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New York joins the National Popular Vote
April 18, 2014 8:54 AM   Subscribe

The US is a little closer to a popular vote for president. Governor Cuomo added New York State to the National Popular Vote interstate compact. posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? (61 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's interesting to think about this as someone who has voted in Rhode Island and DC where my presidential votes absolutely 100% do not matter, and so I have resolved from now on just to vote for the most absolutely liberal candidate I possibly can for president, something I would not do if I lived in a contested state.

How would this be likely to affect third parties? If there were a chance my vote would matter, I'd be less likely to vote for, say, Jill Stein in the future, but I don't know if that's part of the conversation.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:01 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Turns out America is an oligarchy and not a democracy anyway, so...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:04 AM on April 18


Basically you have to convince states like Texas who tend not to be battleground states and get basically ignored by the candidates other than donor fundraisers that this is in their best interest.

I can't imagine any perceived battleground state is ever going to sign on for this because it basically removes their king making status.
posted by vuron at 9:08 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


If you live in one of those [ignored] states, you see neither hide nor hair of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees, scarcely even in television commercials.

There is no downside to this. I lived in a battleground state last election cycle and the calls, the commercials, the billboards. It was insane. We had to turn the ringer off on our phone - we were getting upwards of 6-8 robocalls and push polls per day.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:11 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


vuron: That isn't a huge bar to leap. In the 2012 general election campaign, the major party candidates only held events in 12 states.

The bigger problem is that the right wing has begun to see this as some kind of liberal plot, and there aren't quite enough left-leaning non-battleground states to enact the compact.
posted by fitnr at 9:12 AM on April 18


What impact if any would this have on campaign finance reform? I would hope that opening this up would make the current expenditures bloom into an unworkable beast which would help fix our campaign system issues, but I have a feeling that the powers that be would find a way.
posted by Big_B at 9:16 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]



There is no downside to this. I lived in a battleground state last election cycle and the calls, the commercials, the billboards. It was insane. We had to turn the ringer off on our phone - we were getting upwards of 6-8 robocalls and push polls per day.


If the candidates are made to spread out this kind of spending nationwide, this particular strategy may turn out to be unviable.
posted by ocschwar at 9:19 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Basically you have to convince states like Texas who tend not to be battleground states and get basically ignored by the candidates other than donor fundraisers that this is in their best interest.

I read something somewhere that said that if the Democratic national party could get 8% more hispanic voters in Harris County, (that's the county that Houston, TX is in,) -- they could all but guarantee that Texas would become a blue state. And if that were to happen, w/ the presidential dem nominee almost always getting New York and California, it would mean a Democrat in the White House forever. Or something.
posted by nushustu at 9:20 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


FiveThirtyEight has a piece on this today arguing that it's very unlikely to get a sufficient number of states to sign on.
posted by yoink at 9:21 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


Turns out America is an oligarchy and not a democracy anyway, so...

Funny that the paper in the news article that you linked to by Gilens and Page does not actually say that the US is not a democracy nor does it say that the US is an oligarchy.

Moreover, the US is still rates a 10 on the polity index for democracy.

http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:22 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Well presumably national candidates would have to spend almost exclusively on national ads which due to the media landscape is very expensive but also of dubious benefit. You could also switch almost exclusively to an all big media market strategy (the Dems would do this).

Station owners in battleground states would loathe this as would a lot of newspapers who still see themselves as critical in the process.

It would make the nomination process really problematic because you basically would have the support of your party's elite from the beginning or you'd have to self-finance. You really couldn't have an insurgent candidate. For instance Clinton would've certainly been the nominee over Obama in 2008.

Third Party candidates would have even less opportunities than they currently have outside of a billionaire maverick doing a vanity run.
posted by vuron at 9:22 AM on April 18


If we found ourselves in a reverse 2000, where the R candidate loses the election but wins the pop vote then we'd have enough sign-on states overnight.

I think the Pop vote is the way to go, but don't think it will change political spending all that much. there would be some shifting, but a lot of America would still be essentially ignored.
CA, FL, NY, TX, IL would suck the majority of money western Mid-west and most southern states would be froze out.
posted by edgeways at 9:38 AM on April 18


It would make the nomination process really problematic because you basically would have the support of your party's elite from the beginning or you'd have to self-finance.

