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US Votes Republican -- except for all the people.
November 8, 2000 9:53 AM   Subscribe

US Votes Republican -- except for all the people. Anyone still need an explanation of the Electoral College?
posted by baylink (51 comments total)

 
Nope.
posted by daveadams at 10:00 AM on November 8, 2000


Lake Effect linked this PDF that better shows the distribution of electoral votes by sizing each state to its number of electors. Mind you, the results shown on this map are a pre-election guess.
posted by harmful at 10:02 AM on November 8, 2000


Hardly.....but I think it's time to do away with it.
posted by bkdelong at 10:02 AM on November 8, 2000


I am wondering if we would be having this discussion if the results were reversed....
posted by Popstar at 10:12 AM on November 8, 2000


Maybe we wouldn't, but somebody would.
posted by dnash at 10:16 AM on November 8, 2000


One also has to question how much influence the premature projection of Florida had on the popular vote, especially in the western states.

Gore only won the popular vote by 0.2%... hardly a mandate. If the federal government had the same "automatic re-count" law as Florida, the popular vote in this election would have easily qualified. We wouldn't know the outcome of this election for weeks, if not months.
posted by dandot at 10:19 AM on November 8, 2000


The polls out here in the West were already closed long before anyone had a credible projection on Florida. They closed at 8PM PST. I know that I was looking after that, and none, not one, of the various services I was following after that had a projection on Florida for hours thereafter.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2000


if anything, I think the "premature projections of florida" (which one?) would have galvanized people on the left coast and beyond to get out there and vote for their candidate.

I've heard some bellyaching this morning about the irresponsible coverage of the election last night, but I was perfectly happy with what I saw. calling florida wrong...twice...just made the evening more exciting for me.

honestly, I don't know what people are complaining about.

rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2000


They closed at 8PM PST. I know that I was looking after that...

But were you looking BEFORE that. Florida was given to Gore by all the networks at 9:30PM EST, then backed off later.
posted by netbros at 10:48 AM on November 8, 2000


me too, rebecca - they were still hedging and fudging about Florida when the polls closed out here. It was pretty easy to tell nobody knew what was going on. It wasn't just Florida, either - there were several states that wavered back and forth between the two as new data came in. I don't understand why people are upset, unless they're just desperate for a scandal.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2000


It would take a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College. An amendment requires the approval of the legislatures in three-fourths of the states. There's no way that the small states are going to approve a system that substantially lowers their impact on the presidential race.
posted by rcade at 11:02 AM on November 8, 2000


Gore only won the popular vote by 0.2%... hardly a mandate.

I'm already tired of the "mandate" talk. That kind of thing doesn't matter unless the politicians are worried about how far to carry their agenda for fear of getting kicked out next time around.

If the federal government had the same "automatic re-count" law as Florida, the popular vote in this election would have easily qualified. We wouldn't know the outcome of this election for weeks, if not months.

Except that there is no such thing as a federal election. There are only state elections. If the federal government had such a law, it would presumably only force recounts in the states which were as close as Florida, and as far as I know, no other states were only a half a percentage point apart. Anyway, the federal government has extremely limited power in making any rules about elections, so this kind of law probably couldn't exist.

posted by daveadams at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2000


I agree with Rebecca. I'm Canadian, and your election was (and continues to be) the most exciting television I've caught in a while. You guys should do away with professional sports and just have elections every few weeks.
posted by frenetic at 11:08 AM on November 8, 2000


If Bush get elected by virtue of the electoral college and not by popular vote than as far as I'm concerned this country doesn't have a president and I will not support him in any way, shape, form or capacity. I would feel exactly the same way if it was Gore in the same position instead of Bush. I could see a need for the electoral collage back when there was widespread voter fraud and intimidation of minorities, but now it is a complete anachronism.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 11:31 AM on November 8, 2000


I kind of agree with Mr. skullhead. The Electoral vote system needs to be removed. I don't care if it takes week to tally them, people's individual votes should decide.

