Wednesday, April 12, 2017

QUORA: Which election method is more reasonable and fair, the electoral college or popular vote?



My answer:


The question depends on which popular vote we’re talking about. The Electoral College electors are selected by popular vote—at the state level. In this election, Donald Trump won the popular vote 30 times to Hillary Clinton’s 21 times (counting the District of Columbia), giving him a solid 306-232 victory (The final vote of Electors was 304-227, with 7 defections).


As a presidential selection method, that is both fair and reasonable. America is a big and diverse nation in terms of voter concerns. A national popular vote method would be absurd. The division of the popular vote into 51 distinct voting districts acts as a check on the power of large population centers to overwhelm the concerns of smaller centers. It is not a total check on the concerns of large states as large states have more Electoral votes than smaller states. But it does provide more balance.


More importantly, the Electoral College is consistent with the fundamental principle of America. Contrary to the distortions of the so-called Progressives, the fundamental principle of America is the primacy of liberty based on individual rights, not the primacy of majoritarian authority.


Consequently, the Founders did not create an absolute, or what I call a fundamentalist, democracy. The term “democracy,” in fact, appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution’s philosophic blueprint and the document that established America as a politically independent entity. That’s no accident. Notice the hierarchy established in the Declaration of Independence. First, it is established that man has certain unalienable individual rights—including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” Only after establishing the imperative to recognize rights and the need for rights-protecting government does the issue of voting arise—the “consent of the governed” clause pertaining to the government’s “just powers.” The right to vote—the right of each individual to have a say in the operation of the government established by the people for certain delimited purposes—is a logical extension of our fundamental rights as human beings. It is not one of the fundamental rights: It couldn't be, given that rights precede government. The Framers created a free republic in which democracy is a constitutionally limited part. This is consistent with the fundamental principle of America, which is to protect each individual’s freedom to govern and live his own life by his own judgement, not to govern the lives of others through the vote.


The Electoral College is part of the checks and balances put into place to protect the primacy of liberty. The Founders were concerned with the rise of tyranny by preventing the concentration of political power—that is, the power of physical coercion—in any one branch or segment of government. The Founders not only feared Kings but also majoritarian tyranny. “An elected legislature can violate a man’s rights as easily as a King can,” they understood. The Founders studied history. One of the things they found was that democracies historically have given rise to factionalism, which inevitably leads to dominance by the most powerful electoral factions over weaker factions, manifested through elected legislatures or demagogic leaders—ultimately leading to violent strife and collapse.


The Electoral College provides for fair, balanced, and decisive election outcomes, while acting as a reasonable bulwark against authoritarianism and thus a protector of liberty. It’s not the most purely democratic method. But then, that’s the point.


Related Reading:





On Trump as ‘Illegitimate’

8 comments:

toto said...

Now 48 states have winner-take-all state laws for awarding electoral votes.
2 award one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district, and two electoral votes statewide.
Neither method is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

The current system does not provide some kind of check on the "mobs."

If any candidate wins the popular vote in states with 270 electoral votes, there is no reason to think that the Electoral College would prevent that candidate from being elected President of the United States

toto said...

Being a constitutional republic does not mean we should not and cannot guarantee the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes. The candidate with the most votes wins in every other election in the country.

Guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes and the majority of Electoral College votes (as the National Popular Vote bill would) would not make us a pure democracy.

Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy.

The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution

The Constitution does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for how to award a state's electoral votes

toto said...

Being a constitutional republic does not mean we should not and cannot guarantee the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes. The candidate with the most votes wins in every other election in the country.

Guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes and the majority of Electoral College votes (as the National Popular Vote bill would) would not make us a pure democracy.

Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy.

The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution

The Constitution does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for how to award a state's electoral votes

toto said...

With National Popular Vote, when every popular vote counts and matters to the candidates equally, successful candidates will find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Ohio and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support. Elections wouldn't be about winning a handful of battleground states.

Support for a national popular vote has been strong in every smallest state surveyed in polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.

Now political clout comes from being among the handful of battleground states. 70-80% of states and voters are ignored by presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns.

