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United States Government Politics

Iowa Seeks To Remove Electoral College 1088

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the not-cancelling-their-caucus-i-bet dept.
Zebano writes "Since changing the US constitution is too much work, the Iowa senate is considering a bill that would send all 7 of Iowa's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in a presidential election. This would only go into affect after enough states totaling 270 electoral votes (enough to elect a president) adopted similar resolutions."
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Iowa Seeks To Remove Electoral College

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  • by Vandil X (636030) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:29AM (#26826961)
    If the popular vote truly counted, that would be a very compelling reason to register and/or go out and vote.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:46AM (#26827223) Journal

      If the popular vote truly counted, that would be a very compelling reason to register and/or go out and vote.

      The popular vote counts on a State by State basis, not on a national one.

      The electoral college makes sense when you consider that the States are supposed to be semi-independant.

      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:54AM (#26827371) Journal

        The electoral college was put in place so that there would be a check on the power of the uneducated masses...Originally the EC didn't have to vote with the state!

        Winner take-all-vote distribution is disgusting. If I live in a state that goes 49% for party X, and 51% for party Y, you can't even argue that giving 100% of our states votes to party Y makes the least bit of sense.

        • by JonTurner (178845) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:00AM (#26827457) Journal

          The electoral college was put in place so that there would be a check on the power of the uneducated masses...

          And we've all seen how well THAT worked out.
          To wit: http://www.breitbart.tv/?p=194983 [breitbart.tv] (Howard Stern Interviews Obama "Policy" Voters)
          Sure, it happens on both sides, but that was the most striking example that comes to mind when I think of uneducated voters.

          • by Monchanger (637670) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:43PM (#26829203) Journal

            In this clip we have three given examples, which are used to suggest, but do not actually constitute a meaningful statistic. There is no sample size- how many interviews were required to obtain this clip? There's no control group- do McCain supporters respond the same way with similar replies? Where these individuals chosen randomly out of the population being studied (black Harlem residents), or were they targeted in some way to make this case? Presented in a different context, these same clips could be used to imply that the entire American population was stupid. Plenty examples of this can be found on YouTube- just search for "stupid americans" (substitute "americans" for members of any other nationality for more examples of such silliness).

            The main problem I have with this clip is that it was done with insincere intent- as is often the case with Stern. There's nothing scientific or objective about tricking people into saying something contradictory. Stephen Colbert is a master at getting politicians to do that; but as much as I love watching him cause Republicans to look like idiot this sort of tactic does not invalidate their political ideology. Nor does a lousy argument made by a layman lessen it- I can be an Obama supporter and say the dumbest thing you ever heard; how can you honestly say that reflects badly on Obama? I require an honest debate involving the actual candidate to dismiss their views, and believe Stern's (and the rest of TV&radio pundits') listeners are the uneducated ones to do otherwise.

        • by Jhon (241832) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:02AM (#26827489) Homepage Journal

          you can't even argue that giving 100% of our states votes to party Y makes the least bit of sense.

          Yes you can -- if you understand why it was designed to do what it does.

          States are supposed to pic a executive. The select an executive to represent the STATE. They send electors (the number of which is weighted by population) to vote for that executive. How can a state pick 51% of an executive? And 49% of another? They pick a SINGLE executive, not two, three or more.

          By removing this system, you effectivly remove any executive representation to small states. Preseidents will be elected by large cities (Los Angeles, New York City, etc) of a handfull of states. Executive decisions will be based on the needs of those few zones rather than the country as a whole.

          • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:08AM (#26827613)

            How can a state pick 51% of an executive? And 49% of another? They pick a SINGLE executive, not two, three or more.

            I agree completely...I think I have a solution for the best of both worlds... each state should award all of it's electorate votes to a single candidate, but that candidate should be selected via instant run-off.

            As an honest question is if someone can really find anything wrong with this... it would require no changes to the U.S. constitution (although state constitutions may need to be amended). I submitted this suggestion to my state rep and was completely blown off. It seems to me it simply doesn't suit the people in power to entertain the idea of actually having to compete with more than one other party.

            • by digitig (1056110) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:42AM (#26828213)

              I agree completely...I think I have a solution for the best of both worlds... each state should award all of it's electorate votes to a single candidate, but that candidate should be selected via instant run-off.

              As an honest question is if someone can really find anything wrong with this... it would require no changes to the U.S. constitution (although state constitutions may need to be amended). I submitted this suggestion to my state rep and was completely blown off. It seems to me it simply doesn't suit the people in power to entertain the idea of actually having to compete with more than one other party.

