payoff for that will hurt the candidate Democrats want. At the state level, it's an improvement in individual voting power.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:27 PM on September 14, 2011


I mean, did I miss the Metafilter outrage when Obama split the Nebraska vote?

Did the words tyranny come up here in regards to that?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:30 PM on September 14, 2011


Really? Could you show me in which states the borders can be altered every 10 years in order to disenfranchise voters from one side or another, depending on which party controls the process? Because otherwise this is just a really silly argument.

"The three Republican legislatures of Kentucky, Ohio an Indiana have reached an agreements to merge the combined statistical area covering all of the greater Cincinnati into Kentucky for the purpose of Electoral College votes."

There's your vote packing on a federal basis.
posted by Talez at 7:31 PM on September 14, 2011


Did the words tyranny come up here in regards to that?

I think Nebraska made a mistake. But the two cases are not comparable and trying to make them so is useless.
posted by Justinian at 7:44 PM on September 14, 2011


furiousxgeorge: "I mean, did I miss the Metafilter outrage when Obama split the Nebraska vote?"

He got a single EV out of that. And that one EV was only winnable under conditions that would guarantee him victory anyway. And it was made possible by state Republicans for presumably fairminded reasons.

With Pennsylvania, we're talking about a loss of ~12 votes from a crucial swing state that is a cornerstone of most Democratic victory scenarios. That's like permanently taking Washington state out of the equation. Not to mention it's being pushed by a temporary Republican majority solely to increase their partisan advantage at the expense of their own state.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:49 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, did I miss the Metafilter outrage when Obama split the Nebraska vote?

Nebraska made that decision in 1996, several years before the invention of MetaFilter, and 12 years before it came to pass. That shifted one vote to Obama's column, a result not predictable at the time.

What PA is talking about doing is calculatedly messing with an imminent election a year from now by predictably shifting between 10 and 12 votes from D to R, enough to shift the outcome of the Electoral College in 1796, 1800, 1824, 1876, 1884, 1916, 2000, and 2004.

These are very different things.

I sort of think this is obvious and you just want to argue for the sake of arguing.
posted by gerryblog at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Pennsylvania is fundamentally a purple state, and neither party gains permanent power here.

Except the one that controls the state legislature when redistricting happens every year.
posted by rollbiz at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2011


oops, every decade.
posted by rollbiz at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2011


That shifted one vote to Obama's column, a result not predictable at the time.

Sure, one vote, but this isn't about our candidate losing, right? I'm talking about the tyranny aspect of this. One vote or twelve doesn't change that part.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2011


And yet the state remains purple, decade after decade...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2011


This is only a good policy for Pennsylvania if other states implement the same policy. Otherwise it simply undermines the value of each Pennsylvanian vote, and causes candidates to be less interested in meeting the needs of Pennsylvanian voters. As it is, this is a great policy for Republicans.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


So you don't think magnitude of effect nor intent matter at all, furiousxgeorge? To me, intent makes a huge difference and the PA move is clearly intended to secure a significant electoral advantage via dubious means.
posted by Justinian at 7:56 PM on September 14, 2011


"A state that votes in an entirely Republican state government is probably more democratic if it is also giving a few votes towards a Republican in a federal election for President."

Please cite some data to back this up. Otherwise, it's an appeal to some sort of naive contrarianism.

"I know, it isn't one to one. The disenfranchisement from the state borders is far more permanent because changing the state government in a democratic election doesn't shift them."

And again, this is an idiotic framing — You're arguing that rural voters or rural states are somehow disenfranchised, when in general they have a disproportionate amount of representation at every level of elected government. The voters that are actually disenfranchised are the ones who live in urban districts, where a larger population gets the same number of votes.

"On the federal level sure, but on the state level you are being more democratic. When I am considering state issues I look at the state, not the country as a whole. "

That's also inane and wrong, given that it's entirely possible for the state popular vote to go to one party while the majority of the electoral votes go to the other.

"The people of Pennsylvania democratically elected this government and if they don't like these changes they can democratically remove them."

This is nonsense. You might as well say that segregation represented the will of the people and if folks didn't like it, they could vote out the incumbents.

"The state government districts are different than the congressional districts. It's not so easy to gerrymander when you are talking about 50 state senators and 253 general assembly reps rather than 19 congressional districts. Pennsylvania is fundamentally a purple state, and neither party gains permanent power here."

