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Electoral votes for senators: Safeguard, or Anachronism?

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posted on Sep, 25 2005 @ 05:12 AM
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For those of you who were educated in public schools or don't live in America, electoral votes in the United States are awarded based on how many Representatives and Senators a state has. Representatives are awarded according to population distribution ever 10 years, minimum 1.

This presents two problems:
1: Percentages must be rounded off to determine the distribution of congressional seats, and the total number of representatives in congress affects the way the rounding goes, therefore the size of the congress directly affects which states must be won in order to win a congessional election, and the thus the correlation (or lack thereof) between popular and electoral victory. This means that changing the size of congress can be used as a mechanism for limiting or increasing the importance of swing states.

2: Perhaps more importantly, every state gets two electoral votes for its two senators. This has nothing to do with population.

On one hand, this protects the interests of less populous states. Many would argue that without this weighting, rural areas could be bulldozed by more populous areas and find themselves in a second-class role in American society- with their livelihoods endangered by the pursuit of policies which benefit other areas. These people would probably suggest that we keep the current system.

On the other hand, this obviously waters down majority rule. Some would argue that simply electing the president by popular vote would be preferable to removing the senatorial weighting from the electoral college, as then at least the rural areas would have the aid of conservative voters in the more populous areas, which currently don't mean anything unless they actually win that state.

Some of course would like to keep the electoral system, but drop the two senatorial votes. Their argument might be that the electoral system is important for allowing the states the right to control their mode of awarding electoral votes. A simple majority vote counted at the federal level deprives a state of the right to divide it's electoral votes in recognition of minority-opinion enclaves which are of vital importance to the state economy, or for other reasons might deserve certain considerations. Of course this leaves the rounding error problem in place, and leaves the minority-opinion votes in each state uncounted, which favors the most populous states (there are more minority opinion votes cast in more populated areas than in rural areas, so this "disenfranchisement" could easily tend to be more harmful to rural (traditionally conservative-leaning) areas. I say "could easily tend to" because I haven't found statistics on the matter and do not mean to make unqualified assertions.


So where do you stand on the electoral system? What should be done with it? Don't touch it? Drop two? Get rid of it alltogether? Redefine the way electoral votes are apportioned?




posted on Sep, 25 2005 @ 08:23 AM
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I'm a great believer in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. In most cases, the electoral vote mirrors the popular one; in the final analysismore voters want this guy than the other guy, so this guy gets elected and the other guy fades into obscurity.

Of course 2000 was an exception; I believe it was the fourth (fifth, if you count 1960) time in presidential election history the person elected president did not receive an absolute majority (or plurality). This is why we don't read abouot President Tilden or President Gore (in the other cases, the person who lost ended up getting elected president later).

But even if the differentiation between winner and popluar vote were bigger, so what? The United States is not a democracy per se, although we tyically use democratic means to get things done. For example, we are not expected to routinely vote on budget bills; we hire guys (called Representatives or Senators or Legislators) to do the work for us. That's why we have the legislative branches of Federal and Sate governments.

Interestingly enough, more and more votes are being decided by direct ballot, since with automation it is easier to tally the votes. Here in Arizona, for example, more and more decisions are being decided by the initiative process. In theory this "gives more voice to the people"; in actuality it's a cop-out for when the state legislature is faced with a political hot potato such as immigration or US English and don't want to have to explain their vote to their ticked-off constituents.

I don't like initiatives, since the legislature is avoiding their responsibilities to the people who elected them, the costs for such are high, few people bother to vote, and those that do typically haven't even thoght out the pros and cons of the thing being voted upon.

So for all those reasons, I'd say leave the electing of the president as an electoral vote, although I would say to remove the mirroring of the Senators (two additional votes). This will outrage voters in Alaska, DC, Wyoming, etc. since their percentage will go from 0.55% down to 0.23% and make the big guys in California happy, since their percentage will go from 10.2% up to 12.3%. But since Arizona is in the middle, it won't affect me much (1.85% to 1.82%) one way or another.


(Looking at the above paragraph, maybe we should pass a law saying that engineers can't involve themselves in political discussions unless they promise to leave math out of it.)



posted on Sep, 25 2005 @ 09:19 AM
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Ballot initiatives are tricky business. Believe me- I live in California. In the runup to every election year it never fails that I'm asked to sign a petition that will call for a certain percentage or dollar amount to be earmarked for spending on this or that cause. Initiatives like those have really made a mess of the state budget. Then there was the lotto fiasco. That was before my time, but my dad still isn't done complaining about it. They told us the money would go to schools, so he voted for it. Well the money technically did go to schools, but then they cut some of the other funding that previously went to the schools to use for god knows what else.

I've come up with rules for when I'm asked to sign a petition.

I'll sign for things that the legislature would never do, no matter who wins the election- changing campaign finance rules, changing election laws, recalling people who triple the price of my vehicle registration, making it illegal for engineers to use math in political discussions, etc.

I won't sign for spending, I won't sign for any issue that the average citizen isn't qualified to vote on, I won't sign for something I don't understand, and I won't sign for something the petitioner can't answer simple questions about.


As for the original question- I'm not entirely sure how I feel yet, because each option has flaws. The Drop-2 idea favors populous states decisively and would essentially destroy any illusion of choice in this country- the Republican party would be dead (I for one would not attend the funeral, nor send flowers- but I'd still lament that there was nobody left to oppose the Democrats)

A simple majority vote would work semi-OK, except that it takes all limitation off of the reach of voter fraud. The electoral system localizes the effects of fraud. It also opens up a considerable vulnerability for the less populous states.