              I'm not sure how the US run-off system works, but a problem with having more than one party in a race with a simple first-past-the-post system is that a minority can get their candidate in against a majority. Suppose candidate A is highly polarising. 40% of the active electorate support candidate A, but 60% would rather have pretty much anybody else. Unfortunately, running against candidate A are candidates B and C, who are much alike so they split the remaining vote equally. That gives 40% for candidate A, 30% for candidate B and 30% for candidate C. Candidate A wins even though 60% of the active electorate wanted anybody but candidate A. That's normal everyday political life here in the UK, where it's the norm for govenrments to get in on a minority. There are systems such as single transferable voting that would overcome this, but they have problems of their own. In fact, as Arrow's Impossibility Theorem [wikipedia.org] proves, no voting system is fair if there are more than two candidates, for quite modest meanings of "fair".

              • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:53AM (#26828383)

                Instant run-off would have you selecting second and third choices; for the candidate that gets the least votes, his voters go to their second choice, then the next lowest is eliminated, until there is only one.

                So in your example, either B or C would end up with 60%.

              • by painandgreed (692585) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:26PM (#26830777)
                I'm not sure how the US run-off system works, but a problem with having more than one party in a race with a simple first-past-the-post system is that a minority can get their candidate in against a majority.

                There is no run off system here in the US. Let me try to explain the differences between the US and British systems as I understand them.

                The British have a parliamentary system and your parties actually stand for something. Since your parties are formed around issues, there needs to be a run off system so that the lesser issues also get their say. IIRC, your current government leaders must form a majority of total parties to maintain in power. Gross oversimlification I know.

                The American system is a factionalized system and our parties don't stand for anything. They might have issues they believe in right this moment, but they are not beholden to those issues but rather to the voters who want them. There are two parties and they add and drop issues as they get or lose votes. Thus, both parties fight over issues and people to have the majority. This means that the process of forming the majority is done at the party level rather than the government level. This is further complicated because there is no national election except for president that is done by the electoral college who represents their state. So almost all government officials, no matter where they stand in the government, are beholden to people back in their state, not the government or even party as a whole. Since the parties don't stand for anything besides red and blue factions, you can end up with a socialist Republican in one state and a free market capitalist Democrat from another even though such beliefs go against the general trend of their party.

                In the American system, any 3rd party, as the lesser parties are known, whose issues gain enough of a following to become a sizable vote, will be absorbed by one or both of the major parties. Either their candidate will join a major party to gain the contacts and influence it gives them, or the major party will adopt their platform planks into their own to gain their voters. Likewise, anybody in the in the major parties whose issues don't get them enough votes and power they want, break away and form a 3rd party. These 3rd parties act as a sounding board and pulpit for new and old ideas for the major parties. To either be picked up as their issues resonate with the larger population or be forgotten as they become radicals that nobody wants.

              • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:31PM (#26830853) Homepage Journal

                "no voting system is fair if there are more than two candidates"

                Our system was originally designed to be able to handle more than two political parties vying for votes. Our founding fathers warned against letting our system become bi-partisan.

                Look where we are now. If you think restricting the number of parties helps a voting system, you're very wrong, and us Americans are the perfect example to prove that.

          • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:14AM (#26827737) Journal

            Maybe originally, but the Civil War put an end to any pretensions of state's rights. That being the case, everyone should have an equal say on the election of a chief executive.

            The problems you state already exist. California goes with its big cities, New York goes with New York city...New york state is as red as a damn stop sign, and the entire state has gone democrat since forever because the city has more votes than the whole rest of the state. Those states have more electoral votes than nearly all the midwest combined.

            I'm not even against splitting the electoral college votes based on the votes of the population of the state. But winner take all disenfranchises people who aren't the majority, and it doesn't reflect the actual views of the state.

            And, frankly, the small states have such an inordinate amount of legislative clout in the Senate, I really don't care if they don't get a lot of say in the Executive. Executive branch representation should be based on the wants of the majority of citizens.

            • by hudsonhawk (148194) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:05PM (#26828575)

              Iowa isn't going to award all 7 of its votes to the winner of the election in Iowa. That would be "winner take all" as you're complaining.

              Instead Iowa will give its 7 electoral votes to the candidate with the most votes *nationwide*. But ONLY if enough states adopt the measure.

              That would mean that the candidate with the most votes nationally would always win the electoral vote.

              So it's "winner takes all" in the sense that the winner wins, instead of sometimes losing like in recent history.

            • by Dirtside (91468) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:11PM (#26828683) Journal

              New york state is as red as a damn stop sign

              This was more true before 2008. In 2008, Obama won 36 counties and McCain won 25. In the House races, Democrats won all but three districts in New York state.

              Excellent tool for looking at electoral results: http://scoreboard.dailykos.com/map/ [dailykos.com]

          • by nightsweat (604367) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:24AM (#26827899)
            So you'd rather just tell the big state city voters to shut up and keep paying for the small state rural voters to get outsized representation? Nonsense.
          • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:25AM (#26827925)

            As the GP stated, the reasoning behind the EC was to allow the fancy electors to ignore the state's vote if they thought the people voted incorrectly.