Almost all states are purple, yet in plenty of them there's essentially one party that controls them due to structural issues. Further, with regard to politics, edge cases matter.

Again, this plan is moronic and I can't believe you're defending it seriously. I can only hope this is out of some deluded devil's advocate streak and not something you consider to be any sort of ethical or political stand.

"At the state level, it's an improvement in individual voting power."

It is not. Why you keep saying it is baffles me.
posted by klangklangston at 7:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


So you don't think magnitude of effect nor intent matter at all, furiousxgeorge? To me, intent makes a huge difference and the PA move is clearly intended to secure a significant electoral advantage via dubious means.

I think I've made it clear I'm opposed to this plan and am simply pointing out it isn't an expression of tyranny for Republicans to take advantage of it any more than when Democrats do. Posted too much so gonna give it a rest for now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:58 PM on September 14, 2011


And yet the state remains purple, decade after decade...

This could mean literally dozens of things, and it's impossible to agree or disagree until I know which of those things you mean.
posted by rollbiz at 8:02 PM on September 14, 2011


You're arguing that rural voters or rural states are somehow disenfranchised, when in general they have a disproportionate amount of representation at every level of elected government.

Christ, no, not really in PA state government which is the topic I'm talking about. Trust me that rural voters with disproportionate power didn't elect Ed Rendell. I don't want to get into this with you since you are clearly going for your insult "idiotic, inane, your just like the segregation people!" mode rather than having a conversation, so please just move along and pretend I'm not here.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:02 PM on September 14, 2011


Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown just signed legislation that could automatically give California's electoral votes to whoever wins the national popular vote.
With California's passage of the legislation, the National Popular Vote now has 132 of the 270 electoral votes to circumvent the Electoral College system. It will not take effect until enough states sign on and pass legislation to equal 270.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:07 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Christ, no, not really in PA state government which is the topic I'm talking about. Trust me that rural voters with disproportionate power didn't elect Ed Rendell.

Rural voters were not disenfranchised into Ed Rendell. Their votes were equal to anyone else in PA's. Surely you understand the difference between gubernatorial and presidential races.
posted by rollbiz at 8:09 PM on September 14, 2011


Tom Corbett is a bad man who hates the parts of Philly that aren't tourist-friendly and/or are private academic institutions.

I can't figure out exactly what shennanigans are afoot here, exactly, but dollars to donuts, if Corbett is behind it it is a Bad Thing because he is a Bad Man who really, really, should hate himself
posted by angrycat at 8:12 PM on September 14, 2011


*seriously*
posted by angrycat at 8:13 PM on September 14, 2011


I'm actually amazed that the PA GOP is willing to reduce their own power so long as it benefits the national party. That is some hard-core party discipline right there.

I'm actually kind of jealous.
posted by Avenger at 8:13 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm a Pennsylvanian, and I do NOT like this idea. Even if it means all of our EV's go to the Republicans. Let's just get rid of the Electoral College already.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 8:17 PM on September 14, 2011


Interestingly, the the opposite of this was happening in Nebraska this year. The GOP was trying to change the state's system back to winner-takes-all.
posted by IAmDrWorm at 9:08 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, I know there are federal implications, I've already said I oppose this. Let's just be honest about why though, giving the rural and suburban voters who are going to give Perry/Romney at least 45% of the vote here some electoral payoff for that will hurt the candidate Democrats want. At the state level, it's an improvement in individual voting power.

Rural and suburban voters already get votes that are worth more than someone that lives in a city, this would only make it worse.
posted by floam at 9:15 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, is this even something a state can do? I mean, can a state make changes to the Electoral College without some kind of Federal OK?

This is actually a feature, not a bug.
The beauty of the Electoral College is that it allows each state to implement voting whichever way they want* without requiring a change to the Constitution each time.

If you want to institute Instant Runoff voting in your state you can. If you want to have majority voting, you can. You don't need to convince the rest of the country that your way is the best, only those people in your state.

The fact that more states don't take advantage of the design of the system is a failure of implementation, not a failure in the system itself.

*subject obviously to civil rights, etc.
posted by madajb at 9:22 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


it disenfranchises densely populated urban districts.

