The real problem with the Electoral College.

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,569
Las Vegas, NV USA
The fact that Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million votes more than Donald Trump nationwide focused attention on the Electoral College. There were calls for a constitutional amendment to rectify the situation for the third time in US history (Sam Tilden and Al Gore were previous victims, but by smaller margins.) However a constitutional amendment is not necessary. Every state gets two votes but the remaining votes are based on population. These range from 1 for Wyoming to 50 for California.

The problem is that all but two states allocate all their electoral votes to the winner of their state. This first happened in the 1800 election with the rise of political parties. As a result it's possible to win an election with just over 25% of the popular vote in a two person race. While this result is too unlikely to consider, winning with 40% vs 60% for the "loser" is not. Maine and Nebraska allocate electoral votes by Congressional district. This is better but a whole number splitting of the vote according to the actual ratio is much better. At most, this might require approval of state legislatures but it was actually decided by the Jefferson Democrats and the Federalists in 1800 without any basis in law.
 
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Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,214
Welsh Marches
It becomes a problem for one side when the other side beneifits. The people who are curremtly losing out would of course be complaining as vigorously, on grounds of general principle, if they were the ones who were drawing the benefit. :D As can be seen from the ardent concern that they have shown over the abuse of fisa warrants etc.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,171
US
Yeah. This thread seems a little too close to politics for this forum.
 
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Mar 2019
1,981
Kansas
We have had threads on this in the past. The electoral college was put into place by the Founders in the Constitution with good cause, to prevent an overly populous state or states from dominating the politics of the nation. The few exceptions are just that.
U. S. Electoral College, Official - What is the Electoral College?
Aside from the obvious history, it has to be remembered all candidates construct their campaigns around the need for electoral college votes not popular votes. So if a candidate does win the popular vote and not the electoral. It is purely by accident.

I personally am a fan of changing to a proportional system for electoral college votes. It will make candidates work a lot harder in states they don't normally even try challenge in. For example Democrats will have to work as hard in Texas as the do in Florida and Republicans would need a higher profile in California than also in Florida.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,234
Italy, Lago Maggiore
If we remain in a technical perspective [how electoral systems work] we can discuss, if the participants to the thread go beyond that limit ... the thread won't last for long.

This said, the perfect electoral system isn't.

There has to be a balance between the representation principle and the functioning of the system. Who underlines that the US system allows to govern with the 25% should consider what happened in the Italian First Republic where, theoretically, there was the best electoral system ever, regarding representation: the proportional system.

Our Chamber has got 630 members. If a party got the 30% at the elections it obtained 630*30%=189 representatives. There were particular rules regarding some areas of the country, but the concept was that. The parties got a number of representatives corresponding to the percentage of votes they got in the general elections.

Which was the problem? That no party had the majority [obviously, people tent to differentiate on an ideological base], so that we have always had [also today] coalition governments. Today at least there are two decent parties [because the system is no more purely proportional], in the past there were coalitions with a big party [around 30%] and a group of little parties. Result? You were in condition to influence the government [so to govern!] with the 5% of the votes! Because without your votes in the Parliament the government fell.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,171
US
Aside from the obvious history, it has to be remembered all candidates construct their campaigns around the need for electoral college votes not popular votes. So if a candidate does win the popular vote and not the electoral. It is purely by accident.

I personally am a fan of changing to a proportional system for electoral college votes. It will make candidates work a lot harder in states they don't normally even try challenge in. For example Democrats will have to work as hard in Texas as the do in Florida and Republicans would need a higher profile in California than also in Florida.
If the electoral college becomes proportional, then isn't merely a reflection of the popular vote? The fact that some candidates don't campaign in some states is ok. With today's social media, I think any informed voter should know where candidates stand on the issues.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,214
Welsh Marches
Yeah. This thread seems a little too close to politics for this forum.
Though it need not be discussed in too political a manner, politics inevitably creeps into such questions. If I may draw a parallel, here in the UK we have a first past the post voting system for each constituency, as opposed to a sysyem of proportional representation as is usual on the continent. When I was young, I was a keen supporter of the Liberal Party (the smallest of the three main parties), and thus a keen supporter of voting reform, since the Liberals lost out from first past the post. Later, however, I drifted away from that party (or it drifted away from me) and I somehown lost my interest in voting reform. The fact is that first past the post has both advantages and disadvantages, and I would be well qualified to argue on other side, but the status quo is likely to be maintained because it benefits the two main parties. I suspect that with regard to the electoral college, the existing system has its advanatages and disadvantages is similar fashion, but it is not going to be changed (whether or not that would be a good thing overall) because that would require a good measure of bipartisan agreement, which would never be achieved because everyone knows that the basic concern of the majority of those who were wanting the change would be their own political advanatge. I don't think that is unduly cynical, merely what any impartial observer could conclude!
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,234
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Aside from the obvious history, it has to be remembered all candidates construct their campaigns around the need for electoral college votes not popular votes. So if a candidate does win the popular vote and not the electoral. It is purely by accident.

I personally am a fan of changing to a proportional system for electoral college votes. It will make candidates work a lot harder in states they don't normally even try challenge in. For example Democrats will have to work as hard in Texas as the do in Florida and Republicans would need a higher profile in California than also in Florida.
As I was saying, proportional systems usually risk to generate too many parties. To avoid this there is the "German way": to state a minimum percentage to enter the Parliament. Anyway [just because of the representation principle] in the Bundestag there are 7 parties in this moment, only two above 20%, but below 30%.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,234
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Though it need not be discussed in too political a manner, politics inevitably creeps into such questions. If I may draw a parallel, here in the UK we have a first past the post voting system for each constituency, as opposed to a sysyem of proportional representation as is usual on the continent. When I was young, I was a keen supporter of the Liberal Party (the smallest of the three main parties), and thus a keen supporter of voting reform, since the Liberals lost out from first past the post. Later, however, I drifted away from that party (or it drifted away from me) and I somehown lost my interest in voting reform. The fact is that first past the post has both advantages and disadvantages, and I would be well qualified to argue on other side, but the status quo is likely to be maintained because it benefits the two main parties. I suspect that with regard to the electoral college, the existing system has its advanatages and disadvantages is similar fashion, but it is not going to be changed (whether or not that would be a good thing overall) because that would require a good measure of bipartisan agreement, which would never be achieved because everyone knows that the basic concern of the majority of those who were wanting the change would be their own political advanatge. I don't think that is unduly cynical, merely what any impartial observer could conclude!
If I think to the end of the First Republic, when in Italy we actually changed electoral system, I have to say that just a revolution, or a "traumatic" deep process which sees the main parties risking to disappear, can allow to change "the rules of the game". It's clear that the winners don't want to modify those rules if they are among the reasons why they can keep on winning ...