            States don't pick an executive, and never did. They express the will of their citizens. You're right, a state can't pick 51% of an executive, but a state also can't pick 100% of an executive, since it takes a majority of the national EC votes to create a victor. The goal of the states is to express the will of their citizens, and a 50.1% winner receiving every vote based on the total number of citizens in the state instead of just who voted for him is unreasonable. If we keep our general system of government, only a true popular vote-based system is able to express the will of the people.

            I read an article (I think in a math journal) a few years ago arguing that the EC system is better because it makes it more likely for a single person's vote to decide the election. The flaw in the argument, however, was assuming that the goal of democracy is to maximize the chance of a single ballot deciding an outcome.

          • by Tenek (738297) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:29AM (#26827967)
            That might be better than the current situation, where the people in large cities are ignored because they're safe for one party or another. California (55), Texas (34) and New York (31) get zero attention during the campaign despite having over 20% of the electors. Instead the targets are states like Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), Iowa (7), New Hampshire (4), etc. They don't care about the 'country as a whole' now, and they wouldn't with a strict popular vote either, but at least more people would be looked at.
          • by Al Dimond (792444) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @01:02PM (#26829529) Journal

            Here's the thing: there are lots of people in big cities. And most of them are really "little" people. But the specific needs of urban people are hardly mentioned in Presidential campaigns, and rural America is touted as "real" America. Why? Well, what are our 10 biggest urban areas? NYC, in a safe Democratic state. LA, in a safe Democratic state (at the moment... it was Republican not long ago). Chicago, in Illinois, once a battleground that recently has been solidly for the Dems (some suburbs in WI and IN, which tend to be closer to the middle, but not many). Dallas-Ft. Worth, in solidly Republican Texas. Philly, in battleground Pennsylvania (minus some of its suburbs). Houston, back in Texas. Miami, in wacky battleground Florida. D.C., solid blue but with many suburbs in Virginia, which was pretty much median this last cycle but usually more Republican. Atlanta, in Georgia, which was fairly close last election but far more Republican than the national average. Boston, which hardly needs discussion.

            So two-and-a-half out of our ten biggest urban areas count in national politics. None out of the top four. The only reason you'd visit any big city in America save Philly, Miami, and D.C.'s Virginia suburbs is for fund-raising, and then you're only talking to the big-wigs of those cities. So the issues the politicians take on are skewed, not towards what's best for most people, but towards what's popular in a few states that tend towards the "political median". While those things generally pull politicians to the middle on major issues, it means they pander like crazy on things that will get them votes in these places (plus Iowa because of its early primary). What we need is policy that takes into account all the little people in our big cities. What we get is corn ethanol. I'll take a popular vote, please.

          • by Ironica (124657) <pixel@NoSPAm.boondock.org> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:00PM (#26830379) Journal

            you can't even argue that giving 100% of our states votes to party Y makes the least bit of sense.

            Yes you can -- if you understand why it was designed to do what it does.

            States are supposed to pic a executive. The select an executive to represent the STATE. They send electors (the number of which is weighted by population) to vote for that executive. How can a state pick 51% of an executive? And 49% of another? They pick a SINGLE executive, not two, three or more.

            By removing this system, you effectivly remove any executive representation to small states. Preseidents will be elected by large cities (Los Angeles, New York City, etc) of a handfull of states. Executive decisions will be based on the needs of those few zones rather than the country as a whole.

            But right now, small states have FAR MORE voting power per person than large states. Why should a Wyoming resident's vote count for more than a California resident's?

            Actually, when you do the math, the states that really get screwed in the current system are the mid-population states. The largest states tend to be represented proportionally, while the smallest states are over-represented, taking the share from the middling states.

            To do the math yourself, go to www.census.gov and get state populations (don't forget DC). Then put those in an Excel spreadsheet next to the electoral votes for each state. Divide pop by votes, then sort those numbers. Also calculate the total population by 535, then divide the representation for each state by that number. You'll see who comes out ahead and behind.

            I last did this years ago, so I don't have it to hand now, but it's very interesting. There's about one electoral vote per 700,000 people in the US, but Wyoming gets something like 1 per 500,000. California, Texas, and New York each came out at about 700,000, but states like Ohio etc. were more like 800,000.

            I think the notion that the states elect the executive is somewhat outdated, given the shift to greater Federal control over individuals (while at the same time, civil rights granted by the national government have been conferred on individuals as well). Keep in mind, also, that this system predates states the size of Texas and California... it doesn't account for the idea that a single state might be large enough that they take on an unfair economic burden, as well as housing a disproportionate population.

