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Electoral College


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The framers of the U.S. Constitution created the Electoral College as a result of a compromise for the presidential election process. During the debate, some delegates felt that a direct popular election would lead to the election of each state's favorite son and none would emerge with sufficient popular majority to govern the country.  Other delegates felt that giving Congress the power to select the president would deny the people their right to choose.  After all, the people voted for their representatives to the federal legislature.  The compromise was to set up an Electoral College system that allowed voters to vote for electors, who would then cast their votes for candidates, a system described in Article II, section 1 of the Constitution.

Each State is allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always 2) plus the number of its U.S. Representatives (which may change each decade according to the size of each State's population as determined in the Census).

Whichever party slate wins the most popular votes in the State becomes that State's Electors-so that, in effect, whichever presidential ticket gets the most popular votes in a State wins all the Electors of that State.

The debate has started again as to whether the U.S. Constitution should be amended in order to change the presidential election process.  Some promote eliminating the Electoral College in favor of a direct popular vote for president while others believe the Electoral College should remain unchanged.  Just as compromise solved the initial problems of the framers so it is that compromise can solve this problem.  The solution is to change the electoral votes to electoral points and reward each candidate a percentage of points based on the percentage of popular votes received in each state.  This would eliminate the "winner take all" system thus allowing for all the votes to count.  A voter is more apt to believe their vote counted when a percentage of popular votes are taken into account rather than the "all or nothing" system currently in existence.  Further, this new system would integrate the desire for a popular vote for president with the need for the individual states to determine who actually gets elected.  For example, in Alabama, President Bush won 63% of the popular vote and therefore would be awarded 5.67 electoral points as compared to Senator Kerry with 37% of the popular vote and 3.33 electoral points.  In the event of a tie, the national popular vote results would decide the outcome.

If one tabulated the final totals from Election 2004, they would find Bush with 274.92 electoral points versus Kerry with 257.71.  The existing electoral college votes shows Bush 286 to Kerry 252.  I believe this compromise would reflect a truer intent of the will of the people as exercised through their states.  This would also prevent the smaller "red" and "blue" states from being virtually ignored in favor of the larger "battleground" states.

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To sum it up.

USA should switch to representation by population.

Although USA political system is pretty messed up. Canada's is much better. You vote for who you want to represent you. Not the president (well you do also). If one party gets 49 % and another 51%, the 51% does not get 100% of the votes automatically. That is very undemocratic. And yet USA constantly goes on about spreading democracy when that is very undemocratic.

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To sum it up.

USA should switch to representation by population.

Although USA political system is pretty messed up. Canada's is much better. You vote for who you want to represent you. Not the president (well you do also). If one party gets 49 % and another 51%, the 51% does not get 100% of the votes automatically. That is very undemocratic. And yet USA constantly goes on about spreading democracy when that is very undemocratic.

There are many things that are messed up with the United States and need changing. Proportional representation seems the best way to get closer to a true democracy. You know, it's funny that I remember arguing with Edric a long time ago that it wasn't. Hmm, how things change.
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Yes, I also remember Edric condemning communism in the Religion thread, but...

PR is clearly the most democratic practical solution - but on a parliamentary level, there should also be a constituency chamber so as to ensure local issues are given proper treatment. But it also strikes me that the idea of a US-style president is effectively one huge rounding error - a little as if 49% of the country has no influence on the country's decisions - and it's not just one man, they're choosing, but an 'administration' - the upper echelons of the civil service is replaced - which seems dangrous in terms of abuse of national power for party gain.

Though I would like to point out we've discussed this topic before. (I just can't remember what site policy is on these JOEBIALEK posts, but I know Ordos used to take a keen interest in sending them to the dungeon).

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I'm pretty sure the other guy was Lincoln's opponent.

I'm all for parliamentary systems with PR, where the government is then formed on basis of the election results. A presidential candidate who can get a lot of support by smiling in front of the camera is not necessarily good for the job.

The only real downside I picture with PR is when less populated regions feel they have no say in things because their electorate is to small to have any real effect. This is best solved by adding a second chamber to the parliament, where each region has a set number of representatives. That way you combine the best of both worlds.

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hmm. THe thing is, and I have said this over and over, is that we are a republic, not a democracy. We have many democratic values, and it is true when people call us a democratic republic. Still though we were not founded on purely the people's choice. Most of the time the people's choice is heeded by the electoral college, but I believe that the electoral college is important. The people inside the electoral colelge are usually those who understand the political happenings of our government, and usually know what is best for our government and society at any given time. I am not saying that the people are ignorant, but I am saying that the electoral college is a safety net of sorts. See, if it was purely based on the people's voice, it could be dangerous, since many people do not know the political landscape like many who are in an EC of a specific state. This is why we have representatives. The representatives tell the government what the people need. They are elected by the people because they know how the politics of america work, and they can more easily understand and translate what the government does, whereas the people would usually be mostly in the dark.

This is just one reason. There are others, and in the end it also is summed up again in the fact that we are not a pure democracy, and the founding fathers of america understood this, and knew that a pure democracy is too dangerous, too chaotic. There has to be some limitations, and I think the electoral college is one of many. Thats just my opinion though. :)

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But what does democracy mean then? Democracy = rule of the people, the word almost implies that there's some form of administration. If a true democracy is one where the state has to obey every populist whim of the people, I'm glad I don't live in one.

Don't membes of the electoral college vote for a pre determined candidate? Like, people only vote for guy A because they know he's going to vote for Kerry? Kinda useless in that respect.