There's no necessary connection between the process used for determining who will be the Presidential candidate and the process used for determining who won the Presidential election. You could still have a state-by-state primary if you think that's a good way of picking Presidential candidates.
posted by yoink at 9:44 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I imagine the reason the red states oppose this is that the general election would revolve much more around get-out-the-vote efforts. GOTV organizing can be a lot more efficient when your voters live close to each other, in cities, as opposed to spread out, in rural areas and even suburbs.
posted by stopgap at 9:47 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


Funny that the paper in the news article that you linked to by Gilens and Page does not actually say that the US is not a democracy nor does it say that the US is an oligarchy. 

Okay, um, while you may be technically correct that the paper in question doesn't explicitly conclude the US is now an oligarchy, it does conclude in part:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organied interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

If you could clarify for me how these conclusions don't affirm that America is now functionally an oligarchy, I'd appreciate it, because it seems to me those two particular outcomes are exactly the same outcomes that characterize the kinds of systems we call "oligarchy."

I mean, is there some substantive critique of the way these paper's conclusions are being interpreted, I'm missing, or is the idea that since they didn't specifically use the word oligarchy, it's a mischaracterization? Any system with the features the paper concludes ours now has would seem to fit the bill for what most people mean by oligarchy pretty well...
posted by saulgoodman at 9:48 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]




nushustu: "I read something somewhere that said that if the Democratic national party could get 8% more hispanic voters in Harris County, (that's the county that Houston, TX is in,) -- they could all but guarantee that Texas would become a blue state. And if that were to happen, w/ the presidential dem nominee almost always getting New York and California, it would mean a Democrat in the White House forever. Or something."

You can't project that sort of thing forever. California used to go R all the time. The South was solid D, and the House was solid D for approximately forever. Times change, parties and platforms change.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:52 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


There's three simple facts that put this into perspective:
  1. Any state that leans heavily one way or another has an incentive to favor this because a) they're ignored during the campaigns, and b) it's always possible that the candidate of the party they favor could win the popular vote but lose the electoral college.
  2. However, partly this initiative appeals to liberal states because of the recent history of Bush's election in 2000, where he lost the popular vote but won the electoral college.
  3. And, in the long run, it also appeals to liberal states because the electoral college system (like Congress itself) favors the rural states at the expense of the urban states ... and the rural states are the most conservative. The electoral college is biased toward the smaller states because the number of electors a state is allocated is the number of representatives (which is population based) plus their two senators (which is the same for every state).
So, on the basis of (1), and of polling where the majority of people (majority of both liberals and conservatives) say they want a national popular vote, it seems like this would be a good idea that everyone would support.

But (2) poisons it for conservatives, because everyone involved is somewhat aware that the context of this whole initiative is 2000.

Much more important, though, is (3). All the demographic trends show that a national popular vote would be awful for the GOP. And those small population, rural states are loathe to give up their boost to their importance. And this leaves aside those balanced battleground states who loathe the idea of becoming much less important.

If a Democratic candidate wins the presidency while losing the popular vote, then it's entirely possible that a number of (short-sighted) red states would pass the NPV interstate compact. It's possible, though I suspect that many conservative pols and pundits who are more aware of the big picture would fight this tooth-and-nail. Such an outcome would rely upon the unlikely possibility of a Democrat winning the electoral college but losing the popular vote combined with the unlikely possibility that a grass-roots movement among conservatives would pass NPV in states like Texas even though, in the long run, this would be harmful to the GOP. I don't think this will happen.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:56 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


If you could clarify for me how these conclusions don't affirm that America is now functionally an oligarchy, I'd appreciate it, because it seems to me those two particular outcomes are exactly the same outcomes that characterize the kinds of systems we call "oligarchy."

There's still an open thread on the Gilens and Page paper. ROU_Xenophobe has an excellent comment in that thread pointing out some of the problems with their methodology.
posted by yoink at 10:08 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I'd love to see us move toward a popular vote, and away from the electoral college. However, I'm a little concerned that, if the compact is enacted, it will skew the national vote toward the GOP, thanks to a lack of red-state participation in the agreement.

I'm in NY. We're a pretty tried-and-true blue state when it comes to the electoral college, but we have a sizable conservative population. It would be great to give that population a voice. However, if red and swing states don't sign on—if, say, my aunt in Boehner-territory Ohio isn't granted the same opportunity to be counted—won't the pact further discount the votes of liberal urban centers?

