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Maryland joins the ranks of states attempting to thwart the electoral college.
March 30, 2007 6:25 AM   Subscribe

Maryland joins the ranks of states attempting to thwart the electoral college. Maryland's General Assembly approved a bill [PDF] to ignore the U.S. Electoral College [official website] in presidential elections, instead awarding the state's 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. [via | previously on MeFi | more inside]
posted by terrapin (71 comments total)

 
The plan would only go into action if enough states representing a majority [270 votes] of the nation's 538 electoral votes adopt it, making it unlikely that it would be in effect by the 2008 presidential election. However, Maryland joins a growing number of states [Arkansas is the most recent] moving to circumvent a Constitutional amendment. Supporters of the reform have turned to the interstate compact, saying it would be constitutional because agreements between states already exists. The Christian Science Monitor article from last year's MeFi discussion has a very good overview of the plan. More from the AP.
posted by terrapin at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2007


About freakin' time. During the 2000 election nightmare, I said to myself "well, at least we'll probably get rid of the stupid electoral college system from all of this." How naive I was.
posted by zardoz at 6:31 AM on March 30, 2007


Go Maryland! This is long overdue. Our electoral system is a disgrace and a scandal, and this obvious and glaring anachronism should be remedied at once. Let's get this one done so we can focus on term limits next.
posted by Mister_A at 6:36 AM on March 30, 2007


Wait, Arkansas? My mind is dulled by malaria (or maybe it's AIDS--anyway, I feel like crap), but if all states did this wouldn't we basically just have straight one-citizen, one-vote voting? And wouldn't low-population states then have fe.....oh wait, the number of electoral college votes is like the number of Reps, not the number of Senators. It varies by pop. NMKTHX
posted by DU at 6:37 AM on March 30, 2007


As much as I like the idea, I worry about what the Republicans would pull if there were a close vote nationwide. Imagine an army of Katherine Harrises fanning out around the country. Doesn't mean we should abandon the idea, but we better have some idea of what to do if things get close again.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:38 AM on March 30, 2007


The tone of this post seems to imply that "thwarting" the electoral college would be a bad thing, but I'm all for thwarting it. "State's rights" was such an important concept two hundred years ago, when most people would live in the same state all their lives, when everyone they knew lived in that state, when they had land and possessions that passed through their family. People stayed put. It's so different now. I've already lived in four different states and I'm only in my twenties. I plan to live in more. And in the days of instant communication, fast cars, faster cable news... the concept of state's rights has changed so much. I think it's time we just accepted that the world and our country has gotten smaller and move past the weird convention of the electoral college. (Aside from the fact that it has the strange side effect of giving the most election power to the states where fewer people live....)
posted by crackingdes at 6:38 AM on March 30, 2007


No, I was right the first time. Low-population (i.e. rural, i.e.i.e. Republican, nowadays) states have disproportionate power in the electoral college, so why is AK so hot to jump on?
posted by DU at 6:43 AM on March 30, 2007


Meanwhile, we're pretty much facing a national primary as half the states have now passed bills saying their primaries will be held at around 3:30 PM on Wednesday.

With support for both of those at the same time it seems the ultimate solution would be to have a giant open election with a runoff of the top two following. Or instant runoff voting. Also, monkeys could fly forth from my butt cheeks.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:43 AM on March 30, 2007


It's an interesting idea, but I wonder if the states would really have the ability to restrain themselves in really close elections. I hope they would. This is great for any states that are not "in play"

The original idea with the Electoral Collage wasn't to distribute power between the states, but rather that people would actually vote for electors directly, and then those electors would actually pick the president. It really serves no purpose now, other then to make things more interesting for political pundits, and frankly it is a lot more interesting, although I live in a swing state so my vote is actually more important then most of the people here, and I live in the first caucus state so my vote is even more important.

But anyway.
posted by delmoi at 6:47 AM on March 30, 2007


this will not wendell
posted by Mick at 6:47 AM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Low-population (i.e. rural, i.e.i.e. Republican, nowadays) states have disproportionate power in the electoral college, so why is AK so hot to jump on?

I would guess red states are starting to realize they want to vote red but are ultimately influenced mostly by the largest cities that usually trend blue. Pre-Katrina New Orleans, Chicago, Denver, and Minneapolis are all examples of how former solid red states can start turning purple mostly from the heavy Democratic base of their large urban centers.

