November 12, 2000
6:45 PM   Subscribe

It turns out before the election, representatives introduced a bi-partisan bill in both the House (H.J. Res. 113) and the Senate (S.J. Res. 56) to amend the Constitution to replace the electoral college with the direct election of the President and Vice President. Contact your reps to ask them to support the bills. If we're going to get electoral reform, it will be now.
posted by veruca (17 comments total)
And before you defend the electoral college, read up on the history and reasoning behind it. (Consider this my link in place of a reasoned argument.)
posted by veruca at 6:47 PM on November 12, 2000

Any alteration of the electoral college must not usurp the fact that the election for president consists of fifty states voting separately and their accumulated efforts are added up to decide on the leader of the executive branch of our governmental system. I'll tell you why. Right now, George Dubya Bush is trying to halt the recount by hand, which is a requirement of Florida law. When the original vote count in Florida is down to one half of one percent, as it is now, a recount by hand is required. That's not federal law. It's state law. Were this a national popular election, without the electoral college, Bush could rightfully shut this whole thing down tomorrow, and he would be president, overrunning the law of a state of the Union. This cannot be allowed to happen.

The electoral college, as annoying as it is, exists so that each state is given fair and equal treatment within the stipulation of the population of this country. That's why some states get more electoral votes than others. A straight popular vote disregarding the states would further weaken the power of the states with regards to the matter of voting for the president of the United States.

Notice, this is not an emotional response. In fact, I'd like to see the electoral college disappear more than most of you reading this. I would also love to see this whole thing be OVER. I'm actually missing Elian Gonzales who was less annoying and boring than talk about than this election has been. However, I understand too well WHY the Electoral College is there and why it cannot be completely removed. Any alteration of the Electoral College must take into account the power of each state separately, in order to keep a balance of power between the states and the federal government.

I agree that it needs to be fixed, but I do not believe the Electoral College should be abolished outright.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:09 PM on November 12, 2000

Repurposed Content:

I think we all agree that our wilderness is a precious thing. If we go to a popular vote than the voting power of states that are mostly made up of unpopulated wilderness will decrease dramaticly.

The current opinion of our society is that the land should be protected but what if, in the future, the opinion of the densly populated areas falls along the line of paving over wyoming so we can squeeze in more strip malls and suburbs? No longer will the best interest of individual states be addressed but what is in the best interest of the megapolis.

posted by Mick at 8:32 PM on November 12, 2000

Actually, the people who tend to most in favor of paving over the wilderness are the ones who live closest to it. Conservationism would probably get a boost from losing the Electoral College.

Various ironies duly noted.
posted by grimmelm at 8:43 PM on November 12, 2000

Already, the winner-take-all aspect in each state motivates presidential candidates to focus on states with a moderate or large number of electoral votes, assuming the candidates believe they have a chance to win the popular vote there. Less populous states with only a few electoral votes are largely ignored.

Also, states that are heavily leaning toward one of the presidential candidates are similarly ignored.
posted by veruca at 8:53 PM on November 12, 2000

Abolishing the electoral college will not materially contribute to an improved presidental election process, because it's still a straightforward numbers game. Convincing each state to adopt instant runoff voting, for example, would be a much more useful goal to lobby for.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:08 PM on November 12, 2000

To be honest, isn't this whole debate and the national interest in it the best thing that has happened to this country in a long time? I find this is much more relevant and valid fixation than OJ, Elian, Monica, or the Yankees. People are talking at length about the future of our nation because we actually have a meaningful enough context that cannot be determined before the commercial break.

state's rights are the most important element of democracy in this country. any changes to the electoral college must eliminate neither the power of the states nor the power of individual people, but must manage to better clarify and balance these elements. by attributing one vote to each state, candidates would be forced to spend equal amounts of time campaigning nationwide, while the power of the individual voter can speak as loudly as it has in Florida this week. In the event of a 25-25 tie, the overall popular vote wins. everyone is represented and the candidates will not have a choice of selective campaigning. this might also prove a more viable way of facilitating third party integration into the national political scene.
posted by whoshotwho at 11:13 PM on November 12, 2000

I think the thing to do is to keep the Electoral College but to require that the votes be allocated on the basis of population. This is still not the same mathematically as a direct popular vote, since smaller states get more electoral power per capita than larger ones, but it should be somewhat of an improvement.

I have to wonder, however, if those in favor of abolishing the Electoral College would also be in favor of abolishing the Senate. Same idea, you know...

On that note, an idea mathematically similar to our Congress would be to require a President to receive a plurality of both the popular vote and a plurality of the state's individual vote in a plurality of the states. If no candidate manages both, then the existing President might remain in office another year, at which time a new election will be held. If the President's ten-year term limit expires then, of course, the VP becomes President through the normal succession, while annual elections continue to be held until one candidate or another achieves enough momentum to get into office.

This idea has many problems of its own but it's interesting to contemplate...
posted by kindall at 11:19 PM on November 12, 2000

Please contact your representatives in State and Federal Congress and ask them to please keep the Electoral College, as it is a far superior method of electiing the President than a popular vote. Following is a post I made to a different thread because I hate repeating myself unless I can copy and paste.


The electoral college is designed to give states a voice in national elections. The Framers didn’t want one government passing laws for all it’s people, as that is too close to a monarchy. So, they designed the electoral college which mandates representatives from the states elect the president.

