Dump the Electoral College
November 10, 2016 1:22 PM   Subscribe

The National Popular Vote Twice out of the last five elections, and five times total, the candidate who won the majority of the popular vote lost the election for president. In the last election, almost all of the campaigning for president happened in just 12 "swing" states. If you are not in one of those states, your vote for president doesn't matter very much. This is because of the way that states send their electors to the electoral college, where (except in Maine and Nebraska), all of the electors of a state are allocated "winner take all". But it doesn't have to be that way. The Constitution (and Supreme Court) has left it up to the states to decide how to choose their electors, as long as they do not discriminate. They can do it any way that they want. Ten states (CA, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA), plus DC, with 165 electoral votes have signed onto the National Popular Vote. If states with 105 more electoral votes sign on it takes effect. It essentially does away with the power of the electoral college and moves to the winner of the popular vote becoming president.

To do that, normally, would require a constitutional amendment, which is near impossible to get passed. However, the National Popular Vote works around that by having the states work together to decide how to allocate their electoral votes. Once 270 electoral votes worth of states sign on (called the "member states"), then what the other states do is irrelevant, because the member states will be enough to make it the law of the land. The way it works is that after an election, the winner of the popular vote of the entire U.S. will get ALL of the member states electoral votes. This ensures that whoever wins the popular vote will win the election (barring "faithless electors"). Washington State passed this as RCW 29A.56.300, to see one example of how it is written up.

The National Popular Vote has passed at least one house in states worth another 95 electoral votes at one time or another, most recently in Arizona. Will it ever be implemented? Nate Silver doesn't think so. However, it has broad bi-partisan support (Howard Dean and Newt Gingrich both support it), since it helps Republicans in blue states and Democrats in red states, and essentially everyone not in a swing state. What if there was a push to elect (or re-elect) any candidate for state legislature, regardless of party, as long as they agreed to get this passed? The only way to get this to happen is to try. If you support this, write your state legislators.

As an aside, State winner-take-all statutes affect where federal dollars wind up. Swing states receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states. They also receive twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

Previously. Pre-Previous. Previouslier.
posted by Xoc (181 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
 
Electoral College: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19
https://www.change.org/p/electoral-college-electors-electoral-college-make-hillary-clinton-president-on-december-19
posted by GernBlandston at 1:32 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


In the meantime, is there any reason that those states can't shift to the Nebraska/Maine system?
posted by parliboy at 1:37 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Nate Silver doesn't think so.

Well then it must be true.
posted by beerperson at 1:39 PM on November 10, 2016 [27 favorites]


I'm skeptical that this will catch on in enough states to make a difference. There's obviously no incentive for any swing state to sign on, but a lot of the EVs required to pass the 270 barrier are currently tied up in swing states.

On top of that, most red state legislatures are well aware that implementing this would essentially lock the GOP out of the white house. They're not going to sign on, either.

That said, I definitely support the Compact.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:40 PM on November 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


In the meantime, is there any reason that those states can't shift to the Nebraska/Maine system?

Because that would only dilute their already non-existent electoral power.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:40 PM on November 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


"...and five times total, the candidate who won the majority of the popular vote lost the election for president..."

To be more detailed, it's four times from the Electoral College (1876, 1888, 2000, 2016), and one time from the House of Representatives (1824).

Even more interesting, in all four cases that were decided by the Electoral College, the Republican won the Presidency while the Democrat won the popular vote. In the 1824 case, both the winner and the loser were Democratic-Republicans.
posted by mystyk at 1:43 PM on November 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'd speculate that by the time the US is ready to do away with the Electoral College people will already be mostly shifted to some new collaborative citystate model that will essentially do away with states altogether. So, maybe 700 years?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:44 PM on November 10, 2016 [12 favorites]


In the meantime, is there any reason that those states can't shift to the Nebraska/Maine system?

No, but such a system is subject to even more manipulation not less through gerrymandering. This would also be bad for Democratic candidates, at least if partially adopted. Imagine California's votes split based on congressional district, for example.

Pedantic nitpick: Only in 1876 did the losing candidate win a majority of the popular vote. In the others listed, the losing candidate achieved a plurality, but not a majority.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 1:44 PM on November 10, 2016 [15 favorites]


"In the meantime, is there any reason that those states can't shift to the Nebraska/Maine system?"

Because with all the gerrymandering (which largely benefits conservatives by ~30 seats, and protects in general far more seats than that), I'm sure that those ten liberal states are just *aching* to grant some of their electoral votes to conservatives...
posted by mystyk at 1:45 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


On top of that, most red state legislatures are well aware that implementing this would essentially lock the GOP out of the white house. They're not going to sign on, either.

Although, from the NPV website:
Most recently, the bill was passed by a bipartisan 40–16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House, 28–18 in Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate, 57–4 in Republican-controlled New York Senate, and 37–21 in Democratic-controlled Oregon House.
So don't despair quite yet.
posted by clawsoon at 1:45 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


So this sounds like another instance where leftists would have to organize on a local and state level to take control of statehouses and get bills signed into law--or better yet, state constitutions amended.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:46 PM on November 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy! The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy. Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble...like never before. Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us. We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!
--Donald J Trump, 2012.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:47 PM on November 10, 2016 [51 favorites]


"...another instance where leftists would have to organize on a local and state level..."

In other words, when pigs fly.
posted by mystyk at 1:48 PM on November 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


Back when they thought they were going to lose (i.e. Nov. 7th), the alt-Right thought this would be a good idea (link is to an alt-right site):
If you still need more convincing I would offer this relevant fact. The House of Representatives is made up of one representative per congressional district. Republicans lead 244 to 188; it isn’t even close. This strategy can utterly destroy the Democratic Party’s ability to compete on the national level.
posted by 445supermag at 1:48 PM on November 10, 2016


"...another instance where leftists would have to organize on a local and state level..."

Its happening on the local level in DC. Elissa Silverman has a machine going.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:49 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Obviously, any arbitrary system that fragments the vote by area can produce a result where the person with the most overall votes loses. All they need to do is win big in some places, lose narrowly in others.

Even if you proportionally allocate the college votes in each area between 1st and 2nd place, the quantization error in mapping the vote percentages to a small number of college votes (e.g. 4 in Maine, 5 in Nebraska) lets the wrong person win if the numbers are right.

For example Maine gave Clinton 3 times as many colege votes as Trump, but the vote tallies were roughly equal at 48% 45%.
Nebraska gave Trump 4 times as many college votes as Clinton, although he had less than twice as many votes as her.

The only simple solution is to make the Presidential race a national race based on total votes cast, with no fragmentation. The downside is that candidates could completely ignore certain low population states.
posted by w0mbat at 1:54 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


But even if states comprising the requisite number of EVs sign on to this, it could just be undone whenever there's a shift in power/outlook in any of the member states.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:56 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


So, would this have any teeth? What happens if an individual state/elector signs on, but decides to cast a vote that contradicts the popular vote outcome?

IIRC, the supreme court declared that states are allowed to enact laws that punish "faithless electors," but that those laws wouldn't necessarily invalidate their votes.
posted by schmod at 1:57 PM on November 10, 2016


Nate Silver doesn't think so.

Well then it must be true.


I dunno how I feel about Silver overall, but he was one of the few, if not the only, to give Trump a fighting chance to win this thing.
posted by Rumple at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2016 [19 favorites]


I'm prepared for this to be deleted both because it is not really on topic and its not as measured as I would like. But since getting rid of the electoral college is not a likely scenario I would like to see the popular vote as empowering a durable resistance to a Trump administration.
posted by Charles_Swan at 2:02 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


If we allocated electors proportionally, there's way less quantization error than allocating them in a winner-take-all fashion. And if we got rid of the 2 freebie electors per state, then you'd eliminate a further source of discrepancies between the electoral and popular votes.
posted by Jpfed at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


n electoral feature that fails to implement what the public wants is dangerous. The Electoral College is one. The manner of electing Senators another...

CA 39,144,818
TX 27,469,114
FL 20,271,272
NY 19,795,791
IL 12,859,995
============
about: 118 Million of 320M about 36% get 10 senators

WY 586,107
VT 626,042
AK 738,432
ND 756,927
SD 858,469
=========
about: 3.3 million of 320 about 1% get 10 senators.

See why it isn't a democracy, merely a republic? See why nothing gets done except endless war?

Dump the "Electoral College", then dump how Senators are elected, let's have a democracy rather than a masquerade.

Those who control politics in small population states have inordinate power and are abusing it to the majority's detriment.
posted by SteveLaudig at 2:04 PM on November 10, 2016 [16 favorites]


Clinton lost because she ignored Middle America. Having no Electoral College basically mean any future presidential candidates can safely ignore Middle America while pamper only to people on the coasts. Is this really a good idea?
posted by Carius at 2:06 PM on November 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


See why it isn't a democracy, merely a republic?

A republic is the better option. I do think the EC should be scrapped, but a pure democracy is not a good thing either. Tyranny of the majority is a real problem, and there do need to be mechanisms to prevent minorities from being crushed just because the majority wants it.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:08 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


[Folks, if we're going to have this thread, it needs to be only about the Electoral College system and not about the current election or Clinton/Trump stuff. That stuff should go in the current election thread.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:08 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


I mean the point of having the House and Senate is so that you have to both convince the majority of the population and the majority of the states in order to pass legislation

The electoral college functions differently, in that one can win the states but lose the popular vote and still get elected.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:11 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


So, would this have any teeth? What happens if an individual state/elector signs on, but decides to cast a vote that contradicts the popular vote outcome?

