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Pennsylvania Considers Electoral College Reform

 

MoJo’s Nick Baumann has an alarmist post titled “GOP Resurrects Plan to Rig Electoral College.” The actual proposal, though, is inarguably more democratic than the status quo.

In September, top Pennsylvania Republicans shocked the nation by proposing a change to the state’s election rules that would have rigged the Electoral College in favor of Mitt Romney. Facing a nationwide backlash, the state’s GOP backed down—but not beforeWisconsin Republicans considered a similar plan. With the old rules still in place, President Barack Obama won a 332-206 electoral college victory over Romney.

Changing the rules in September would have been blatantly unfair, since the campaign had been waged under existing rules and the likely outcome was predictable. But, surely, changing the rules nearly four years out—well before the campaign has commenced—isn’t inherently a bad idea.

The Constitution allows each state to allocate electoral votes however it wants, but in every state except for Nebraska and Maine, the contest is winner-take-all. If you get the most votes in Pennsylvania, you get all of its electoral votes.

Republicans want to change that.

Okay. But Baumann doesn’t argue that there’s anything wrong with the way Nebraska and Maine have allocated their electors for many cycles. So, what would be wrong with Pennsylvania following their lead?

Before the election, Pileggi’s plan (backed by a mysterious dark-money group called All Votes Matter) was to allocate electoral votes by congressional district, with the winner of each district receiving one electoral vote and the statewide winner getting a two-electoral-vote bonus. That might not seem like a big deal. But Pennsylvania, like other blue states in the upper Midwest, was subjected to a very effective Republican gerrymander after the 2010 midterm elections. Republicans won 13 of its 18 districts in 2012, so if Pileggi’s preelection plan had been in effect, Obama could have been awarded as few as 7 of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, despite winning the state.

That would indeed have been an inequitable outcome, considering that Obama won 51.9% of the statewide vote to Romney’s 46.9%.  But I’m not sure why it’s inherently more unfair than the fact that the same thing happens with Pennsylvania’s House delegation. Further, the fact that Republicans were able to successfully gerrymander the seats in this manner is a testament to the fact that they controlled the state legislature rather handily in 2010. And the fact that it had any chance at passing at all is a pretty clear indicator that, presidential voting patterns notwithstanding, Pennsylvania isn’t really a “blue” state; Republicans are clearly highly competitive in state elections.

Regardless, that plan isn’t actually the one being proposed now:

Pileggi’s postelection scheme has a new twist. Instead of awarding electoral votes by congressional district, it would award them in relation to the statewide popular vote, with a two-electoral-vote bonus for the winner. That would prevent blatantly undemocratic effects like a candidate losing a state’s popular vote but still winning its electoral votes. But it would still have a similar effect to Pileggi’s earlier idea—it would ensure that at least some of Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, which have gone to Democrats in every election since 1992, would go to Republicans. In a close election, that could change the outcome.

Sure. But why is that a bad thing? To the extent that Pennsylvania’s 20 electors are a lock for the Democrats, the current system is “rigged” (to use Baumann’s scare word) in their favor. After all, while a 5 point statewide margin is substantial, it’s nonetheless the case that 47% of Pennsylvanians are disenfranchised by the result. Obama should have gotten 10.3 electors to Romney’s 9.7; or, since that’s not possible, 11 to Romney’s 9. And even that would substantially overstate Obama’s margin of victory. Since Pileggi is proposing a 2 point “bonus” (actually, just an awarding of the 2 electors based on the Senate) to the winner, the 11-9 outcome would make sense.

Pileggi has said his new plan “much more accurately reflects the will of the voters in our state.” (He did not respond to a request for comment.) Dems say that misses the point. ”The Republican Legislature has been brutally honest about wanting to move Pennsylvania into the Republican column,” says Daniel Roth, a spokesman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which works to elect Dems to state legislatures. “They wouldn’t be doing this if Pennsylvania had gone Republican in the past six elections. This is clearly an attempt to move electoral votes to the Republican column because they know they cannot win the state.”

Roth has a point: The states where Republicans have proposed changing Electoral College rules—Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where legislation has been introduced, and Michigan and Ohio, where activists have pushed the idea (see below)—went for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012. There are no such GOP proposals, for example, in deep-red Texas.

