Electoral College Reforms Need Redistricting Reforms First

There has been a fair bit of press of late on reforming the Electoral College, including efforts by North Carolina Democrats and California Republicans to change their states from a winner take all state to a proportional allocation state. The matter has every kind of contentious aspect you can imagine, from the blatantly partisan overtones to questions of constitutionality.

FairVote makes a good argument against changing in either state, noting that a shift to proportional allocation would distort further an already distroted outcome:

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by a small margin, but lost the Electoral College vote. Gore's margin of victory in the popular vote was 0.52%, but Bush's Electoral College margin of victory was 0.93%. By itself, the Electoral College creates a distortion between the national vote and electoral vote results. Some assume a district-by-district vote would better represent the popular will, but just the opposite is true. Had congressional district allocation been in place in 2000, Bush's electoral vote margin of victory would have been 7.06%! That’s 8 times an already distorted result.
While Fair Vote's analysis is mathematically accurate, their solution, a national popular vote, will be difficult to achieve since it will require a constitutional amendment. A far more likely scenario would be a change to proportional allocation coupled with, and predicated upon, redistricting reform, a policy and procedural change that can occur without an constitutional amendment, but with hurdles of its own.

The two states garnering the most news are North Carolina, where the legislature is nearing completion of a bill to change the state's electoral vote allocation, and California, where a ballot initiative is underway to do the same, both states moving to a proportional method. In North Carolina, the effort is being pushed by state Democrats, who feel that the generally conservative state shortchanges Democratic voters--largely in the Research Triangle area. In California, the ballot initiative is being led by a Republican lawyer with ties to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As of last week, the North Carolina effort has stalled and the California initiative is in the qualification phase of gathering signatures.

At the heart of Fair Vote's criticism of a proportional electoral vote distribution is the fact that while some states are overwhelmingly partisan on a state level, individual congressional districts would be like states on steriods, with some districts being 90 or 92 percent one party or another-by design. The redistricting process is geared to either expanding one party's control of the congressional delegation, see for example Texas or Pennsylvania or a "sweetheart gerrymander" by which all incumbents, regardless of partisan control of the state legislature are protected an their control over their districts strengthened, see California or Virginia for example. In either case, the partisan nature of each district increases the distortive effect of a proportional electoral allocation.

If the argument that states and supporters of changing the allocation system is that the current winner take all-disenfranchises the minority party in most states not named Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania, then a move to a proportional allocation achieves the same disenfranchsing effect in all but about 40 Congressional districts. Of the 435 house seats in Congress, in any given year only about 40 are divided in such a way as to actually be competitive in terms of partisan divisions. The rest of teh districts are so overwhelmingly partisan that for all intents and purpsoes, the primary in those districts is the real election and the minority party is largely irrelevant.

In order for a proportional electoral vote allocation to work as its supporters intend, there will need to be significant changes to the manner in which Congressional districts are drawn. Today the redistricting process is largely a political process dominated by the majority party in teh state legislature. However, there are two models that could be implemented. The first is the Iowa model, where the non-partisan Legislative Services Bureau draws the state's district lines based upon a set series of criteria largely based on population and geography. Once the Bureau completes its draft, it goes to a straight up or down vote by the Legislature, no amendments (other than spelling or punctuational) are allowed. If the first plan fails, the LSB starts again. If a second plan is rejected, the LSB will prepare a third plan, which can be amended by the legislature in the same manner as any other bill.

A second model is the Arizona model, which uses a tie-breaker citizen commission model. A panel is made up of two Democrats, Two Republicans and a fifth indepdent selected by the other four. Created by a Constitutional Amendment, the Arizona Redistricting Commission has a number of mandates, including a pre-disposition to geography first and later a bias toward competitive districts where possible.

These two models have the potential to produce districting maps that don't necessarily create too many overly partisan districts, although some are probably unavoidable. It is only through more politically divided congressional districts can a proportional electoral vote allocation come any where near accurately reflecting the will of the nation.

Chaning the redistricting process is within the state's perogative and does not require an constitutional amendment. The change however, is not without challenges of its own. First and foremost, is overcoming the desire of the legislature to not run the districting process themselves. The challenge can be met in a fair number of state with a ballot initiative process, but no all states have that process. The second challenge is overcoming the Voting Rights Act preclearance problem and challenges involving vote dilution or the changes to majority-minority districts.

No one doubts that the current electoral college system creates inequities in the political system. Given teh difficulty of passing a Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the electoral college, it might be best to change the manner in which congressional districts are drawn in order to minimize the distortive effect of Congressional districts so that a proportional allocation system might be more effective in reflecting the intent of voters.

Posted by Matt Johnston at August 21, 2007 1:08 PM
Comment #230141

The popular vote should prevail in presidential elections without regard to districts or even states.The electoral college is a throwback,an evolutionary and cautious first step away from monarchy taken when the very concept of not submitting to hereditary rulers was an extremely radical idea.It is past time to take the next step and truly honor the will of the people for the only office we all vote for.Constitutional amendments are difficult and time consuming. The sooner we start the better.
Kudos on a thoughtful article BTW.

Posted by: Bills at August 21, 2007 2:48 PM
Comment #230144


sorry, but allowing the few most populist cities such as new york, LA, and the like to control the direction of this country is not fair by any stretch of the imagination. as far as i’m concerned each state should carry equal weight in deciding who runs the country. this country is a republic, not a democracy. the majority should not be able to infringe on anyones rights by popular vote.