If I understand the setup correctly, the law instructs the elector what to do. The state can't "decide" to cast a vote differently unless it changes the law. The elector is in the same position as now: obey the law or act as a faithless elector, with whatever penalties might or might not ensue.

I poked around the site a little and didn't see an answer, but I would presume/hope that if enough states signed on to activate the compact and then one or more withdrew such that the total dropped below 270, the compact would deactivate again.
posted by Four Ds at 2:12 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having no Electoral College basically mean any future presidential candidates can safely ignore Middle America

I don't understand this argument because it's not even counterfactual to our current reality. Is anyone campaigning in Kansas these days? North Dakota? Which candidate campaigned hard in Minnesota? Did Montana get a lot of attention?

Moreover, the fact that no one lives there is a good reason to ignore those states. You could equivalently complain that people with last names starting with Q get less power than those starting with S, but you wouldn't fix that by giving all the Quintins 10x more voting power than the Smiths -- they have less power because they are fewer. That's the idea of one person, one vote!

The outcomes of the Electoral College are insane. It's a national office. You don't take a vote on where the office goes to lunch and then weight the response based on whether people were standing next to the coffee machine or the refrigerator when they voiced their opinion. If a very tiny minority of people simply lived in a different state this year, we'd have a completely different national President. What is the legitimacy derived from that?
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:19 PM on November 10, 2016 [79 favorites]


the civics lesson on why things are as they are in the USA.
posted by shockingbluamp at 2:21 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Carius: "Clinton lost because she ignored Middle America. Having no Electoral College basically mean any future presidential candidates can safely ignore Middle America while pamper only to people on the coasts. Is this really a good idea?"

The coasts may be culturally dominant, but honestly they're not as populous as you think. As of the 2010 census, 66 million people lived in the Midwest alone, excluding the South and the Mountain West. That's a fifth of the country. More than the Northeast's 53 million people, and more than the West Coast's 49 million.

In a popular vote election there's no way you could get away with just catering to the coasts.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:25 PM on November 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


In the meantime, is there any reason that those states can't shift to the Nebraska/Maine system?

They can, but there is no incentive. Swing states gets all the attention, and a split state proposal is asking the majority of that state to give up a lot of electing power for their side. The best solution is to go for the total votes, so states and the nation can relax on nail biters (like the famous one in Florida) where one district with anomalies won't halt the election and trigger an expensive recount because someone needs 30 more electoral votes to win.
posted by Brian B. at 2:26 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dump the Electoral College?

Viewed from outside, I think you also need to dump the rigid two-party, fixed-dates, kabuki-primary-rite, elect the dogcatcher as well as the prez, 5+ hour lineup, gerrymandering/vote-blocking stuff as well.

HTH.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:29 PM on November 10, 2016 [19 favorites]


the civics lesson on why things are as they are in the USA.

That video is nonsense. It fails to mention the relationship between the electoral college and the 3/5th compromise. Because EC votes were based partially on the number of slaves, protected the interests of citizens (white property-owning men) in slave states, who would have been at a disadvantage in the popular vote. Arguments that the EC was designed to allow a small group of electors would wisely pick the president are nonsense – the first contested election had proto-parties arguing for two main candidates.
posted by fitnr at 2:31 PM on November 10, 2016 [27 favorites]


In the meantime, is there any reason that those states can't shift to the Nebraska/Maine system?

posted by parliboy at 1:37 PM on November 10 [+] [!]


No practical reason that states couldn't do this, or, even allocate their EVs proportional to the overall state vote. In practice this would hurt republicans more than dems, and do so in states where Rs control state legislatures and governorships, and since the people it would hurt also make the rules . . . it wont happen.

The states going to proportional allocation of electoral votes is the obvious backdoor to getting rid of the electoral college without altering the constitution, though both are pretty much pie in the sky in terms of actually happening.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:34 PM on November 10, 2016


Ah, here's the Census Bureau's estimates of population in their various divisions in 2015:

New England Division: 14,727,584
Middle Atlantic Division: 41,556,307
East North Central Division: 46,787,011
West North Central Division: 21,120,392
South Atlantic Division: 63,276,764
East South Central Division: 18,876,703
West South Central Division: 39,029,380
Mountain Division: 23,530,498
Pacific Division: 52,514,181

The coasts (New England, Middle Atlantic, Pacific) are about 108 million (34%). 'Middle America,' or the rest of the country, is about 212 million (66%). No way you could ignore the 'flyover states' and just rack up the votes on the coasts -- there's just not enough people there.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:37 PM on November 10, 2016 [12 favorites]


Viewed from outside, I think you also need to dump the rigid two-party, fixed-dates, kabuki-primary-rite, elect the dogcatcher as well as the prez, 5+ hour lineup, gerrymandering/vote-blocking stuff as well.

All of these would require Constitutional amendments changing how elections operate (except for the primaries, but those are a function of the two party system that's a function of our single-member "first past the post" structure). As noted in the OP the National Popular Vote initiative is a mechanism to effectively do away with the Electoral College at the state level without trying to amend the Constitution, which is difficult in the best of times and almost certainly impossible under current political conditions.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:38 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


any reason that those states can't shift to the Nebraska/Maine system?

In practice this would hurt republicans more than dems

No, using House districts would hurt Dems more. In addition to the House being starkly gerrymandered in favor of the GOP, House districts have the same problem with clustering as the states do. The GOP has regularly won big majorities in the House while gaining fewer votes than the Dems.
posted by fitnr at 2:41 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Last week, I was riding with a coworker to a customer's office, and he started complaining how the Electoral College is rigged, and that it's how Trump isn't going to get elected so his vote won't even count, yadda yadda. I pointed out that it does give North Dakota a bit more power vs the electoral college in larger states, and he kind accepted that answer.

Today, however, he specifically pointed out that he likes the Electoral College because it helped Trump win -- like filibusters and vetoes, the group that wants to do away with it is the one who has less power because of it, but if things go the other way they're the ones defending it. Me, I voted Hillary, but I'm still not 100% convinced the Electoral College is horrible, maybe just needs some tweaking for fairness, since a representative government is what we've got.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:42 PM on November 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yes, let's continue to ignore middle America because "no one" lives there. That's worked great for us. This is exactly the same kind of rotten, condescending attitude that got us into this mess to begin with.

Imagine a demographically-flipped version of the USA: A larger number of conservatives, living on the coasts and in the cities, and a smaller number of liberals/progressives scattered in the rural/suburban areas. Would we want to abolish the electoral college then? The thing about majorities is that they aren't always right, and they don't always choose what's best for everyone. Democracy doesn't distinguish between good and bad outcomes.

As far as I can tell, the best solution is to continue to battle ignorance and hatred with the weapons of knowledge and love. But what do I know, I'm just another East Coast white liberal.
posted by zchyrs at 2:43 PM on November 10, 2016 [16 favorites]


the logic of the 3/5th compromise, originally devised to placate the Northers States w/o slaves, The Union was wholly agrarian however. Since then and post industrial revolution, the population has reversed to an urban society, thus, the math still works.
posted by shockingbluamp at 2:43 PM on November 10, 2016


Imagine a demographically-flipped version of the USA: A larger number of conservatives, living on the coasts and in the cities, and a smaller number of liberals/progressives scattered in the rural/suburban areas. Would we want to abolish the electoral college then? The thing about majorities is that they aren't always right, and they don't always choose what's best for everyone. Democracy doesn't distinguish between good and bad outcomes.

Of course whichever side benefits - or thinks it benefits, see Trump quote above - from the electoral system is not going to want to change it. That... doesn't actually mean it's a good idea though.
posted by atoxyl at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Another thing to consider, even though Hillary won the popular vote as things stand, the campaigns were run to win the EC. If we had the majority system, then Trump would have campaigned to win the majority and the popular vote may not have held (we'll never know).
On the other hand, never having lived where my vote matters, I've often wondered what it would be like to vote for the president, rather than cast a protest vote.
posted by 445supermag at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


the logic of the 3/5th compromise, originally devised to placate the Northers States w/o slaves

It was designed to placate the Southerners! The Northerners (who were also slave-holders, but to a far lesser degree), wanted 0/5ths. The Southerners wanted 5/5ths. They settled on a value that would keep the South competitive in the House and Presidency, because everyone knew that slavery would be a major fault line of the new country. Another relic of this mindset is article I section 9, which bars Congress from touching the slave trade until 1808.
posted by fitnr at 2:55 PM on November 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


Like most things about federalism in the U.S. the EC certainly a mixed bag in its ultimate implication and of course every faction gets what they can out of it. I'm just inclined to be against it on principle because of the "sorry your vote doesn't mean anything" factor.

You know what I really want though is ranked choice voting.
posted by atoxyl at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


atoxyl: "ranked choice voting."

Australia has had ranked choice voting for a century and they still have a two-party system that's not so different from ours. I don't really see how it would solve or change anything.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:00 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Would we want to abolish the electoral college then?