As the population increases, Arkansas risks Little Rock determining the entire state's electoral vote as as such they would rather have the national vote for a candidate, in case it's a Republican, determine the state's votes instead of just the city folk.

The irony, of course, would be if that's true, then states are noting the voting power of a single part of their state to alleviate the problem of the voting power of a single part of a single state to the national election.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:48 AM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not a giant open election, that would be awful. A party with a large number of candidates would get split automatically, meaning the less representative party would get the two top spots. That is, unless there were some way to winnow the candidate list down to 1 or 2 top contenders. Which would be done behind closed doors since you just kicked the primaries to the curb.

One major change I'd like to see is making Election Day a national holiday. Get more working people to the polls, say I. Also, secure eVoting and/or vote by mail. Also also, a pony.
posted by DU at 6:48 AM on March 30, 2007


... instead awarding the state's 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
Wait...so, if Maryland's state popular vote goes overwhelmingly (let's say by a 5-1 margin, just for fun) to the loser of the national popular vote, the state's electoral votes go against the voter's wishes?
WTF?
Yeah, I get the whole dissatisfaction with the electoral college, but to go against your own state's voters seems exceedingly undemocratic.

It's more akin to a bunch of sycophants who can't allow themselves to be on the losing side of anything.

End-runs like this scheme just smell bad. Yet it seems so typical of our society today.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can someone explain to me why awarding all the electoral votes in one state to the winner of the national vote is better/more democratic than awarding the electoral votes in that state in proportion to the votes cast nationally? I am aware that this question may make me look stupid.

/feeling psephologically challenged today
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2007


Bread and circuses.

If you thinkn the electoral college is stupid, well, then YOU'RE stupid.
posted by tadellin at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I dunno, DU, maybe it just seems fair to the good people of Arkansas. Anyway, yes, low-population states are disproportionately important in the electoral college, because the number of EC votes = C (no. congressmen) + S (no. senators). S=2 for all states, and I believe there are still some states where C=1. So yea, the formula is farkakt.
posted by Mister_A at 6:51 AM on March 30, 2007


I used to loathe the electoral college, even while I had to fend off people telling me that the electoral college beating the popular vote would "never happen." I got a lot of mileage out of that in 2000. I eventually changed my mind. Our Founding Fathers, like the Greeks, were a bit nervous about the devolution of democracy into mob rule. Witness Rome, as larger and larger groups of voters began to vote themselves anything they liked, and budget be damned.

As Americans, we're currently stuck with a fairly primitive voting system, plurality, with this electoral college bit added as a wrinkle. The electoral college forces candidates to woo a larger audience than they might otherwise. If we're going to change voting systems, how about Instant Runoff Voting, or any of the dozens of other systems conceived?

As to states' rights, I now conceive of the fifty states as not neighborhoods of a larger area, but fifty little experiments in democracy. Combinatorial chemistry, with a little evolution built in.
posted by adipocere at 6:54 AM on March 30, 2007


This particular plan would provide award the presidency to someone who merely won the plurality of the popular vote. This is quite distinct from a majority, which is half plus one, and not merely the most.

In the 2000 election, no candidate had the majority of the popular vote. Though Al Gore had the most popular votes, of people who voted, more voted for someone else. If Al Gore were awarded the presidency on popular vote alone, his legitimacy would be questioned, as the basis for his win lacked a majority.

(I'm ignoring the whole Florida, Bush v. Gore mess for this discussion. This is, in fact, an extreme example. Here's a question for you: had Florida been won cleanly, would Bush's right to his first term be so questioned?)

In fact, in the 1992 and 1996 election, the winner did not have the majority of the popular vote. However, given they won the majority of the Electoral College, their legitimacy was not questioned.

The Electoral College has some other advantages. It limits the potential for a nation-wide recount (imagine the whole "hanging chad" mess in every single district). It also ensure that everyone's interests are considered, not merely densely populated regions.

I'm not saying the system is perfect. Rather, this particular solution has issues as well.
posted by MrGuilt at 6:55 AM on March 30, 2007


Chicago, Denver, and Minneapolis are all examples of how former solid red states can start turning purple mostly from the heavy Democratic base of their large urban centers.

Nein. Minneapolis is an example of a formerly solid blue state turning purple mostly from the growth of suburbs and shifts in attitude outstate.

