Math Against Tyranny...
November 10, 2000 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Math Against Tyranny... A mathmatician discusses the virtues of the Electoral College.
posted by silusGROK (8 comments total)

Natapoff has also suggested a new system for US elections - but only as a way of making his arguments about the validity of the Electoral College more clear.
posted by iceberg273 at 8:12 AM on November 10, 2000

"Hey! See how complex my system is? Why, the Electoral College is a model of clarity by comparison!" ;-)

It'd never happen. I think Instant Runoff Voting (aka Single Tranferable Voting) is a more likely reform to come out of this. There are definitely going to be states that consider it.
posted by dhartung at 10:09 AM on November 10, 2000

I don't think he meant to seriously propose such a system. "Rather than argue for the adoption of his method, he uses it to clarify the weaknesses he sees in its alternatives."

I would very much like to see Instant Runoff Voting brought to the table. Out of curiousity, can individual states implement such a system in the context of a presidential election?
posted by dandot at 10:22 AM on November 10, 2000

STV has its share of problems, too. For one thing, in an STV election, it's quite possible for there to be a candidate who every voter prefers to every other candidate and for that candidate not to win.

I've helped run an STV election and thought the system worked reasonably well, but there is no such thing as a perfect voting system.
posted by grimmelm at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2000

There's so much wrong with that article, I don't know where to begin. Consider the quantity which Natapoff calls "voting power" ( = the probability that one person’s vote will be able to turn a national election). There is simply no empirical evidence that voters are sensitive to (small) changes in "voting power". That is, there is no evidence of increased turnout (which is allegedly the whole point). And why isn't there? Well, first of all, people are not utility-maximizing robots; in fact they are very often "irrational". The survey evidence shows that voters differ from nonvoters with respect to their moral attitude to voting and other "persistent" personality traits -- simply fiddling with the probabilities does not cause measurable behavioral change. Secondly, it may be perfectly rational to ignore changes in "voting power" given that estimates of final payoff are highly uncertain. That is, high and low estimates of the utility of victory (for your candidate) can differ dramatically, by many orders of magnitude. Therefore it can be quite rational to ignore small differences in "voting power". Thirdly, there's strong reason to believe that turnout would actually rise in a direct democracy. Why? because each individual state would have an incentive to bring out the vote, so as to maximize its power. In that regard, the current electoral college system is like communism, because every state's electoral votes are fixed by population rather than actual number of voters.

Notice that the author liberally quotes James Madison. This is where the real agenda is made clear. "Madisonian democracy" is an oxymoron. Madison was a notorious defender of plutocracy, and when he said "minority" he meant "rich property owners". He objected to democracy on the grounds that it would "undermine the responsibility of government to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority."
posted by johnb at 10:38 AM on November 10, 2000

STV has its share of problems, too. For one thing, in an STV election, it's quite possible for there to be a candidate who every voter prefers to every other candidate and for that candidate not to win.

The Arrow-type issues are fun, but at the end of the day I think IRV (properly fleshed out) is the best practical way to record voting preferences.
posted by johnb at 11:03 AM on November 10, 2000

I don't see why the electors in a state should be determined by popular vote. There should be an Electoral College for each state, where electors for each county vote for the Federal electors.

Of course, now that I think of it, each county should have its own Electoral College elected by electors chosen by the popular vote for each precinct. And how would these electors be chosen?

If we work this right, each voter will have his or her "voting power" amplified to such a degree that we'll have enough voting power surplus to democratize Monaco if we want. Maybe even California.
posted by rodii at 5:12 PM on November 10, 2000

rodii, you may be on to something there. Here in conservative southwest Missouri, people are always complaining about the I-70 corridor from Kansas City through Columbia and Jefferson City to St. Louis and how that narrow strip through the state unfairly influences statewide elections because of the high population and high percentage of Democratic voters. And really, the urban areas of the state are vastly different and have different concerns and priorities than the less-populated rural areas of the state. Is it really fair for the higher population in the cities to determine statewide policy to the detriment of less-populated rural areas? I think not!
posted by daveadams at 7:54 AM on November 13, 2000

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