Yes? Believing in democracy isn't the same thing as one's political alignment. One of the things both liberals and conservatives are supposed to believe in is the legitimacy of whomever is fairly elected, even if you still believe he's a shitbag and his policies are ridiculously bad and harmful.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:03 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


My boss can NOT understand this concept. This, and the fact that he appears to have voted for Trump, apparently because $250,000 doesn't go as far as it used to so raising taxes on him would discourage job creation, makes me really question his intelligence and sanity.
posted by janey47 at 3:03 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm proud of Washington for signing onto this. I see the advantages of representative democracy in some institutions, including equalizing the states in the Senate), but not the outmoded, outdated, and dysfunctional electoral college. It simply does not reflect popular will. It also offers an opportunity for faithless electors to disenfranchise the voters of their own state, as two Washington electors threatened to do this year. And it would stop the endless red and blue divvying of the USA every 4 years.
posted by bearwife at 3:12 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


atoxyl: "ranked choice voting."

Australia has had ranked choice voting for a century and they still have a two-party system that's not so different from ours. I don't really see how it would solve or change anything.


Ranked-choice voting's only advantage over FPTP is that it prevents unviable third parties from acting as spoilers. As soon as there exist more than two actually viable parties, the spoiler effect returns with a vengeance. This means that in practice ranked choice systems tend to two parties, or two coalitions of parties — whenever a third party starts to come to prominence, they introduce enough chaos for the system to start yielding effectively random results, and then either a new coalition forms or people get skittish and go back to voting to the pre-existing main two parties.

The electoral system I personally stan for is approval voting. It's easy to explain, it actually does in most cases reduce spoiler effects, and implementing it doesn't even require changing from extant ballots. Under approval voting, you look at your ballot and then you vote for all of the candidates you approve of, without ranking them.

It's not perfect, but it's significantly less prone to spoiler effects than than ranked-choice is, and it's significantly easier to explain than the technically better options — i.e. Condorcet's method, which involves voters ranking their choices and tabulators then determining the winners by a series of pairwise comparisons between candidates. It's a sound method, but god help you if you want to write a schoolhouse rock song explaining it.

We will never have approval voting in the United States, because (now more than ever) democracy will never come to the United States. But, next time you're out with a large group of people and they can't decide on where to go for lunch or dinner, consider using approval voting to make your decision.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:17 PM on November 10, 2016 [26 favorites]


Can we vote to have the electoral college back for reals? As in, we vote for electors and they pick the president? I would take that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:19 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


It was designed to placate the Southerners!
oops...yes, right. Mis-wrote that.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:19 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Which candidate campaigned hard in Minnesota? ... Moreover, the fact that no one lives there is a good reason to ignore those states.
There are over 5 million people in Minnesota (roughly 3 million votes are cast) and Clinton won by only 1.5 percent. Our last gubernatorial election triggered a mandatory recount because it was so close as did the 2008 Senate race where Franken finally won.
posted by soelo at 3:19 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean, they pick him for real from a list of candidates, and it isn't just a stupid proxy vote.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:20 PM on November 10, 2016


There's an old podcast episode about how the number in the House of Representatives was capped at 435. But if you look at the old proportional values, it should really be more like 900, with many cities having multiple Representatives.

We're still so focused on agrarian crap when more and more people live in cities. Imagine having 5 reps just from New York City.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:26 PM on November 10, 2016 [19 favorites]


Australia has had ranked choice voting for a century and they still have a two-party system that's not so different from ours. I don't really see how it would solve or change anything.

It is very satisfying being able to vote for your third party candidate without screwing things up altogether. I can vote Greens knowing that my preferences go to Labor. And in some electorates those third party candidates do get seats and then the big two have to work with them.
posted by kitten magic at 3:27 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Viewed from outside, I think you also need to dump the rigid two-party,...

The states are allowed to choose their method of selecting representatives, but they aren't experienced with other methods besides land allotments, which leads to winner-take-all and the two party system. Alternatively, with minimal changes, we could instead dump the idea of little parties hopping on the ballot hoping to get 5% of the votes in order to qualify for federal funding. This usually fails but creates the spoiler effect from a voter dilemma of wanting third parties to get funded. The alternative would be to have a column on the ballot where each voter selects funding to a registered party, as it is on the tax forms now (but not anonymous). This means they can safely vote, but also insure funding to any party directly without gambling on a wasted vote. A third-party then should not be eligible to be on the ballot until its previous voter funding sources were listed in second place, and they would have an election cycle to prepare for it. Currently, third-parties are the constant election scandals that people look proudly on, not fully realizing that as spoilers they are undemocratic flaws in the system.
posted by Brian B. at 3:33 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Australia has had ranked choice voting for a century and they still have a two-party system that's not so different from ours. I don't really see how it would solve or change anything.

Speaking of Australia, it has a parliamentary system, and therefore their head of government is not elected by the people, but by the members of the House of Representatives. Ditto Canada, the UK, Germany (their presidential election is even weirder).

The president of France is elected by the popular vote, but they also do run-offs.

Basically, there's nothing inherently "correct" about deciding on a head of government via popular vote. The historical reasons for the structure of the American electoral college are hinky, but the historical reasons for the existence of America are hinky too. The electoral college might need tweaks*, but it is not an inherently flawed system in the 21st century.

*Do electors really have to actually vote? why not just assign points and the team with 270 points wins? Then no one has to stress about faithless electors.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:38 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is one of the best post I've ever read on MetaFilter.
posted by huron at 3:39 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Brian B, I appreciate your response. It will take me some time to completely get it.

But my broad point is that there's things wrong with the whole US system that tweaking the Electoral College won't address. How did you end up with a broadly unpopular yet nominally qualified candidate running against a buffoon... and the buffoon won? What is happening that these two topped the list? An election where the least-qualified candidate wins, mostly because of perceived "outsider" status, is symptomatic of an inadequate, unsatisfying system.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:52 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


*Do electors really have to actually vote? why not just assign points and the team with 270 points wins? Then no one has to stress about faithless electors.

IIRC one or two states have it set up where the elector's vote is a formality, and if they don't vote in line with the results of the election, their vote is voided.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:52 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


The only way this will happen is if white men figure out how to asexually reproduce with absolute gender-selection capability.
posted by googly at 3:55 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


The linked site is all videos, and ain't nobody got time for that.

How is this enforced? Here's what I see happening:

1) An election is held

2) The Yellow candidate gets a majority of the popular vote, while the Purple candidate wins the right combination of states to win the popular vote.

3) Legislatures in Purple states convene emergency sessions in Mid-November 2015. While they Respect Democracy, this particular Yellow candidate is uniquely horrible and corrupt, representing a special threat to American Freedom unlike anything that's ever come before. So, to protect America from Certain Doom, they're going to reluctantly withdraw from the compact.

4) The purple candidate wins the electoral college and the presidency.

Do other states have any recourse against the faithless states? How can they?

Would you, right now, trust Alabama, Texas, Utah, or (insert favorite Red State here) to spend the next month not changing their rules to avoid voting for Clinton?
posted by Hatashran at 3:57 PM on November 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


sparklemotion: "Speaking of Australia, it has a parliamentary system, and therefore their head of government is not elected by the people, but by the members of the House of Representatives. Ditto Canada, the UK, Germany (their presidential election is even weirder)."

I'm certainly not ruling out all forms of electoral reform: I think a parliamentary system could be a real improvement over our presidential system, and I also like the idea of proportional representation (possibly something like Germany & New Zealand's mixed-member proportional system).

I just don't think ranked choice voting really changes anything -- as kitten magic says, it is emotionally satisfying to be able to vote for your preferred candidate, but it seems to me that it doesn't lead to the rise of stable third parties. Likewise approval voting has not proven particularly successful or popular in the few instances it has been tried on a large scale (the Wikipedia article has some interesting discussion of its use to elect Dartmouth trustees). Ultimately I don't think the voting system really matters as long as you have single-member districts.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:01 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


One thing I'm wondering - what if the EC remained take all as it is, but there would be one cut-off points, like some primaries? Above, say, 65% it's a take-all state, under it, the losing side takes like one third of the EC votes. How much would that change the distribution on the past elections (obv ignoring that they were played without cut-offs)?

(not arguing for merits of the idea, btw. just shower thoughts)
posted by lmfsilva at 4:04 PM on November 10, 2016


In all four cases that were decided by the Electoral College, the Republican won the Presidency while the Democrat won the popular vote. In the 1824 case, both the winner and the loser were Democratic-Republicans.

Motherfucking.
posted by rokusan at 4:06 PM on November 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yes, let's continue to ignore middle America because "no one" lives there. That's worked great for us. This is exactly the same kind of rotten, condescending attitude that got us into this mess to begin with.

The timing of this post does seem a bit bitter. Everyone's interest in this always waxes when 'their team' loses an election this way, but nobody cries out when it plays to their advantage.

Few seem to keep in mind that you can't apply new rules to a past result. If this was the system, campaigns would have been different. You can't assume Tuesday's popular vote would have been the same if winning the popular vote was the goal.
posted by rokusan at 4:11 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


The EC isn't going anywhere, this is a complete waste of time. The left should be cleaning house at the DNC and working to bring the various groups on the left together to prepare for 2018 and 2020. Because the 2020 is when maps get redrawn and you gotta win that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:14 PM on November 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


>> In all four cases that were decided by the Electoral College, the Republican won the Presidency while the Democrat won the popular vote. In the 1824 case, both the winner and the loser were Democratic-Republicans.

>> Motherfucking.

To be fair, though, only two of the losers were southern motherfucking democratic-republicans.