Well . . . duh. But maybe there should be Democratic proposals along those lines in states with a similar history of both being relatively close and yet always winding up in the Republican column?

Awarding the entirely of a state’s votes to even a narrow winner makes no sense whatsoever. And, in the cases of states where one party has a decisive advantage, they might as well not bother to hold elections, since the outcome is inevitable.  Given the incredible difficulty of amending the Constitution  and the fact that the popular vote winner ultimately prevails almost all the time, we’re not going to abolish the Electoral College. Reforming it so that it more accurately reflects election outcomes, though, is within the power of individual state legislatures. So long as it’s done well enough in advance, I don’t find that problematic. Even when, as is unarguably the case here, it’s motivated by partisan advantage rather than philosophical purity.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. cd6 says:

    Dave Wiegel called up this dude’s spokeman and asked a related question: if it makes sense to divide up the electoral votes proportionally by votes, does it not also make sense to divide up the house seats proportionally by votes as well? This would overcome the cartoonish gerrymandering, in a state where the Dems got 52 percent of the vote, but only have 5 of the 18 districts. Let me know when they jump all over that one

    Gerrymandering like this is one of the biggest reasons (along with the fillibustering Senate) why our political process is both (a) broken and (b) a joke

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 12

  2. Tim says:

    Gerrymandering is something both Republicans and Democrats can support! Take a look at Maryland’s current Congressional Districts for a view of how the Democrats do it. They have effectively now cut the Republicans out of all but one of the eight House seats. There are certainly Republican strongholds in Maryland, in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore, but the Dems have worked hard to Gerrymander in areas to dilute those greatly.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Tell you what JJ since you’re so eager to restore democracy to the electoral process why don’t we dump the house system where representatives choose their voters and the senatorial system where 600,000 people have the same represntation as the millions of voters in CA?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

  4. Andy says:

    Awarding the entirely of a state’s votes to even a narrow winner makes no sense whatsoever. And, in the cases of states where one party has a decisive advantage, they might as well not bother to hold elections, since the outcome is inevitable.

    This. I love how all this is discussed in terms of what is fair to the Democratic or Republican party – and by “fair” I mean which party would benefit and which would not. It seems to me that fairness and benefit to the people of Pennsylvania should be the foremost consideration for electoral reform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  5. Dave W. says:

    When there is Republican pressure in Texas or other Southern States to change their system to allocate their electors proportionally I start to believe this is about something other than rigging the system in the Republicans’ favor. This kind of reform only makes sense if it occurs in all 50 States and D.C. at the same time. Otherwise, one party will gain an unfair structural advantage.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 11

  6. OzarkHillBilly says:

    The actual proposal, though, is inarguably more democratic than the status quo.

    Can not disagree more. There is nothing democratic about gerrymandered districts. And basing Electoral College votes on gerrymandered districts is just as bad as the status quo. It’s called “rigging the election.”**

    And the fact that it had any chance at passing at all is a pretty clear indicator that, presidential voting patterns notwithstanding, Pennsylvania isn’t really a “blue” state; Republicans are clearly highly competitive in state elections.

    Just like they are in MO where they take 6 out of the 8 Congressional districts but only one of the state wide offices? Better watch out Roy Blunt. That light you see just may not be the end of the tunnel.

    ** and I say the same when Dems do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  7. @OzarkHillBilly:

    Can not disagree more. There is nothing democratic about gerrymandered districts. And basing Electoral College votes on gerrymandered districts is just as bad as the status quo. It’s called “rigging the election.

    I agree about using districts for EV allocation. However, you will note that the proposal under discussion in the post does not use districts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Rigging elections is so much easier than winning them. The Old White Male Party is toast so it’s a desperate attempt to hold on for another cycle through gerrymandering. It’s a naked political power grab meant to make sure that brown and black and young people don’t speak for Pennsylvania.

    Now, they could decide to actually try to win elections by, maybe, not being racist, sexist, homophobic, bitter and deliberately stupid. But why do that when you can try desperately to cling to power by cheating?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 24 Thumb down 38

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Brummagem Joe: I don’t think the Senate makes the slightest bit of sense in modern America. There’s zero impetus to change it and it would be impossible given the process for amending the Constitution.

