Electoral College good or bad?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by GuessWho, Aug 3, 2004.

  1. te jen Registered Senior Member

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    532
    The issue of measurement error rests on the variables that affect measurement tolerances. There are three that I could come up with. One is called "residual votes", which is the difference between the number of people who show up on election day and the total number of votes actually reported for that precinct. This difference is due to disallowed ballots, which depends entirely on the technology being used and the zealousness of the people deciding which ballots get tossed. The second is the finite accuracy with which any voting technology can count votes (anybody who has had to count a jar of pennies knows that accuracy is finite). The third is outright fraud, which is very, very difficult to measure.

    I couldn't find any published research on the web that addresses the question of total accuracy in voting, either. Before throwing numbers around, though, we have to recognize that the electoral college magnifies the effect of error - if a populous state has a lousy system of vote counting, for whatever reason, it can easily overwhelm dozens of states with very good systems. Seven states (California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio) have the greatest number of electoral votes, and together have 39% of all the electoral votes. Any one of these states alone is enough to swing the result of a very close election. This thread is addressing the question of whether this system is "fair" or "democratic". If you go by the standard of one person - one vote, then it clearly is neither fair nor democratic. It makes the job of swinging an election through vote fraud a whole hell of a lot easier.

    Back to vote count accuracy.

    The National Commission on Federal Election Reform (http://www.reformelections.org/data/reports/99_full_report.php) recommended that residual rates in vote counts should be reduced to 2%. This implies that current residuals are greater than 2%. And this is before you talk about simply miscounting the number of legal votes or vote fraud!

    So - two percent:

    In the 2000 election a grand total of 105,326,325 votes were cast for the president. If the residual rate was "only" 2%, then that means that 2,149,516 people went to the polls and voted only to have their votes thrown out. Who were they, what technology did they use to vote and for whom did they intend to vote?

    It seems to me that if the U.S. is going to erase at least 2% of the votes in any given election, then the margin of victory should be at least 2% (assuming that disallowed ballots are random, and not more likely to have favored one candidate over another). If the margin is less than 2%, then the only reasonable course is a runoff election.

    Oh, and get rid of the electoral college. It may be consitutional, but that doesn't make it right. Failing that, insert an amendment that if a state produces a result with less than 2% margin, then its electoral votes go unawarded.

    I would be willing to bet that the U.S. Presidential election system has as much as 5% error. I think that anything greater than 0.1% is totally unacceptable.
     
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  3. Pangloss More 'pop' than a Google IPO! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    767
    I plum forgot about this, but it's worth mentioning in this discussion and I ran across it again just now reading this article at MSNBC:

    http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5614579/

    Point 16 is relevent to this discussion, which says this:

    Gawd. Somebody wake up the Supremes. They're gonna need some lead time this year.
     
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  5. te jen Registered Senior Member

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    532
    Even though I live in a state that always votes overwhelmingly Democratic, I would vote to approve a proportional electoral vote distribution. It would be equivalent to creating a popular vote for president. It would also force candidates to spend time in all the states rather than primarily in "swing states".
     
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  7. Pangloss More 'pop' than a Google IPO! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    767
    By the way, it's interesting that while the Florida electronic system has acquired the most controversy so far, there is another controversy brewing in Indiana over the *paper* ballots. Voters there are annoyed at the problems with the paper system, and upset that the state didn't move to an *electronic* system!

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't....
     
  8. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    5,110
    I'd rather have the Electoral College decide an election than Sciforum's membership.

    Any day.

    That's precisely its point.

    Republic.

    Federated Republic.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 12, 2004
  9. shrubby pegasus Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    454
    colorado electoral votes

    i was listening to the radio this morning and heard of something interesting to be put on as a referendum in the upcoming election. i havent looked this up or anything, but the station was NPR. the people of colorado are going to get to vote on whether or not the presidential candidate will receive all of the electoral votes if he wins the popular vote in the state. instead, the candidate will receive regional electoral votes or something like that depending on population. i dont know all the details, but im excited about this.
     
  10. Pangloss More 'pop' than a Google IPO! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    767
    I think I might have posted something on this earlier. The referendum is to be voted on (I believe) November 2nd, with the results to take place immediately (I believe the general election is either that same day, or a week later on the 9th?).