            This whole f'ed up system is why some of us would like to see California declare independence. Trade deficit? WHAT trade deficit? California exports more than it imports (in spite of housing the largest port complex in the country). There are reasons other than our gigantic population why the federal government should, now and then, have to make us happy. As it now stands, they practically never do.

        • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:13AM (#26827719)

          It makes more sense than X receiving 51% and Y receiving 49% and Y getting 100% of the votes because X did better nationally. All this system does is officially guarantee a third party will never get electoral votes.

        • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:35AM (#26828105)
          States are free to assign their electoral votes however they want to do it. A few already assign them on a prorated basis, there is nothing that prevents the rest from doing it. If every state did this, then it would be the same as assigning based on the national popularity.

          It is within the state's rights to assign votes based on national elections. I think it marginalizes the voice of the state population and would create even more of a 'why bother' attitude, not the other way around.

          While the federal government has set some laws regarding voting, dealing with discrimination mostly, the states have a wide latitude. For instance, states could lower the voting age to 16 if they choose to, 18 is only the federally mandated minimum age at which US citizens can vote. The states can choose whether to require or not require their electoral college to vote the will of the people. They can choose to prorate the votes, or all-or-nothing.

          Anyone who wants to remove the electoral college should realize that by doing so, it is highly likely that this would force the federal government to set all the rules and further reduce the state's power.

          On a different note ... THE US IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. Nowhere in any founding document is this stated. States and local governments are free to decide themselves how much they wish to use the democratic process to make decisions and elect officials. Each state and local government sets up their own rules for this. Some may think that not voting for president isn't fair, and can work within the framework of our government to change it.

          I don't want to live in a 100% Democratic society, although I could tolerate eliminating the electoral college. Most people are too ignorant to vote for everything. I didn't say stupid, some one who is stupid isn't capable of learning. An ignorant person is just uneducated or uninformed. Do we really want our neighbors voting on everything???
        • by rev_sanchez (691443) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:48AM (#26828329)
          This plan raises the possibility that the votes of Iowans (more specifically their electoral proxies) could go to someone with almost no support from their voters.

          A more serious problem is that if this were to pass the best national campaign strategy for dealing with Iowa voters would be to ignore them in favor of wooing voters from swing states as it would give candidates a sort of Iowa multiplier. There are arguments for and against the electoral college but this is a bad plan for Iowa.

          We can't do this one state at a time so we'll need to amend the constitution to switch over. That's not going to happen as long as the western states remain over-represented.
      • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:31AM (#26827999) Homepage Journal

        The electoral college makes sense when you consider that the States are supposed to be semi-independant.

        But the people vote against that very idea every single time, by electing strong-fed candidates that move more and more power away from the state to DC. Sure, you could send all that tax money to your state capitol (or event city government) instead; you could let your state legislator or city councilor (who has relatively few constituents -- your vote matters more) represent you in important policy decisions. But we'd rather send the money further away to a less accountable bureaucracy, and let decisions be made by less accountable reps in DC who have more constituents so that each us us has a weaker voice.

        This move by Iowa is just another step in democracy's goal: to eliminate democracy, to weaken every voter's voice (in this case: Iowa's voters' voices). It's the all-too-common scream of: "Stop listening to us!"

        And it makes sense: can you imagine the horror of actually being responsible for our government's actions? Do you want that crushing burden on your kids? Please think of the children, and keep moving the power away from the people, so that future generations can can say, "It's not my fault, and I can't do anything about it." Give them the freedom of powerlessness, so that their apathy will be a virtue, instead of the vice that we still somewhat suffer from.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EatHam (597465)
      I agree. And as a New Yorker, and therefore a resident of one of the two states which will receive any attention, I am all for this plan.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        And as a New Yorker, and therefore a resident of one of the two states which will receive any attention, I am all for this plan.

        Yeah, let's get rid of the US Senate while we are at it. It's totally not fair that New Hampshire has the same number of Senators as we do. We should totally be able to dictate terms to them because we have more people.

        Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. I can't wait until we have more and more Democracy.

    • by rho (6063) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:51AM (#26827325) Homepage Journal

      You're making the--quite absurd--assumption that people are not voting because of the Electoral College.

      You could drop a daisy-cutter on Chicago and probably not kill anybody who knows what the Electoral College is, much less why it's there.

      People don't vote because people are generally lazy and apathetic about things outside their immediate sphere of reference. Which is not to say that they don't have opinions about things outside their sphere--they just don't do anything about those opinions.

    • by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:53AM (#26827343) Homepage

      The real reason to do this is to fix a flaw in the Constitution. The founders (perhaps for pragmatic reasons--no public education at the time) considered "common" people to be too dumb to vote. They decided only free, land-owning males have enough education or intelligence to make such an important decision.

      Furthermore, they considered even these people to be easily fooled, and put in the electoral college so that the few political elites could override the peoples' vote if the people screwed up.