Or is that not the case?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:23 AM on April 18


However, if red and swing states don't sign on—if, say, my aunt in Boehner-territory Ohio isn't granted the same opportunity to be counted—won't the pact further discount the votes of liberal urban centers?

I don't understand why you think it would. The point is that the pact only becomes operative when a sufficient number of states has joined that their electoral college votes would guarantee the outcome. Then all of those states are pledged to give the entirety of their EC votes to whoever wins the national poll. Thus, automagically, everybody's vote--whether your aunt's in Ohio's or yours in Sodom-on-the-Hudson--counts exactly the same.
posted by yoink at 10:27 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


The method of election in general (and of the President in particular) in the 50 states definitely needs changing, but it's hard to think of a more wrong-headed way of fixing it than this.

I mean, it does absolutely nothing to alter the entrenched two-party system which is the major cause of our political gridlock, it would move small population states from mostly politically irrelevant to completely irrelevant, and, quite frankly, the authors seem to misunderstand the basic premise of the Electoral College.
posted by madajb at 10:29 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]




When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organied interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

If you could clarify for me how these conclusions don't affirm that America is now functionally an oligarchy, I'd appreciate it, because it seems to me those two particular outcomes are exactly the same outcomes that characterize the kinds of systems we call "oligarchy."


Their conclusion does not support the broader conclusion that the US is not a democracy. One of the requirements for a democracy is not that when large marjorities favor a policy change, that policy change gets enacted.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:37 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


it would move small population states from mostly politically irrelevant to completely irrelevant

Actually, it would move a number of small-population states from being bizarrely politically important back to being no more important than they ought to be. Why on earth should a voter who happens to live in a low-population state have a vote that counts for more than a voter who lives in a high-population state? They already get disproportionate influence in the Senate--I don't see why they need to get disproportionate influence in the Presidential election as well.

Election of the President by popular vote simply means that every single voter in the country becomes equally important to every campaign. You no longer have the bizarre anomaly of millions upon millions of voters in "safe" states (small or large) being ignored while small handfuls of voters in swing states are besieged by campaigns. The United States is not Ohio and there is no reason that winning the hearts and minds of Ohioans should be the most important criterion for becoming President of the United States.
posted by yoink at 10:43 AM on April 18 [10 favorites]


They already get disproportionate influence in the Senate

Welcome to the United State of America.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:05 AM on April 18


The bigger problem is that the right wing has begun to see this as some kind of liberal plot

I mean, isn't it? It seems pretty obvious that major urban centers, with the highest populations, overwhelmingly vote Democratic. (The question of whether or not that equals "liberal" left for another day.) We see the problems with that in statewide elections - how 90% of counties in NY state can favor one outcome, but the urban 10% with the highest population gets to dictate what happens. If this were enacted, it would overwhelmingly skew the presidency for the Ds. It's in every conservative's best interest to fight tooth and nail against something that will guarantee them less representation.
posted by corb at 11:06 AM on April 18


If there were a chance my vote would matter, I'd be less likely to vote for, say, Jill Stein in the future, but I don't know if that's part of the conversation.
This strategy isn't exactly being removed from the conversation, though, is it? It was barely in the conversation to begin with. I agree wholeheartedly that it makes sense to vote for one of the top two candidates in a battleground state and to vote your conscience in a "safe" state, but as far as I can tell with a quick glance at the 2012 state-by-state election results, the landslide states are not experiencing any sort of flowering of third-party support. The correlation between "abs(obama_percentage-romney_percentage)" and "other_percentages" was around 0.1.
posted by roystgnr at 11:09 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


It's in every conservative's best interest to fight tooth and nail against something that will guarantee them less representation.

True enough, but it's in the country's interest to have better representation overall, and that's what this would give us.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:10 AM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I mean, isn't it? It seems pretty obvious that major urban centers, with the highest populations, overwhelmingly vote Democratic. (The question of whether or not that equals "liberal" left for another day.) We see the problems with that in statewide elections - how 90% of counties in NY state can favor one outcome, but the urban 10% with the highest population gets to dictate what happens. If this were enacted, it would overwhelmingly skew the presidency for the Ds. It's in every conservative's best interest to fight tooth and nail against something that will guarantee them less representation.