Just a clarification: All Congressional districts are apportioned to have approximately the exact same amount of people (albeit over widely different areas). Apart from some weirdos -- like Wyoming and Montana -- just about every district in the nation has about 646,00 people. If you'd care to examine PA's districts, you'll see this holds true: they are all around 646K, give or take a couple hundred of people.

So there's no such thing as a "dense" district, certainly not in PA.

The worry here is that one state which, in the recent past, has swung fairly reliably Democratic might establish an electoral system which could peel off the Republican "gimme votes" that come with the current winner take all system, without an equivalent move by a split, but reliably Republican state (say North Carolina or Virginia). Speaking as someone who, by virtue of residence, has never had their vote for President count, I can't say I'm really against these kinds of systems; a piecemeal approach is the real problem.

However, all of this is compounded by a fear that once an EV-by-District system is in place, gerrymandering will slowly eke out electoral maps that disenfranchise voters at the district, rather than state level. So maybe this is the kind of disenfranchisement you were talking about? Reliably Democratic districts sliced into easily digestible chucks to be absorbed into more Republican ones?
posted by Panjandrum at 9:42 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the complaints about "disenfranchisement" being built into the electoral college come from the idea that states with small populations are more likely to vote Republican; therefore the "extra" two electoral votes every state gets benefit the Republicans more than the Democrats.

But has anyone looked at the numbers? There are states with small populations that vote Democratic. Vermont. Maine. Rhode Island. Delaware. Hawaii. (I'd look at the numbers, but I'm tired.)
posted by madcaptenor at 10:15 PM on September 14, 2011


Why the GOP's electoral college scheme is probably doomed
posted by homunculus at 10:30 PM on September 14, 2011


I'd favor EV by percentage more than EV by district.
posted by bugmuncher at 11:46 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


As anti-democratic as it is, it's interesting that, in addition to all sorts of illegal or gray-area means by which to tilt the vote in their favor, it's quite possibly something like this, which is completely legal and totally constitutional, that has a shot to make the most difference.

Parties have been loath to tinker with the apportionment of their electoral votes in fear of diluting their influence over the longer term, but clearly the Republicans have gotten so deep in their ideological purity and their seething, burning hatred of Obama that they're blinded to anything that could have negative consequences later on if it confers a temporary advantage through 2012.
posted by chimaera at 12:15 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


madcaptenor, this is only a proxy for what you're asking but it demonstrates that the EC does skew to the right. In 2008, the Democrats had 60 seats in the Senate, when by population represented they should have had 65. That's where I got the roughly +5 EV number I spitballed above.

The numbers would be a bit different when you factor in the House. Last time we talked about this it seemed to be the case that malapportionment in the House was either random or tilted very slightly to the left, though the first calculation was pre-2010 wave election and the second was post-. It looks to me, again just eyeballing, like the effect was even slighter in 2008. Using either 2010 and 2008, though, the total malapportionment effect would still be about +5 GOP.

There are more right-leaning small states than left-leaning ones, in other words. The total distorting effect will generally go in the GOP's favor.

A political scientist could probably give an actual average; this is just me trying to hack out a picture.
posted by gerryblog at 6:15 AM on September 15, 2011


I'm curious if such a naked grab to steal the vote would both independent voters and nudge them towards the Democrats. Of course we know Fox News would devote 24 hour coverage to furiousxgeorge like statements about how this is fighting tyranny on the individual level in this one state (so who CARES if the point was to steal the election from the other 49 states!)
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:25 AM on September 15, 2011


Alright, I looked. Obama won 53.69% of the two-party vote in 2008. If every state (counting DC as a state) had had the same number of voters (instead of having wildly different numbers of voters, as we do) but had voted in the same proportion as it actually did, he'd have won 52.17%. I'm not sure how to translate this into electoral votes, though, which are the usual units for expressing these things.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2011


but clearly the Republicans have gotten so deep in their ideological purity and their seething, burning hatred of Obama that they're blinded to anything that could have negative consequences later on if it confers a temporary advantage through 2012.

My guess is that they think that they'll be in the majority for a long time after this, or, at least long enough to switch it back when it becomes disadvantageous to them (see Nebraska).
posted by drezdn at 9:55 AM on September 15, 2011


If each state had proportional representation tempered by the number of electoral votes ie in a state with 10 EVs and a 60:40 vote split they EVs are assigned 6:4) then Obama would have won 290-248 giving an overall percentage of 53.9 % of the Ev's having won 53.7% of the popular vote. As it stands with the EV he won 67.8% with 53.7% or the popular vote.