Posted by: dbs at August 21, 2007 3:05 PM
Comment #230147

One man [woman], one vote…why should Wyoming’s votes count more?

Posted by: Rachel at August 21, 2007 3:14 PM
Comment #230152

why should the few most populist states in the union control all the rest?

Posted by: dbs at August 21, 2007 3:51 PM
Comment #230156

dbs….Why isn’t it fair?? Isn’t that what “popular” vote means? By your rationale, someone living in podunk junction somewhere has more of a say than a resident of Los Angeles?
I agree Bills in regards to the electoral college ..I think its antiquated purpose screams for attention.

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at August 21, 2007 4:38 PM
Comment #230157

I only wish the “populist” states would prevail…what’s wrong with popular vote? That means each one of our votes counts as one vote…nothing unfair about that!! Small states still have 2 Senators…even when their population determintes that they only get one Congressman!

Posted by: Rachel at August 21, 2007 4:44 PM
Comment #230159


i disagree, i believe each state should carry equal weight. i believe the porpose of the electorial college was to assure every state had a voice, without it candidates could ignore all but the most populist states, which means if you are from “podunk junction “your voice will never be heard. i don’t think it would necessarily mean each citizen of podunks vote would count more, only that the state as a whole would decide the direction of that state, and each state would get equal input. we are a country made up of many different states with sometimes vastly different views and values, and i don’t think it fair that the majority of a small # of those states could control the vast political landscape because of sheer population. whats important to the citizen of podunk junction ( love that name) is probably vastly different from that of someone from say san fracisco.

Posted by: dbs at August 21, 2007 5:00 PM
Comment #230160


“I only wish the “populist” states would prevail…what’s wrong with popular vote? That means each one of our votes counts as one vote…nothing unfair about that!! Small states still have 2 Senators…even when their population determintes that they only get one Congressman!”

it would also mean thier vote for president would never matter. don’t know where you live but if you lived in a small state that carried no political weight the candidates would just ignore you. how would you feel about that. BTW did spell populist wrong, should it be populous, populis, populus, dammit english was never my best subject. sorry :(

Posted by: dbs at August 21, 2007 5:09 PM
Comment #230161


Before I start, I’m not being a $mart-a$$, I honestly want to be sure that I understand what you’re saying.

populist = a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people

whereas, POPULACE = reference to the density of population

Or at least I think that’s right. I sometimes read my own electronic writings and say to myself, “what the hell was I trying to say”?

Now, dispensing with the niceties, you said, “this country is a republic, not a democracy.”

Uh ….. I thought it was a democratic republic? Of course we must also remember that only “free men” were a part of the original electorate. No women voted, blacks and others who were owned or otherwise “indentured” had no vote. Lots of things have changed ………. some for the better, some too slowly, some for the worse.

Then you go on to say, “the majority should not be able to infringe on anyones rights by popular vote.”

Well just what would you call the Republican movement to ban Gay and Lesbian marriage through passage of a Constitutional Amendment? Sheesh!

When South Dakota tried to pass one of the greatest affronts to womens rights (in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade) by passing a nearly total ban on abortion, after stumbling, tripping, and falling, the measure ended up failing when presented to the states populace for a vote. The “popular” vote should outweigh any and ALL other “voices” unless it represents an actual violation of basic human rights. (Please let’s not hijack Matt’s fine article with an abortion debate, I’m only presenting an example)

I personally think we should do away with the electoral college altogether. I believe more individuals would vote if they truly believed their vote would count.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 21, 2007 5:10 PM
Comment #230162

Hah! According DBS, the President controls the entire nation, when he asks why should a few populace states control the country, which directly implies a president elected by popular vote would control the whole nation.

Spoken like a true authoritarian loving supporter. One person does NOT control this nation. Lest you forget, Congress and the Supreme Court are equal branches of government to the Executive, and the primary charge of the Executive Branch is to Execute the Laws as laid down by the Constitution and the Congress (the people). It’s called a democratic form of government or republic in our case.

Gotta love these authoritarian lovers who let slip from their minds and lips their adoration for one person rule as evidenced by their words and thinking on the matter.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 21, 2007 5:33 PM
Comment #230164


“Well just what would you call the Republican movement to ban Gay and Lesbian marriage through passage of a Constitutional Amendment? Sheesh!”

actually my comments were not meant to be partisan ( did i spell that correctly, hope so.) BTW thanks for the info, hopefully next time i use that word i’ll spell it right. i only meant to point out why i believed using the popular vote IMO was a bad idea.

would you then support each state to vote collectively on whether abortion( just using your example, could be any issue) should remain legal in the united states, being as we know how south dakota voted as a whole?

would you consider the first 10 amendments to the const. basic human rights? after all they were considered by them to granted by our creator, whatever you consider that to be.

Posted by: dbs at August 21, 2007 5:36 PM
Comment #230165

BillS, you caught my sentiments well. The electoral college was designed for an uninformed and largely UNEDUCATED populace of the 18th century. America no longer needs it, nor, does it benefit from it, having become a more mature democratic nation with a far better educated and informed population than existed at the time of the drafting of the Constitution.