Just highlighting this point, with the observation that liberal plots to make it more likely for them to win elections is to increase the voting power of the public and enfranchise people, while conservative plots to make it more likely for them to win is to decrease the voting power of the public and to disenfranchise people.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:15 AM on April 18 [19 favorites]


We see the problems with that in statewide elections - how 90% of counties in NY state can favor one outcome, but the urban 10% with the highest population gets to dictate what happens.

That's not a "problem," dear, that's democracy working. You know "one person, one vote."

If this were enacted, it would overwhelmingly skew the presidency for the Ds.


Not really. There's only been one election in the modern era where the Dems won the popular vote for the Presidency and the Republican candidate won. By and large the winner of the popular vote takes the Presidency in any event. In terms of changing the D vs. R outcome, this proposal will have minimal effect. Where it has a very large effect is on the nature of the campaign. It takes away "strategic" campaigning in "battleground" states and makes every voter in the country of equal significance. Presidential candidates will no longer be held hostage by the quirks of regional issues in swing states (corn subsidies for Iowa, loony-tunes Cuba policy for Florida etc.) and will instead seek to campaign on issues that appeal to the largest total percentage of the national vote.
posted by yoink at 11:17 AM on April 18 [8 favorites]


Not really. There's only been one election in the modern era where the Dems won the popular vote for the Presidency and the Republican candidate won

For this to be true, it would have to be the case that circumventing or abolishing the electoral college, and thus potentially adjusting the power of urban voters upward, would have no effect on turnout in those areas. Which seems highly unlikely.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:23 AM on April 18


Actually, it would move a number of small-population states from being bizarrely politically important back to being no more important than they ought to be. Why on earth should a voter who happens to live in a low-population state have a vote that counts for more than a voter who lives in a high-population state?

Leaving aside philosophical difference about the power of smalls states, the proper place to address such an issue is by another Reapportionment Act.
Specifically one that adjusts the number of House members (and thus the number of electors) from the artificial limit of 435 established by the Reapportionment Act of 1929.
posted by madajb at 11:23 AM on April 18


Dickering over small variations on current voting rules always seems to me like a completely half-assed measure rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. One of the major problems with our system is that approximately 50% of the vote awards 100% of the power that's up for election, in the long run forcing everything into the hands of only two parties via Duverger's Law and causing other issues.

Adjusting that percentage so that it's slightly closer to 50% nationally in the presidential election isn't going to solve anything, I wouldn't think: the other 50% or more of the votes are still not going to result in representation within government for those voters, unlike how something like a (fundamentally different) proportional representation system would. I feel like this is another way to divert attention and resources from solving any of our actual problems.

(Note that the FairVote FAQ does tangentially mention proportional voting but sounds to me like it's setting up a false dichotomy, talking only in terms of some sort of hybrid between the current electoral system and proportional voting for electors within each state.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:33 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why you think it would.
I was just kind of confused. It took me longer than it should have to sort out the 270-vote-bloc part. Sorry about that.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:53 AM on April 18


how something like a (fundamentally different) proportional representation system would

That would be ideal, but it seems like an unattainable goal, especially at the federal level. While abolishing (or circumventing) the electoral college would be a far more marginal move toward fairness, it's one that stands a greater, but still minimal, chance of success.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:58 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" is the theory here.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:05 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I mean, isn't it? It seems pretty obvious that major urban centers, with the highest populations, overwhelmingly vote Democratic. (The question of whether or not that equals "liberal" left for another day.)

That fact has nothing to do with whether or not this qualifies as a "plot," though. If making sure that everyone's vote counts, and counts equally, ends up favoring one party over another, it means that party is more popular and has more support so they deserve to win. So the fact that it might help Democrats is a function of Democratic policies being more popular, not an artifact of manipulation.

We see the problems with that in statewide elections - how 90% of counties in NY state can favor one outcome, but the urban 10% with the highest population gets to dictate what happens.

Counties don't vote, people do. Counties can't want or favor things.

If this were enacted, it would overwhelmingly skew the presidency for the Ds. It's in every conservative's best interest to fight tooth and nail against something that will guarantee them less representation.

Don't you worry, Republicans are doing everything they can to legally disenfranchise Blacks and other traditionally Democratic constituencies. But even that isn't obviously in the interest of conservatives per se; it's in the interest of the GOP's super-wealthy and amoral patrons.
posted by clockzero at 12:07 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


A popular vote win system would turn our current system of almost every vote is a loser to only 40-49% of voters losers.