      We now have public education and mass media. Anyone who feels so inclined can now be as politically inclined as the electoral college. Let's get rid of this relic of an unjust time.

      • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:16AM (#26827759)

        You think "public" (i.e. government) education has made things better? Then why do so few people even understand that we're not a true democracy or that we have an electoral college at all?

        We now have public education and mass media.

        The laughable thing (and yes, I realize some will think this flamebait) is that you think this is a good thing... that this has actually helped.

        What we have now is American Idol politics, where every month or so contestants are booted off in state by state popularity contests; the one that promises us the most at everybody else's expense wins... woohoo!!!

      • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:19AM (#26827813)

        "The real reason to do this is to fix a flaw in the Constitution. The founders (perhaps for pragmatic reasons--no public education at the time) considered "common" people to be too dumb to vote."

        Ummm no, try to get the average 30yo American to read and understand the federalist papers before you slam the intelligence of the revolutionary era population. The reason for the Electoral Collage is because the founders wanted states to do most of the heavy lifting in governing. We were a federal republic in which the states maintained many rights aside from the federal government.

        "They decided only free, land-owning males have enough education or intelligence to make such an important decision."

        Free yes, land owning? not so

        Each of the thirteen colonies required voters either to own a certain amount of land or personal property, or to pay a specified amount in taxes. It was about the people who pay for things voting, Im not saying its right but this 'land owners meme' has to be stopped.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CAIMLAS (41445)

        What you see as a flaw is still seen as a feature by many.

        It seems to me that populists on slashdot who would normally suppose that the population of the country/world is overwhelmingly stupid want 'pure' democracy - yet in any other situation would rant at the lunacy of the matter.

        Think about this, Slashdot: most of you make well over the median or average US income. Americans are, in this day and age, overwhelmingly socialist (in the "what can I get?" sense) as evidenced by the election of Barack Obama. W

    • by pz (113803) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:11AM (#26827669) Journal

      In what way does the popular vote not count? As far as I understand, and bear in mind that I've been a US citizen for only 4 decades or so, and my only exposure is living here for that time and going through the primary, secondary, and tertiary educational system, including state-mandated civics classes, the popular vote is what determines which electors will vote and (by pledge) how the electors will vote. While there are some exceptions, and different states have different rules, the electors are understood to vote for the candidates indicated on the ballot, and are determined by, wait for it, popular vote.

      Of course, you probably meant the national popular vote. And by focusing on that, you clearly have no understanding of why the electoral college was created in the first place.

      Perhaps you've noticed that most presidential elections in the US are pretty close (maybe you're not old enough to have noticed, but it's true). We don't have 80% to 20% popular vote splits. A 5% margin is considered good. The 1972 landslide was barely 60-40. And yet Nixon won 49 of 50 states. (That should give you a clue right there.)

      The standard story is that the electoral college was invented because at the time of the creation of the US as a nation, long-distance communication happened largely by horse. Sending results from each state to a central location to tally up meant sending a person in one form or another, to drive the horse carrying the results if nothing else, so instead of sending the votes, they sent people. Easy enough, not any slower, and it helped ensure that the votes weren't tampered with along the way.

      But that's only part of the story.

      The more important part is that the founding fathers were really, really smart. They saw how hard it was to organize and galvanize disparate peoples. They recognized that for leaders to be followed, they needed to be widely recognized by the larger populace as leaders. A nation, especially a younger nation, exists only because its citizens all agree it should. Broad dissent, particularly when the nation is still gaining its legs but also once it's strong, can be hugely deleterious. It leads to civil unrest and civil wars.

      So, when most elections are close, barely much beyond 50-50, how do you convince the HALF of the population who voted for the losing candidate that they should give up and follow the winner? The answer, THE answer, is to arrange things so that elections are never close to 50-50. The electoral college is designed to do this, to amplify small differences, so that marginal elections become mandates. With a mandate, the winner can lead.

      How does the electoral college do this? By taking the results from each state and, effectively, turning them into winner-take-all results. Not every state will vote for the nationally more popular candidate (except as was nearly true in 1972), so some states will vote for the ultimate winner, and some will vote for the ultimate loser, but by quantizing the results on a per-state basis, the small differences get amplified.

      In our most recent election, Obama won the national popular vote 53-46. That's damned close to 50-50. Nearly half of the US population voted for the fellow who didn't win. They aren't happy with the results. And yet, Obama is called one of the most popular presidents ever. He has a clear mandate. Why? Because the electoral college results were 67-32, or over 2-to-1. Landslide. Mandate.

      By taking the results from each state individually and turning them into winner-take-all, small differences (51-49 percent of the popular vote in a hypothetical example state like Kansas) are amplified into large differences (6-0 votes in the electoral college). And this creates a definitive result from the electoral college, and a mandate for the elected candidate.