Republicans and Libertarians constantly tout how persons should be responsible for their own actions. By that logic, they should insist on doing away with the Electoral College which would put the burden of governance where it properly belongs, upon the people who elect the politicians. The people can’t be held responsible for who they vote for president if their vote is meaningless having no impact on the selection by virtue of the anachronistic Electoral College whose delegates, the state Legislatures would dictate.

Grow up American voters and assume the responsibility of a voter in a democratic republic and accept the consequences for your choices. You don’t need to pass the buck anymore to delegates who are presumed to be more informed and educated than you are under the Electoral College system.

And if you don’t vote, just go away. Your action has no import in the first place.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 21, 2007 5:42 PM
Comment #230166


where did i say that? trying to corner me HUH!! i just think candidates for pres. should have to work for everyones vote, not just the ones living in states with the largest population, which is exactly what would happen without the electorial college. BTW are you accusing me of wanting my guy to win? how insensitive of you.

Posted by: dbs at August 21, 2007 5:44 PM
Comment #230167


Very well written article! Also very thought provoking. I personally believe that we should just do away with the electoral college altogether.

Having spent my entire adult life in Nebraska and Kansas I’ve had far too many Democrats argue that their vote just doesn’t matter, so why bother. Of course I always argue and try to convince them otherwise, but I find it infuriating that any voter feels totally disenfranchised.

I’d also like to add one more “cog” to this already complex “machine”. The President is the single most powerful person in America. Bush has proven that beyond any doubt. If you should find yourself “on the move” between states during those last few crucial weeks before the general Presidential election why should you, as an American citizen, be disenfranchised as a voter?

I like the idea of having a permanent US ID for multiple reasons: #1, voting in the general presidential election; #2, eligibility for Social Security and other benefits of the national “safety net”; and #3, determination of citizenship.

IMO the bottom line is “We the People” need to know that our individual voices and votes count. The special interests, the lobbyists, and the industries have gained far too much power and it’s time to return the power to the individual voter.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 21, 2007 5:45 PM
Comment #230173


Don’t sweat spelling. Ever try to read a doctors handwriting? ;^)

In every other election individual votes count. It’s most noticeable at the local level. It’s also no accident that many “red states” have elected Democratic governors and vice versa. The same is true of both state and federal legislators.

I can also say that I would be much more likely to vote for a truly independent candidate for POTUS if there were no electoral college. While I can’t produce any stats to enforce my belief, I think many other voters would be similarly inclined.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 21, 2007 6:12 PM
Comment #230175

One more silly thought.

If every individuals vote for POTUS counted, and any candidate could enter the race without party affiliation, where would the campaign $$$$$$$$$$ go?

Me thinks a lot of special interests would be goin’ wee-wee in their undies!

Posted by: KansasDem at August 21, 2007 6:18 PM
Comment #230176

dbs, first of all, the very concept of States is one born out of a need for compromise amongst several, 13 to be exact, colonially self defining regions.

America has matured and grown beyond regional and state issues that divide like slavery and industrial / agricultural economic divides. States should preserve their rights as states to govern internal affairs, but, no state can exist independently of the federal government today.

A popularly elected president does not threaten less populated states. The vast majority of our presidents have been elected with the popular vote coinciding with the Electoral College vote. We live in an age of TV, Internet, and 24 hour news coverage. What difference does it make if a presidential candidate stumps for TV from his living room or from a corn field in Nebraska? None. All citizens have access to the candidates through modern technology and media, and all candidates have the low down on what people in the many state’s concerns are through polling.

The whole argument that state’s people’s won’t be considered or represented by a President elected by popular vote is entirely groundless. A politician can lie to you while shaking your hand just as easily as they can lie to you in front of a TV camera. Pressing the flesh assures and guarantees nothing for the people in less populated states.

It only drives up the cost of political campaigns which of course, means a great deal of money for PR, marketing, and advertising firms, whom I would guess would lobby mightily against doing away with the Electoral College.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 21, 2007 6:20 PM
Comment #230180

Doing away with the electoral college would rarely change the outcome. In the case of Gore v Bush, we would have had to recount the whole country. Remember that nobody won a majority (i.e. more than 50%) and the margin was very small. If you thought the Florida recount was hard, imagine all over the U.S. There are lots of crooks.

The electoral college helps prevent one partisan state of region from having too much influence. The U.S. is a very stable country now. But imagine if New York, Califonia, Texas and California consistently determined the Federal government and did it in ways most people on other states didn’t like. You could get real sectional conflict. Remember what happened last time one section of the country elected a president who won by a plurality?

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2007 6:48 PM
Comment #230182

Conversely why shouldn’t major population centers have more control? They have,after all,more people.The balance you are concerned with is taken care of in the senate where bushes of Montana have as much representation as the great cities of the coasts.

Posted by: BillS at August 21, 2007 7:00 PM
Comment #230185

‘…one partisan state or region from having too much influence.”
That is exactly what did happen in 2000 in Florida under the electoral college system and yes we do remember what happened every day.

One person one vote.What could be more fair?

Posted by: BillS at August 21, 2007 7:23 PM
Comment #230186
In the case of Gore v Bush, we would have had to recount the whole country.