But anyway, I'm all for dismantling the electoral college-- but I have doubts about how far it will go state-by-state. As long as there's a patchwork system where some states are winner-take-all and some will split their electoral votes, there's a distinct advantage to the winner-take-all state in terms of luring in candidates and their sweet, sweet campaign dollars. Some states will still do the right thing, but the Primary pileup is a great example of how many states are willing to go to ridiculous lengths in pursuit of a perceived advantage. Breaking the system at the Federal level would eliminate the inequality. Of course, it's also a lot more difficult to do.
posted by COBRA! at 6:57 AM on March 30, 2007


Our Founding Fathers, like the Greeks, were a bit nervous about the devolution of democracy into mob rule.

let me know when they elect a mob president

Witness Rome, as larger and larger groups of voters began to vote themselves anything they liked, and budget be damned.

seen the u s budget lately? ... and that's not large groups of voters who did that ... it's small groups of congresscritters and their lobbyist friends

what we really need is a parliamentary system of government, where we can get rid of a government when it's necessary

not that it's going to happen anytime soon
posted by pyramid termite at 7:05 AM on March 30, 2007


I'm just not sure how this is supposed to help. The largest problem facing America right now is inaccurate, inauditable electronic voting machines made by a highly partisan vendor.

The second largest problem is inaccurate voter rolls and improperly enforced polling rules.

Let's fix those first before we start dismantling the entire system, shall we?

If we went to a straight nation-wide "he who gets the most votes" approach, then noone would campaign outside of California, New York, Texas, Florida, and maybe the next 2 highest-population states. The top 10 states, certainly, have enough population to basically throw the election one way or the other.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:17 AM on March 30, 2007


As the population increases, Arkansas risks Little Rock determining the entire state's electoral vote as as such they would rather have the national vote for a candidate, in case it's a Republican, determine the state's votes instead of just the city folk.

Then the rational thing for Arkansas to do -- and quite likely the best thing in general -- would be to instead split electoral votes by popular vote within a state. and your infinitives if you like.
posted by weston at 7:18 AM on March 30, 2007


let me know when they elect a mob president

They did. Jesus=political philosopher and all that.

This is a bad idea. Going this route to circumvent the electoral college system is a tacit admission by state governments that the constitutional process is broken.

The proper way to do this is to amend the constitution. The two ways to do that are described in the Constitution.

The first is for a bill (the amendment) to pass both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the individual states for a vote, where it must be approved by three-fourths of the states. First 66% supermajority in both houses, then 75% of the states. This is the modern route.

The other way is the old and possible illegal way, which is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the states, and for that convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures. Against 66% of state legislature call it to decide the amendments, but 75% have to approve.

although the Maryland bill did pass by over a supermajority (29-17), it is not clear that it had to. Being an ordinary bill, it appears it would have passed with over 50%. This is a problem.

The Constitution establishes the process, and it makes clear the need for supermajorities and in both cases 75% of the states to approve before the change can affect any state.

Think of it this way: could the Utah legislature pass a bill to guarantee at least half of its electoral votes go to the republican candidate?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:22 AM on March 30, 2007


What termite and Ynoxas said. Plus, the IRV. (Instant runoff voting.) Plus world peace.
posted by kozad at 7:23 AM on March 30, 2007


I think it is time to give serious consideration to a monarchy. That way, Congress would be under direct supervision of the leader rather than the dozens of powerful lobby groups. Instead of the madness of two years of tv nonsense about this or that candidatge etc etc we would eliminate all that annoying stuff. Sure, Americans have sort of got used to the idea of elected representaives at all levels but what has it gained for us? Congress has a grand health plan but for itself only. Pork is rampant. Wars declared and supported by know-nothinbgs who follow the electyed leader. and on and on.

I iknow the idea is upsetting, but monarchs have what we already have: leaders with questionable IQ; elected person who things he is an emperor and is supported in this belief by his party; the media kissing the child leader's butt and on and on...

