The Future of Republican Support for the Electoral College

Will conservatives still favor it if Democrats win the White House despite losing the popular vote?

In 2000, conservatives were obligated to explain why they supported preservation of the Electoral College even though it produced a victory for their candidate, George W. Bush. In coming elections, their devotion may face a sterner test: Will they favor it if Democrats win the White House even when Republicans carry the popular vote?

Mitt Romney managed to avoid that problem by coming up short across the board. But while Republicans have noticed that the voting public is changing in ways that don't help the GOP, they may not have noticed that the electoral map has also shifted to their clear disadvantage.

Nate Silver, who does the "FiveThirtyEight" blog for The New York Times and correctly predicted the outcome in all 50 states, noted afterward that Obama would have gotten a second term even if Romney had tied him in the popular vote.

In fact, he wrote, "Romney may have had to win the national popular vote by three percentage points on Tuesday to be assured of winning the Electoral College." No Republican has done that since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Texas A&M political scientist George Edwards III, author of "Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America," finds additional grounds for the GOP to worry. "With Obama's victory," he told me by email, "Democrats have now won 18 states—the 'blue wall'—for at least the past six consecutive elections. That's the most states Democrats have won consecutively for that often since the formation of the modern party system in 1828."

He went on: "Those 18 blue-wall states (joined by the District of Columbia) now provide Democrats 242 electoral college votes"—just 28 shy of the 270 needed to win. Republicans are swimming upstream.

So maybe they'll reassess this antique. Democrats got all the convincing they needed in 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote to no avail. Republicans shouldn't wait till it happens to them.

If they look closely, they will find the arguments for the status quo don't stand up. Such as:

"We should respect the wisdom of the framers." When it came to devising a way to elect the president, they weren't so wise. Their system led, in 1800, to an election in which Thomas Jefferson and his own running mate, Aaron Burr, tied in the Electoral College. That flaw had to be fixed with a constitutional amendment, in 1804.

Stanford historian Jack Rakove, an authority on the Constitutional Convention, has written that "the framers did not reject popular election because of a fear that the people might fall prey to a demagogue. They worried instead that in a provincial society, citizens would never be well enough informed to make an effective choice without multiple and expensive rounds of elections."

They expected most presidents to be chosen by the House of Representatives because no one would get a majority in the Electoral College. So much for their infallibility.

"The Electoral College is a pillar of federalism and state sovereignty." False. The strength of federalism is the existence of states and their control over many spheres of government. The Electoral College allocates votes among states but doesn't confer any power on them. Canada lacks the Electoral College, and its provinces enjoy more power than our states.

Citizens cast presidential ballots according to individual preference, not state interests. Voters in Detroit don't vote to uphold the interests of rural residents of the Upper Peninsula, or vice versa. Kansans and Nebraskans do not see their needs as starkly different. We're all Americans, first and foremost.

"It forces candidates to pay attention to states they would otherwise ignore." True. It does so by forcing them to ignore other states—most of them. Only eight states saw Obama during the general election campaign, notes Edwards, and only 10 got visits from Romney.

"Without it, we'd face frequent massive recounts, multiple parties and narrowly based candidacies." Really? You'd never guess that we use simple majority rule in our other elections, without those awful consequences.

Senate races rarely generate vote-count disputes. Third parties hardly ever affect congressional elections. Candidates for governor campaign in rural as well as urban areas.

The Electoral College is a strange mechanism, created to avert imaginary dangers, that violates basic democratic principles for no good reason. Democrats have been ready to ditch it for at least 12 years. The GOP had better second the motion now, before they change their minds.

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  • ||

    Seriously, can Reason stop subscribing to Chapman's stuff already? Scrap the Electoral College? It'd be better to keep the electoral college and encourage more states to move towards an allocation system that is not winner-take-all.

    Chapman's the populist's dream journalist: whichever way the river of public opinion is heading, Chapman's there leading the fish downstream.

  • Almanian.||

    I miss reading "Steven Chapman is on vacation this week".

    Those are my favorite Steven Chapman columns.

  • ||

    +52

  • FucktheNannyState||

    Haha, Steve's a tool

  • Susan Anthony||

    An analysis of the whole number proportional plan and congressional district systems of awarding electoral votes, evaluated the systems "on the basis of whether they promote majority rule, make elections more nationally competitive, reduce incentives for partisan machinations, and make all votes count equally. . . .