Also one of the southern motherfucking democratic-republicans on the losing side would later win the presidency. And as far as I can tell, that guy is the only president in American history who was anywhere near as unhinged, stupid, and violent as the guy we just elected.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:18 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a fantastic little book called How Democratic is the American Constitution that opened my eyes to the massive flaws in the electoral college and senatorial distribution systems (along with providing me with a healthy hatred for our presidential, rather than Prime Minister system for a head of state).

Check it out!
posted by latkes at 4:34 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


There's an old podcast episode about how the number in the House of Representatives was capped at 435. But if you look at the old proportional values, it should really be more like 900, with many cities having multiple Representatives.

It should be several thousand representatives. But it's hard to see how such a large group of people could work well together without a lot of assisting technology.
posted by michaelh at 4:38 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


There is so much, "Be realistic! Nothing will change!" in this thread; it's exhausting. How easy to be the one who keeps repeating, "we can never do it, so give up". What a delightfully easy way to be right! The benefit of nay-saying any discussion of meaningful change is, you can easily do it from the comfort of your couch.

Trump just proved that impossible change does happens. Guess what else used to feel impossible? Women voting. Abolishing slavery. If you're over 40, you remember when gay marriage felt so impossible that few people even hoped or campaigned for it. It was not even on the table 20 years ago.

Radical change happens. When we fight for it.
posted by latkes at 4:38 PM on November 10, 2016 [42 favorites]


Given that a majority of smaller states would have to sign onto implementing a revised system that would diminish the effective power of smaller states, this has less chance of passing than a system that awards the Presidency to the candidate with the biggest tits.
posted by delfin at 4:41 PM on November 10, 2016


The EC isn't going anywhere, this is a complete waste of time. The left should be cleaning house at the DNC and working to bring the various groups on the left together to prepare for 2018 and 2020. Because the 2020 is when maps get redrawn and you gotta win that.

So much this. They knew what the map was he entire time, and lost it. The message and the people picking the messenger is what has to change, not the map that already favors Republicans and give them no incentives to change it anyway.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:42 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would like to see the electoral college dismantled for several reasons. One is just a sense of fairness. I remember learning about it in civics class and being simply flabbergasted that your vote might not count. It's admittedly a naive notion, but it still eats at me. Another is that i think it depresses voting. How many people in Oklahoma didn't bother voting because they knew Trump had a lock - and I don't just mean democrats but trump supporters also. That has to hurt down ticket races.
posted by double bubble at 4:52 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


> Everyone's interest in this always waxes when 'their team' loses an election this way, but nobody cries out when it plays to their advantage.

What are you talking about? This has only happened twice in living memory, and both times it benefitted the Republican candidate: Once in 2000, and once in 2016.

The EC structurally benefits Republicans by systematically overrepresenting low-population rural states. There is no conceivable set of circumstances in which a Democratic candidate could benefit from it.
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 4:52 PM on November 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


While we're eating sky pie, I want to be able to vote for cabinet members and committee heads. I am not convinced even rural evangelicals would vote someone who say, has no scientific background as head of a science committee or secretary of the environment. Even in corporate America a CFO for example is normally going to have an accounting background.

Or shit, make them pass an organic chem test or something, and then show command of group dynamics in some test scenario.

.... Not really. Really I want to be president, have all y'all vote for me and then declare a benevolent dictatorship.
posted by freecellwizard at 4:53 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Like, all this talk about how the EC is really ideologically neutral and not fundamentally flawed misses the facts on the ground.

The Electoral College means that the votes of people of color are worth less than the votes of white people, every single time. The fact that, sure, theoretically we can imagine rearranging the population so this isn't true is totally irrelevant, because in the real world, people are being silenced and we're seeing the effects of it now.

The EC should be eliminated not because of purely theoretical considerations about what it really means for a democracy to be fair or anything like that. It should be eliminated because it systematically produces terrible outcomes that hurt people.
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 4:56 PM on November 10, 2016 [36 favorites]


Fun fact - In the last 24 years, only one Republican candidate has won the popular vote in a presidential election.

It's gonna be a long time before Republicans will even consider jettisoning the EC.
posted by double bubble at 4:57 PM on November 10, 2016 [12 favorites]


It is not a defeatist statement to note that certain things will not happen in this place in the foreseeable future. Weeding out bad plans is a necessary prologue to carrying out good ones.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:58 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


In defense of the electoral college, there is some benefit because, in the event of a close election and recount, the recount is limited to certain areas. Could you imagine the chaos of 2000 if it spanned the entire country?
posted by BentFranklin at 5:15 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


The EC isn't going anywhere, this is a complete waste of time. The left should be cleaning house at the DNC and working to bring the various groups on the left together to prepare for 2018 and 2020. Because the 2020 is when maps get redrawn and you gotta win that.

It seems to me that part of 'cleaning house' in the DNC, would be to adopt measures that would bring in some kind of populist support. Adopting this as part of the platform would go a long way towards shedding that 'slightly less successful bloated plutocrats' image that the Dems have accreted.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:15 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


In defense of the electoral college, there is some benefit because, in the event of a close election and recount, the recount is limited to certain areas. Could you imagine the chaos of 2000 if it spanned the entire country?

Why are you giving me nightmares? That is so mean.
posted by double bubble at 5:31 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Imagine a demographically-flipped version of the USA: A larger number of conservatives, living on the coasts and in the cities, and a smaller number of liberals/progressives scattered in the rural/suburban areas. Would we want to abolish the electoral college then?

While we are doing hypotheticals, suppose we stay with the demographically-flipped version of the USA but had a national popular vote. If someone then proposed something like the electoral college, you would think they were insane. "You want us to weight things so that votes in CA count for less than votes in WY??"
posted by great_radio at 5:56 PM on November 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Random thought: Eliminating the electoral college and making the election be about the popular vote would probably make it harder to run for President, because instead of concentrating on half a dozen swing states you'd have to focus everywhere. That would almost certainly cost more money. Now I realize that this election has been a lesson in how money doesn't win elections, Jeb! and Hillary can attest to that, but it's still worth noting. If you don't like the influence money has on our elections, it might not be the way to go.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:59 PM on November 10, 2016


It's probably a good idea to invest a lot of effort into changing our electoral system, given the American public's notoriously long attention span.
posted by fraxil at 6:01 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


If we had a popular vote election it would completely change campaign strategy. The GOP gives up votes in some high population states like California and New York because there's no reason to campaign there. So it's possible that the popular vote winner in an electoral vote election would not be the popular vote winner in a popular vote election. The Gore and Clinton popular vote "wins" shouldn't be used as a reason to dump the current electoral vote process.
posted by republican at 6:02 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


No practical reason that states couldn't ... allocate their EVs proportional to the overall state vote.

Just for curiosity's sake, I applied this to the current election, for all states and DC.

The details: I first calculated fractional EVs for each candidate in each state based on the percentage vote in that state. It's not as simple then as rounding each of these to the nearest integer, as roundoff error can lead to the EVs for a state not adding up to the correct total. Instead, I initially rounded all numbers down, then allocated any remaining EVs from that state one per candidate in descending order by the fractional part of their vote. E.g., if the fractional numbers for a state with 23EVs were A-8.8 B-7.6 C-4.9 D-1.7, the final result would be A-9 B-7 C-5 D-2. (There's three extra EVs to be assigned after rounding down, which go to the three candidates with the highest fractional part: A(.8) C(.9) and D(.7) ) Equivalently, a cut-off point for rounding up or down is chosen independently for each state to make the EV total come out right. (In this example, .7 and up is rounded up, .6 or less is rounded down.) Vote percentages used were from the Wikipedia page at the time I did it, which may not be the final numbers since some states may have not reported final numbers yet.

Granted: that this would not be the actual result if this system were in place, as candidates would tailor their campaigns to this system; also, people might either be more or less likely to vote third-party under such a system (less, because a major-party vote is less likely to be seen as a wasted vote; or more, because third-party candidates are more likely to garner a few EVs, which might be seen as symbolically important).

The result? Trump-262, Clinton-262, Johnson-12, Stein-1, McMullin-1.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:03 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


i think a parliamentary system with proportional seating for parties with more than 5% is the way to go - suddenly, third parties become possible and relevent, minorities can be assured of true representaion and major parties have to make concessions to govern

of course, the downside is instability and inability to hold coalitions together
posted by pyramid termite at 6:03 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes, let's continue to ignore middle America because "no one" lives there. That's worked great for us. This is exactly the same kind of rotten, condescending attitude that got us into this mess to begin with.

You know, I grew up in the rural Midwest and still have lots of loved ones there and yet I'm so fucking sick of hearing this.

Why do we have to bend over backwards to try to take care of their concerns and their point of view when they don't give a god damn fuck about anything going on in urban areas beyond their own fear of a city that's in their own state that they've never visited?

While I appreciate the tendency that urban 'elites' should do better to understand their point of view, it's patronizing as hell to not expect the same in return.

A literal fascist has just been elected with hardly any checks and balances to contain him and he is staffing his transition team with people so awful even the Bush 2 White House wouldn't employ them.

The time for old solutions has passed.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:08 PM on November 10, 2016 [43 favorites]


In defense of the electoral college, there is some benefit because, in the event of a close election and recount, the recount is limited to certain areas. Could you imagine the chaos of 2000 if it spanned the entire country?

In the 1880 presidential election, the popular vote margin was just 1898 votes, out of nearly 9 million cast — about 0.02%. But the electoral vote was reasonably decisive, 214-155, and none of the states that went for Garfield, the winner, had a margin of less than 1%.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:12 PM on November 10, 2016


Once 270 electoral votes worth of states sign on (called the "member states"), then what the other states do is irrelevant, because the member states will be enough to make it the law of the land.