State winner-take-all laws negate any simplistic mathematical equations about the relative power of states based on their number of residents per electoral vote. Small state math means absolutely nothing to presidential campaign polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, or to presidents once in office.

In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

In 2012, 24 of the nation's 27 smallest states received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. They were ignored despite their supposed numerical advantage in the Electoral College. In fact, the 8.6 million eligible voters in Ohio received more campaign ads and campaign visits from the major party campaigns than the 42 million eligible voters in those 27 smallest states combined.

The 12 smallest states are totally ignored in presidential elections. These states are not ignored because they are small, but because they are not closely divided “battleground” states.

Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

Similarly, the 25 smallest states have been almost equally noncompetitive. They voted Republican or Democratic 12-13 in 2008 and 2012.

Voters in states, of all sizes, that are reliably red or blue don't matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

toto said...

Now, a presidential candidate could lose despite winning 78%+ of the popular vote and 39 states.

With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in only the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with less than 22% of the nation's votes!

If Texas (38) had voted differently, Clinton could have won the Electoral College in 2016.

toto said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country. It does not abolish the Electoral College.

The National Popular Vote bill would replace state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), in the enacting states, to a system guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire United States.

The bill retains the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections, and uses the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes. It ensures that every voter is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

Every voter, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would matter in the state counts and national count.

The bill would take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

The bill would give a voice to the minority party voters for president in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the presidential candidate they did not vote for. Now they don't matter to their candidate.

In 2012, 56,256,178 (44%) of the 128,954,498 voters had their vote diverted by the winner-take-all rule to a candidate they opposed (namely, their state’s first-place candidate).

And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state, are wasted and don't matter to presidential candidates.
Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004.
Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004 -- larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes).
8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

toto said...

In Gallup polls since they started asking in 1944 until this election, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states) (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

Support for a national popular vote for President has been strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed. In the 41 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range - in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

Most Americans don't ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that no matter where they live, even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. We don't allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

The National Popular Vote bill in 2017 passed the New Mexico Senate.
It was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
Since 2006, the bill has passed 35 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 261 electoral votes, including one house in Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), and Oklahoma (7), and both houses in Colorado (9) and New Mexico (5).
The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the way to guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate with the most national popular votes and majority of Electoral College votes.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

toto:

“Neither method is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.”

NO method is mentioned. The method of choosing electors is up to the state, “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct. . .”

“Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.”

Misses the point. The fundamental feature of a pure democracy is the totalitarian power that the popularly elected government has over the individual. In a pure democracy, the individual’s life, liberty, and property is at the full disposal of the state. In a constitutional republic, the rights to life, liberty, and property of the individual is constitutionally protected and thus outside the scope of the ballot box to infringe upon.

“Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy.”

Not in and of itself. But the electoral college is a feature of balancing the government’s powers between the federal and state governments. The electoral college empowers the states to collectively choose the president, which acts as a check on the federal government relative to the states. (Keep in mind that the state constitutions are subordinate to the federal constitution. That’s as it should be. But the Electoral College is a sensible counterbalance to that enormous federal power.) A direct national popular vote would bypass the states, undermining the balance of power that prevents too much concentration of power in one branch. The separation-of-powers doctrine IS a feature of a constitutional republic. So going to a national popular vote model would certainly undermine constitutional republicanism by undermining federalism.

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Let me make a broad observation. Democracy fundamentalism has been overtaking constitutional republicanism for at least a century, as politicians and the courts increasingly undermine the constitution. And as democracy governance advances, the ballot box is increasingly becoming both a club for victorious electoral factions who seek to beat others into submission and a threat to those of us who still value our liberties. Is it any wonder that elections have become virtual life-and-death battles? Is it any wonder why mere discussions of politics generates so much anger and animosity? Why have these discussions have become so personal? With so much power riding on election outcomes, it’s not surprising. If democracy could be constitutionally delimited to a non-threatening procedural function for directing our politics rather than our lives and property, as it would be if government was restrained to protecting rather than violating individual rights, the electoral process wouldn’t be such a big deal. We probably wouldn’t be having these constant debates over the Electoral College after every close election.

Thanks