Gore won the popular vote…we don’t have the type of government where the “winner” has to have a majority of the votes cast…most presidents don’t, in fact, especially since 3rd party and independent voters are not voting for the top two vote “getters”…we don’t have proportionate government according to vote count…we have a “winner take all” presidential election…

There would’ve been NO recount of the entire US…and we wouldn’t be in Iraq right now, either…

Posted by: Rachel at August 21, 2007 7:25 PM
Comment #230191


New York currently has 31 electoral college votes. It has a population of 19,306,183. That is 622,780 people per electoral college vote.

Contrasting that, Wyoming has 3 electoral college votes. It has a population of 515,004. That is 171,668 per electoral college vote.

Because of this system, the vote of each person in Wyoming is worth about 363% of the vote of a person in New York for purposes of electing the President of the United States. Is this situation fair and equitable? Why should states with lower populations get such preferential treatment simply in order to make sure that candidates must campaign to them? Why shouldn’t every citizens vote count the same? Your proposal to make each state have the same number of votes regardless of the size of their population would make the disparity between urban and rural votes even more pronounced. Giving Wyoming and New York the same number of electoral college votes would make votes cast in Wyoming worth more than 3700% of votes cast in New York. Surely that is not your intention?

My numbers are taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_population

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 21, 2007 8:40 PM
Comment #230195

Jack said: “In the case of Gore v Bush, we would have had to recount the whole country.”

That is an absurd proposition. The vast majority of district’s counts would not have been, nor were they, contested.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 21, 2007 10:24 PM
Comment #230200


Consider the trouble in Florida and then imagine that every election.

The 2000 race was bad all around. It was essentially a tie. Nobody won a majority. Most elections are not that close.

No candidate has ever won a majority of the popular vote and not won the presidency. The Electoral College works - as it is supposed to work - in those close call cases.


He won by such a small percentage that there would have been demands for a recount. The Electoral College works usually. Consider the 1960 vote. Kennedy won by only 0.2% of the popular vote, but won by a clearer majority of 85 electoral votes. People suspected at the time that the Dems had stolen enough votes in Chicago and S. Texas to make up that 0.2%, but the electoral margin meant that it did not matter.

An election is a practical event. It is not a metaphysical process. We have rules to provide for the fair running. We should abide by the rules we have in place the day of the vote. In Bush v Gore, the Dems wanted to change the rules to conform with their desired result. I can well understand their frustration, but cannot condone what they tried to do.


We trade stablity for direct representation. It has generally been a good bargain. We strive to get the consent of the governed, the exact modalities of achieving that are open to debate.

Some countries go with proportional representation. That is a good system if you have a homogeneous population. In a diverse country like ours, that would lead to fairly permanent divisions. The good thing about our first past the post system is that it encourages, almost requires, compromise and accomadation among people and groups.

Consider the great numbers of immigrants the U.S. has absorbed. The biggest minority group in the U.S. is Germans. 58 million Americans claim German ancestry. Nobody notices today because they are so completely integrated. Imagine if proportional representation had allowed the creation of a German party in 1914.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2007 10:44 PM
Comment #230201


BUT if we had only a national popular vote, the districts would not matter. 1000 votes in Minnesota could offset 1000 votes in Alabama. They would all be fungible and subject to recount.

There was no serious problem in Florida that would have been mentioned if the election had not been that close. Florida’s problems came to the attention of the country only because of the closeness. ANY jurisdiction will have such problems - real and imagined - if closely scrutinized. And the whole country would have been in play.

Posted by: Jack at August 21, 2007 10:48 PM
Comment #230214


Errm, forgive me if I’m not immediately seeing the problem, but what would have been wrong with a German party forming in 1914? Are you suggesting that the majority of them would have been opposed to war with Germany, rather than the few thousand that actually were? What, precisely, is wrong with actually representing the interests of significant portions of the US populace, whether they represent ethnic minorities or not?

Moreover, how is it in any sense the consent of the governed if it takes four votes from people in New York to offset one vote from Wyoming? That is the consent of the states, not the governed. The populace is the governed. Only popular votes and proportional representation accurately reflect the consent of the governed.

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 22, 2007 12:06 AM
Comment #230215

“No candidate has ever won a majority of the popular vote and not won the presidency.”


How can you say that?

One of us is suffering from delusions!

Even if I’m the one suffering from delusions I truly believe that more individuals would vote if they really believed their vote would count …. and truly independent candidates would surprise the crap out of all of us!

Posted by: KansasDem at August 22, 2007 12:15 AM
Comment #230217


In the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000, the candidate who received a plurality of the popular vote did not become president. The 1824 election was eventually decided by Congress and thus distinct from the last three which were decided without. It has also been argued that the 1960 election was lost by the candidate receiving the most popular votes. [4]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Electoral_College#Losing_the_popular_vote Posted by: Jarandhel at August 22, 2007 1:21 AM
Comment #230220

Sorry, Jack, but your logic escapes me. Where there is not a close margin in a district, there would be no contest. With gerrymandering, there are relatively few districts where the vote is very close compared the entire nation’s number of districts.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 22, 2007 2:26 AM
Comment #230223

Good article Matt, generating some good discussion. I agree with you on several counts - the need to redistrict gerrymandered states is very pressing, regardless of what method is eventually settled on for electing the President. The safe districts create a very polarized House, in which many voters who happen to be in a minority party in their own district are effectively voiceless in the very body of Congress which is supposed to be closest to the people.