In our current system everyone who votes D in a R state loses. If the election as a whole goes to the D's then also every person who voted R in those red states also loses + everyone in a who votes D in a R state as well. The only winning votes are those who vote D in states that go D.
Everyone
else loses. (just reverse the letters with a R win).
That is a lot of losers... every single time. So the astonishing thing is not that our voter turn out in Presidential elections is so low.. but that it is so high considering just how many people ultimately lose.
posted by edgeways at 12:08 PM on April 18


That would be ideal, but it seems like an unattainable goal, especially at the federal level. While abolishing (or circumventing) the electoral college would be a far more marginal move toward fairness, it's one that stands a greater, but still minimal, chance of success.

I would think that the way to attain it, somewhat similar to this NPV project, is start attacking the problem at the state level and work on getting on some quorum of state governments to be proportionally representative first.

The thing is, if we're kept chasing around after marginal improvements in fairness all the time and always postpone actually addressing or even talking about the real fundamental problems in the structure of our democracy, we're never actually going to make progress: the various forces opposed to fairness will always be more agile in coming up with ways to roll back or compensate for any minscule success, IMO. Or even if we're simply wrong on average half of the time about whether a particular marginal change will really increase fairness, we'll just be treading water.
posted by XMLicious at 12:09 PM on April 18


Silver's article seems to want to have it both ways in arguing that only the deep blue states will ever sign on. On the one hand, he argues that these states have a strong incentive to change the system, while the purple states have an incentive to keep things as is. On the other hand, he argues that the deep red states will also fight it because "Republican legislators in those states evidently feel differently, or perhaps have calculated that the Democrats’ Electoral College advantage in 2008 and 2012 was an anomaly that will soon fade."

But you can't have it both ways. If there are national party concerns at work as well as state-level concerns, then those concerns could also be at work in purple states with Democratic legislatures -- legislatures which, just like their Republican counterparts in the deep-red states, might go against the short-term interests of their state in favor of the long-term national interests of their party. I don't think it's that unreasonable to think that a couple purple states with leaders who are responsible to the Democrats in that state (or who may have national ambitions) to sign on, particularly if the consequences remain deferred for now. (Though to be realistic, the converse -- a deep-red state legislature deciding it selfishly wants the income from greater national electoral attention -- is probably more unlikely in the near future, given how nationalized and far-right the Republican leadership already is in most deep-red states.)

The other important element is that this is a fairly ratchety policy: like multi-decade constitutional amendment movements, it's much easier to sign than unsign. All that's needed over the next decade or two is a few big purple states to go even briefly blue on the state level to make it possible (or, or course, an inversion of the 2000 election). Though given the debacle of 2010 redistricting, this might not happen until after 2020. But it's a long game.
posted by chortly at 12:15 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


The thing is, if we're kept chasing around after marginal improvements in fairness all the time and always postpone actually addressing or even talking about the real fundamental problems in the structure of our democracy, we're never actually going to make progress:

Yeah we will. Because marginal improvements are still progress.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:21 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


CA, FL, NY, TX, IL would suck the majority of money western Mid-west and most southern states would be froze out.

This is probably true, but TV airtime is cheaper away from the coasts. If you think about it in terms of dollars per vote, suddenly advertising in Gainesville, Cheyenne and Amarillo becomes quite attractive.

If there ever is a national popular vote, I can guarantee you that every area of the nation will be bombarded with ads. No media market left behind!
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 12:22 PM on April 18


I mean, isn't it? It seems pretty obvious that major urban centers, with the highest populations, overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

That's true - if you could line up the entire populations of the 59 largest urban areas, you'd have a majority. But you'd have a hard time convincing everyone in every city from Dayton on up to vote the same way.

Just because the urban centers have the highest populations doesn't mean they make a majority with them. Sure, Chicago, New York and LA are liberal. But their metro areas regress to the mean. If all of the NY metro area had to vote for a governor, Chris Christie could easily win. People in the suburbs tend toward the center, and every urban area in the country has more suburbanites and big city-dwellers.
posted by fitnr at 12:29 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


corb: It's in every conservative's best interest to fight tooth and nail against something that will guarantee them less representation.