Huh? By what mechanism would that happen?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:15 PM on November 10, 2016


If they collectively control 270 electoral votes, they can collectively decide the president. The remaining states would not have enough votes to stop them.
posted by RobotHero at 6:18 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Is there some sort of compromise? Because the points about recounts and the potential to make it even more expensive are compelling. Should we drop the two freebies? Increase the number of electoral votes? Apportion them differently?
posted by double bubble at 6:26 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Huh? By what mechanism would that happen?

It does take a moment to make sense. Reminder: if this goes into effect it means that states controlling 270+ EVs have agreed that regardless of how the vote comes out in their state, all their EVs will go to whomever wins the popular vote nationwide. That means the winner of the nationwide popular vote wins with 270+ EVs. Even if that winner lost the popular vote in every single one of the states in the compact. That's the bit that will probably give the last state voting on joining the compact considerable pause.
posted by beagle at 6:33 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is there some sort of compromise? Because the points about recounts and the potential to make it even more expensive are compelling. Should we drop the two freebies? Increase the number of electoral votes? Apportion them differently?

At a guess, dropping the two Senate freebies would probably bring the final result in line with the national popular vote.

Rough back of envelope gives me Clinton 191, Trump 227. Doesn't actually change the outcome of this year's election, if applied retroactively, but the resulting number is a lot closer (30 point spread versus ~70), reflecting the closeness of the popular vote.

Rural states would still have disproportionate electoral power, but not as disproportionately.

That's all theoretical, though, nobody actually has an incentive to implement that change. And, unlike the Compact, it would need a constitutional amendment.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:48 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thanks everyone for a good discussion.
posted by Xoc at 6:49 PM on November 10, 2016


... the number in the House of Representatives was capped at 435... it should really be more like 900, with many cities having multiple Representatives... It should be several thousand representatives. But it's hard to see how such a large group of people could work well together...

I was thinking during the voting Tuesday that it's not the number of representatives that matters, it's the number of electoral votes. You should multiply everything by 100 – so that New Mexico, for example, would have 500 electoral votes, and New York 2,900. In this election, taking Ohio as an example (with now 1,800 electoral votes), Trump got 52.1% and Clinton 43.5%. Multiplying 1,800 by those percentages would give Trump 938 electoral votes. and Clinton 783 in Ohio. And you would need a total of 27,000 to win.

The winner-take-all system is the worst part. A Clinton voter in SD or TX, or a Trump supporter in CA or VT, knows her or his vote is meaningless from the start.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:54 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Turning a voter in Alaska would be more valuable than turning a voter in California.

Possibly counteracted by the winner-take-all system that 48 states use. Neither Alaska nor California tend to be particularly close. It's difficult to say whether a voter in a small swing state (e.g., NH) is more valuable than a voter in a large swing state (e.g., FL). If you look simply at total voters per EV, the small states have an advantage, but it might be more meaningful to look at margin of victory (I don't know, maybe averaged over the last N elections) per EV.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:56 PM on November 10, 2016


Is there some sort of compromise? Because the points about recounts and the potential to make it even more expensive are compelling.

The general margin of victory among 50 states would likely be greater than any one state would differ, so one state would not be on the hook at the last minute. It would also be more decisive, by way of unknown miscounts that tend to balance out. As for compromise, ideally we could just randomly choose 535 people from a tax computer and make them gather and elect a president inside of a week or two, with unlimited rounds of voting. Candidates could have gathered a million signatures from at least half the states to qualify. Choosing would include group interviews and many debates, all televised and subject to public polling. It would be fun, interesting, better, cheaper, and decisive. I would happily give up my right to vote, for a group from the general public to choose a president, so long as I was a potential juror too.
posted by Brian B. at 7:00 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Count me in the camp for eliminating the two "freebie" votes and keeping it otherwise the same. For a few reasons:

1) It's more proportional to population and thus more fair. For the most part, each person's vote would count just about the same as any other.

2) It keeps elections on the state level. Remember that there is no federal election office like there are in other countries. Going to a popular vote would necessitate the creation of one.

3) It still protects the smaller, less populated states. If a straight up popular vote came along there would be no reason not to just spend all your campaign funds in rural areas where you reach more voters with each advertising dollar.

4) What was already said about the recounts. It would contain Election Day mayhem and prevent Florida from messing up the vote everywhere.
posted by dances with hamsters at 7:01 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


It should be several thousand representatives. But it's hard to see how such a large group of people could work well together without a lot of assisting technology.

This is a solved problem. You just put them all in an enormous spherical room and put them in platforms that can float and fly around.
posted by Jpfed at 7:03 PM on November 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think the more important point is how the swing states influence the issues in an election. The president should care about the things important to a hand full of swing states, they have senators and representatives for that. The president should care about what the majority of Americans care about.
posted by VTX at 7:08 PM on November 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


Remember that there is no federal election office like there are in other countries. Going to a popular vote would necessitate the creation of one.

Elections are mostly run at the county or town level, with guidance and rule-setting at the state level, and some oversight and funding from the federal level (less now that the Voting Rights has been gutted). The NPVIC wouldn't necessitate any major change in our decentralized system.

It still protects the smaller, less populated states

The current system is terrible for smaller states as diverse as Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming and North Dakota. No national campaigning happens there. You can bet that under a popular vote there would be robust GOTV operations in those states (run by the state parties if not the campaigns).

This leads to one of the other perversities of the Electoral College – candidates can't effectively coordinate with Congressional races. In this election, Clinton faced the tough decision of focusing on her own prospects in swing states or taking the chance of helping senate candidates in safe states. Under a popular vote, every presidential vote is equally valuable, so presidential candidates will be encouraged to travel anywhere with competitive Congressional races.
posted by fitnr at 7:22 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


The current system is terrible for smaller states as diverse as Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming and North Dakota. No national campaigning happens there. You can bet that under a popular vote there would be robust GOTV operations in those states (run by the state parties if not the campaigns).

All the more reason to keep it that way. I have never heard a complaint from Rhode Island. No one hardly campaigns in Connecticut either save for a fund raising trip or two to the Gold Coast. We're pretty much left alone after the primaries. No 24/7 TV ads, no robocalls, no...

Now that I think about it, if the moderators could just go ahead and close this FPP, us New Englanders would much appreciate it.
posted by dances with hamsters at 7:31 PM on November 10, 2016


The general margin of victory among 50 states would likely be greater than any one state would differ, so one state would not be on the hook at the last minute.

At time of calling, the margin between Clinton and Trump this year was ~100,000. But when all the votes are in, it'll be a gap on the order of millions.

Not saying it's impossible to have a final margin of victory on the order of 100,000 that would cause recount issues to come up, but I don't think it's particularly likely. Whereas two out of the last five elections have triggered the "failure state" of the Electoral College by awarding the presidency to someone who lose the popular vote.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:36 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Random thought: Eliminating the electoral college and making the election be about the popular vote would probably make it harder to run for President, because instead of concentrating on half a dozen swing states you'd have to focus everywhere. That would almost certainly cost more money.

By that logic, we could have a focus group of, say, four hundred people, and make their votes the only ones that matter.

Limiting the number of people a candidate has to appeal to isn’t a good thing.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 7:39 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


It still protects the smaller, less populated states.

As fitnr said, most of these are solid red or blue, so no, it doesn't.

As far as the rural/urban divide goes, I think this is actually a red herring: the existing system doesn't actually protect true rural dwellers, and moving to a popular vote system would not make this situation any worse.

First, only around 15% of Americans live in urbanized areas with populations over 20K; most of the rest live in small towns ("urbanized" by the Census's definition but with a population under 20K). So you really can't win on just the major population centers in the USA if you go to a popular vote. (source)

And second, within a state there are already rural and urban areas, and yet they almost exclusively still use the popular vote to decide which candidate takes all of the EVs -- rural voters aren't upweighted at all.

I also think it's much fairer for people, rather than land, to vote, but that's a separate argument.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:41 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


The general margin of victory among 50 states would likely be greater than any one state would differ, so one state would not be on the hook at the last minute.

Should read: "..than any one contested state would differ,..."
posted by Brian B. at 7:51 PM on November 10, 2016


First, only around 15% of Americans live in urbanized areas with populations over 20K; most of the rest live in small towns ("urbanized" by the Census's definition but with a population under 20K). So you really can't win on just the major population centers in the USA if you go to a popular vote. (source)

Your source disagrees with your assertion:
There are officially two types of urban areas: “urbanized areas” of 50,000 or more people and “urban clusters” of between 2,500 and 50,000 people. For the 2010 count, the Census Bureau has defined 486 urbanized areas, accounting for 71.2 percent of the U.S. population.
posted by Etrigan at 8:02 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


We are looking for a holistic approach but maybe we need to shift focus.

There is an inherent problem we could never solve as long as most states use winner take all - certain states (California, Texas) will mask diversity. States with smaller populations tend to have a more cohesive electorate (Oklahoma, Vermont). What we need to be doing is looking for compelling reasons to convince the big uns to break with winner take all. How could we convince Texas it would be a good idea?
posted by double bubble at 8:06 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


What we need to be doing is looking for compelling reasons to convince the big uns to break with winner take all.