I agree with the many responders who say that it is time to scrap the Electoral College altogether, but you are right that due to the Constitutional Amendment required to achieve that step, that other alternatives are worth looking at in the meantime.

I checked the current moves afoot in North Carolina & California, and you are correct that they are district based, and thus would inherit the demerits built into poorly districted states. I’ve long admired the Iowa system, and wished it could be legislated throughout the country, but my understanding is that there is no federal legal authority to do so. Apportionment is really up to the states, which is why Nebraska and Maine already use district based systems, but that fact is generally ignored, as it can only affect one elector per state - those states either assign all 4 electors to one candidate, or 3 to one and 1 to another, since the winner of the state gets the two at large electors.

I would like to point out that there is a different reallocation method that could be applied on a state by state basis, which would proportionally assign the electors from that state based on the statewide proportion, rather than in a district based fashion. In large population states such as California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida, this would actually increase the likelihood that 3rd parties might start getting some electoral votes. I’m not suggesting that such a system is good, in fact I’m quite skeptical on several grounds, but it is possible and would not inherit the problems associated with gerrymandered districts.

Still, there are enough Americans who would support moving to a nationwide popular election that I think introduction of the Constitutional Amendment to make it happen is not at all intractable, and should be explored post haste.

Jack, I follow your argument about throwing a close election to a national recount, but that will only happen if the entire national vote is really that close, and recounts would only need to be mandated in jurisdictions where abnormalities show up. If we would fix the broken systems, and have a consistent system with a reliable paper trail, and open public code owned by us, where any hacking could be tracked, then we would go a long way toward generating a result that could be trusted. The current system with electors allocated for 50 different states actually increases the chances that elections will be so close somewhere that some recounts will be necessary - at least in assigning some of the electors, if not in the final outcome.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at August 22, 2007 2:44 AM
Comment #230254

Jacks logic should be clear to you by now. As a true conservative he is fundementally suspect of change,any chamge,and will instinctually look for reasons to oppose it.No offense Jack.Just an observation.There is nothing wrong with caution and there is nothing inherently beneficial with change either.
In CA there is a movement,proponded by our Rep Governor to change the redistricting procedure. I doubt if it will go anywhere. Even Swartzenneger is likey to cool to the idea after the intransigence of his own party in our our latest budget fiasco.
Heres a thought. If the Reps want to make headway in CA. they could adopt policies and programs that would be agreeable to more voters.What a concept.

While on the subject of elections what of all those that do not vote? How about public campaign funding,paid for by a tax penalty of say $50-100.The registrar could issue proofs of voteing to be sent in with tax forms that would qualify as a credit for the same amount. There are vibrant republics that do require participation. Australia for one.With the ease of absentee voteing there should be no hardship for those on fixed incomes or confined to care facilities.

Posted by: BillS at August 22, 2007 12:58 PM
Comment #230256
There are vibrant republics that do require participation. Australia for one.With the ease of absentee voteing there should be no hardship for those on fixed incomes or confined to care facilities.

Peru also requires participation…not sure what the consequences are if one does not participate.

Just think…maybe if everyone participated, we might actually get people to think about the consequences of their own votes (or not)…

Posted by: Rachel at August 22, 2007 1:04 PM
Comment #230260

Some argue that eliminating the Electorial College will give unfair advantage to the larger states. They do not want this on a national basis but seem to have no problem with it on a state level.

In ohio, the rural southern part of the state has been placed into two narrow elongated districts streaching from Cincinnati in the southwest, across the the southern and up the eastern side of the state to Youngstown. The large cities dominate politics in the state. The southern part of the state, east of Cincinnati sees very little of the states resources and as a result, most of the citizens live at or near the poverty level. The people of southern Ohio would be far better represented if they were in Kentucky and West Virginia. Districting in every state should take this problem and develope mixed region districts so that all parts of the state have more equal opportunities for development.

This problem is far worse on a state level than national. Some of the less populated states such as Alaska and West Virginia have not had a problem receiving their share of federal tax dollars irreguardless of what party is occuping the White House.

Electing the President by popular vote will have no effect on how the States interact with each other in Congress.

Not to long ago, a relatively unknown governor from a rather rural southern state was elected twice by popular vote.

Posted by: jlw at August 22, 2007 1:19 PM
Comment #230266

KansasDem,and Sandra,

Uh ….. I thought it was a democratic republic?

Uh - ever said the Pledge of Allegiance? It starts off
“I Pledge allegiance to the REPUBLIC…”

It doesn’t say anything about a “Democratic Republic”…
The notion that we have a Democratic Republic has simply evolved with time. Where from, I am frankly not certain.

Further checking into our constitution will show that our forefathers discarded the thought of a Democratic-Republic.

The argument about the Electoral College and Populous, popular,one vote - one person, was considered, but immediately tossed.

As for whether our nation is better informed than in the past - I wonder, after all, when I still hear adults who don’t how to use a condom, or even know where children come from; or the ‘grow-ups’ who believe that this country should be a ‘Christian only’ run country, or that can not even decide what language we speak, or for that matter give us inconsistencies and veiled information regarding whether we should go to war.