    Awarding electoral votes by a proportional or congressional district [used by Maine and Nebraska] method fails to promote majority rule, greater competitiveness or voter equality. Pursued at a state level, both reforms dramatically increase incentives for partisan machinations. If done nationally, the congressional district system has a sharp partisan tilt toward the Republican Party, while the whole number proportional system sharply increases the odds of no candidate getting the majority of electoral votes needed, leading to the selection of the president by the U.S. House of Representatives.

    For states seeking to exercise their responsibility under the U.S. Constitution to choose a method of allocating electoral votes that best serves their state’s interest and that of the national interest, both alternatives fall far short of the National Popular Vote plan . . ."

    FairVote

  • Susan Anthony||

    The National Popular Vote bill would change current state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), to a system guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire United States.

    The bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  • Skip||

    The epic retardation of California and New York since the 90s have ensured that Republicans will never win the popular vote again. 2004 was an anomoly.

  • Redmanfms||

    Wonderful idea there Chapman. Let's just scrap the Electoral College and incentivize further election fraud by the Dems, except instead of it being a few hundred to few thousand in places like Cuyahoga and Cook, it will be in every voting precinct in America, thus ensuring total Democrat domination into perpetuity.

    "The Electoral College is a strange mechanism, created to avert imaginary dangers, that violates basic democratic principles for no good reason."

    So does the Senate, but in fact both of them are hedges against "democracy" for very good reasons that would be apparent to you if you were an actual libertarian. Reasons beyond the obvious (and well-known to anybody who has the vaguest clue WTF they are talking about) fact that the United States was never meant to be a democracy.

  • Jordan||

    This. A thousand times this.

  • Drake||

    How funny would it be if the Republicans agree to a popular vote - then totally out frauded and hacked the Dems? Just blatantly got themselves 150% of the votes in every state. You know - like Philly.

  • Michael Holman||

    The only thing I would add to the Redmanfms comment is that Mr. Chapman needs to tell us what we replace the electoral college with. Growing up in a rural area of California made me really appreciate the electoral college because I would see statewide government races have the Democrats primarily campaign in the big cities of LA or San Francisco where Republicans would have to run all over the state to attempt to drum up votes from all the rural areas that were more likely to have voters that would agree with them. I see the same problem in Oregon where I currently live. Democrats pretty much campaign in Portland and Republicans drive all over the state.

    Mr. Chapman needs to point out how going to just a popular vote would not just result in the Democrat candidate only campaigning in the top ten biggest cities in the country where the Republican candidate scurries all over the rural areas of the country. Until he can answer that, the Republicans, or any other party that typically reflects the opinions of rural America, will be handing the Democrats, or any other party that represents the opinions of those in large cities, a HUGE financial advantage when it comes to campaigning.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    The advantage already exists.

    This is still how campaigning is done. The only change is how votes (which are still sought in same patterns) are counted.

    I think a better commentary on this is that America is divided geographically and culturally.

    There is no valid reason to not divorce the 2 sides. Our politics are divergent and compromise results in bankruptcy.

    A national splitting in half seems in order.

  • T o n y||

    The only reported instances of fraud this last time around were perpetrated by Republicans--and that's not even talking about their attempts to reestablish de facto poll taxes.

    Why is your opinion relevant when you believe in bullshit fantasies?

  • Julio Cesar Samper Uribe||

    Herp derp, no fraud, herp derp, poll tax, herp derp, GOP are poopyheads.

    Glad to help you, Spacebar.

  • Rasilio||

    Yes and Jose Canseco never took Steroids because he never failed a Steroid test.

  • T o n y||

    Ok so what voter fraud?

  • Rasilio||

    Are you really that stupid.

    The point I was making is that it is physicially impossible to make an intelligent comment on the prevalence of vote fraud because our voting systems is intentionally designed to not have the capacity to catch the most common forms of vote fraud.

    Obviously it exists, anyone with half a brain can see that somewhere someone is cheating in the votes, the question is how prevalent is it. 0.0001%, 1%, 5%? We simply don't know because idiots like you refuse to allow simple reforms which could test for vote fraud (like the requirement to provide photo id, and don't give me that poll tax BS because we could just as easily give the id's away for free).

    This is no different from Major League Baseball's stance regarding Steroids when Jose Canseco wrote his book. They maintained that no baseball players were Juicing because none had been caught, even though they had never been tested. So in the face of congressional investigations they agreed to do a test and gave the players drug tests, they were done in the dumbest way possible with the players having weeks of advance notice when the test would happen and yet something like 7% of all players tested positive for Steroids.