      • by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:28PM (#26832839)

        If that were true than it would have been mandated that each state's electors vote as pledged and that they be selected en-block by the side that got the majority of votes in that state.

        Neither of those things is mandated. The original concept was that the election of a president was too important to be left to the people and was a decision which should be made by a select group of leaders, the electors. It was never intended that they be pledged at all. It was never intended that presidential candidates would even EXIST. As envisaged people would vote for electors on the ballot whom they thought would be the best people to decide who should be president.

        Factually it barely worked something like that in the first few elections and certainly since the days of Andrew Jackson it hasn't even remotely worked that way, but that WAS the intent.

        I would also assert that the fact that a winning candidate GENERALLY will win a large number of states does not 'enhance their mandate' either. It isn't first of all true (you can be president by winning 51% of the vote in only around 13 states). Secondly nobody pays any real attention to the electoral college. I seriously doubt that what the vote is in the EC has any significant effect on perceptions of the population as to the strength of a given president.

        What makes presidents powerful is the fact that there is a two party system. That itself is perhaps partly a result of the EC, but it is more a result of the whole state by state nature of the election of Congress and the internal rules of the Senate and House. In fact those rules and the actual rules formulated by the states on how elections are run have far more material impact on the way this country is governed than anything else.

  • Finally! (Score:5, Funny)

    by clonan (64380) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:30AM (#26826975)

    Finally us white aristocratic land owners won't be the only ones electing the president!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cshotton (46965)
      Finally us white aristocratic land owners won't be the only ones electing the president!

      Nope, what it means now is that California, New York, Florida, and Texas will pick our president. I am sorry, but if my state votes overwhelmingly for the losing candidate and its electoral votes get cast for the other candidate because they won the popular vote, explain to me how democracy was served?

      People who think the Electoral College is bad have to be ignorant of the consequences of doing away with it. What it

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by clonan (64380)

        That is the current system. Look at the Swing states. They get many times the attention of other states.

        The new system means that California takes YOUR vote into account when it delegates its electoral college votes.

        Right now California only looks at it's citizens for the electoral college.

        Under the new system California looks at California Citizens AND Wyoming citizens AND Texas citizens.

        The new system means that one person is no more important than anyone else.

  • Headline wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:33AM (#26827013) Homepage Journal

    Uh, sending all their votes for a single candidate is the OPPOSITE of removing the electoral college. It makes much more sense to award them proportionally if your goal is to mitigate the problem of its existence. The fact that you can win some states and avoid others is what makes it a problem in the first place - the electoral college is basically a system for ignoring the needs of most of the nation based on geographical boundaries, and as far as I can tell was designed to make it easy to game the system. Only FOUR times in history (IIRC) has the EC actually ever overridden the popular vote. One of those times was GWB (well, the counted popular vote, which is known to have been intentionally gamed, but let's put that aside for now.) If the other times the electoral college actually had an effect were like this time, then it is pure evil and must actually be destroyed.

    It's long past time for a constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college. Let's decide to be a democracy.

    • Re:Headline wrong (Score:5, Informative)

      by clonan (64380) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:38AM (#26827073)

      Read the article....

      The votes go to the winner of the NATIONAL popular election.

      Once 270 votes worth of state agree then a vote in Florida of Ohio will be worth just as much as a vote in Texas or California.

      By doing this, the winner of the national popular vote will always win. By distributing the electoral votes along the popular vote of the individual states you still have the potential of a 2000 result. PLUS you still have thoes purple swing states.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cshotton (46965)
        Not true at all. Candidates are only going to campaign where they get maximum exposure to draw the popular vote. Large states like California, New York, and Florida will dominate the campaign. Fly-over states, New England, and much of the South will be ignored. That means their issues will be ignored.

        A campaign stop in LA is going to generate orders of magnitude more exposure for a candidate than a stop in Des Moines. You are deluded if you think your vote in Iowa is going to draw as much attention from a

    • Re:Headline wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:42AM (#26827145)

      Hell no. As my old poli sci prof put it "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner".

      We are not, and should not be, a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. The founders did that very deliberately to make sure that the minority (however defined) could not be trampled by the majority.

      Tne founders had a great (and valid) distrust of pure democracy, as well as a great distrust of an overpowerful government.

      Sadly, their goal of small sane government has been swept away. But for now we have a constitution that protects the minority.

      And no matter what they taught you in school, we are not a democracy. Never have been. I vaguely recall something about "...and to the Republic for which it stands..."

  • by thirty-seven (568076) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:34AM (#26827031)

    If Iowa adopts this measure, it would be noteworthy, but the summary seems to imply that this is a new idea or something unique that Iowa is considering. It is not. See the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact [wikipedia.org]:

    The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among U.S. states that would effectively replace the current electoral college system of presidential elections with a direct, nationwide vote of the people. As of September 2008, this interstate compact has been joined by Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey; their 50 electoral votes total amount to almost 19% of the 270 needed for the compact to take effect. Bills to join the compact are currently pending in ten additional states.