On the other hand, I don’t like being thought of as

someone living in podunk junction
, as Sandra intimated. (I live in podunk SC, BTW)

I honestly don’t know whether the “the fathers of our CURRENT country” know that much more about the USA today than our “Forefathers of Yesteryear”

I do know that I would be hesitate to follow them blindly should they try to pass such an amendment, or even the states should they try to do the same, regarding their individual voters.

I know nothing about California, however, as for NC - well I know a lot more about it. I was born in NC and frankly still consider it my home state.

Gerrymandering has been a major problem for years, particularly after Melvin Watts was elected, and the Republicans were pissed off.

He comes from what is frankly a strangely shaped distinct (somewhat like a funky banana), and both the Democrats and Republicans have argued about how it should be drawn, (or re-drawn) for many years, (since the 1980 census, I believe).

It would be nice if both parties would (not could) work together regarding this particular area, but I imagine they are both too stubborn to try to compromise.

As to whether we should dump the electoral college - well - I simply don’t know at this point. I’ve indicated several reasons why not, and know of only one reason why - it would allow a one person-one vote election. Whether this would be a good thing or not - that remains to be seen.

Posted by: Linda H. at August 22, 2007 1:49 PM
Comment #230286

I would like to point out a minor thing that I have noticed appear and re-appear many times above, and that is the incorrect notion that ours is a “Democratic-Republic” form of government… that is not true… Our form of government is a “Constitutional Federal Republic”… this may seem like mere semantics, but, as is usually the case, semantics are important.

In a federal republic the federal government derives its power from the states, and the states from the people. This is so very important when debating the merits of the electoral college. The federal government has, in direct violation of the Constitution, taken on far too much power, and the states have all-too-readily given the feds that power. It is unfortunate.

We are the United “States” of America… not the United “Provinces” or United “Districts”… This is an important distinction.

“State” is defined by Webster’s as “a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory; especially : one that is sovereign”

That same dictionary defines “province” as “an administrative district or division of a country”.

Again, this may seem unimportant, but it is not. We are a nation of states, and it is those states that get their power from the people. The more power we give to the federal government, the more our states will be come nothing more than provinces. And not to sound alarmist or like a conspiracy theorist, but look over in the Independent column at David’s last article to see what happens when the feds get too powerful.

States, in my opinion, should elect the president based on the consent of the residents of that state. It just keeps it a little cleaner.

And besides… it’s much more fun to watch the strategery of a presidential election in our current system.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 22, 2007 3:32 PM
Comment #230302


i understand the point you and the others are trying to make, but i don’t see it from the same angle. as i pointed out earlier, by allowing a president to be elected each and every time, by a few states with the largest population, the needs and the desires of the least populated states would never be considered, and they would be forever at the whim of the few states with the most people. i think each state should decide amongst themselves who there choice for president is, and that states vote would go to that candidate. the states with the largest populations would still have the power to decide which candidate thier states vote would go to.

several of the other posters said” well they still get 2 senators regaurdless of population”, if thats the case then that same argument could also be used to justify the system i propose. you still get 2 senators so whats the difference? your still represented.

Posted by: dbs at August 22, 2007 4:28 PM
Comment #230303


The Constitution establishes a federal democratic republic form of government. That is, we have an indivisible union of 50 sovereign States. It is a democracy because people govern themselves. It is representative because people choose elected officials by free and secret ballot. It is a republic because the Government derives its power from the people.
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/9-12/documents/constitution/index.html Posted by: Jarandhel at August 22, 2007 4:29 PM
Comment #230307


“Only popular votes and proportional representation accurately reflect the consent of the governed.”

i don’t agree. they only represent the will of the governed in the most populace centers. this might work if there were no seperate states or provinces, and everyone had equal say in all aspects of gov’t. different states are for the most part like individual small countries even though we are all part of the same union. the laws and political leanings of these individual states can be very different, and many would be constantly dictated to by the few most populace. that is why i suggest each state in the union get equal representation when selecting a president.

Posted by: dbs at August 22, 2007 4:43 PM
Comment #230309


Thanks for that last post… maybe the branches of our government should get together and chat more as the State Department website says this:

“While often categorized as a democracy, the United States is more accurately defined as a constitutional federal republic.”

But setting aside the State Department’s view on the matter for one moment, let’s look at the info you supplied…

“We have an indivisible union of 50 sovereign States”.

This actually supports my argument, as it points out that the federal government gets its power from the 50 sovereign states, and it is the states that derive their power from the people.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 22, 2007 4:48 PM
Comment #230311

Linda H.,

Don’t you know that if you are not from one of the major metro areas in this country you are automatically thought of by these elites as living in “podunk junction”? C’mon, Linda… you shouldn’t take such offense to that! Especially if it’s true…

Heck… here in Carson City, Nevada (yippee yee haw!) we local yocals can’t right remember just how old we are… but that’s OK ‘cuz we can keep track of that sorta stuff my how many teeth we’ve lost…

I do love livin’ in Podunk Junction, USA!

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 22, 2007 4:54 PM
Comment #230312


I’m still not seeing a rational justification as to why the will of the minority in unpopulated states should be given so much more weight than the will of the majority simply because that majority lives in population centers. We implicitly acknowledge this is inequitable by giving Washington DC itself 3 electoral college votes. This represents an admission that the federal government must represent not merely a coalition of states, but the people who are governed.