I propose this based mostly on my grandmother's dying words of political wisdomn: If you are losing the game, change the rules
posted by Postroad at 7:24 AM on March 30, 2007


Furthermore, and this concept needs to be beaten into the Florida 2000-was-stolen crowd, if the vote is decided by a national election, and the margin of difference between the two candidates is narrower than the margin of error in counting the votes, then it will be impossible to know for sure who won. It doesn't matter how many recounts, how many different ways you count. There is always a margin of error, and if the vote difference is narrower than that, like it was in Florida, you will never know who won. So who decides the winner?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:26 AM on March 30, 2007


Re: plurality of votes, I think the EC is a ridiculous way to address that issue... in 2000 the plurality winner lost, the plurality loser won, and that is supposed to be an improvement?

The best way to handle single-winner elections with more than two candidates is with preferential voting. As long as we're reforming the election system we might as well go all the way.
posted by grytpype at 7:35 AM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


During the 2000 election nightmare, I said to myself "well, at least we'll probably get rid of the stupid electoral college system from all of this."

Before the 2000 election, I was against the whole idea of the electoral college. After Florida 2000, I saw the value there. If it was just popular vot, the entire country would have had to be recounted.

I still don't like the winner-takes-all aspect of it. I would rather see 1 vote per district for the popular vote in that district and the other 2 votes for the state's popular vote.

And give DC 2 more votes, for cripe's sake.

And on preview, what Pastabagel said...
posted by MtDewd at 7:40 AM on March 30, 2007


Can someone explain to me why awarding all the electoral votes in one state to the winner of the national vote is better/more democratic than awarding the electoral votes in that state in proportion to the votes cast nationally?

The overall plan guarantees that the popular vote winner becomes President. So long as states with 270+ electoral votes use this system, it doesn't matter what the others do. This isn't true if some states divide their electors in proportion to the national vote and others use the current winner take all system.

The proper way to do this is to amend the constitution.

This doesn't amend the Constitution. States are free to appoint their electors however they bloody well please.

Think of it this way: could the Utah legislature pass a bill to guarantee at least half of its electoral votes go to the republican candidate?

If they wanted to, and if there was nothing in the Utah Constitution that forbade it. They could also just let the head of the Mormon church appoint Utah's electors, or make the electors the girls with the biggest tits, or use gladiatorial combat or a lottery.

If they don't use some sort of election, they run a small risk that they might have some of their US House representation stripped by Congress, but empirically this risk is very small.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 AM on March 30, 2007


If they wanted to, and if there was nothing in the Utah Constitution that forbade it. They could also just let the head of the Mormon church appoint Utah's electors, or make the electors the girls with the biggest tits, or use gladiatorial combat or a lottery.

If they don't use some sort of election, they run a small risk that they might have some of their US House representation stripped by Congress, but empirically this risk is very small.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:00 AM on March 30


My example was rhetorical. They couldn't do any of this, as they all violate the equal protection clause.

Likewise, this goofy Maryland law has an equal protection problem. Maryland voters are disadvantaged with respect to the rest of the country, even though there is no constitutional authorization for counting the national popular vote for any purpose whatsoever.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2007


They couldn't do any of this, as they all violate the equal protection clause.

Not even gladitorial combat or lottery? Because I could almost get behind either of those. The latter would even stand a reasonable probability of splitting the electoral votes proportionally to the population.
posted by weston at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2007


Not even gladitorial combat or lottery? Because I could almost get behind either of those. The latter would even stand a reasonable probability of splitting the electoral votes proportionally to the population.
posted by weston at 11:42 AM on March 30


As ridiculous as that sounds, in New Mexico (or so I've heard), the law on the books in 2000 allowed election ties to be settled but cutting a deck of cards and awarding victory to the highest card. I suspect that the reason other states have not adopted coin-flips or similar random 50-50 ways to settle ties is that each party thinks they can win some advantage in the judicial system, so they choose to leave the matter unresolved.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:47 AM on March 30, 2007


Then the rational thing for Arkansas to do -- and quite likely the best thing in general -- would be to instead split electoral votes by popular vote within a state.