You knew that. Here’s my arguement.

§ Taking away the EC in favor of the popular vote bypasses state power in national elections. It removes local power in favor federal power.

§ The most populous states stand the chance of electing the President, creating an imbalance of power over smaller states. The irony here is that this turned out to happen with the EC, but capturing large states in a presidential election doesn’t garner enough votes to become president. Candidates must speak to small states too.

§ The EC requires the popular vote to be distributed across the country. If say, the North has one Candidate and the South another, whomever has the larger population could elect the president if we relied on the PV. This could easily create a dominance of one group of voters over another. In essence, the Constitution holds state populations more important than the national population taken as a whole.

§ The EC enhances minority interests. “This is so because the votes of even small minorities in a State may make the difference between winning all of that State’s electoral votes or none... It is because of the ‘leverage effect’ that the presidency, as an institution, tends to be more sensitive... than Congress. Changing to a direct election of the president would therefore actually damage minority interests since their votes would be overwhelmed by a national popular majority.”

That should sound familiar to all the Nader supporters in the house.

(The above two points cribbed from William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director of the FEC Office of Election Administration.)


Then I said:


And another thing, damnit:

Another major concern, says Gans, is shifting from the principle of federalism. "Different states in different regions have important interests to which the candidate should be subjected and to which the candidates should be required to speak." Gans argues that the Electoral College should not be abandoned, but the winner-take-all approach should be reformed to allow minority candidates to be represented, and the "faithless" elector should be outlawed.
Time to Reform the Electoral College?

We could have proportional representation in our current system with an amendment.

Don’t hold the PV over the EC!


I actually disagree with “outlawing the faithless elector” as that simply goes against a basic tenet of reprsentative democracy, but in the end, if that was a sticking point, I’d let it slide.

Hey Kindall, the Electoral College is paritally a representation of each state’s population.

Grimmelm, that was a rather sweeping generalization of our smaller states. I must concede you’re almost right. The residents of, say, Oregon and North Dakota equate environmentalism with losing jobs. Until environmentalists can come up with some rhetoric — in mostly layperson’s terms — their accurate reasoning will remain.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:12 AM on November 13, 2000

Hey Kindall, the Electoral College is paritally a representation of each state’s population.

Yeah, but with the electoral college, it's possible for a candidate to win enough states but still lose the popular vote, due to the winner-takes-all policy held by most states. That's after all one of the fusses being kicked up right now, and most people's solution seems to be to abolish the EC, which I think is a shortsighted move.

In an ideal world (i.e., one in which I got to make all the rules) candidates would have to clear both hurdles: win the national popular vote and carry a plurality of states, EC-style (although, since the popular vote was already being tracked, a simple state-by-state tally would be sufficient, each state weighted the same). If no candidate does both, the status quo would be maintained. Maybe the next election the respective parties would put up stronger candidates, and if the major parties continued to field weak candidates, there might eventually be more of a chance for a small-party candidate to get more attention.

However, I'm blue-skying. Pigs will obviously fly first.
posted by kindall at 12:33 AM on November 13, 2000

We're all arguing for something that will never happen. Even if the House and Senate approve a constitutional amendment to eliminate the EC, it still has to go to the states for ratification. Enough small states will reject it to prevent passage. Not going to happen.
posted by darren at 7:16 AM on November 13, 2000

Very true darren. Senator Schumer said in response to Senator-elect Clinton’s (WHY GOD? WHY!?) remarks about abolishing the EC that the states would never ratify the amendment. He suggested adding legislation that would make the EC proportional. Which is great.

A smart Senator, who would of thought?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 8:21 AM on November 13, 2000

I'm going to repeat my suggest that more states -- especially my home of New York -- follow the example of Maine and Nebraska, and allocate electoral votes by congressional district (with two going to the popular vote winner for the state). It's simple, easy to implement, and keeps most of the advantages of the EC _and_ most of the advantages of direct election.
posted by drothgery at 8:33 AM on November 13, 2000

The problem with this election isn't the electoral college, but with the archaic systems used to collect the popular vote and the processes in place to ensure the accuracy of same.

Abolishing the electoral college is irrelevant to the outcome of this election. The fundamental issue is the popular vote, and a far more important issue is how the contenders' parties and camps are handling the fact that the election has not yet been won by any contender, and will not be until all the votes are counted and properly certified.

I'm amazed that anyone would claim that a recount is a challenge to democracy, or that trying to arrive at a reasonable count "politicizes" the election (isn't that its primary purpose?), or that calling for recounts is illegal. IMHO, even if Bush wins after all this is settled, he's proven himself unworthy of the position of president, by virtue of his camp's repetitive and immoral charges of impropriety, illegality, and so forth.

Count the damn votes, all of them, and may the chips (or chads) fall where they may.
posted by schampeo at 12:21 PM on November 13, 2000

Interestingly, Gallup recently found a majority favor EC abolition, but in actuality that percentage has barely moved since the 1950s, even given the current crisis.

I don't want electoral college reform, maybe just a few tweaks, but I'd rather see a law requiring the news media to display population-proportional electoral college maps.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2000

Whoops, please ignore that link, it will change. Instead, go to the page I just whipped up.
posted by dhartung at 1:04 PM on November 13, 2000

Take a look at this interesting map which shows who won each county in the US.
posted by gyc at 2:15 PM on November 13, 2000

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