-RedDwarf
posted by RedDwarf at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2000


If Bush get elected by virtue of the electoral college and not by popular vote than as far as I'm concerned this country doesn't have a president and I will not support him

This doesn't strike me as a principled position, because we frequently have sub-majority but plurality presidents. Clinton didn't get a majority in 1996 _or_ 1992; both times, more people voted for Ross Perot and either Bush Sr. or Dole than voted for Clinton. Where's the legitimacy there?


posted by MattD at 11:47 AM on November 8, 2000


I could see a need for the electoral collage back when there was widespread voter fraud and intimidation of minorities, but now it is a complete anachronismWhat about vote trading or vote selling online? Is that not a form of voter fraud? The electoral college was actually developed not to prevent voter fraud, but because the leaders at the time did not trust the american citizens (big suprise). The electoral college was made as a safety net against the ignorance of the people. now, with vote selling and vote trading real concerns, don't you think there's a small window of opportunity for fraud? instead of intimidation of minorities, we now have the opportunity to see the buying off of minorities.


posted by bliss322 at 11:47 AM on November 8, 2000




Clinton didn't get a majority in 1996 _or_ 1992; both times, more people voted for Ross Perot and either Bush Sr. or Dole than voted for Clinton. Where's the legitimacy there?i'm curious where you got this information because i was reading on cnn that if the popular vote does not match the electoral vote, it would be the first time in 100 hundred years that that happened (halfway down the article they mention it).



posted by bliss322 at 11:51 AM on November 8, 2000


The Electoral College was designed by the founding fathers who wrote it into the Constitution along with this rule: only white men who owned property and paid taxes would be allowed to vote.

Those fuckers!
posted by tiaka at 11:59 AM on November 8, 2000


Bliss, I'm getting really really tired of the canard that the founding fathers were elitists who didn't trust the people. (If that were true, why did they get rid of the King?) The Electoral College was designed the way it is largely as a compromise between large and small states, to compensate for transport and communications difficulties, and to prevent regionalism (a la Serbia overwhelming Montenegro).

Mathematical analysis has proven that the Electoral College increases the power of the individual voter, enhances the importance of small states, requires candidates to campaign in more places, and in terms of often providing an outsized electoral majority, helps ensure that the incoming president has a mandate to lead. (Except, maybe, this year.)

We elect by states because we are a FEDERAL republic, with a system that makes it hard to get elected and even harder to change the system. I'd hate to lose those protections. (Look at Russia, where a new President can bark and Congress changes the Constitution.)
posted by dhartung at 12:15 PM on November 8, 2000


bliss322, Clinton had a plurality, not a majority. That means he clearly had the most votes, but those votes didn't add up to more than everyone else combined.

Neither Bush nor Gore will get a majority this time out.
posted by mikel at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2000


Bliss, in fact, the "not since 1888" thing is because normally only the two major-party candidates are looked at. If you look at the entire electoral slate, 17 -- yes, seventeen -- presidents have been elected with less than 50% of the popular vote.
posted by dhartung at 12:17 PM on November 8, 2000


Bliss322: what CNN meant was that the Electoral Vote majority (more than 50%) has always gone to the Popular Vote _plurality_ winner (1 more vote than the next guy, whether or not over 50%).

_Many_ Presidents have been elected in that time with a minority of the Popular Vote (the 3rd Party candidate(s) indicated in parenthesis)

00: Gore or Bush (Nader)
96: Clinton (Perot)
92: Clinton (Perot)
68: Nixon (George Wallace)
60: Kennedy (Harry F. Byrd)
48: Truman (Henry Wallace, Strom Thurmond)
12: Wilson (Theodore Roosevelt)

In addition, Reagan in 80 got barely a majority, thanks to John B. Anderson.




posted by MattD at 12:20 PM on November 8, 2000


The electoral college also increases the importance of people who didn't vote. If you chose not to vote, it imposses the votes of those around you upon you. It makes sense, really. I, for one, am entirely in favor of the electoral college. It solves so many problems, I have difficulty understanding the people here who want to do away with it.
posted by Ptrin at 12:31 PM on November 8, 2000


the plurality vote (which now i have a much better grasp of, thanks) is something we're going to have to get used to if we ever want more than two major parties to select from. and, dhartung, i stand corrected on the reasons behind the electoral process, especially after doing a quick google search finding their results. although, the reasons we 'removed the king'
posted by bliss322 at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2000


oops... ignore the 'remove the king' thing. too quick on the button
posted by bliss322 at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2000


Well, yes, but the *argument* is "being elected by the College without even a plurality", which is what may happen this time, if Bush takes Florida.

