The real problem with the Electoral College.

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,113
US
@Kotromanic: Yes, I was talking about shipbuilding, dye production, and the like in 1787.

@Rodger: What about keeping the electoral college but getting rid of the winner-take-all system and instead making electors appointed proportionately? As in, if you win 55% of the total vote in a US state, you get 55% of that US state's electors rather than 100% of that US state's electors.
I know I have posted about this within this thread. My recollection is, if you proportionately divide the electors it has the same effect as going with the popular vote.
 
Likes: Futurist

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,113
US
But we are under no obligation to accept all of the founders' wisdom. It's not an all or nothing deal. We can keep some of their wisdom while rejecting other parts. Just look at the 13th-27th Amendments for examples of how Americans have rejected or improved upon the wisdom of the founders. I don't count the first 12 because they were written by the founders themselves. Which we could interpret as proof that the founders didn't get it right on the first draft nor the second if the count the Articles of Confederation as the first draft. There's no reason to believe the founders had achieved perfection after 12 amendments. I would especially point out the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators) and the 23rd (electoral votes for DC) as proof that the American people have modernized their views on the role of states in federal elections.


No one has called for pure democracy. Your suggestion that the only two possibilities are republic and pure democracy/anarchy is an example of the fallacy of false choice


I'm sure this is true.



You can't really say that people are happy or grateful about something without conceding that they care enough to have an informed opinion. Of the two choices you present, I agree with the first - most Americans don't care. I do agree that people come here because the American system is better than most others, but that doesn't mean it can't be better. You're not moving me off of my current position by arguing that the current system is good enough.



I'm not falling for that sucker bet. You're using unequal terms. You say that "most Americans want..." which implies maybe as few as 51%, but to change the Constitution requires 75% of the states. In this case, it's even worse. Since the smaller states are most incentivized to keep the EC, and any 13 states can block an amendment, and the population of the smallest 13 states is less than five percent of the total US population, then theoretically, five percent of the population can deny the wishes of the other 95%. You can not equate "most Americans want" with the ability to pass an amendment. They are not the same thing. When five percent can thwart 95%, that's not a republic - that's oligarchy - the rule of the few.
Of course we can amend the Constitution. Any knowledgeable person knows that. We know not all people are knowledgeable. So, today because of the front page status of the issue, perhaps 51% do wish for a change. The question is, how many of those really understand how the E.C. works or are they for it because of some tidbit or blurb on a website or some sound bite from politician? That is populism at its worst, in my opinion. The reason the Founding fathers made amending the Constitution so challenging is they did not wish to see the Constitution changed on a whim based upon some populist idea of the day. The genius of the polity system the Founders created is its stability. As you know, there are nations that change ruling governments, and even constitutions, like people change their clothes. This constant change in governance leads to instability. As for the E.C. and amending the Constitution, we have had 27 amendments to date. As far as I know, the clamor to change the E.C. as been recent. So has the push to change the tenure of the SCOTUS. These are popular movements among some today, but if their side when the next election under the benefit of the E.C. I would imagine the vast majority of those proponents will be singing a different tune. The Founders wanted to avoid precisely this push for changes du jour. If there is a real movement for a change to the Constitution it will take a process, which will be lengthy and thorough, so, if successful, the nation won't regret such a change the day after. Stability and careful thought equal success.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,080
Dispargum
Reducing the role of states in federal elections is hardly politics du jour. The 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th Amendments all reduced the power of states to decide who could and could not vote. The most recent of those was almost 50 years ago. Electoral votes for DC was almost 60 years ago. Direct election of senators was 100 years ago.

What is the difference between direct election of senators and direct election of a president, other than scale? Can anyone tell me Why did the Progressives who ratified the 17th Amendment thought one was good but the other was bad? Did the Progressives defend the Electoral College on its merits, or was the EC left out of the 17th because of political inertia and too many entrenched special interests?

Reading up on the 17th Amendment just now, it seems that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries many state legislatures had become dysfunctional due to partisan gridlock and entrenched special interests so that many states could not elect senators at all. By that logic, the EC would have to become dysfunctional before it will be repealed. Can anyone else offer additional insight?