    The compact is based on Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives each state legislature the right to decide how to appoint its own electors. ... States joining the compact will continue to award their electoral votes in their current manner until the compact has been joined by enough states to represent a controlling majority of the Electoral College (currently 270 electoral votes). After that point, all of the electoral votes of the member states would be cast for the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. With the national popular vote winner sure to have a decisive majority in the Electoral College, he or she would automatically win the Electoral College and therefore the presidency.

  • by Forge (2456) <kevinforge@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:35AM (#26827043) Homepage Journal
    Frankly, if I ran a state, I would NOT do that. Why? Because it removes any incentive for the Executive to pay special attention to your state.

    Of course, as it's worded in a way that it only comes into effect when enough states adopt the position for it to become constitutional law, they are covered. The President can safely pay no attention at all to sparsely populated states.
    • by Rageon (522706) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:46AM (#26827241)
      I'm originally from one of those smaller states that supposedly has a disproportionate amount of power compared to it's size. And I hate the electoral college.

      First, as to the whole "people pay attention to it" argument, I certainly haven't seen that. Did anyone pay attention the last couple elections -- were, what, 35 states clearly going one way or another anyways, so they only paid attention to the so-called "swing states." Now, that may give some states extra pull when they are close, but when a state like ND, Wyoming, and Montana aren't -- they are essentially ignored.

      Second, and this is the most important reason in my mind, it discourages people from voting. On many occasions, I have heard people mention how it was pointless for a liberal to vote in ND, or alternatively, for a conservative to vote in Minnesota.

  • Yawn. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by M1rth (790840) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:36AM (#26827051)

    Backers of this idiotic scheme have been pushing it for years.

    The problem is, the "national popular vote" is anything but uniform. Liars like to claim Al Gore "won" the popular vote, but that is a false claim; he had less than 1% difference, and the average error rate of voting machines across the US is somewhere between 2-3%. If you go by the actual vote and work with the number of counties where there were voting irregularities and counting irregularities, there's a major question of how many votes anyone had.

    In other words: voting equipment is not perfect. This is why we have recounts.

    Now, can you imagine the scale of someone having to do a national recount based on the fact that Gore's supposed "win of the popular vote" in 2000 was under the threshold to trip an automatic recount in every single state that has such a law?

    We apportion the votes by state for two reasons:
    #1 - The US is supposed to be a union of self-sovereign states. The Federal government is supposed to have only a limited set of powers, with each state independently deciding the rest of the issues for itself. Yes, this has been eroded badly away in recent decades, but it's still true.

    #2 - The logistics of holding a "national recount" are simply not possible. Recounting a state alone is bad enough (look at the Dem vote fraud efforts for Franken and the "targeted recounting" of counties, which magically has more votes than voters in several Dem-heavy districts trying to steal the Senate election).

    • Re:Yawn. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:47AM (#26827251) Journal

      #1 is true only on paper, and we both know that (you even admit it yourself)

      #2 a national recount is trivial, actually, since it's not really a national recount, but simply tens of thousands of individual precinct recounts. In other words, it's a parallel process. Sure, it would be expensive due to the manpower, but it's a trivial process.

      Finally, the US doesn't apportion federal votes by population, but by slightly weighted version which gives additional weight to the least populous states (reps + senators). It would shift the balance slightly to change the voting. It's not a perfect system, but unless we start giving out fractional electors even a proportional representation electoral college could anoint a winner due to round-off error (which is already the case when the electoral and popular votes don't match). With the unbalanced weighting, even a split to 6 significant digits could result in a popular-electoral mismatch.

      I would prefer a representative electoral system, but I'd be even more happy if there were a way to undo the gamemanship of the whole process.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by howdoesth (1132949)

      #2 - The logistics of holding a "national recount" are simply not possible. Recounting a state alone is bad enough (look at the Dem vote fraud efforts for Franken and the "targeted recounting" of counties, which magically has more votes than voters in several Dem-heavy districts trying to steal the Senate election).

      Show me a single county in Minnesota that's reporting more votes than voters. It shouldn't be hard, because you say that there are several. The data are freely available from the Minnesota Secretary of State http://electionresults.sos.state.mn.us/20081104/ [state.mn.us] so there's nothing standing in your way.

      Note: a county that reports more valid votes after a recount than it did on election night is an entirely different thing than a county reporting more votes than voters. The former is a natural result from going

  • by Glothar (53068) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:38AM (#26827079)

    Okay, I understand that only 2% of Slashdot readership has a clue why the electoral college even exists. And I realize that most people won't even rub two brain cells together before responding and saying that this is a great idea ("This is a great idea! Now there's a reason to vote!").