The phrase you're looking for is "less over-representation." States don't vote, people do.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:05 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


more suburbanites than big-city-dwellers.
posted by fitnr at 1:09 PM on April 18


yoink: In terms of changing the D vs. R outcome, this proposal will have minimal effect. Where it has a very large effect is on the nature of the campaign. It takes away "strategic" campaigning in "battleground" states and makes every voter in the country of equal significance. Presidential candidates will no longer be held hostage by the quirks of regional issues in swing states (corn subsidies for Iowa, loony-tunes Cuba policy for Florida etc.) and will instead seek to campaign on issues that appeal to the largest total percentage of the national vote.

Yeah, this. I don't see how anyone could look at this and not see the benefit of candidates being forced to appeal to more than just Suburban Ohio and Florida voters who decide elections in our current climate. I live in swing-y Pennsylvania, but if I lived in Texas, New York, or heck, even Wyoming I'd be all over this. It's not like it could get any worse in terms of irrelevance to the outcome.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:12 PM on April 18


Regarding the idea that this is a liberal plot, the last four Democratic wins have been exaggerated by the Electoral College. Barack Obama won 52.9% and 51.1% of the popular vote in his elections, but 67.8% and 61.7% of the electoral vote. Bill Clinton won 43.0% and 49.2% versus 68.8% and 70.4%. W, on the other hand, won 47.9% and 50.7% versus 50.4% and 53.2%. Obama, in particular, won a lot of close states that bulked up his EC total without doing much to the popular vote margin.
posted by aaronetc at 2:17 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I think this could actually backfire on the Democrats who seem to be the NVP's most ardent backers.

As it is, GOP presidential candidates have very little incentive to spend any money in California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, or Massachusetts, as all of them went for Obama by double-digit margins and would likely do so in the future. That's 141 votes, more than half of what a candidate needs to win. By contrast, there are only two states that voted for Romney by more than the same margin that Washington did: Tennessee and Texas, a total of 49 votes.

Here's the thing about that: right now, the GOP has very little incentive to campaign at all in any of the dark blue states listed above. That's 141 votes they can basically ignore, focusing on the states below Wisconsin on this list. There are like 352 votes there, the vast majority of them.

But this means that the 4.2 million votes Romney got in California (1) did jack squat for him overall, and more importantly (2) were obtained despite very little attention being paid to the state by the national campaign. If the GOP candidate were to improve his take by just 2% in California, he'd pick up about 200,000 votes--almost as many as were cast in Wyoming total!

I don't think that's an unrealistic outcome, particularly if the campaign finance reform advocates are right. If the GOP shifted its campaign spending away from less-populated states--most of which are deep Red--and towards more-populated states--most of which are deep Blue--it only stands to reason that they'd see at least some improvement there. As it is, there's no incentive to do that, as picking up an extra million votes wouldn't have mattered a damn. But under the NVP, the GOP could drastically scale back its spending in most of the deep Red states, which don't have all that many people in them and were going to send a majority of their votes to the GOP anyway, in favor of spending that money in the attempt to prove their share of the vote in large population Blue states. Improving the GOP take by just 2% in the list of Blue states above would close the gap by 2 million votes. The difference in 2012 was less than 6 million.

By contrast, if the DNC did the same thing in strongly Republican states, they'd pick up a much smaller number.

I'm not sure I care one way or the other, but I wonder if the people who are actually voting on this thing are doing the math properly.
posted by valkyryn at 3:05 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Maybe the people voting for it have goals beyond what will directly benefit their own political party.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:09 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


valkyryn: By contrast, if the DNC did the same thing in strongly Republican states, they'd pick up a much smaller number.

This is where I think you whiffed on your analysis. The Democrats aren't going to be trying to push up their turnout in the GOP states, they're going to be trying to push up their turnout in all states. An extra vote in New York is the same as an extra vote in Wyoming, except they're probably easier to get in New York because the mushy middle of reachable voters who aren't already on the team is going to be more receptive to a blue state message.

Likewise, the GOP probably isn't going to necessarily try to push up their CA turnout that much, because that might force them to moderate their message to appeal to CA Republicans, who are going to bemore centrist than Wyoming Republicans. They'll surely be on the air in markets where they haven't been before, but they're going to have to focus on where the gettable voters are given what their platform is. You can only get away with so much moderating the message for the audience. Right now, they all moderate their national message to whatever plays best in the swing states -- under an NPV scheme, they'd probably have to settle on something that can get votes wherever they're needed, which might mean some subtle change in their positions, which could be a good thing.