A lot of these proposals (Maine works like this, I believe) gives the statewide winner the electoral votes of the state's two senators and gives the electoral votes of the House Congressional Reps to whichever candidate won the most votes in the Congressional district. Which is probably a good idea, but runs the risk that we could end up with 435 "Floridas." No longer would you run the risk of a recount fiasco in each state, you'd run the risk of a recount fiasco in every congressional district. The advantage, of course, might be that states will be forced to adopt much more air-tight vote-tallying methods rather than the current strategy of "close enough."
posted by deanc at 8:48 AM on March 30, 2007


Here's a radical proposal: 1 person, 1 pencil, 1 piece of paper, 1 vote.
posted by signal at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2007


Here's a radical proposal: 1 person, 1 pencil, 1 piece of paper, 1 vote.
posted by signal at 11:50 AM on March 30


That's fine, as long as I get 1 eraser.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2007


Margin of Error: the difference between a vote and a poll is that there isn't a margin of error in a vote. Each vote counts for itself, and doesn't represent any other voters. Sure, there will be voter (and machine) error, but with 80,000,000 votes the margin of error is far smaller than with a poll of 500 or 1,000 or 10,000 voters.
posted by pithy comment at 8:56 AM on March 30, 2007


I was obviously referring to the margin of error in counting the votes. Note there is also a margin of error in casting votes (does your ballot actually indicate a vote for who you wanted to vote for - think butterfly ballot in Florida).

And the margin of error of counting votes is non trivial, depending on the counting method. Ironically, computer voting would have no appreciable margin of error in counting. They are more susceptible to fraud, however.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:04 AM on March 30, 2007


Likewise, this goofy Maryland law has an equal protection problem.

Not obviously. Every Maryland vote counts as much as every other Maryland vote. All have an equal opportunity to sway the national popular vote.

It's also not obvious that the court wouldn't strike it down.

Maryland voters are disadvantaged with respect to the rest of the country

The equal protection clause doesn't compare Maryland voters to voters in other states. All that the equal protection clause requires is that Maryland treat all of its voters the same way.

In any case, Maryland voters are already disadvantaged with respect to voters in Wyoming. If your argument were true, then the 14th Amendment would have already implicitly abolished the electoral college.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:04 AM on March 30, 2007


signal: "Here's a radical proposal: 1 person, 1 pencil, 1 piece of paper, 1 vote."

Bad idea. You know why? Simple: The electoral college, while invented to keep the democratic process out of the hands of the stupid proles, actually mathematically increases the value of each person's vote.

Think about it: One person, one vote, means that every person running for election need only attract the white vote (80% of the population - more than enough to get elected) or the female vote (52% of the population - again, enough for winning office). One person, one vote means that wooing minorities is unnecessary to win a national election. Special interest groups lose power and influence, sure, but the majority of white people in the US would be the only group that counted come election day. The black, hispanic, native american, hundu, muslim, etc. voters wouldn't count worth a shit.

Florida 2000 proves this in action. The entire process was decided by a small number of voters (and a legal wrangle). In a one person, one vote scenario, Florida would not have been important enough to turn the course of the election. (While to a Bush hater this might sound preferable, any liberal-minded voter who thinks that risking this sort of thing is better than essentially denying any electoral influence to specific minority groups of voters should really re-think his or her position.)
posted by caution live frogs at 9:11 AM on March 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bad idea. You know why? Simple: The electoral college, while invented to keep the democratic process out of the hands of the stupid proles, actually mathematically increases the value of each person's vote.

That's not true at all, in fact it's ridiculous to even say. What it does is increase the value of some votes while decreasing the value of other votes. It increases the importance of small states, and it vastly increase the value of votes from swing states, but it makes the value of the votes in some of the largest states (California, NY and Texas) completely worthless.

Obviously increasing the "value" of every vote would be mathematically impossible.
posted by delmoi at 9:15 AM on March 30, 2007


The black, hispanic, native american, hundu, muslim, etc. voters wouldn't count worth a shit.

I'm sorry, is this a hypothetical? Because I don't see a lot of hispanic, indian, hindu, muslim, black or female presidents, senators, etc, the way the system is gerrymandered, sorry , "set up" right now.
posted by signal at 9:17 AM on March 30, 2007


Here's a radical proposal: 1 person, 1 pencil, 1 piece of paper, 1 vote.

That would be great if we lived in a Democracy.
But, fortunately, we live in a Republic.
One specifically designed to avert the type of mob rule that you propose.
posted by madajb at 9:19 AM on March 30, 2007


Think about it: One person, one vote, means that every person running for election need only attract the white vote (80% of the population - more than enough to get elected) or the female vote (52% of the population - again, enough for winning office). One person, one vote means that wooing minorities is unnecessary to win a national election.