A dysfunctional EC is easier to envision than one might think. All you need is a viable, permanent third party so that no candidates can win the presidency either in the EC or in the House of Representatives.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,080
Dispargum
Correct me if I'm wrong, but electors can refuse to vote for the person their state voted for, right?

They don't, but in theory they can?
You are correct but the forces of party loyalty are strong. Electors are chosen for proven loyalty and obedience. Anyone who has demonstrated independent thought is unlikely to be chosen an elector. (Electors are nominated by their state parties. The only choice the voters have is for the candidate. The electors' names are not even known. You vote for your candidate and you get the electors that the party has chosen. The party always chooses party loyalists.)
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,080
Dispargum
.... The question is, how many of those really understand how the E.C. works or are they for it because of some tidbit or blurb on a website or some sound bite from politician? That is populism at its worst, in my opinion.
Most laws are passed in blissful ignorance of the masses. Repealing the EC would be no different. Defending the EC on the grounds that most people don't understand it or care about it doesn't work for me. That's the nature of democracy - people are allowed to participate in the process, but if they choose not to, the system is not going to grind to a halt. We certainly can't justify leaving a perverse system in place just because there's no quorum of voters showing up to vote a change. We advertise the election, we discuss the issues, but if people don't bother to vote, there's still going to be an election and decisions are still going to be made. Decisions are made by those who show up.

As far as I know, the clamor to change the E.C. as been recent. ... but if their side when the next election under the benefit of the E.C. I would imagine the vast majority of those proponents will be singing a different tune.
You have never read me arguing to repeal the EC on partisan grounds. My opinion of the EC is derived from an assessment of how democracy is supposed to work. Direct elections of leaders works in other countries. The EC does not work the way the founders intended, ie, electors were not supposed to be motivated by party loyalty, nor did the founders think that electors would be chosen by the popular vote. The founders did not anticipate that whole red state-blue state divide the encourages candidates to ignore the states they know they are going to win or lose. I wonder if the founders knew how the EC had turned out, Would they want a do over? We can't ask them, but I refuse to assume they would be satisfied. We have to evaluate each of the founders' legacies on their merits, keeping the ones that still work, and fixing the rest.
 
Jul 2009
9,924
Correct me if I'm wrong, but electors can refuse to vote for the person their state voted for, right?

They don't, but in theory they can?
There is no constitutional requirement that electors vote in one way or another. Some states have "winner take all" procedures, but any sanction against electors who do not vote for the winner of the popular election would be problematic.

In reality, the electors are overwhelmingly prominent members of their political parties and state party committees who have much to lose by not going along. It almost never happens. What the future holds, with politics trending toward tribal combat, I have no idea.

** It looks like Chlodio has already responded, and I agree with the response.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,113
US
I never meant to imply that the current amendments were all hastily made or swayed by the opinion of the day, of course not. The lengthy and complicated process will generally prevent that. As for the E.C. system being perverse, hardly. A system where the citizens can’t vote, or elections are rigged, that is perverse.
 
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Dec 2011
4,808
Iowa USA
Correct me if I'm wrong, but electors can refuse to vote for the person their state voted for, right?

They don't, but in theory they can?
Actually, they do!

One-third of the State of Washington's electors were "faithless electors" in the 2016 Presidential election. Think of that, more than six or seven million Americans had a third of their vote for President wantonly thrown away.
 
Likes: Futurist
Dec 2011
4,808
Iowa USA
There is no constitutional requirement that electors vote in one way or another. Some states have "winner take all" procedures, but any sanction against electors who do not vote for the winner of the popular election would be problematic.

In reality, the electors are overwhelmingly prominent members of their political parties and state party committees who have much to lose by not going along. It almost never happens. What the future holds, with politics trending toward tribal combat, I have no idea.

** It looks like Chlodio has already responded, and I agree with the response.
While the 2016 Election is an exception for "faithless" electors, your reply may be at risk of an anachronistic perspective.