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The people inside the electoral colelge are usually those who understand the political happenings of our government, and usually know what is best for our government and society at any given time.

Hardly.  They are, in almost all states, legally required to vote according to the will of the people.  The only real result of the electoral college in practice is the disproportionate voting power of low-population states (regardless of population, a state has at least 3 electors).

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true true, one of the major reasons why it was enstated was to protect each state's rights. So that each state would have a specific amount of power. So that if one state has a higher population, it would have more electors in it. And no it isnt always true that the electors have to vote for a specific person if the majority votes for him. Usually it is just how it should be done, but it hasent always worked that way. There have been a few times when the electoral vote won over the popular vote.

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Usually it is just how it should be done, but it hasent always worked that way.  There have been a few times when the electoral vote won over the popular vote.

There have been two such instances, but they had nothing to do with the electors being more politically savvy than the average voter.  Electors are required to vote as their state does; becuase an individual voter in Montana, for example, represents a larger fraction of a single elector (due to a minimum of 3 electors, regardless of state size), the state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electors to candidates does not always jive with the national popular vote.

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it happened more than twice, Ill have to remember when the other occurance happened.

And I didnt say that was the reason just say, bush won. I just said it is one of the reasons for the electoral college in my opinion.

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John Quincy Adams became president in spite of having come in -third- during the election.  This, however, was not due to the electoral college but because of the rule that stipulates if no candidate wins a majority of the votes then determination of the presidency goes to the House of Representatives, the lower body of Congress.

It should be pointed out, though, that the manner by which Electors vote is determined by the laws of the individual state they represent and not by federal law of the United States of America.  That the winner-take-all policy exists in 48 of the 50 states (Maine being one of the exceptions, I can't recall the other) is due to those states choosing to have that policy.  I say again for emphasis, there is no uniform code for determining Electors, it is given to each state to decide for itself.  State law also determines eligibility of presidential candidicy, which is why not every candidate is always on every state's ballot.

You must all bear in mind that the United States is just that, a federation of individual states, each with its own laws, taxes, police forces, social services, and system of government.  That is why, as TMA-1 stated, the United States is a democratic republic, because the federal government is made up of representatives of the states, elected through democratic proceces within those states.  Therefore, while Senators, Respresentatives, and state legislative officials are all elected directly by the people, the President, the executive official of the federal government, is instead elected by the states.

As for the Electoral College, it was a mass of hastily pieced together compromises created primarily for two reasons.  One, as HasimirFenring pointed out, was to serve as a moderating power between states, so that less populated states' issues would be heard and not allow the more populated states from overpowering the federal government.  Another, as TMA-1 was hinting to in more flattering terms, was as a safeguard from so-called "Mobocracy", to ensure that a mainly aristocratic electorate would not put a demogogue in power, even if the public elected one.

The problem I see with the College is that the latter reason is based on antiquated social assumptions whle the former never really worked from the beginning, instead focusing candidate's attention on "battleground" states that had the best polarity to vote ratio.  The only real advantage of having an Electoral College was that in the early days of American History it was that it was a more efficient system given the technology of the time.  With the advent of television, and to a somwhat lesser extent with cyberspace, though, that is no longer a concern.

--Bashar

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  • 4 weeks later...

hmm. THe thing is, and I have said this over and over, is that we are a republic, not a democracy.

So what is a "republic" in your view? Generally, the name "republic" is given to any country that doesn't have a hereditary monarch. That makes it an almost meaningless term. Countries as different as the United States, the Soviet Union and Ancient Rome (for a large part of its history) are/were "republics".

We have many democratic values, and it is true when people call us a democratic republic. Still though we were not founded on purely the people's choice. Most of the time the people's choice is heeded by the electoral college, but I believe that the electoral college is important. The people inside the electoral colelge are usually those who understand the political happenings of our government, and usually know what is best for our government and society at any given time.

No, they are not. First of all, there are no such things as people who know what's best for you better than you know yourself. Second, the actual people in the electoral college play no role whatsoever in the political process. They are just points on a scoreboard. Do you even know their names? The vast majority of Americans don't. And they have no reason to bother learning them. The electoral college is simply a system of points, where the candidate who wins a certain state gets the number of points associated with that state. Then all the points are counted, and the candidate with most points becomes president.

I am not saying that the people are ignorant, but I am saying that the electoral college is a safety net of sorts. See, if it was purely based on the people's voice, it could be dangerous, since many people do not know the political landscape like many who are in an EC of a specific state.

Democracy is never more dangerous than oligarchy. And while it was understandable for people to have been cautious about democracy 200 years ago, when it was still an experimental form of government, that is no longer the case today. We know how a (representative) democracy works. And we know that there's nothing "dangerous" about it.

This is just one reason. There are others, and in the end it also is summed up again in the fact that we are not a pure democracy, and the founding fathers of america understood this, and knew that a pure democracy is too dangerous, too chaotic.

The founding fathers of America were very ignorant by modern standards - just like we will undoubtedly seem ignorant to people living 200 years in the future. Our past two centuries of history have proved that the founding fathers were plain wrong about many things, including their distrust of a direct popular vote. I don't know what you mean by a "pure democracy", but the world is full of democratic countries today, and all of them are doing just fine without an electoral college.

The founding fathers understood their own limitations, and that is why Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Arguing that America should always remain the way the founding fathers set it up goes against the wishes of the founding fathers themselves. They wanted a dynamic America, one that would change and evolve in time.

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