It's not big/small. Three of the six biggest states are in the NPVIC: California, New York, and Illinois. They all routinely go to the Democrat. The other three are Texas (routinely goes Republican), Florida (swing state), and Pennsylvania (swing state). You're not going to get Florida and Pennsylvania to give up their importance as swing states, and you're not going to get Texas to risk giving up its EVs to a Democrat (and the Democrat has won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential races, so it's a pretty big risk).

Demographic change will do it. That's the only compelling reason.
posted by Etrigan at 8:16 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


(By big uns I meant lots of electoral votes)
posted by double bubble at 8:19 PM on November 10, 2016


Yup, you're right, I totally misread that. Embarrassing. However, most of the population still lies outside the big coastal cities, and the Census urbanized areas includes a lot of pretty small cities (e.g., Burlington, VT) that are short distances from actually rural areas.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:21 PM on November 10, 2016


I feel like what I'm hearing is this is a mess that has entangled itself for far too long and it's likely never going to be unraveled. We are stuck with it.
posted by double bubble at 8:24 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


(as did I, double bubble)
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 PM on November 10, 2016


Imagine having 5 reps just from New York City

Worth noting that NYC currently has 11 representatives, and 13 if you count districts that overlap with Westchester and Nassau counties.
posted by thecaddy at 9:08 PM on November 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


While we're at it, don't forget that in 2012 and 1996, Democrats won the majority of the total House vote yet Republicans won control of the House. So that's two presidential inversions and two House inversions in the last 6 presidential elections.
posted by chortly at 9:18 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


If they collectively control 270 electoral votes, they can collectively decide the president. The remaining states would not have enough votes to stop them.

Duh. That makes sense. Thanks.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:35 PM on November 10, 2016


Larence O'Donnell is unsurprisingly not a fan of the EC.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 PM on November 10, 2016


Whenever I think about getting rid of the Electoral College I think to myself "well, that seems like a pretty good idea" and then I remember last June, when a simple majority vote with effectively no checks or balances in place pushed through a disastrous proposal, which was based on a misinformation campaign that so misled voters that people were genuinely surprised in the days following the election (as campaign leaders publicly admitted to their deception) and actually regretted their votes and wanted a do-over.

The current Electoral College may be weak and basically ineffective in many ways, but having worked at both large multinational companies and tiny, family-owned companies, I kind of think of it as being like the HR departments that all the big companies have. That is, not proactively making things the best they can be, but often the one flimsy thing that protects me from the tyranny and abuse of the manager/owner who makes and changes the rules as he goes just because he can and his employees can be happy with what he dishes out or find themselves out of a job.

I'm torn, because I think Trump is terrifying and I'm still hoping against hope for something to happen that will prevent the coming nightmare from happening. But I have a feeling that abandoning any kind of checks and balances system would have disastrous unintended consequences down the road.

And really, the problem is not the Electoral College. The problem is that DEMOCRATS DON'T VOTE. That is what we need to fix.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:10 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Maybe the problem is more people voted Democrat...
posted by Burhanistan at 11:11 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I kind of think of it as being like the HR departments that all the big companies have.

For the record, any help that any HR department provides to any employee is an accidental byproduct of the company not wanting to get sued. The EC doesn't have that excuse. It is purely and literally antidemocratic and has never prevented any tyranny.
posted by Etrigan at 12:06 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have a feeling that abandoning any kind of checks and balances system would have disastrous unintended consequences down the road

In what way is the electoral college part of checks and balances, though?
posted by en forme de poire at 2:45 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's probably best to not use misleading overall US population statistics to support moving to a popular vote election bias (both popular vote and the electoral college introduce electoral bias of some sort).

~24% of the U.S. population (2010 census) is under 18 (i.e. not voting age unless someone's violating the law). Folks trying to make a data-driven argument may want to re-run the numbers with the adult, voting population per-state to see if it's truly as "equal" & "representative" as they claim (I didn't do said exercise since I'm not the one quoting non-representative data).

I care not which electoral bias anyone supports, just don't misuse/misrepresent data — deliberately or naively — to support it. Accurate, data-driven arguments carry much more weight in the long run.

Even more appropro: show the full historical voting-age counts and percentages per-state then use the historical migration, procreation and longevity models developed by smart folks in gov and edu to perform a 4-, 8-, 12, …, 48-year (etc) forecasts for shifts to see if this bias pans out to be truly equal and representative over time.
posted by hrbrmstr at 4:04 AM on November 11, 2016


And really, the problem is not the Electoral College. The problem is that DEMOCRATS DON'T VOTE. That is what we need to fix.

Except that they do! They do, more than Republicans! Even in this election, with brand-new voter suppression laws on the books and a candidate they didn't like as much as the Republicans liked their guy! The Democrats will have won the popular vote by a margin of over a million! Winning a million more goddamned votes than their opponents says that Democrats sure as shit do vote.

The other guy won not because there are fewer Democratic voters but because our system doesn't weight everyone's vote equally. And that systematic bias at the moment works against the Democrats.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:20 AM on November 11, 2016 [23 favorites]


Another goal, and one that is likely more achievable, is to make the EC less relevant to elections.

The EC conflicts with the national popular vote most often because the formula for apportioning electors among states gets pulled out of whack by the 2 "freebie" electors each state gets to match up with the number of Senators each state has.

Thus, citizens in less populous states receive proportionally more representation than citizens in larger states.

One way to address that inequality is to look at the other half of the formula for apportioning electors: each state receives one elector to match up with each member of the House of Representatives.

The United States stopped growing the House in the early 20th century out of laziness. The House chamber was physically capping the number of representatives, and House leadership thought it would be too hard to get work done with too many members.

Too bad. Today, a Representative has to serve and speak for a constituency of more than 600,000 citizens, which is around 20 times the ratio at the country's founding.

Increase the number of Representatives, increase the amount of accountability Representatives have to their constituents, make it more difficult and expensive for interested parties to "buy" legislation, and appropriately increase the power that states with large populations have in the Electoral College.
posted by baltimoretim at 6:10 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Something like 7 million fewer Democrats showed up for this election than for the 2012 election. For Republicans, the number was under 2 million. When Democrats vote, Democrats win, and Republicans know that, which is why they work so hard on voter suppression.

Brexit was, and is, a disaster. When it happened, everyone was talking about how it was utter madness to allow something so big to be decided by a simple majority vote. They've been looking for ways to reverse that ever since, most recently by saying that any exit has to also be approved by Parliament. I'm guessing that won't work either, because they don't want to look like they're going against the will of the voters, which is generally a GOOD thing. If there is a system in place whereby an outcome of a vote can be overturned, it should be used only in an emergency. I think that a dangerous demagogue not winning the popular vote is just such a scenario where the electors shouldn't cast their vote for him. The GOP will say that's undemocratic though, because the electoral college, by giving some weight to lesser populated states, is a fairer system where rural voters have their voices heard. And if the tables were turned, and the coastal and heavily populated areas were predominantly conservative, with the smaller rural areas being mainly liberal, liberals would absolutely want the same thing.

The Electoral College is pretty useless if the ability for electors to change their vote in extraordinary circumstances such as this is never utilized, but if anyone thinks that a simple majority vote wouldn't be open to a million disastrous consequences in our current system, they're dreaming.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:27 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


but if anyone thinks that a simple majority vote wouldn't be open to a million disastrous consequences in our current system, they're dreaming.

Nothing about the vote changes, except that participation likely increases. Only the final part is lost, where it is converted to winner-take-all by skewed state representation. That's where the problems occur, including the significant probability of a tie. If fifty states certify their elections, then whoever wins should be president.
posted by Brian B. at 6:44 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Assuming no voter suppression or other interference, which already happens. I agree that participation would likely increase.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:52 AM on November 11, 2016


For people who say the electoral college is a check against some crazy popular vote outcome, when has the electoral college actually functioned that way?
posted by latkes at 7:15 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Something like 7 million fewer Democrats showed up for this election than for the 2012 election.

That's not true. You're only looking at ballots that have already been counted. There are about 5 million ballots left to count in CA and WA alone, two heavily democratic states. Clinton is still likely to fall short of Obama's 2012 total, but not by anywhere near 7 million votes.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:26 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Something to keep in mind about popular vote totals is that not all votes are counted with the current system. That would have to change if the US switched from an electoral college election to a popular vote election:

"... she’s probably not going to win the actual number of votes cast. She may win the number of votes counted, but not the votes cast.

States don’t count their absentee ballots unless the number of outstanding absentee ballots is larger than the state margin of difference. If there is a margin of 1000 votes counted and there are 1300 absentee ballots outstanding, then the state tabulates those. If the number of outstanding absentee ballots wouldn’t influence the election results, then the absentee ballots aren’t counted.

Who votes by absentee ballot? Students overseas, the military, businesspeople on trips, etc. The historical breakout for absentee ballots is about 67-33% Republican... "


http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/11/hillary_wins_the_popular_vote__not_.html
posted by republican at 7:43 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


If this election result told us anything, it's that people have been and still are way too willing to think of the voting public as being segregated into groups like "coastal liberals" or "middle America" or whatever other category implies that all the liberals live in one place while all of the conservatives live somewhere else. Don't we all know this isn't true?

Our entire nation is diverse in opinion and lifestyle. Every person is an individual with their own mind to make up. But the electoral system encourages voters and candidates to think of themselves as being in a red state or a blue state or a swing state. That affects the way people vote and whether they even bother to vote at all. Who knows how many more people would vote, or how they would vote, if they believed every vote actually mattered?