    @OzarkHillBilly: @michael reynolds: But these are different things. I disagree with gerrymandering and prefer a process where the districts are drawn by independent commissions rather than politicians. And, certainly, I think Republicans need to expand their appeal beyond old white dudes. Regardless, I think a system where Obama’s winning Pennsylvania by 5 points but gets 100 percent of the votes is stupid. Ditto Florida or Ohio swinging an entire election, as they did in 2000 and 2004, respectively, based on very narrow outcomes. One can fix one problem while leaving others untouched.

    @Dave W.: I specify in the post and the post summary that this is motivated by pure partisan advantage. It nonetheless happens to be the right thing to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  10. cd6 says:

    Fundamentally, I agree dividing states by EVs proportionally per the vote is the right thing to do

    But it needs to be done by all the states simultaneously, or it leaves the ones that do so at a tremendous disadvantage. Or at least, most of the states, so there’s more of a critical mass.

    This is the effort behind the national popular vote movement, isn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  11. @cd6:

    This is the effort behind the national popular vote movement, isn’t it?

    They want states to give all their EV’s to candidate who wins the national popular vote regardless of the way the state voted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. BTW: there is another method for state’s assigning their popular vote proportionally: it’s called just having the president decided by popular vote. It is easy if we try.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

  13. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Except for that whole pesky supermajority needed to amend the Constitution, of course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. @Doug Mataconis: Of course.

    But I would note that the thing that makes the proposal in question “the right thing to do” is pretty much (save the 2 EV bonus for the winner) the same thing that makes a popular vote the right thing to do.

    Convince enough people, by whatever the method, of the rightness of the doing and then the supermajority issue is not as big an obstacle as it currently is.

    In other words: yes,. we can focus on the difficult legislative math in question, or we can try to continue to make the argument for the right outcome as an attempt to make the math in question less an issue. This is possible, but not if every time the appropriate solution are raised the only answer is that it is hard to do the right thing, yes?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  15. Sejanus says:

    @Dave W.: Maybe I’m nitpicking, but this reform can’t be implemented in DC since even if it were a state its size would give it only one congressional district. Likewise in states in which there is only one congressional district such as Wyoming, Delaware, Alaska.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. (And really, along the lines of what James notes above, the solution to these kinds of problems is often getting people to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. If Reps lose enough presidential elections because of the EC they may start to see that EC reform is a good idea, even if they are motivated by partisan considerations rather than democratic values).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  17. Dave W. says:

    @James Joyner: If this occurs across the nation, only then can it be the right thing to do. Until then, and because this is motivated by partisan advantage, it will likely only serve to benefit one party structurally. If it is done on a State by State basis, it may reflect the voters of that State more accurately but not necessarily the nation. E.g., if Texas and Georgia had adopted this system before the 2004 election, Kerry would have won despite losing the popular vote. So Texans and Georgians would have had their votes be more proportionately counted but the majority of voters would not have had their candidate elected nationally.

    All this does is show why the Electoral College needs to go, no matter how hard it might be to do so. Then we could be assured that everyone’s vote matters. After all, wouldn’t that be the right thing to do, too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  18. Dave W. says:

    @James Joyner: If this occurs across the nation, only then can it be the right thing to do. Until then, and because this is motivated by partisan advantage, it will likely only serve to benefit one party structurally. If it is done on a State by State basis, it may reflect the voters of that State more accurately but not necessarily the nation. E.g., if Texas and Georgia had adopted this system before the 2004 election, Kerry would have won despite losing the popular vote. So Texans and Georgians would have had their votes be more proportionately counted but the majority of voters would not have had their candidate elected nationally.

    All this does is show why the Electoral College needs to go, no matter how hard it might be to do so. Then we could be assured that everyone’s vote matters. After all, wouldn’t that be the right thing to do, too?

    [I am sorry for the double post, I am relatively new here and am still learning the ropes.]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  19. Dave W. says:

    @Sejanus: You are right in that it wouldn’t matter in those States. But in most States it would and this type of reform is only fair if it is done across the nation, not just in a few select States where the party that controls the State government is different from the party that routinely wins the Presidential election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  20. Jen says:

    Awarding the entirely of a state’s votes to even a narrow winner makes no sense whatsoever.