Cheney will then be one bullet away from the presidency -- this *is* a "year ending in '00", don't forget.
posted by baylink at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2000


From the family that brought you such fan favorites as: Iran-Contra, CIA complicity in crack cocaine manufacture, The S&L Debacle, and The Persian Gulf Mass-murder comes their newest hit:
ELECTION 2000
posted by Optamystic at 1:14 PM on November 8, 2000


If the electoral college were to be gotten rid of (not likely), the issue would have to be addressed: would we still require the winner to have a majority of votes, or would a plurality do. As far as I know, state elections allow plurality to win. But notice that in the Presidential election, the winner must have a majority of the electoral votes to be the winner, otherwise the choice goes to the House. I'm assuming we'd have to drop that requirement to make a popular vote system viable.

baylink: it's just ending in '0' right? 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, and 1960 all supposedly followed that pattern. 1980 almost did.
posted by daveadams at 1:24 PM on November 8, 2000


In the UK, where the "popular" vote only indirectly chooses the government (by electing MPs in constituencies on a plurality), MOST elections in the past century have delivered a majority of seats in Parliament while garnering well under 50% of the national vote, due to 3rd / 4th / 5th parties.

Neither Labour nor Tory has done anything about it -- and they could change it with a simple bill through parliament. (The UK not having an actual constitution and all).

Right now, Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens (not entirely seriously) contest in England, with Plaid Cymru and Scotch National Party added to the mix in Wales and Scotland, respectively. Northern Ireland has its own parties -- two of which are in essence allied in the Parliament with Labour and Tories, and the rest of which are free-swinging partisans of the Catholid or Protestant cause.

(One note: at least in 1997, Labour and Liberal Democrats took a page from the "Nader Traders" and sat down to horsetrade constituencies where the Tories had 40% blocks and the other two had 60% between them -- and negotiated to have one or the other party stand down, to assure a Tory defeat. Liberals did this as well to assure themselves seats (minor parties always being one election from extinction), and out of hope they could demand proportional representation in exchnage for supporting a Labor government without a majority of seats.
posted by MattD at 1:36 PM on November 8, 2000


Forgive me, Dave; yes, "ending in 0". My 0 key apparently stuttered.
posted by baylink at 1:38 PM on November 8, 2000


If you consider vote swapping to be voter fraud, thne you must realise that it is only made possible by the Electoral College. If everyone's vote counted equally no matter what state they lived in, the concept of vote swapping would be irrelevant.
posted by donkeymon at 1:55 PM on November 8, 2000


Apropos all this furore about whether or not we should abolish the Electoral College, an analysis by a certain Alan Natapoff at MIT posits that the E.C. helps each voter's decision make more impact... politicos have to pander to every state rather than just their "locks." And isn't universal pandering what politics is all about?
posted by letourneau at 2:29 PM on November 8, 2000


politicos don't have to pander to every state...texas was virtually ignored by the democrats...we had an uncontested senate race...when you live in a state that historically votes one way, then if your vote differs, it's like it doesn't count...texas was going republican...it didn't matter a bit how or if i voted...same thing in hawaii...by the time they get to vote, the election is over...if the individual votes counted it might make a difference...

of course, i guess this would only really apply if the race was close like it is this year...
posted by centrs at 2:47 PM on November 8, 2000


If we were to count only the popular vote, then why would a candidate even want to appear outside of any given city? NYC, LA, Philly, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, and the rest of the top population areas would be where most of the candidates would spend most of there rather than New Hampshire, Vermont, and all of those big square states in the middle that have little population centers. Just count the trips made to Alaska and Hawaii by any party member. Don't there votes count too? Maybe give some more EC votes to those two and see how it plays on the scheduling.

I for one say keep it as it is, even if it is broken. No "lawmaker" has the brains, ability, or support to get a "fair", "honest", "fix." Imagine the amount of constitutional scholars up in arms going before the Senate and House saying how history would judge each voter, should a change even be brought about.
posted by brent at 2:53 PM on November 8, 2000


If you're in favor of getting rid of the electoral college because it weighs different voters' votes differently depending on the state they live in, you should also be in favor of getting rid of the Senate (or at least making it proportional), and the current method of amending the Constitution since they both misrepresent low-population states to an even greater extent than the electoral college. And arguably, the combined power of the Senate and the amendment process are at least as important as the selection of a chief executive...
posted by daveadams at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2000


Hmm... proportional senate... California gets eleven, twelve senators... sure, I'm fine with that, in a self-serving kind of way. :-)
posted by youhas at 3:34 PM on November 8, 2000


The whole point of the Senate is to give each state equal representation as an offset to the House, where there is proportional representation. If you made a proportional Senate, you'd have two Houses, basically.