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 22, 2007 4:54 PM
Comment #230313


“Just think…maybe if everyone participated, we might actually get people to think about the consequences of their own votes “

lets be honest, forcing someone to vote would be like jury duty. do you really want someone deciding your fate that has absolutely no interest whatsoever about facts and how to weigh them, AND HOLDS YOUR FUTURE IN THIER HANDS? people like you and i although of different views would have our well researched decisions nullified by people who would fill out a ballot like a lot of people fill out questionaires the don’t care about.

Posted by: dbs at August 22, 2007 4:55 PM
Comment #230314


Apparently the State Department needs to get together and chat with itself as well. The paragraph immediately before the part you quoted says this: “The American system of government, begun as an experiment in liberty and democracy in 1776, has proven to be remarkably resilient and adaptable.”

Posted by: Jarandhel at August 22, 2007 4:57 PM
Comment #230315


Since we agree that semantics, in this case, are indeed important…

The word “Democracy” is the umbrella term to describe many different forms of government. A “Democratic Republic” and “Constitutional Federal Republic” are different but would both be considered democracies. The difference would be in how they are ran.

There are many shades of blue… periwinkle and indigo are very different… but they are both blue. Your last post in no way refuted anything I have said.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at August 22, 2007 5:04 PM
Comment #230317


it would give each state the right to select the pres. by popular vote with out giving advantage to another state because of population. it levels the playing field so that small states are not ignored, and gives each equal say in the direction of the country. by allowing everything to be decided strictly by popular vote the minority will always be at the mercy of the majority for better or worse.

Posted by: dbs at August 22, 2007 5:13 PM
Comment #230318

BTW if iv’e repeated myself to many times i appologize.

Posted by: dbs at August 22, 2007 5:15 PM
Comment #230319

“..to be elected each and every time by a few states…”Wrong. They would be elected by the people,not the states in a popular vote. The minority voters in whatever state would also have a voice,unlike now with our winner take all system.

Mr. Langworthy

Exactly. States rights need to be respected.My state has consistently had our rights trammpled by this administration and the former Rep congress. We passed a law allowing medicinal use of marijuana but the feds are still prosecuting providers. We have chosen to have stricter enviormental laws and we wish to mandate better gasoline mileaege for our state and the feds are fighting us in court. The feds are also fighting Ore. on their assisted suicide law . The Terry Shievo fiasco was an attempt to overturn the laws of Florida.Federal abortion restrictions are a direct assault on state jurisdiction.Most states want to expand the S-chip program but the feds are adding new rules to make that more difficult.Hopefully we will see less of this under new management.

Posted by: BillS at August 22, 2007 5:24 PM
Comment #230322

Is Podunk Junction any where near the town of Broken Pelvis? I have relatives there.

Posted by: BillS at August 22, 2007 5:44 PM
Comment #230327


“We passed a law allowing medicinal use of marijuana but the feds are still prosecuting providers. We have chosen to have stricter enviormental laws and we wish to mandate better gasoline mileaege for our state and the feds are fighting us in court.”

the use of marijuana is a personal choice it affects no one but the person who uses it, and in my opinion should be legal period. on the other hand forcing auto manufacturers to produce cars subject to different regulations in each state makes no sense. they build what sells, and social engineering, or trying to force people to change thier behavior because you don’t agree with it is an infringment of thier right to freedom of choice, or to drive what they choose. these laws are based on the belief that climate change is caused by humans, and is still not an accepted fact by the entire scientific comunity. i too live in california and am sick of the nanny state laws that are constantly being pushed by the socialists in the legislature, whom by the way can’t seem to get a handle on the concept of living within thier means, and feel the budget needs to be increased each year even if the funds don’t exist to do so. but i’
m getting off topic, so enough of that.

Posted by: dbs at August 22, 2007 6:21 PM
Comment #230351


Read carefully. MAJORITY. A majority is more than half the total. Several times presidents have won with a plurality. In fact Clinton was elected twice w/o ever winning a majority.

My point is that when a majority of the American people vote for a candidate, it is nearly impossible that he does not win the presidency and it has never happened.

When you argue for the plurality to win, it really is just a matter of opinion on how the electoral system should work. It also delivers a winner who is not a choice of most of the people and it is not the moral high ground.


If you count by districts (as we do in the electoral system)we can leave out districts that are not close. That is the big advantage. If we count the whole U.S. as a unit each vote counts in a close election because we are counting all the votes cast in the U.S. in the same pile. That is precisely the point. A superclose election, such as we had in 2000 or 1960 would require a nationwide recount.

Posted by: Jack at August 22, 2007 8:46 PM
Comment #230353

The Electorial College has helped to divide us as a nation. It is almost as if we are two separate countries still fighting the Civil War, the Red States of America and the Blue States of America. A nation divided…..

Posted by: jlw at August 22, 2007 8:50 PM
Comment #230363

Doug Langworthy,
I’ve lived in Podunk all my life - it seems every time I move it moves with me!!!

Carson City is quite large by my standards. My town has 6500+- people - and we lost 120+- from the last census. I suspect most of them are buried in the grave yard behind my house.

Posted by: Linda H. at August 22, 2007 11:17 PM
Comment #230369

Hard for me to believe you are all of a sudden concerned that a winner is the choice of most people and has the moral high ground. That was no problem for you in 2000 under the electoral college system.