    Until we test for fraud we will never know how much of it is happening.

  • gaoxiaen||

    I liked how my absentee ballot came too late for me to vote, thanks to the PA Republicans for their (failed)lawsuit against the Libertarian Party to keep them off the ballot. Yeah, every vote counts, democracy, the only wasted vote, etc...

  • Susan Anthony||

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud, coercion, intimidation, confusion, and voter suppression. A very few people can change the national outcome by adding, changing, or suppressing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

    National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud or voter suppression. One suppressed vote would be one less vote. One fraudulent vote would only win one vote in the return. In the current electoral system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.

    The closest popular-vote election in American history (in 1960), had a nationwide margin of more than 100,000 popular votes. The closest electoral-vote election in American history (in 2000) was determined by 537 votes, all in one state, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

    For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be 200 times closer than the 1960 election--and, in popular-vote terms, 40 times closer than 2000 itself.

    Which system offers vote suppressors or fraudulent voters a better shot at success for a smaller effort?

  • Susan Anthony||

    Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    With National Popular Vote, the United States would still be a republic, in which citizens continue to elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes by states, to represent us and conduct the business of government in the periods between elections.

  • Voros McCracken||

    "The Electoral College is a strange mechanism, created to avert imaginary dangers, that violates basic democratic principles for no good reason."

    That's a splendid sentence in that I think I disagree with every last word of it.

    The Electoral College is a sort of brilliant firewall against the dangers of direct democracy in a country as large and diverse as the United States. The whole point of the electoral college is to be undemocratic, so calling it such is not really a criticism to someone who supports it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I endorse this position. The Electoral College is a check on federal power. We need more of those, not fewer.

    What's good for millions of urbanites isn't necessarily good for millions of everyone else, so there is a good justification for some geographic diversity. Numbers still matter, but not to the point that a few cities could control entire elections.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Perhaps we could let those people in the cities implement the policies they want for their own city, without forcing the farmers a thousand miles away to do it too?

  • Loki||

    You mean like some kind of system where the central government is limited and most of the political power is held by state and local governments? That's just crazy talk.

  • Drake||

    If only somebody had envisioned such a system back when the Constitution was being written.

  • Free Society||

    If only...Well since we all know that the 10th Amendment actually means that the feds can do whatever the fuck they want, your sarcasm is invalid.

  • Susan Anthony||

    80% of the states and people were just spectators to the presidential elections. That's more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans.

    Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections

    States have the responsibility and power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond.

    Unable to agree on any particular method, the Founders left the choice of method for selecting presidential electors exclusively to the states by adopting the language contained in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution-- "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

    Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The NPV bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, or national lines (as with the National Popular Vote).

  • Susan Anthony||

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.
    The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

    Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

    Any candidate who ignored, for example, the 16% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote.

    If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

    Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

    Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

    Republicans win races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

    With a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters everywhere.

  • Rasilio||

    "The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States."

    This is accurate but irrelivant.

    What matters is the poulation of the region that the major city is in.

    If you look at the Metropolitan Statistical Areas the population of New York and Los Angeles alone is 0ver 10% of the US Population (31.96 Million people), the population of the top 6 metropolitan areas is over 60 million people and just shy of 20% of the populace.

    If you go to the top 30 metropolitan areas, basically every city with over 1.9 million in the metro area you get to 139 million people, 40% of the electorate.

    So if you can win 70 - 30 with that group of large and mid sized cities while ignoring completely the south, Northwest and mountain west and most of the midwest except for Chicago, and St Louis you just need to get a 60 - 40 split in the rest of the country to win.

  • Susan Anthony||

    I noted:

    "Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican."

  • Killazontherun||

    The hordes have been so fantastic to us. Let's just get rid of this wall here and maybe they can carry back the rest of my wallet next time because those poor dears really need it more than I do.

  • T o n y||

    Do you even know who your electors are?

    The only way the EC checks direct democracy is by electing the guy who got fewer votes. Why is that ever a good outcome? It never happens because wise electors picked the better man, it just happens by accident. What are we getting exactly by risking having a president who lacks popular vote legitimacy?

  • ||

    Your use of the word "risking" implies that would be a negative outcome

  • Fluhdoten1||

    the electoral college is just 1 more way establishment has rigged the game.