Every state is some shade of purple. That graphic is based on the 2008 election, but the point remains.
posted by wondermouse at 7:59 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wrote my state representative and senator to sponsor or support a national popular vote bill. I urge others to do likewise.
posted by jedicus at 8:08 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


i understand that statistically, it's unlikely to change the outcome - but not counting certain categories of votes seems undemocratic. i'm back to the it's just not fair argument.
posted by double bubble at 8:17 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


States don’t count their absentee ballots unless the number of outstanding absentee ballots is larger than the state margin of difference. If there is a margin of 1000 votes counted and there are 1300 absentee ballots outstanding, then the state tabulates those. If the number of outstanding absentee ballots wouldn’t influence the election results, then the absentee ballots aren’t counted.

I believe this is flat-out incorrect, and I would need a better cite than an article in "American Thinker" before I accepted it. At least in my state, all absentee ballots are counted regardless of whether they could affect the outcome. Now, it might take several days after the election to complete the official count, and it will be completely ignored by the media if it doesn't affect the outcome, but it does happen and the results are posted on the Secretary of State's website. If what the quote suggests actually happens in some state, show me evidence of that from the state itself.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:41 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


The google says you are correct!
posted by double bubble at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2016


hrbrmstr: "~24% of the U.S. population (2010 census) is under 18 (i.e. not voting age unless someone's violating the law). Folks trying to make a data-driven argument may want to re-run the numbers with the adult, voting population per-state to see if it's truly as "equal" & "representative" as they claim (I didn't do said exercise since I'm not the one quoting non-representative data)."

I genuinely don't understand what your point is here, or even what you're responding to. Are you trying to suggest that population change over time is going to mean that some states will have more voters and others will have fewer? I'm not really sure how that's a form of 'bias.'

And it's apropos, not appropro.
posted by crazy with stars at 8:45 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


States don’t count their absentee ballots unless the number of outstanding absentee ballots is larger than the state margin of difference. If there is a margin of 1000 votes counted and there are 1300 absentee ballots outstanding, then the state tabulates those. If the number of outstanding absentee ballots wouldn’t influence the election results, then the absentee ballots aren’t counted.

I believe this is flat-out incorrect, and I would need a better cite than an article in "American Thinker" before I accepted it. At least in my state, all absentee ballots are counted regardless of whether they could affect the outcome. Now, it might take several days after the election to complete the official count, and it will be completely ignored by the media if it doesn't affect the outcome, but it does happen and the results are posted on the Secretary of State's website. If what the quote suggests actually happens in some state, show me evidence of that from the state itself.


Yeah the American Thinker article is utter bullshit, as might be expected. From myohiovote.com:

"absentee ballots are the first votes counted on Election Night"
posted by e1c at 9:25 AM on November 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Considering that 1876 election, in which Tilden received the majority of the popular vote but lost the electoral college, it's obvious the Democratic Party was a whole different deal back then, from Wiki:

"The Democratic strategy for victory in the South was highly reliant on paramilitary groups such as the Red Shirts and the White League. Using the strategy of the Mississippi Plan, these groups actively suppressed black and white Republican voter turnouts by disrupting meetings and rallies and even using violence and intimidation. They saw themselves as the military wing of the Democratic Party."

Also, we could apply something about Presidential campaigning that would potentially make our elections a lot more palatable:

"Because it was considered improper for a candidate to pursue the presidency actively, neither Tilden nor Hayes actively stumped as part of the campaign, leaving that job to surrogates."
posted by e1c at 9:40 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Condorcet's method, which involves voters ranking their choices and tabulators then determining the winners by a series of pairwise comparisons between candidates. It's a sound method, but god help you if you want to write a schoolhouse rock song explaining it.

You know, while I am definitely not one of them, there are a lot of talented musicians here on MeFi who would probably love a constructive challenge right about now.
posted by rokusan at 9:42 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, when absentee ballots are counted is a state-by-state affair, predictably.

uselections.com/faq_absentee

They vary a lot, from things like "10 days prior to election day" to "after polls close, before certification."

No idea what the author was looking at when he came up with his version.
posted by rokusan at 9:46 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


By that logic, we could have a focus group of, say, four hundred people, and make their votes the only ones that matter.

Limiting the number of people a candidate has to appeal to isn’t a good thing.


Sure, but a national popular vote might have the opposite effect. Right now candidates don't worry about, say, New York, Texas, and California, and just focus on the swing states, but the swing states look like they cover a fairly diverse bunch of Americans. With a national popular vote a candidate could win while appealing to a much narrower demographic. In theory. What would actually happen is a big guess, of course.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:49 AM on November 11, 2016


States don’t count their absentee ballots unless the number of outstanding absentee ballots is larger than the state margin of difference.

My ballot was 4 pages long, including ranked voting for local officials. There may be some states that have few enough elections and referenda that they can wait and see how many votes were received for each person or item from in-person ballots, but for any with tight local races, even a small number of absentees could swing the vote - and I doubt anyone's doing "well, let's count the totals for Measure Q, but ignore the ones for president on those ballots."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:06 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


With a national popular vote a candidate could win while appealing to a much narrower demographic.

This is true if by "demographic" you mean "people who live in CA, NY, TX." It's not true by any other measure... the recent election was won by appealing to white people who were annoyed at their growing loss of privilege. They're widely spread out geographically, but they're not a diverse demographic.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


You can't assume Tuesday's popular vote would have been the same if winning the popular vote was the goal.”

I disagree. Gaming a popular vote system wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be more cost prohibitive to the multi-million and billionaires jiggering the apparatus now. Hell, almost any other system would be.

“How easy to be the one who keeps repeating, "we can never do it, so give up".”

I know, I’m done with telling people who keep saying “I give up” to not give up.
…no, wait …aw, fuggit.

“Why do we have to bend over backwards to try to take care of their concerns and their point of view when they don't give a god damn fuck about anything going on in urban areas”

Well, ‘cause political representation doesn’t work that way? Or rather, it works about as well as it's working now.
Also, isn’t that exactly the attitude of the literal fascist that’s just been elected? And indeed the GOP for many years concerning the poor? Too many freeloaders, all that? It’s different why? Because the people who happen to be working 18 hours a day at two jobs in rural areas are “white”?

Maybe we could, y’know, not have a scapegoat instead of swapping them out between urban black folks and rural white folks?

Certainly they’re mostly white and rural but Iowa and New Hampshire are disproportionately favored because of the way the system is set up.

Nothing about race or who happens to be where or anyone’s social perspective changes anything about the primaries.

Bunch of white rural folks in Oregon. There, everyone gets registered, there’s none of this suppression b.s.or precinct or any of the other political games.
And yet, no one wants to change it on the national level (well, this guy but it won't pass) because so many people have the exact same attitude – screw those people. Just different targets when they say “those people.”
So we don't want to change the rules to be a uniform, workable, egalitarian process.

Lack of trust really. And I do empathize. But we could trust in a more equitable system even if we don't gain by it.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


But we could trust in a more equitable system even if we don't gain by it.

So true. But this is not quite the right week, month or year to expect post-partisan decisionmaking from any of us.
posted by rokusan at 10:36 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


States don’t count their absentee ballots unless the number of outstanding absentee ballots is larger than the state margin of difference.

That doesn't sound right. States usually have laws about automatic recounts if the margin of victory is less than a certain percentage, so even if there aren't enough absentee ballots to change the result, there still might be enough to trigger a recount, so you might have to count them anyway.

And then, there are other issues than just voting for President.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:40 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


State legislators are much easier to get to do things than national legislators. In comparison they get so much less mail. Every time I write to a state legislator, I usually get a personal reply from a staffer. When I write to a national legislator, I get a usually get a form letter made of boiler plate, if anything.

I got the Washington State law changed by writing a state legislator. My mother was legally blind, but could still see some in one eye (she had cataract surgery on her eye later and can see better now). She broke her leg walking across a parking lot, which had a dip in it that she couldn't see. I wrote my state congressperson that I wanted my mother to be able to get a disabled card so my dad could park in a handicap spot and she could walk into the grocery store from there.

My congressperson introduced a revision to the state law. It passed. It is was encoded into law in RCW 46.16.381 (revised last year by RCW 46.19.010). Do not think you can't make a difference. You just have to try. Write your state legislators. What do have to lose?
posted by Xoc at 11:36 AM on November 11, 2016 [14 favorites]




> With a national popular vote a candidate could win while appealing to a much narrower demographic.

This is true if by "demographic" you mean "people who live in CA, NY, TX."

Not even, I don't think -- even just to get to 50% of the population, you would need CA, TX, FL, NY, IL, PA, OH, and GA, right? And if you only focused on "urbanized areas," the cities you'd need to get 50% of voters (doing a little Wikipedia data munging) would then be spread across 33 states: CA, NY, and TX cities alone would get you to ~20% of voters, sure, but then you hit a really long tail of small-to-medium-sized urban areas. In other words, even if you had an "urban" strategy you couldn't really win the popular vote just by appealing to a few big coastal urban areas like NYC and LA and SF, you'd need places like Grand Rapids and Birmingham and Omaha and Memphis as well.

And again, the Electoral College doesn't offer much protection for actual rural voters. The correlation between Electoral College overrepresentation and percent rural is actually pretty weak, because not all small states are rural: DC, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Hawaii are among the most overrepresented in the Electoral College, yet they are among the least rural areas in the country (<15%). The 10 most rural states are, in order: Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Mississippi, Montana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Kentucky, Alabama, North Dakota, and New Hampshire. Only the first 4 are actually majority rural, and only one out of 10 of those is actually a swing state.