    Yes it does. It keeps us from having ludicrous Florida-style recounts across the country. If the electoral college protects us from this and only this, it’s well worth it in my opinion.

    The votes based on congressional districts is a terrible idea. So, this is the next iteration of “voter ID” that we have to look forward to? Why can’t the Republican party look inside of itself and FIX the problems rather than spending all this time, money, and effort to figure out how they can change the rules so that their side wins?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  21. @Jen:

    It keeps us from having ludicrous Florida-style recounts across the country

    No, it doesn’t.

    Indeed, Florida became an issue in 2000 precisely because we award “the entirely of a state’s votes to even a narrow winner”

    The EC does not prevent such things, it makes them more likely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  22. ratufa says:

    If your goal is to have the electoral results more accurately reflect the popular vote, what you should not want is states independently changing their rules. Because, it’s unlikely that these changes happen in a way that increases overall “fairness” or accuracy. Instead, the party in power in a state will do whatever maximizes the party’s chance to win the Presidency and the opposition will do what it can to block any such changes. Even if some of the changes may locally (within a state) be more representative of voter preferences, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the nationwide effect will be more representative of the national vote — selective changes could make the electoral results less representative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  23. ratufa says:

    I wrote the above post before seeing Dave W’s post(s). He said it better than I did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  24. al-Ameda says:

    This type of reform practically begs the question: If we go to proportional Electoral College voting, then why not abolish the Electoral College and go to a popular vote only system?

    Then Republicans can concentrate and focus their efforts on voter suppression measures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 12

  25. Gustopher says:

    Can we try this out in Texas first?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  26. Just Me says:

    I kind of like the idea of using a formula for a proportional EV assignment. I would be interested to see somebody run the numbers and compare election results for how they are done now, results if EV’s were assigned by congressional district and votes assigned proportionately. Just to see if there is much if any variation.

    I also agree with James Joyner that having a committee assign congressional districts makes more sense than legislatures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  27. Andre Kenji says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I already pointed out, but you can´t have elections being organized in the State Levels while the results are being counted in a Federal level. Specially because the states have the power to choose who can vote – convicted felons, for instance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. @Andre Kenji: These are rectifiable circumstances if there is sufficient support for reform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Raoul says:

    JJ: you really don’t believe this is been proposed to further our democarcy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  30. David M says:

    The actual proposal, though, is inarguably more democratic than the status quo.

    Not if it’s done by individual states. As part of a national reform, yes it would be an improvement. If it’s implemented by individual states to rig elections for a political party then it’s unarguably much less democratic than the status quo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  31. Moosebreath says:

    This proposal reminds me an awful lot of the redistricting of Texas in the middle of the last decade. It’s legal (at least in theory) but very clearly being done for one party’s narrow partisan advantage, and not in order to further democracy or for any other neutral reason. If it were, the people advocating it would be doing so nationwide, and not only where it helps them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  32. steve says:

    So we are going to do this only in swing states that have mostly been voting for the Democrats? Why would that be the case?

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  33. That Other Mike says:

    The question not being asked, of course, is that in this day and age, why do we need Congressional districts at all? Elect all members of the House at-large for their states, and the problem of gerrymandering disappears.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  34. Andre Kenji says:

    @That Other Mike:

    Elect all members of the House at-large for their states, and the problem of gerrymandering disappears.

    Au contraire. In part because most voters want regional representation and then wants to elect someone from their own region. That´s what happens in the interior of Brazil, where people run to vote from someone from their region, if the guy is a crook. If a party launches just one candidate in a region the candidate has more chance of winning than if another party launches two or more candidates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. That Other Mike says:

    @Andre Kenji: I’m afraid I have to respectfully disagree; Brazil is not the US.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. Andre Kenji says:

    @That Other Mike:

    I’m afraid I have to respectfully disagree; Brazil is not the US.

    But the effects would be similar, specially if you consider that politics are even more local in the United States and there is the political disparities between the countryside, the suburbs and the cities in several states(Pittsbugh on one side, Philadelphia on the other side and Alabama in the middle).