There is no infringement on automakers rights re: CA. If they do not want to sell cars here that is their choice.Our elected leaders of both parties set those regulations. It is a states rights issue. BTW The Japanese and even the Chinese do not seem to have a problem with it.

Posted by: BillS at August 23, 2007 12:33 AM
Comment #230376

Jack said: “If we count the whole U.S. as a unit each vote counts in a close election because we are counting all the votes cast in the U.S. in the same pile. That is precisely the point.”

That is precisely how you are missing the point. The vast majority of districts in a presidential race are not contested nor would they contain significant discrepancies. We hear in the media about the districts in which fraud, or manipulation, or malfunction, or illegal activity throw the counts into question. We don’t hear about the vast majority of districts where this is not the case.

And you also miss the elephant in the room. IF we get rid of the Electoral College, the primacy of accurate and accountable and reliable voting systems becomes mandatory, because the COST of recounts from not having such a system quickly becomes prohibitive for districts and states where recounts are warranted by NOT having accurate, accountable, and reliable voting systems.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 23, 2007 3:02 AM
Comment #230466


From the other side of the political spectrum (or at least a little away from you), I couldn’t agree more with the State’s rights being trampled. States that are ok with marijuana should be able to allow it. The same should be true for privatizing education.

It flows back to the fundamental right of the people to have their views listened to and their communities run according to their ideals. The Supreme Court’s bastardization of the 10th ammendment and their overly broad view of the Commerce Clause as applying to every human interaction has led us into a form of government where power is further removed from the people.


I think Jack’s point on the recount is this:

State 1 - Candidate 1 - 500 Candidate 2 - 1000
State 2 - Candidate 1 - 950 Candidate 2 - 300
State 3 - Candidate 1 - 600 Candidate 2 - 750

No individual State is close enough for a recount, but an overall election count of 2050 to 2050. you can’t choose to recount only State 3 because any 1 vote in the other two states would also swing the election.

Posted by: Rob at August 23, 2007 5:58 PM
Comment #230480


“There is no infringement on automakers rights re: CA. If they do not want to sell cars here that is their choice.Our elected leaders of both parties set those regulations. It is a states rights issue. BTW The Japanese and even the Chinese do not seem to have a problem with it.”

thats fine with me so long as i am not forced to by my car in california, but that isn’t the case. you cannot bring a car into the state with less than 10k miles on it, so it infringes on my right to drive the car i choose simply because a group of people got together and decided they no whats best for me.

i haven’t checked, but i’m guessing those standards were pushed democrats, with very little if any republican support. i could go on, but thats just the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by: dbs at August 23, 2007 7:58 PM
Comment #230491


The 2000 election was a statistical tie with no candidate winning a majority. The electoral college is meant to handle these kinds of hard situations. I understand that Dems are angry. Had it gone the other way, Republicans would be angry. When in hard situations, we need to decide by the rules we agreed upon BEFORE the election. That is what we did in 2000.


Rob explains what I mean with actual numbers. What you are doing is counting on the benefits of the electoral college while adocating its abandonment. If we have a close election in whole U.S. EVERY vote is crucial and must be recounted.

Re the better systems - it does not matter. When the vote is close, the loser feels cheated. Think of Ohio.

Beyond that, there is no way that a human system, such as an election, can be made perfect, especially if you keep in place privacy rules etc. Visa and Mastercard can do better because they can cross check.

Posted by: Jack at August 23, 2007 9:32 PM
Comment #230546

We have been here before. By law elections are not statistical events,but mathamatical. Gore got more votes. He got more votes than any other presidential candidate had ever gotten at that point.
If Bush had stood shoulder to shoulder with Gore and demanded a recount of the whole state of Florida ,win or lose,he would have had the respect and been viewed as legitamit by most Dems including this one. He missed the first of many opportunities to unite the country.We have,built into the process, a time period before a new president assumes power. I suspect that period was put in place to give time for a president to seek the support of those that opposed him to bring the nation forward.Poor leadership has been the hallmark of this administration. What a shame.

Posted by: BillS at August 24, 2007 12:57 PM
Comment #232638

If the electoral college reforms go through without local redistricting, then the advantage will go to the Democrats at present. If they happen with those reforms in place, the republicans gain an advantage.


This is a non-issue.

Posted by: RGF at September 12, 2007 12:04 PM
Comment #297032

I see both sides, and I’m a Poli Sci graduate, so I try to be unbiased. Just an FYI, I think what many of you mean to say are “populous” states, not populist nor populace (i.e., “KansasDem” had it right when he/she was trying to clarify your intent). This person noted the distinction as follows:

populist = a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people

whereas, POPULACE = reference to the density of population

But when you refer to the argument of the popular vote versus the electoral college system, you should say “populous” states to refer to those that would garner the most influence were the popular vote given more weight than the electoral college in determining the highest office, which it is obviously not.

Part of the reason we find ourselves in this conundrum lies in the fact that we are, for all intents and purposes, stuck in a two-party system. This only compounds the problem of how to reconcile the electoral college with the popular vote.

In any case, it’s good to see people are engaging in a civil debate over issues, unlike the partisan bickering as of late.

Posted by: Laura at March 11, 2010 12:19 AM
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