So I really think the urban/rural thing is a red herring here. My view is that the Electoral College just distorts the vote arbitrarily, based on historical accident. Right now that distortion happens to favor Republicans, but it hasn't always: in 1960, e.g., it favored JFK (who won the popular vote by something like 0.2% and the Electoral College by more than 80). Regardless of who happens to benefit from this distortion the EC is just irrelevant to our country in its present form.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:09 PM on November 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's crazy that we put this much energy into thinking about the pros and cons of the EC. It's a weirdly undemocratic system that was designed to give slave states more power than they should have. It's part of the poison of white supremacy in our country's founding, and we should have done away with it after the Civil War instead of just patching the system with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

No other nation uses a comparable system, and we don't use it for anything else. You'd think if the EC were really a brilliant way to fairly balance voters, states would implement it for governor's races. There's no reason TX or CA couldn't do a county-by-county equivalent. But they don't because it's patently less fair than a simple "one-person-one-vote."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:39 PM on November 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


It's probably best to not use misleading overall US population statistics to support moving to a popular vote election bias (both popular vote and the electoral college introduce electoral bias of some sort).

... ~24% of the U.S. population (2010 census) is under 18 (i.e. not voting age unless someone's violating the law). Folks trying to make a data-driven argument may want to re-run the numbers with the adult, voting population per-state to see if it's truly as "equal" & "representative" as they claim (I didn't do said exercise since I'm not the one quoting non-representative data).


1. What "bias" exactly would a popular vote introduce? Bias with respect to what?

2. Percent of the voting-eligible population per state seems to be very close to 75% with a narrow range (95% CI: 70% to 80%). Repeating crazy with stars' analysis above, for instance:

The coasts (New England, Middle Atlantic, Pacific) are about 108 million (34%). 'Middle America,' or the rest of the country, is about 212 million (66%). No way you could ignore the 'flyover states' and just rack up the votes on the coasts -- there's just not enough people there.

...using only the Voting Eligible Population, these numbers come out to 32.5% vs. 67.5%. The difference is negligible. If anything, crazy with stars' point is even more supported.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:45 PM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, I hear arguments sometimes that it protects the smaller states and ensures their voices are heard. That may have been important when there were 13 of them, but there's 50 now. It's a different country, and all of the reasons for which the EC was originally implemented are outdated.

I'm wondering if my own state of Georgia is one that would ever consider the NPVIC. Of the southeastern states, it's certainly one of the more competitive, but doesn't enjoy swing state status.
posted by Room 101 at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Utah humor.
posted by Oyéah at 8:21 AM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]




I'm Canadian, but have been thinking about this a bit, reading some of the pros and cons.

And this might seem like a strange tangent, but land doesn't vote. People vote.

The arguments in favour of the current Electoral College usually boil down to that it keeps states with fewer people from having less voting power just because there are fewer people who live there. I doubt these same people would favour a scheme where, for example, black people were allowed to vote twice to make sure they don't get ignored just because there's fewer of them. Or gay people. Or aboriginals. Or atheists. Or Muslims. Etc. Etc.

But once you've got a state border around a group of people, now we're supposed to be very very concerned how unfair it is that they might get ignored by politicians just because there aren't as many of them. These schemes only get taken seriously when it's people plus a land. You're never allowed to do it if you're talking about a people without a land.
posted by RobotHero at 11:41 AM on November 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


A people plus a land is a country. Something like this reflects an attitude that the United States is not a single country, it is many countries. You don't see this sort of voting scheme within a single country, you see it in things like the European Union or the United Nations.
posted by RobotHero at 12:59 PM on November 12, 2016


So in a sense, favouring a popular vote for president is patriotic, because it would treat the USA as a country. At least in terms of American patriotism. Favouring the electoral college means you put more emphasis on Arkansas patriotism, New York patriotism, Utah patriotism, etc.
posted by RobotHero at 2:12 PM on November 12, 2016


RobotHero: "If they collectively control 270 electoral votes, they can collectively decide the president. The remaining states would not have enough votes to stop them."

And strictly speaking, the states in the compact could ignore the national popular vote in favour of the popular vote of only those states in the compact, but then that would not be the patriotic stance that it is.
posted by RobotHero at 2:39 PM on November 12, 2016


They could decide to vote only for people named Bruce, too, except that's not what the compact says either.
posted by Etrigan at 3:03 PM on November 12, 2016



3) Legislatures in Purple states convene emergency sessions in Mid-November 2015 [and] ... reluctantly withdraw from the compact.
4) The Purple candidate wins the electoral college and the presidency.
Do other states have any recourse against the faithless states? How can they?

Fun fact: Some members of the South Carolina legislature considered doing just this in 1960 because they didn't like JFK. So the same thing could theoretically happen in our current system.

However, it would violate the Federal law (US Code § 1-3) that requires all states (+DC) must choose electors on a particular day (election day). Moreover, the NPVIC has a withdrawal clause enforces a long waiting period. Any attempt to change the game would be a violation of the contract with the other states, which would have standing to sue, and would seek a summary judgement.
posted by fitnr at 3:39 PM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


They could decide to vote only for people named Bruce, too, except that's not what the compact says either.

Well, yes. I guess I was trying to emphasize, as long as you can get 270 votes-worth of states to vote as a block, that block can decide the president. I wasn't trying to say what this specific compact would do.
posted by RobotHero at 4:39 PM on November 12, 2016


Clinton's Popular-Vote Lead Will Grow, and Grow, and Grow: Millions of mail-in and absentee ballots haven’t been counted yet. They won’t change anything, though.
The numbers that came out on Election Night were enough to secure Trump the presidency, but they weren’t complete. State officials are still counting millions of provisional and absentee ballots, and within two weeks, Clinton will likely have another few million votes in the bank.

Most were cast in the Clinton-leaning states of California, Washington, and New York—not swing states—so they won’t change the Electoral College. But there’s a sufficient amount to put her within striking distance of Obama’s 2012 turnout, and help put an end to the argument that she simply didn’t work hard enough.
posted by homunculus at 6:15 PM on November 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


[a candidate could win while appealing to] "people who live in CA, NY, TX."

Treating all large urban areas as equivalent in theory gets ridiculous once you leave the abstract.

If a candidate can get Texas, California and New York to agree on anything, they probably deserve that victory.
posted by rokusan at 10:39 PM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


If they go to popular vote it will be harder to steal the election the way Russian hackers did this one.
posted by chaz at 10:54 PM on November 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not pro-trump, but if you look deeply, you'll find that the electoral college is a safety valve for this nation.
posted by Madeoffailure at 1:59 PM on November 13, 2016


I can find no examples of it having ever worked that way.
posted by latkes at 2:09 PM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Only if the EC elects Clinton could you say it's a safety valve. Otherwise it's just a really shitty mechanism for proportional voting with shaky math.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:03 PM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Safety valve means pressure release. Too many votes for Clinton in one state, so the valve opens and they shoot out where they don't pose any danger of counting towards an election. :P

The fear is that without releasing those votes, then a big majority in big states could outvote people in small states. But like I said, they only ever do anything about this for groups that correspond to state borders. If black people, Latinos, natives and Asians all vote for one candidate while only white people vote for the other, there's no safety valve that says, "Whoah, I think we heard enough from white people, let's give everyone else a chance."
posted by RobotHero at 10:30 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Very well-said, RobotHero.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:57 AM on November 14, 2016






Yeah, they're clearly not going to get enough faithless electors to dump Trump and throw things to the House (which would just vote for Trump anyway, Ryan is clearly going to get everything the little lump of coal where his heart should be desires). But it would be a very powerful message if even a few of Trump's electors defected.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:47 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Trump just tweeted, "If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y. Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily.".

Everyone is gaming the system. Change the system and their strategy changes to match, so it does not actually change anything. If anything a popular vote goal makes it easier for a populist to win.
posted by w0mbat at 11:08 AM on November 15, 2016


Yeah, and Trump is only tweeting that because he's a thin-skinned asshole who's throwing a tantrum because he didn't actually win the popular vote. He boasted about how he was gonna flip NY, but that didn't happen. He did win FL, but FL's a swing state anyway.

I understand that the current impetus between people wanting to change the EC is at least partially based on the outcome of this election, but that doesn't change the fact that the EC is still an egregious violation of one-person-one-vote that has no place in a modern democracy.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:51 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


And voters are not just machines where campaigning goes in and votes come out. I don't think Trump would win in N.Y. and California just by campaigning harder with the exact same platform.
posted by RobotHero at 1:29 PM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


(I meant "impetus behind", obviously.)
posted by tobascodagama at 1:43 PM on November 15, 2016


Someone has published how to contact your electors. So if you're elector is voting for Trump, here's something you can do:

https://www.democrec.org/

Sure, it's a long shot, but it can't hurt. And that petition is also linked if you didn't sign that yet.
posted by antinomia at 2:59 PM on November 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


So I saw something talking about the 3/5th compromise and people in the comments kept harping on the point that they were colonies not states. Anyone know why this would become a talking point? How does that matter?
posted by RobotHero at 2:27 PM on December 6, 2016


That's wrong and irrelevant. They were states when the Constitution was drafted in 1787, under the Articles of Confederation.
posted by stopgap at 2:38 PM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


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