    However, part of me honestly hoped that a state like Iowa, which is filled with people who are convinced they really are the most important people in the country, would be able to do the math to realize that following a straight popular vote gives Iowans less power and that if the country would depend solely on the popular vote, Iowa (and most other small midwest states) would be completely marginalized.

    Well. At least that increases the chances of gay rights bills getting passed.

  • by stgray98 (515111) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:41AM (#26827121)

    As a former history major and a election junky I think the move to kill the electoral college is a stupid move for several reasons. I personally like the Nebraska solution (house districts go to the candidate winning the district, senate votes go to overall winner in the state).

    With California, NY, and a few other states becoming huge, with even more illegals etc why would we want to make sure that candidates only have to promise goodies to city dwellers on the coasts?

    We are talking about stripping something that harkens back to the "representative republic" nature of the starting of our country in favor of pure democracy.. Pure democracy gave us TARP 1, the Porkulus bill, Tarp2 etc..

  • Federal Republic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Balthisar (649688) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:41AM (#26827131) Homepage

    I'm getting the idea that just because GW wasn't a very good Republican, we're now willing to give up our federal system? We're not a tiny, little homogeneous European country; we're a huge friggin' landmass with diverse wants and needs. Keep power as close to home as possible.

  • affect/effect (Score:4, Informative)

    by bidule (173941) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:46AM (#26827235) Homepage

    Stop verbing nouns. Or nouning verbs in this case.

  • Call me antiquated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zehaeva (1136559) <<zehaeva+slashdot> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:47AM (#26827243)

    I side with the Founding Fathers on this issue. The common man, even 200+ years later, is not educated enough, or even intelligent enough, to make an informed decision about who should lead the US.

    All you have to do is watch the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and catch his, I believe its called Jay Walking now but I recall it as "The Great American Pop Quiz", quiz of the common man on the streets of NYC to see that the vast majority of Americans have NO business selecting who should lead the US.

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:35PM (#26829073) Journal

      True, but the Founding Fathers didn't live in a nation fixated on watching "mass media" to get their information, either.

      IMHO, the big reason we don't see 3rd. parties having a ghost of a chance of getting elected is due to the television and press deciding for us that they're "not worthy".

      EG. Give the Constitutional party, the Green party and the Libertarian party equal news coverage to the Republican and Democratic candidates, and I bet you'd be surprised how many more people consider giving the 3rd. party alternatives a vote.

      The only reason Ross Perot did so well as a 3rd. party candidate, years ago, was the fact he was wealthy enough to buy himself a lot of attention in the media.

  • Into affect? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by xtracto (837672) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:07AM (#26827599) Journal

    Well... I am no English expert, in fact it is my 2nd language (Âprimero Español amigo!) but I found the sentence:

    "This would only go into affect after enough ..."

    Very strange... is it that confusing "effect" vs "affect" for native English speakers? for me they mean completely different things "afectar" vs "efecto"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drerwk (695572)
      Your English is better than Zebano's. And your proofreading is better than Taco's.
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @11:17AM (#26827773) Homepage

    Since changing the US constitution is too much work

    Fortunately, ignoring the Constitution is very easy — as long as you have "bipartisan support". And no, I don't mean the Guantanamo and the like, which are, actually, arguably legal (however distasteful).

    A lot more profound example is the requirement, that all the government can only use "gold or silver coin" as means of payment (Article 1 Section 10 [usconstitution.net]):

    "No State shall make any Thing but Gold and Silver Coin a tender in Payment of Debts"

    When the US abolished gold standard in 1971 and the dollar became "fiat money [about.com]", all State tax-refunds, welfare payments, salaries of the State-employees, etc. became unarguably unconstitutional.

    And yet, chances are very good, dear reader, you read about the issue here for the first time in your life... Now, I don't claim the economic acumen to argue whether or not Gold Standard was (or would be [house.gov]?) a good idea. But I have that "ideological rigidity" to be disturbed by a violation of the Constitution, that is so blatant and yet so ignored...

    • by KiahZero (610862) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @12:20PM (#26828807)

      It's hardly inarguable, since it *was* argued, and successfully, 150 years ago.

      First, your argument has the time wrong, because the time of unconstitutionality wouldn't have been when the gold standard was abolished, but rather when the government started printing money during the Civil War.

      More importantly, your argument claims that, because states are prohibited from making anything but gold and silver coins legal tender, that the federal Government's act of making paper money legal tender is unconstitutional when states use that money. This is, to put it bluntly, stupid. Article 1 Section 10 is a limit on state power, not federal power. Article 1, Section 8 allows Congress to coin money, and further allows borrowing in the credit of the United States, and therefore allows for the printing of fiat money.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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