    Italy and the Netherlands also adopts very large proportional representation. Italy is the Bunga Bunga country that is a joke even by Latin American Standards, the Netherlands even has a Party of the Animals. The only two really large countries that have proportional voting are Indonesia and Brazil, and both of them have dysfunctional politics. Most countries that uses proportional voting have very small political divisions that works as districts.

    You can´t say that pure proportional representational is better for a country like the United States with no concrete example.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  37. Jen says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think there is room for disagreement here. By removing the “winner take all” aspect, each vote becomes more important, which is of course the intent–to remove the “my vote doesn’t count” aspect. So each party becomes more invested in turnout in areas of each state where they hold the partisan advantage. Instead of statewide recounts, I think it’s certainly plausible that city-wide or county-wide recounts in areas where the vote is close become more likely, not less. So instead of challenging votes only in key states, the votes will be challenged anywhere the numbers are close–especially in heavily populated areas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. @Jen: But there are already incentives for exactly this type of behavior now in any number of states and we have not had a recount crisis since Florida 2000 (and, again, had it not been for the electoral vote ramifications of the state, there would have been no need for a recount crisis).

    Moreover you are ignoring the fact that recounts only take place under specific conditions laid down in the law, not just because the numbers are close.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  39. Phos says:

    1. No districts
    2. Each representative gets one proxy vote for each person that votes for them.- Minimum of 1000. If your guy does not met the minimum you can assign the proxy to someone else.
    3. All votes cast by number of proxies the rep. has.
    4. Top 300-400 get full salary and a seat in capitol. Lower proxy total reps salary is up to 50% base salary based on their fraction of the lowest seated rep proxy total.
    4b. Non-seated members do there votes online and committee meetings via teleconferences.
    5. Laws that impose criminal terms, fines or taxes require a real majority that is they must be be passed by a proxy count of more that 51% of the total population eligible to vote. Previous laws that were not passed by a real majority will expire after 3 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  40. Carl Olson, Jr says:

    I just want to say that I do not care for the headline of this piece, a naked grab for power by the GOP is not “reform”. However I think if many states work together to reform the EC then maybe something fairer can be worked out , but in the final analysis I think the fairest and correct thing to do is to award the presidency to the popular vote winner.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  41. Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus says:

    The problem with the current system is that in states like Pennsylvania and others, one or two large cities dominate and disenfranchise the rest of the state. It’s far easier to defraud the vote in using these large city machines, hence statewide races can easily be defrauded by the Democrats (as happened in this last election), whereas the more local races represented by the Congressional races often are much more difficult to defraud, since there is no inner-city machine in place. That alone makes EC reform attractive.

    Allocation by congressional district is better because of this – allocating by “popular vote” still leaves the ultimate race as a statewide, rendering it liable to the same vote fraud methods employed now that allow Philadelphia to effectively negate the rest of the state. While the PV method is an improvement over the current system, in states that refuse to implement common sense voter ID measures that make sure that only citizens vote, and that they only vote once (shoot, why not just ink someone’s thumb purple with indelible ink after they vote – though Democrats would still hate even that idea, since it would immediately render a large part of their machine politics inoperative), the voting almost has to be done by CD, simply to neutralise the option of fraud through vote manufacturing in large cities with closed machines in place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  42. Harun says:

    All the people here who do not like the idea, please go to Maine and Nebraska and rail at them before complaining about what Pennsylvania is considering.

    And meanwhile I would guess those angered by this proposal probably don’t mind the President asking to control the debt ceiling. That’s not breaking any constitutional red lines at all. Totally common sense. Of course we need all power vested in the executive.

    And I bet they loved the idea of direct elections of Senators instead of having them chosen by state legislatures. Why was that a good idea? Because directly electing everything is the way to go? Elections for SCOTUS, elections for cabinet members? Why not? National referendums…sure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  43. Phos says:

    @Andre Kenji:
    If people want to vote regionally, then smart candidates will run regionally. If enough people want to vote _______ then smart candidates will run based on ________. In the Brazil example if only one party ran in a region, the the other party is not to bright and would probably get trounced in that region anyway. If there is an opportunity to elect a representative for a constituency sufficient size then eventually a party, candidate, or the constituency itself will supply one.