In my model I just rounded to the nearest whole EV instead of giving the final vote to the one with the most votes which seems more correct. Also it is a statewide sampling for everything instead of two vote at large winner take all and district by district distribution of the remainder. I am not bored enough to go through and calculate that and I don't even know where I could find the data.
posted by koolkat at 9:55 AM on September 15, 2011


Arguably, in the short term, wouldn't this backfire on them if Obama doesn't carry PA?
posted by drezdn at 9:56 AM on September 15, 2011


madcaptenor, this is only a proxy for what you're asking but it demonstrates that the EC does skew to the right. In 2008, the Democrats had 60 seats in the Senate, when by population represented they should have had 65. That's where I got the roughly +5 EV number I spitballed above.

How does an perceived advantage in the Senate (which at any rate is caused by the horrible 17th Amendment) translate into an Electoral Vote advantage?
Each state, Republican, Democrat or Libertarian gets 2 Electors from the Senate. The number is fixed regardless of the makeup of the Senate.

Unless I'm really misunderstanding what you're saying, which is quite possible.
posted by madajb at 10:07 AM on September 15, 2011


Electoral votes are derived from the number of representatives + the number of senators. The point of the "proxy" is that the net effect of the small stage advantage skews the body to the right, to the tune of +5 in 2008. The same skew would be present in the Electoral College as well.
posted by gerryblog at 11:46 AM on September 15, 2011


koolkat (or anybody else bored): the Swing State Project has vote totals by congressional district for the 2008 presidential election. This was apparently a lot of work, because congressional district borders don't line up with, say, city or county borders.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:49 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, madajb, we mut be talking at cross purposes, because I don't see how the 17th Amendment has anything to do with it.
posted by gerryblog at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2011


The point of the "proxy" is that the net effect of the small stage advantage skews the body to the right, to the tune of +5 in 2008. The same skew would be present in the Electoral College as well.
....
Also, madajb, we mut be talking at cross purposes, because I don't see how the 17th Amendment has anything to do with it.


The small state "advantage" in the Senate (that is, the idea that states with small populations have a disproportionate influence) is caused by the direct election of Senators which is contrary to the original design.

I'm not sure I see how the same "advantage" is inherent in the Electoral College since each state is free to apportion their Electors as they see fit. I think the problem would lie more in the winner-take-all implementation.
posted by madajb at 1:21 PM on September 15, 2011


The small state "advantage" in the Senate (that is, the idea that states with small populations have a disproportionate influence) is caused by the direct election of Senators which is contrary to the original design.

That's not true. Giving every state two senators regardless of its population has nothing to do with direct election of Senators; it's been in the Constitution since day one. It's in Article V.
posted by gerryblog at 1:23 PM on September 15, 2011


That's not true. Giving every state two senators regardless of its population has nothing to do with direct election of Senators; it's been in the Constitution since day one. It's in Article V.

Clearly.

But when Senators are not directly elected, the population of the state is irrelevant.
Each state is equal by design in the body meant to look out for the States themselves.
posted by madajb at 5:09 PM on September 15, 2011


But when Senators are not directly elected, the population of the state is irrelevant.

...but it would still be relevant with respect to distorting effects of the Electoral College, which is based on the number of House seats + the number of Senate seats.
posted by gerryblog at 7:10 PM on September 15, 2011


Nate Silver.
So Republicans get about 20 percent more Electoral College mileage out of their base states than Democrats do, relative to the number of votes cast. This reflects the fact that Republican states tend to have smaller populations, and the Electoral College slightly favors low-population states. (California has 66 times as many people as Wyoming, but awards “only” 18 times as many electoral votes.)
posted by gerryblog at 10:15 PM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Rick Santorum Endorses Pennsylvania Election Scheme Because It Will Rig Presidential Election For Republicans
posted by homunculus at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2011


Yet again, Santorum has to come and make a frothy mess of everything.
posted by drezdn at 5:15 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


At Hearing On PA Gov. Tom Corbett’s Electing Rigging Plan, GOP State Senator Spouts An Unhinged Rant About Nazis
posted by homunculus at 2:31 PM on October 6, 2011


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