    I think the measure has a good chance of passing. I've spoken with some of my personal relatives in Colorado, who happen to be extremely religious-right, and they're actually considering voting for it, just due to a general feeling that it more accurately represents their vote. I think most conservative Coloradans will vote against it, but the fact that some conservatives are in favor of it, given that the majority of CO voters are liberal, spells passage to me.

    Colorado has a much more severe ideological split than most states. The mountain folks are unabashadly liberal -- aging hippies mixed in with Hollywood elite. The SE plains folks are arch-conservative, religious right types, especially around the Colorado Springs area. It's as stark a geological split as exists anywhere else in the country, comparable to The Bronx versus The Hamptons, or San Jose versus San Francisco.

    One article I read said that if they'd split their electoral vote the way the referendum would permit in the 2000 election, Gore would have won. Of course, what they don't mention is that if all 50 states split their votes that way, Bush would have won. (shrug) So there's a certain degree of "be careful what you wish for" in play here.

    Still, it might be a workable compromise short of dumping the Electoral College system entirely.
     
  11. nbachris2788 Registered Senior Member

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    This is bad news for the Republicans, as Colorado went Bush in 2000 and looks to go Bush again in 2004.
     
  12. shrubby pegasus Registered Senior Member

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    yeah im definitely voting yes for that change.

    pangloss im curious to of where you read if that change went into effect over the entire country that bush would have still one. i dont have all the details of the change, but it doesnt make sense to me that bush could still win.
     
  13. I know lots of people who I do not think are qualified to vote. I think that the Electoral College serves a useful purpose in diluting the voting power of idiots.
     
  14. StarOfEight A Man of Taste and Decency Registered Senior Member

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    The Electoral College overrepresents states with small populations.

    For example, Wyoming ... population of roughly half a million, and it gets three electoral votes ... that's about one electoral vote per 170,000 people. Conversely, Colorado .... population of roughly four and a half million. That's nine electoral votes, or about one elctoral vote per 500,000 people.
     
  15. nbachris2788 Registered Senior Member

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    172
    StarOfEight, you are correct. The EC is biased against the Democratic/liberal side while favouring the Republican/conservative side. How? As you said, Wyoming has the highest ratio of people-to-electoral-votes. Wyoming is an arch-conservative state that has always swung Republican ever since the Eisenhower years. On the flip side, California, a stalwart liberal state, has the lowest people-to-electoral-votes ratio.
     
  16. StarOfEight A Man of Taste and Decency Registered Senior Member

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    684
    While I agree that the EC, in practice, is biased in favor of big, empty states that tend to go Republican, I think that's something that's evolved, rather than being the intent of the Framers. I think the intent of the Framers was simply to limit democracy as much as possible.
     
  17. 1368 Registered Member

    Messages:
    13
    Winner takes all needs to go. This system worked when it was first established, when state governments were more important than the national government, but not so anymore.

    I'm just glad I live in a swing state, where my vote counts.
     
  18. StarOfEight A Man of Taste and Decency Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    684
    Of course, you know the irony of the situation? 26 of the 27 constitutional amendments have gone the traditional, Congresional route. Meaning, while it's possible that the citizens could do something about this, chances are, for the E.C. to be abolished, it'd require the Donkeys an' the Dumbos to cede some of their power, since moving from a winner-take-all system would likely spur the development of third parties.
     
  19. nbachris2788 Registered Senior Member

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    172
    If America started to use Instant Runoff Voting, or some variation of it, the Democrats would have the liberal third party problem fixed, at least for the short term. A great majority, barring the over-zealous, of left-leaning third party voters will place the Democratic party as their back-up choice. Now, they can have their cake and eat it too. They can help their parties make more impact in the electoral percentage yet still allow the Democrats to govern. Of course, the down side for this for the Democrats is that there will inevitably be some time in the future when the third parties will grow in prominence and electability and become a serious challenger for the federal mandate.
     
  20. Pangloss More 'pop' than a Google IPO! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    767
    The Wall Street Journal had something interesting on this. This is a letter to the WSJ from a reader:

    The point being that the borderlines between the electoral votes are *so close* that they would be more hotly contested than the state normally is. Which I suppose is a valid point.

    More from the article, from the WSJ editors:

    George Will's article can be found here:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5781897/site/newsweek/
     

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