This is even more preposterous. Obviously if someone would manage to get all of the white vote, or the entire female vote they would win, EC or no, because those majorities are majorities in every state (DC, with three EC votes is majority black, though). They're pretty much evenly distributed.

Florida 2000 proves this in action. The entire process was decided by a small number of voters (and a legal wrangle). In a one person, one vote scenario, Florida would not have been important enough to turn the course of the election.

Yeah, and Katharine Harris and pals wouldn't have been able to suppress just a few of those "valuable" votes in order to steal the election. More of those "valuable" votes wouldn't have been thrown down the crapper due to poor ballot design. Making some votes worth more then others means making elections easier to steal by people in the right location.
posted by delmoi at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2007


Was anyone else surprised how informative the NARA site was? I kept re-checking the URL to make sure really ended in .gov.
posted by klarck at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2007


Think about it: One person, one vote, means that every person running for election need only attract the white vote (80% of the population - more than enough to get elected) or the female vote (52% of the population - again, enough for winning office).

because we all know that white people and females vote as monolithic blocks ... just as we know that other minorities vote as monolithic blocks

as an illustration of this, this map shows the largest group of ancestry in each state ... you will note that the largest in the southwest states is mexican and the largest in the deep south states is african

this map shows the 2004 election ... you will notice that clearly, the states divided as one would expect from the first map ... well ... um ... no, they didn't

well, maybe this map ... well, no, that doesn't correlate too well with the last election either

hmmm ... maybe you've made some bad assumptions and followed it through with bad logic
posted by pyramid termite at 9:40 AM on March 30, 2007


The electoral college (...) mathematically increases the value of each person's vote.

Just had to see that again. There's a certain purity to its depth of misunderstanding.
posted by signal at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2007


"Minneapolis is an example of a formerly solid blue state"

I'm going to assume that you mean Minnesota, as Minneapolis isn't a state. :)

Speaking of Minnesota..


What's that "1" from? Can (and did) Minnesota split its electoral college votes up?

posted by drstein at 9:52 AM on March 30, 2007


madajb wrote: "That would be great if we lived in a Democracy.
But, fortunately, we live in a Republic.
One specifically designed to avert the type of mob rule that you propose."

You're an idiot. You're treating the two concepts (Republic and Democracy) as if they stood in some kind of opposition to one another. They don't and never have. This is the worst kind of bogus sophistry going around these days.

re·pub·lic /rɪˈpʌblɪk/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[ri-puhb-lik] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun
1. a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.
2. any body of persons viewed as a commonwealth.
3. a state in which the head of government is not a monarch or other hereditary head of state.
4. (initial capital letter) any of the five periods of republican government in France. Compare First Republic, Second Republic, Third Republic, Fourth Republic, Fifth Republic.
5. (initial capital letter, italics) a philosophical dialogue (4th century b.c.) by Plato dealing with the composition and structure of the ideal state.

posted by saulgoodman at 9:54 AM on March 30, 2007


Oh, and btw, a note on the origins of the word Republic:

French république, from Old French, from Latin rēspūblica : rēs, thing; see rē- in Indo-European roots + pūblica, feminine of pūblicus, of the people; see public.

(Ironically, it's more immediate origins are French.)
posted by saulgoodman at 9:57 AM on March 30, 2007


Why not just pass a law that states "The state of Red will soley appoint the electors to the candidate of the Republican Party." I'd think that would be no more legal than this -- given that both have the power to disenfranchise a large section of the state's voting population.

Do so should, at the very least, result in the loss of a proportion of representatives equivalent to the percentage of vote that was disregarded. Amendment XIV is rather clear on this.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.
(note that "men" is now "men and women", thanks to the 19th Amendment, and "21" is now "18", thanks to the 26th Amendment.)

So, if Missouri decides that, despite the fact that a plurality of voters voted for Bob, to grant the electors to Joe, because of the popular vote nationwide, I'd sue to remove some 50% of Missouri's representatives from the House.
posted by eriko at 9:58 AM on March 30, 2007


This is silly and I think it would be a disaster, for reasons mentioned above.

What I think needs to change is the whole concept of "election day." I mean, seriously, one day to vote? the future of our country and the world changed because it rained that day and people didn't feel like going out?

How about election week? Election month?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:10 AM on March 30, 2007


Not obviously. Every Maryland vote counts as much as every other Maryland vote.