    Even if Gary Johnson won every state, the electoral college would still have voted in Obama.

    The whole question is moot though, because of demorats identity politics and the changED demographics of USA.

    We have statist liberals on the menu for the foreseeable future.

  • ant1sthenes||

    What the EC checks is the need for Texas to carpet-bomb Illinois because they're convinced that Chicago is illegally manufacturing hundreds of thousands of votes and thus oppressing them with an illegitimate federal government.

    It keeps fraud as a local or, at worst, state-level problem. Since fraud is easiest to pull off when a state is heavily in one camp or the other, it also means that fraud rarely affects the results of the presidential election.

    If the same system was adopted within states, campaign ads, GOTV efforts, registration drives, and all that would only be relevant in contested areas, which would reduce the cost and annoyance of election season.

  • Susan Anthony||

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud, coercion, intimidation, confusion, and voter suppression. A very few people in a one-party controlled state (like FL 2000) can change the national outcome by adding, changing, or suppressing a small number of votes in 1 closely divided battleground state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

    National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud or voter suppression. 1 suppressed vote would be one less vote. 1 fraudulent vote would only win 1 vote in the return. In the current system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.

    The closest popular-vote election in American history (in 1960), had a nationwide margin of more than 100,000 popular votes. The closest electoral-vote election (in 2000) was determined by 537 votes, all in one state, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

    For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be 200 times closer than the 1960 election--and, in popular-vote terms, 40 times closer than 2000 itself.

    Which system offers vote suppressors or fraudulent voters a better shot at success for a smaller effort?

  • DarrenM||

    What the EC checks is the need for Texas to carpet-bomb Illinois

    That would certainly be a huge boost to the Illinois economy.

  • Susan Anthony||

    Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly. With National Popular Vote, the United States would still be a republic, in which citizens continue to elect the President by a majority of Electoral College votes by states, to represent us and conduct the business of government in the periods between elections.

    The National Popular Vote bill would end the disproportionate attention and influence of the "mob" in the current handful of closely divided battleground states, such as Florida, while the "mobs" of the vast majority of states are ignored. 9 states determined the 2012 election. 10 of the original 13 states are politically irrelevant in presidential campaigns now.

    The current system does not provide some kind of check on the "mobs." There have been 22,453 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. 1796 remains the only instance when the elector might have thought, at the time he voted, that his vote might affect the national outcome. Since 1796, the Electoral College has had the form, but not the substance, of the deliberative body envisioned by the Founders. The electors now are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The Electoral College is a strange mechanism, created to avert imaginary dangers, that violates basic democratic principles for no good reason."

    The Electoral College was created as a way to account for the Three-Fifths Compromise in presidential elections.

    Because slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of deciding how many representatives to the House a state was allotted, and slaves couldn't vote, that meant that voters in the South got more votes in the House of Representatives--and thus in the Electoral College--than voters in the North did.

    The Electoral College was a way for Southern slaveholders to increase their power in choosing the president vis a vis the North. That's why when Lincoln won despite Southern voters being overrepresented in the Electoral College, the Southern states started to secede.

    In other words, the Electoral College wasn't created to avert imaginary dangers--it was created to give slave states a disproportionate power in determining the president. And it wasn't created for no good reason--it was created for the obscene reason of perpetuating slavery.

  • CE||

    The Electoral College is a strange mechanism, created to avert imaginary dangers, that violates basic democratic principles for no good reason.

    Maybe a history lesson is in order for Mr. Chapman. It wasn't created because it was the best way to elect a president in a democratic nation, it was created because the Constitution was a compact between state governments, and no other plan would have been approved.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I think that is probably right.

    Certainly, when the South could no longer control the Electoral College--as demonstrated by the election of Lincoln--they seceded.

  • Free Society||

    Once again, Chapman misses the boat. Of course the Electoral College violates basic democratic principles, that's it's purpose. Basic democratic principles means that 51% of the population can threaten the life, liberty and property of the other 49%. We do not live in a democracy, Chapman. The problem with the Electoral College is the winner-take-all apportionment of delegates, not simply it's mere existence.

    Can someone over at Reason fire Chapman already?

  • mr simple||

    You mean OSCAR?

    Oust Steve Chapman AlReady, I think it was.

    Who started that? I think about that every time I see his name.

  • Free Society||

    "OSCAR"?. I want to be a card carrying member of that.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Stuff it, Chapman.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Incidentally, this is one of the reasons average people in the North despised "slave power" so much--because the Three-Firths Compromise made their votes for the House and for whomever was to be in the White House worth less than they would have been without slavery.