    But no- voters are to ignorant to self organize, the serfs must be grouped by their ‘betters’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. RDS says:

    Just stop with the national popular vote already! It destroys the federalism concept. Two groups ceded powers to form the federal government: the People and the States. Thus, both are equally represented in Congress, the House to proportionally represent the People and the Senate to equally represent the States.

    Similarly, both groups elect the President in, essentially, a weighted average of those two votes. That’s what the EC does, it combines a popular vote score with a state-by-state vote score. So the Bush v. Gore result wasn’t really that weird – Gore slightly won the popular vote but Bush crushed Gore in the state-by-state vote. The EC system blended those results together.

    Winner take all indeed introduces some distortions. By district, plus the two for overall winner, is more granular in representing the people. This proportional idea is even MORE representative. It should be done everywhere at once. But it right now will only be discussed, of course, in states where the state govt is mostly one way but the popular vote is another.

    But to call for national popular vote turns us into a democracy (i.e. the proverbial two wolves and a lamb voting on dinner) rather than a republic, and runs over the sovereignty of the States, both bad things that lead to too much concentration of power. National Popular Vote will last until a State realizes its votes are being sent to a candidate that did not win in that state. Indeed, that candidate may have received zero votes in a state and it still gets that state’s score! Talk about perverse.

    Now if we really wanted to reform things, we’d get rid of the 17th Amendment and go back to having States appoint Senators to represent them, instead of turning them into uber-representatives who are beholden to god knows who via outside money. Sure the old system was corrupt; so’s the current one. The point is to pit one corruption source against another.

    See here, here, and here for more discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  45. @RDS:

    Two groups ceded powers to form the federal government: the People and the States

    A key problem with that assertion is that the states derive their legitimacy from, you guess it: the people. Reifying states is problematic as is pretending like states aren’t ultimately made of people when it comes to questions of sovereignty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  46. Pete EE says:

    A proposal like this was on the ballot a couple of years back in Colorado (possibly Arizona). The difference? It was eventually revealed the the genesis and promotion of the initiative came from California.
    The new system does seem more democratic and less susceptible to abuse. (Electoral shenanigans like we saw in Philadelphia could only move one EC vote, not a whole state. To corrupt the national vote would take more corrupted polling stations.) It also disadvantages the clout of the state that adopts it so I doubt it will catch on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  47. RDS says:

    @Steven L. Taylor

    A key problem with that assertion is that the states derive their legitimacy from, you guess it: the people.

    But, a state gets its legitimacy not from all the nation’s people, only its own people, with interests and resources distinct from the people of another state. But you want to moosh everyone together into a big mass. That’s not what the (people in various) states signed up for!

    What is this fetishization of population totals? The Republic is meant to protect the rights of, and respect, to a degree, the interests of, minorities of disparate peoples. Otherwise we’d have never formed as a nation. Now that we have come together, you want to wipe those distinctions and protections away? So the 51% can dominate the 49%?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  48. RDS says:

    And the Founders apparently took that “assertion” seriously enough to design the EC the way it is, and to have a Senate. And to mention both the States and the People in the Tenth Amendment:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    They didn’t know what they were talking about? It was just words? The distinction in fact was of the utmost importance to the structure of the Constitution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  49. @RDS:

    What is this fetishization of population totals?

    Because, ultimately, the foundational unit of analysis is the individual.

    And, I would note, the basic definition of a “republic” is a state wherein sovereign power derives from the people, rather than a special class (such as an aristocracy).

    The people are fundamental to the entire enterprise, and hence a focus on individuals when discussing democratic (or republican, if you prefer) government is no more a “fetishization” than is focusing on oxygen and nitrogen when discussing respiration in humans a “fetishization”

    And, further, a focus on vote totals when speaking about elections does not mitigate against other protections for minorities in a democratic system.

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  50. (and typically those who want to extol states’ rights over individuals when speaking about elections, the numeric minorities that are protected are not those being abused by the system, but rather those who have entrenched power).