There are a lot of schemes that could have this merit. For example, you could distribute electoral votes between the candidates from the top two political parties depending on whether the chicken at Ginnie's shat upon an even or odd number last week.

All have an equal opportunity to sway the national popular vote.

This almost saves the argument, and might put the legislation beyond the reach of the equal protection clause, but the key point that's likely to be of broad concern is that the legislation makes the state's electoral votes outside of the control of a state election, largely in the same way the chicken scheme above does.
posted by weston at 10:20 AM on March 30, 2007


Think about it: One person, one vote, means that every person running for election need only attract the white vote (80% of the population - more than enough to get elected) or the female vote (52% of the population - again, enough for winning office).

because we all know that white people and females vote as monolithic blocks ... just as we know that other minorities vote as monolithic blocks


It's like an electoral college based on race or gender.
posted by Hubajube at 10:53 AM on March 30, 2007


ibmcginty writes "Imagine an army of Katherine Harrises fanning out around the country."

*shudder*
posted by brundlefly at 11:06 AM on March 30, 2007


If we went to a straight nation-wide "he who gets the most votes" approach, then noone would campaign outside of California, New York, Texas, Florida, and maybe the next 2 highest-population states. The top 10 states, certainly, have enough population to basically throw the election one way or the other.

YES! How can that possibly be a bad thing?! You'd rather have them campaign in a few arbitrary backwaters?
posted by phrontist at 11:29 AM on March 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


What Ynoxas (et.al) said

I like the idea of preferential voting.

I tend to be a little gunshy of anyone who proposes changing the system from atop the system tho. As though it’s going to be better for me.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2007


There are a lot of schemes that could have this merit. For example, you could distribute electoral votes between the candidates from the top two political parties depending on whether the chicken at Ginnie's shat upon an even or odd number last week.

Sure, and that might well be constitutional too, even though it's transparently stupid.

Since there's no election at all, it might put the state at risk of having the electoral portion of the 14th amendment enforced at it, but it would take a whole boatload of gall to enforce that now when it wasn't enforced through 100 years of Jim Crow. But even then, there's nothing in the Constitution that says a state can't do that and endure the penalty if it really wants to.

What I think needs to change is the whole concept of "election day." I mean, seriously, one day to vote?

This is called early voting, and most states have it already.

the key point that's likely to be of broad concern is that the legislation makes the state's electoral votes outside of the control of a state election

I suspect that's the kicker for a different reason. This scheme would have called on Texas to cast its votes for Gore in 2000, and I wonder if Texas would have gone through with it, or would have finagled some way to back out of the arrangement.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:42 AM on March 30, 2007


This is called early voting, and most states have it already.

The only problem I have early voting is that I trust the U.S. Postal System less than I trust Dieblod.
posted by terrapin at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2007


That said, it would be much simpler and useful if maryland simply divided up its EC votes, rather then waiting for a bunch of other states to go with 'em. Or it could pair up with a more conservative learning state to preserve the average total.

That way, you'd see a gradual shift, rather then a sudden 'triggered' shift. The whole idea of building the foundation for this massive change and then sprigging it all at once is rather dumb.
posted by delmoi at 11:57 AM on March 30, 2007


The only problem I have early voting is that I trust the U.S. Postal System less than I trust Dieblod.
posted by terrapin at 1:46 PM on March 30


First, that is a profoundly foolish thing to say, but I think you're confusing absentee voting with early voting.

Early voting generally happens in person at a polling station, just a week or two ahead of time, for several days.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:14 PM on March 30, 2007


Yes, I was confusing things, because I have not missed walking into a polling place in the 22 years I have been voting... but it was also a joke. I live in Vermont. Some towns here use Diebold, but my town still uses paper and pencil.

I still think election day should be a national holiday.
posted by terrapin at 12:37 PM on March 30, 2007


I can't speak for the other cities/states XQUZYPHYR mentions, but saying that Mn was a solid republican (I like to avoid "red/"blue") state is a little inaccurate, from the 1932 election to present Mn has only voted for two different republican presidents, and when you start going back further things get a little twisted because what we call republican and democrat nowadays isn't how things where awhile ago. Hell in the 1916 election Wilson (D) carried most of the rural states and won, while Hughes (R) had most of the urban centers, including the North East and Upper midwest and lost.