    Why should votes in the South count for more than votes in the North?

    That's what a lot of them meant by "slave power", when they complained about "slave power", a lot of them were talking about slaveholders being overrepresented in the House and in the Electoral College.

    Talk about special interests writing the rules! We're still living with the Electoral College today becasue of what the special interests representing slavery did back in 1787.

  • Voros McCracken||

    "Incidentally, this is one of the reasons average people in the North despised "slave power" so much--because the Three-Firths Compromise made their votes for the House and for whomever was to be in the White House worth less than they would have been without slavery."

    Seems to me it made Northern votes worth more since slaves should have been counted as five-fifths of a person and not been slaves.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Well, at the time the Constitution was passed, you couldn't vote unless you owned so much land, etc.--regardless of whether you were a slave or not.

    Suffrage was extended to nearly all white males during the Jackson era in the 1820s.

  • robc||

    Voting didnt have anything to do with representation, women even counted towards the census. And children.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It mattered in the number of seats in the House of Representatives apportioned to each state.

    The number of votes in the Electoral College that come from each state is tied to the number of seats apportioned to that state in the House of Representatives.

    So, if we're determining how many seats Massachusetts gets in the House and how many Virginia gets, then we count the number of free people and we count the number of slaves.

    If Virgina, fictitiously, has 100,000 free people, and Massachusetts has 100,000 people, according the northern plan, they would both get the same number of representatives. If you get 1 representative for every 10,000 people (again for illustration purposes), then they both get 10 representatives because the northern plan was to only count free people.

    Per the Three-Fifths Compromise, however, you also add in the slaves. If in addition to free people, Massachusetts has 8,000 slaves, then 8,000 times three-fifths means Massachusetts gets no additional representatives for that. However! If Virginia has 40,000 slaves, then 40,000 time three-fifths means Virginia gets 2 more seats in the House of Representatives.

  • Ken Shultz||

    So, under the Three-Fifths Compromise (and under our fake round numbers for purposes of illustration), if Massachusetts and a slave state like Virginia have the same number of free people, Massachusetts gets 10 seats in the House, but Virginia gets 12.

    Because the number of votes each state gets in the Electoral College is derived from the number of seats each state has in the House, that disproportionate "slave power" is likewise carried over into the Electoral College--just like it was meant to do.

  • Ken Shultz||

    To be completely specific,

    I believe the number of votes each state gets in the Electoral College is determined by the number of seats they have in the House of Representatives plus the number of seats they have in the Senate.

    That would mean (in our illustration scenario) that Massachusetts would get 12 votes in the electoral college but Virginia would get 14--even if they both had the same number of free people.

  • CE||

    And small states with only one House seat get three Electoral College votes, giving their voters far more power.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They get at least one representative, and two for having senators.

    That's right. ...and all the other states get the same thing, too. All the states get one vote in the electoral college for every representative plus every senator.

    It doesn't give small states a leg up on anybody.

    Jesus, the Three-Fifths Compromise didn't just coincidentally favor slave states! They negotiated back and forth on it--because of its effect on the Electoral College in regards to slave states.

    You must think the framers were stupid!

  • Redmanfms||

    "Seems to me it made Northern votes worth more since slaves should have been counted as five-fifths of a person and not been slaves."

    Sshh. You'll spook him into actually counting, and math clearly isn't one of his strengths.

    But hey, I suppose it's possible that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were just lying about the reasons for the EC, and it was really all just about reaffirming the power of the 3/5ths Compromise. One could make a compelling argument (in theory at least) about the former, but it'd be a tough row to hoe convincing any thinking person that Hamilton was in favor of continuing the salve status quo or rewarding the Slave States for their slavery.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'd love to say I'm the genius who thought of this, but this has been standard high school American history for generations.

    "Since slaves could not vote, slaveholders would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.....compromise

    Wikipdia isn't exactly a reliable source, but a simple glance at it can sometimes save us from embarrassment.

  • Redmanfms||

    But you have made the argument that was the motivation for the EC in the first place, which it wasn't. Nor was it the motivation for the House.

    I strongly recommend you read the Federalist Papers. Hamilton who was no slaver or apologist of such wrote the one the specifically explained the reasoning behind the EC. It was 68, read it and come on back.