The current system is remarkably fickle. The size of congress can be a determining variable in election results, even if population, distribution, and vote totals remain the same. There is a small window of sizes for the house of representatives between the small size which would strengthen small-state advantage and the large size that would strengthen large-state advantage, wherein the results of the 2000 election would have been virtually random.
For house sizes between 491 and 598 (exclusive)
en.wikipedia.org...

of the 105 house sizes between those numbers, there is a 269/269 tie 23 times, Bush wins 53 times and Gore wins 29 times


Frankly it would matter a heck of a lot less to me if the Federal Government would just stop violating the constitutional scope of its powers as implied by the preamble to the constitution and article 1, section 8. Since that's never going to happen though, it seems to me like it would be a good idea to figure out how to make the system work better.

If I had any appreciable tollerance for math, I might attempt to figure out what would happen if the counties within a state worked on an all-or-nothing electoral basis and divided the states electoral votes according to counties carried, but that sounds like it would take several days and a couple of idiot-savants to figure out.
It would certainly further localize fraud to an almost negligible level unless it was carried out on an incredible scale, it would probably reduce the "disenfranchisement factor", but on the other hand I'm pretty sure that it would dramatically increase the "rounding error" factor.

[edit on 25-9-2005 by The Vagabond]



posted on Sep, 26 2005 @ 01:52 AM
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I'm a firm believer in "if it's broke fix it" and the electoral process is broken and has been since high speed communications came into existance.

One man, one vote with a paper trail.

You are right about one thing though OTS the US is not a democracy.

The Vagabond called it sometime ago a Kleptoracy and a 1 man, 1 vote paper trail would slow down the vote stealing ala Diebold.

And if you hadn't noticed it's 1 man 1 vote in all other elections. I think the presidential electoral process is designed to put just one more obstacle between the voter and the votee.



posted on Sep, 26 2005 @ 03:34 AM
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I say take all the controversy out of the equation and have the individual states legislative bodies assign the electoral votes the way it used to be.



posted on Sep, 26 2005 @ 04:56 PM
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Originally posted by whaaa
The Vagabond called it sometime ago a Kleptoracy and a 1 man, 1 vote paper trail would slow down the vote stealing ala Diebold.


Just to be clear, I didn't call it a kleptocracy to say that the election was stolen. You've heard of agnostics, right: people who don't believe that its possible to know if there is a god? Well I'm an agelectionwinneric... I don't believe I'll ever know for sure who won the last two elections- especially in 2000.
I call it a kleptocracy becuase those in power use their office to line the pockets of themselves and their friends.

Skibum- wouldn't having state legislatures assign the electoral votes make the process ultrapolitical? For the most part, having control of the state legislature would ensure a victory for a party, no matter who the candidate was. It would also bottleneck the electoral process at just a few people who could be bought off. Back when the legislatures elected senators, a person could buy a senate seat with relative ease. The same could become true of the presidency, couldn't it?



posted on Sep, 26 2005 @ 05:38 PM
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Back when the legislatures elected senators, a person could buy a senate seat with relative ease. The same could become true of the presidency, couldn't it?


You mean its basically not bought these days?



posted on Sep, 26 2005 @ 06:52 PM
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Touche'. I still think it would be a bad idea, but I suppose it really is six in one hand and half a dozen in the other.


Azi

posted on Sep, 26 2005 @ 08:20 PM
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Originally posted by Off_The_Street
I'm a great believer in the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.


It IS broke and we have to fix it. Although all of us know we will hold on to our 'traditions' like there's no tomorrow. The problem is not the senators' inclusion, it's the limited numberof total votes that can be had. 435! To represent the whole nation! That's absurd! What needs to be done is go the way of Colorado, where the votes are split. That's more representative, and gives independents more of a chance (haha). That in conjunction with a number of electoral votes proportionate to the US population today, not some 200 years ago! There are 295,734,134 in this country, and we are being represented by 435 people! That is simply wrong! There need to be more electoral votes,by any means possible. That could mean adding to thehouse of representatives, taking the voting to the county level, or whatever...

>Azi
>>Duh!



posted on Sep, 26 2005 @ 09:07 PM
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Electoral votes representing Senate positions is absolutely necessary for state's rights. I would support, however, a Constitutional Amendment that would give each electoral vote representing a representative to the candidate who won that district then the two votes representing the Senators to the person who won the entire State's popular vote. I think that would be a better system.



posted on Sep, 27 2005 @ 04:01 PM
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That really isn't a horrible idea DJ. I'll have to roll it around for a bit, but it seems relatively sound.
Is that your own, or is that being discussed publically by some group already?

Anybody else have insight on DJ's idea?



posted on Sep, 27 2005 @ 04:12 PM
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It's not really my idea, Maine and Nebraska already do it:

www.fairvote.org...

I think we'd need a constitutional amendment though to really get all states to do it.



posted on Sep, 28 2005 @ 01:20 PM
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It would seem that if we did that there would be more of a chance of one party controling both the executive office and the legislature. We see how well that works, its like a blank check.



posted on Sep, 28 2005 @ 02:48 PM
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It would definately increase the correlation between a parties control of the House and the Presidency, except where voters did not vote down party lines. It should actually decrease the correlation between control of the Senate and Control of the Presidency though, as winning the majority of a state (and thus presumably being able to win the senate race in that state as well) would only be worth 2 of that states electoral votes- not all of them.
In that sense, I think this could actually be a good thing, especially if it coincided with a strengthening of independents and third parties (which is plausible, considering that such laws would make it entirely possible for 3rd parties and independents to garner electoral votes). We could see a situation develop where the parties had to engage in negotiations for swing votes, especially from independents but also from moderate partisans, in order to get the senate to back the agenda of a president not of the same party.

Later I'd like to mull over the numbers and see what would have happened in elections past if we were using this system nationwide.



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