But, more on topic, yeah I'm all for doing away with the EC. And personally I'd like only two or three different days of primaries. Serrated by 3 - 4 weeks each. Either that, or a very short election season, say 4 months, coupled with the ability to evict people with a 2/3 no confidence vote.
posted by edgeways at 12:58 PM on March 30, 2007


Sure, and that might well be constitutional too, even though it's transparently stupid.

Since there's no election at all, it might put the state at risk of having the electoral portion of the 14th amendment enforced at it...


Well, perhaps they could hold the election, but have the outcome depend on the chicken.Or, to make things closer to the legislation under discussion, have 2% of the election depend on the breakdown of the in-state vote, and 98% depend on the chicken.
posted by weston at 12:59 PM on March 30, 2007


Maryland's General Assembly approved a bill to ignore the U.S. Electoral College in presidential elections, instead awarding the state's 10 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
This doesn't ignore the Electoral College. It ignores Maryland's popular vote.

(except as a proportional subset of the nation's popular vote, of course)
posted by Flunkie at 2:57 PM on March 30, 2007


As far as I know, there is nothing stating that a state must allow its citizens to vote in a presidential election.

So what if this scheme passes, and then, say, South Dakota decides to appoint its electors based upon the vote of its state legislature, rather than based upon the vote of its citizens?

How is the national popular vote calculated, when there are states that aren't participating in a popular vote?
posted by Flunkie at 3:11 PM on March 30, 2007


As others have mentioned, a real change would be to go to a majority-system in stead of a plurality system. It would lessen vote wasting and make 3rd party candidates a more viable choice.

Preferential voting is a cool idea
posted by cx at 4:07 PM on March 30, 2007


This is all very nice, but as long as we're circumventing illogical aspects of presidential elections, I really wish we'd get on board with Giga Tuesday/Feb 5, 2008 presidential primaries.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:30 PM on March 30, 2007


I had no idea some states were seriously considering trying to circumvent the Electoral College. Wow, scary as hell. Next think you know, they'll fuck up the restrictions on Eminent Domain!
posted by BillsR100 at 4:59 PM on March 30, 2007


I love me some instant runoff... that way, we have more choices than Pepsi/Coke. Seriously, it could really energize third parties, and get candidates out there based on merit, rather than party machine. Maybe it would also foster some really dynamic coalitions.

Rate your top three choices: 1) Noam Chomsky (Ontology Party) 2) Ru Paul (Fabulous Partie) 3) Pancake Rabbit (Intertubes Party)
posted by moonbird at 9:44 AM on March 31, 2007


signal writes "Just had to see that again. There's a certain purity to its depth of misunderstanding."

Sorry, my mistake: Should have said "mathematically increases the chance that the election will hang on your individual vote."

Seriously, did any of you reacting to my comment bother to read the article linked within? I read it years ago and it still makes more sense of the electoral college than anything else I've seen.

Ynoxas writes "If we went to a straight nation-wide 'he who gets the most votes' approach, then noone would campaign outside of California, New York, Texas, Florida, and maybe the next 2 highest-population states. The top 10 states, certainly, have enough population to basically throw the election one way or the other."

This is exactly the same argument I made, and yet for some reason everyone seems to feel this is sound yet my statement is not. How do the two differ? Either way, the one person, one vote, straight popular vote = winner method means that candidates need only endear themselves to the majority, at the expense of minority groups.

pyramid termite writes "hmmm ... maybe you've made some bad assumptions and followed it through with bad logic"

Why don't you read the article I linked first, and then decide for yourself? If I could have explained it as well as the author I linked to, I would have done so rather than linking. That's what links are for. My "bad logic" is an attempt to summarize the article.
posted by caution live frogs at 4:44 AM on April 3, 2007


signal writes "Just had to see that again. There's a certain purity to its depth of misunderstanding."

Sorry, my mistake: Should have said "mathematically increases the chance that the election will hang on your individual vote."


No, it doesn't. I stand by my previous comment.

Seriously, did any of you reacting to my comment bother to read the article linked within? I read it years ago and it still makes more sense of the electoral college than anything else I've seen.

I did read it, and it's nonsense. Elections are not supposed to be like sporting events, and the fact that the final outcome depends on a single district or stolen ballot box is a bug, not a feature.
posted by signal at 6:29 AM on April 3, 2007


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