While I'm giving my $.02, I for one think the college is a very outdated idea that results in the candidates only visiting swing states and not states where the other candidate has a virtual lock. Nobody ever saw Gore in Texas, because everyone knew Bush had it from the start. However, if there was no Electoral College, Gore would have to campaign there (and everywhere, really) in an attempt at votes.
posted by zempf at 4:35 PM on November 8, 2000


Daveadams worries that if the electoral college is disbanded, you'd need something which ensures that the winner must have a majority. One way of doing this, and also, actively encouraging minority parties and independents, is to have a transferable preferential system. Why not rank the candidates? That way you get to vote for who you prefer, and put the candidate you truly despise last.

If you did this, you wouldn't have the wailing and gnashing of teeth over whether or not a vote for Nader somehow "stole" the election. If you ranked your candidates as Nader 1, Gore 2, and Bush 3 (to pick an example at random) then once Nader is eliminated from the race (if he gets the lowest) your vote then counts for Gore.

The system is not perfect, but it does a much better job at tracking people's actual preferences than the simple "first-past-the-post" travesty. (Think of how much information about your preferences of the candidates was ignored when you could only say who you thought would be best?)
posted by grestall at 5:00 PM on November 8, 2000


Much more than electoral college reform, I want instant runoff voting, so I can pick a 1st & 2nd choice. That way, if candidate A loses, Candidate B gets my vote instead.
posted by snakey at 5:08 PM on November 8, 2000


Better yet. As much as it potentially pains me right now, if you get rid of the Electoral College, you may as well get rid of the states, since this is a vestige of our federal (democratic) republic.

Do we want Italy?
posted by trox at 8:02 PM on November 8, 2000


I feel like we're *in* italy right now.

and I'm loving it.

rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 9:01 PM on November 8, 2000


daveadams, baylink: According to history chances are high the next President will die before leaving office. Some psychic said Raygun bucked the trend because he was elected in a rising water sign while the others were elected in a rising fire sign. Note, however, he did get shot and Tommy J. (1800) nearly drowned twice.

SPOOOKY.

Or not. Whatever.

I’d say let’s bet on how the next President will (or nearly) prematurely pass on, but that’s too grim. Perhaps we could bet on a Presidential “misfortune”?

People, we don’t need to amend the Constitution. It rarely fails us and removing the electoral college would only emphasize problems that are, arguably, worse than the our current system’s failings.

Or not. Whatever.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:16 PM on November 8, 2000


By the present line of thinking, that the electoral college is outdated, we can argue that the entire constitution is outdated. Yes, it was written by elitist rich landowners who didn't want slaves or women (who they treated much like slaves back then) to vote. Why not just abolish the whole thing? I mean it's just a piece of paper, right?

I do not like the path this country is now walking. It's like watching a really bad horror movie when the inevitable next victim is going down the stairs in the basement after discovering the lights don't work. And you scream at the screen cuz you just know the homicidal maniac is hiding in the shadows but like a dunce the person just keeps walking down those stairs and then they get killed and you're like well you deserved it cuz you are so stupid!
posted by ZachsMind at 10:38 PM on November 8, 2000


Well put.

I wonder if any of those out there who think we should do away with the Electoral College system would put it's reform into the hands of either Gore or Bush? Or the Senate or the House for that matter?

Any system we're likely to put in it's place would be almost certainly worse...
posted by Neb at 12:28 AM on November 9, 2000


Woo hoo! Constitutional Convention 2001!
posted by shylock at 2:54 AM on November 9, 2000


Here's another scenario: if we had no electoral college, then the entire nation would have to have a recount. We'd get all the same crap we're finding in Florida times fifty. The latest popular numbers I saw had Gore ahead by only 97,800 votes. That's less than 2,000 votes on average per state. That would be rough. We really wouldn't know what happened until next year!
posted by daveadams at 9:06 AM on November 9, 2000


With everything counted except Florida, I heard 200,000+ for Gore; where did your number come from?
posted by baylink at 6:06 PM on November 9, 2000


It was the number on USA today's results for a little while yesterday morning. It's back to being about 200,000. But in any case that still would just require an average net gain of 4000 votes per state. And with all the election controversy in Florida, I'm sure there are at least 200,000 "questionable" votes around the country. It would be absolute madness.
posted by daveadams at 7:32 AM on November 10, 2000


And the problem there is...? :-)

I'm very proud of this headline: this was the third most popular thread of the election.

Thanks to the St Pete Times for the graphic, in case I forgot to say so.
posted by baylink at 8:02 AM on November 10, 2000


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