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  51. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Well,

    1. Speaking of “fetishizing”–too many people fetishize the Framers as if once they spoke, there was nothing more to say. This is not the case. Further, there is a profound and important difference between the politics needed to forge the compromise needed to ratify the constitution and the question of governing the country two centuries later.

    2. “They didn’t know what they were talking about? ” Actually, when it came to the electoral college, they didn’t, as it never, ever worked as intended.

    See:

    Looking to the Design of the Electoral College

    How Hamilton saw the Electoral College

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  52. @RDS: Also, on observation on fetishinzing the people.

    1. The preamble of the constitution notes (unlike the preamble of the Article of Confederation), that “We the people…do ordain and establish this constitution” not, I would note, the states.

    2. Even the Xth Amendment, which you quotes, notes: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Despite the way it is often portrayed, the Xth does not set up a clean a fed-state dichotomy.

    You actually lack the textual evidence that you think you have in regards to the states.

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  53. RDS says:

    @Steven L. Taylor

    extol states’ rights over individuals

    Now let’s be careful, I’m not extolling one over the other, I’m saying both individuals, and states (or groups of individuals with certain heritages and regional interests, if you prefer), have rights with respect to the Federal Government, and thus with respect to each other in the functioning of said government.

    Sure, the EC isn’t as originally imaged, as a deliberative body. But it functions formulaically to introduce some additional frictions, or checks and balances, in the system, which, since power corrupts, provides the preferable slow road to fascism rather than the fast track.

    My evidence is only partially textual; it is structural as well (i.e. the existence of the Senate).

    But this is all beside the point — it really comes down to your comment here:

    there is a profound and important difference between the politics needed to forge the compromise needed to ratify the constitution and the question of governing the country two centuries later.

    That’s what this argument is really all about. I feel those politics are still important to recognize. Partly for the reasons of spreading power. Inefficiency to me is a feature, not a bug. An efficient, businesslike government is perhaps the last thing we really want, since what do governments mostly do but take away our money and our rights? (I jest, of course, but only a little…)

    Your opinion, clearly, is that the EC is in the way of the governance of the 50.1% It is, but on that cost-benefit analysis, we simply will disagree.

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  54. Andre Kenji says:

    @Phos:

    If people want to vote regionally, then smart candidates will run regionally.

    That´s the problem. The idea that in proportional voting there is no gerrymandering is a lie, because most people want to vote regionally. People will vote even for complete crooks that they don´t want to vote just to have some regional representation. I saw a guy that was elected to Congress because he and his party used their base in a major city to get the votes. Them, he ran for mayor for the same city, and he lost(In fact, it was a massacre, he lost 65% to 35%).

    Proportional voting gives advantage to people that have tight control over their political organizations. It would be the same thing in the US, specially in large states like Texas and New York.

    Proportional voting also allows bizarre things like that:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-202_162-7044840.html

    Besides that, if I want to contact my Representation in Congress I can´t because I have no leverage with the 70 representatives from my state. Thanks to proportional representation Brazil has a large Evangelical delegation in the Congress(One of the largest caucuses in Congress – that´s in a Catholic Country) because large Churches can use their organization to make their churchgoers to vote in the same people.

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  55. grumpy realist says:

    Why don’t we get rid of gerrymandering at the same time? Break up states geographically into squares (especially easy in the midwest where we have 1-mile square grids of roads all over the place), no moving of the boarders.

    (Especially important in Illinois. Have you SEEN that district that looks like a squashed crab in a feathered headdress? )

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  56. Finrod says:

    There’s an easy way to fix gerrymandering, but it takes a constitutional amendment:

    No Congressional District shall be drawn where there is more State land area outside the District than inside the District, inside the box consisting of east-west lines through the most northern and most southern points in the District and north-south lines through the most eastern and most western points in the District.

    In short, make congressional districts compact instead of the horrible mutated squiggles many of them are now, and gerrymandering becomes a lot harder.

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  57. @grumpy realist: @Finrod: The problem is that you cannot dictate shape, or draw districts based on a grid simply because populations are not distributed that way.

    That’s not to say that you can’t eliminate the extreme silliness of some of these districts as currently drawn. But even districts drawn by nonpartisan commissions are going to have some odd shapes since people don’t live in nice, clean patterns.

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