I'm not saying there won't be some unintended consequences, but I think you have to account for the message itself changing, which could mean a party loses some in one area but gains more in another.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:11 PM on April 18


If this were enacted, it would overwhelmingly skew the presidency for the Ds. It's in every conservative's best interest to fight tooth and nail against something that will guarantee them less representation.

On the other hand, if this is true:

I read something somewhere that said that if the Democratic national party could get 8% more hispanic voters in Harris County, (that's the county that Houston, TX is in,) -- they could all but guarantee that Texas would become a blue state.

We might be on the verge of a demographic shift that would give the Democrats a near-lock on the Electoral College, in which case changing the EC rules might be the Republicans' only chance to win the presidency for a long time.
posted by straight at 4:21 PM on April 18


"Might" being the operative word. People are always forecasting the coming [X] majority.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:49 PM on April 18


I'm not sure I care one way or the other, but I wonder if the people who are actually voting on this thing are doing the math properly.

Some of us think it is the right thing to do regardless of which party stands to benefit.
posted by yoink at 5:52 PM on April 18


It's in every conservative's best interest to fight tooth and nail against something that will guarantee them less representation.

This logic would seem to indicate that a right-wing coup would also be in every conservative's best interest. Those of us who believe that democracy is a good thing even when we don't get what we want may not wish to subscribe to it.
posted by howfar at 6:48 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Until very recently, I lived in Ohio--THE swing state.

I guess it was nice knowing that my vote mattered in Presidential elections more than someone in, say, California. But really, what does Ohio get out of being a swing state?

I would argue absolutely nothing. We get barraged by ads on radio, TV, and on billboards. We have to deal with traffic rerouting during rush hour because the president is campaigning at a church near where we work (this happened to me in 2004 and I was late to work and I am still mad about it).

It's great for those who own radio stations and TV stations in Ohio. They rake in some serious cash. But what about the rest of us? Ohio delivered Bush the presidency in 2004. Did he funnel excessive federal funds to us? As far as I can tell, no. Same with Obama. He won Ohio both times, which pretty much locked up both of his election bids. Did Obama reward Ohio in any way? If so, I can't see it.

I'm not saying presidents should reward the swing states that elect them. That would be messed up. But every election cycle I hear people in solidly-Democratic or Republican leaning states saying how much fun it must be to be in Ohio, because of all the electoral drama. And I'm just like, no. It's aggrivating and depressing and we get nothing out of it.
posted by mcmile at 8:19 PM on April 18


Counties don't vote, people do. Counties can't want or favor things.

By that argument we should get rid of all political units smaller than the nation (which we could rename The United State of America, I suppose). There are plenty of reasons why a low population county or a state has interests (economic or otherwise) that differ from a more populated county or state. Simply saying "one person, one vote" sounds nice and fair, just like a flat tax does, while eliding all the reasons why more complicated representation (or taxation) can have good outcomes.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:56 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


Dip Flash: There are plenty of reasons why a low population county or a state has interests (economic or otherwise) that differ from a more populated county or state.

Yes, but there are zero good reasons to allow the interests of the voters in that county or state special representation above voters elsewhere. Disproportional representation is disenfranchisement -- full stop.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:25 PM on April 18


If the switch ever happens it would be an incredible third major lifetime accomplishment for John Koza. In addition to proposing the Intestate Compact, Koza pioneered a lot of Genetic Algorithm research and invented the Scratch-Off Lotto ticket.
posted by creade at 10:30 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


One good thing about the present system is that people in Ohio can only absorb so many tv ads. So you quickly hit diminishing marginal retuns on political money spent. If every vote matters, it suddenly matters if you have 2 billion rather than 1 billion to spend. It could make the problem of money in politics even worse.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 4:15 AM on April 19


The National Popular Vote
...[I]t’s instructive that while all 50 states have an independent executive and for better or worse 49 states have also chosen to copy the bicameralism of Congress, none has copied the electoral college. And no other liberal democracy uses it either. This makes sense, since given modern democratic norms it’s utterly indefensible. It was premised on two key assumptions (nonpartisan elections and the need to substantially filter popular control over representatives) that are are not only anachronistic in 2014 but we so immediately untenable it’s very likely that a constitutional convention meeting in 1802 would have chosen popular vote to elect the president.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:45 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


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