    By all means don't let facts encumber your opinions though.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Whatever you think was in the hearts of whomever? The Electoral College served to give slaveholders a disproportionate number of votes in presidential elections--from the very beginning.

    Out of concern for slavery, would the South have ratified the Constitution without it? I doubt it.

    I know that the South would have rather seceded from the union when their disproportionate representation in the Electoral College was insufficient to deny the presidency to Lincoln.

    Because that's what they did. They seceded.

  • Redmanfms||

    And in the headlines, slavery ended 145 years ago. News at 11.


    Read Federalist 68, it explains the reasons for the EC (which notably don't include fluffing the Slave States).

  • Killazontherun||

    Don't be too hard on him. He was taught in Californian Alt-Reality public schools most likely. 1787, 1861, and the cotton jenny in between. How does that all come together? Why that stuff is confusing!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Actually, I graduated from a boarding school in the Shenandoah Valley.

  • Killazontherun||

    What was your first class in the morning? Skipping through daisies or fly fishing?

  • Ken Shultz||

    So I guess you went to public schools then?

    Do they not teach American History in public schools anymore?

  • gaoxiaen||

    Phys Ed

  • Loki||

    The Electoral College served to give slaveholders a disproportionate number of votes in presidential elections

    I suspect that was more of an unintended consequence than anything else. As others have pointed out already, the EC was by and large Hamilton's idea, and he was no fan of slavery.

    Anyway, it's all a moot point now that slavery has been abolished for the last 145 years or so. So this whole conversation is irrelevant to the question of whether the EC should be abolished, reformed, or left the way it is in the here and now.

  • Ken Shultz||

    There wasn't anything unintended about the Three-Fifth's Compromise.

    The Constitution was ratified with the Three-Fifth's Compromise determining the composition of the Electoral College. It was negotiated for by the South--completely on purpose.

    Are you guys joking around?

    Before the Civil War, there was never a time when the Three-Fifth's Compromise didn't determine the composition of the Electoral College.

    There wasn't anything unintended about it. The Electoral College that wasn't apportioned in line with the Three-Fifth's Compromise never existed--until the Civil War.

    If you guys are talking about some fictitious, fantasy world electoral college, that the Three-Fifths Compromise didn't have anything to do with? I'm sure that's interesting to some people for some reason.

    But in the real world, there was a real Electoral College in a the real Constitution, and the real South ratified the real Constitution with the real Three-Fifths Compromise determining its real composition. That's the one I'm talking about.

    When the real Electoral College came into existence in the real world, it was as a device to give real slaveholders a disproportionate say in who got to be the real president.

    An electoral college with a composition determined by the Three-Fifths Compromise--that's one of the reasons why the South voted to ratify the Constitution. Losing that advantage is why the South seceded from the union.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    ppl are discussing its motive for creation, not its consequences.

    dont confuse yourself.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It was created with specific consequences in mind.

    Pro-Southern, pro-slavery consequences--on purpose.

  • sarcasmic||

    By all means don't let facts encumber your opinions though.

    This is Ken we're talking about.

  • Ken Shultz||

    You've got some facts to add?

    I'd love to see them!

  • Killazontherun||

    Ken, here is a math lesson for you. If freem men count one vote and slaves count only 2/5ths who does that help for representational purposes? Free or Slave states?

    Anyhoo, from the Wikipedia:

    Delegates opposed to slavery generally wished to count only the free inhabitants of each state. Delegates supportive of slavery, on the other hand, generally wanted to count slaves in their actual numbers. Since slaves could not vote, slaveholders would thus have the benefit of increased representation in the House and the Electoral College. The final compromise of counting "all other persons" as only three-fifths of their actual numbers reduced the power of the slave states relative to the original southern proposals, but increased it over the northern position.

  • Killazontherun||

    The equation still works to determine a less than 1 + 1 = 2 sum either with 2/5ths or 3/5ths, obviously. Was typing while talking to someone.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The final compromise of counting all other persons" as only three-fifths of their actual numbers reduced the power of the slave states relative to the original southern proposals, but increased it over the northern position."

    I don't think you understand what that part of your quote says.

    If they had just counted free people, the South wouldn't have had disproportionate representation in the Electoral College. And that was the "norther position".

    The South ended up with more and disproportionate representation in both the House and the Electoral College because of The Three-Fifths Compromise.

    That's what your quote says.

  • Killazontherun||

    You realize that your theory of the origins of the EC is completely undermined by the existence of the 3/5th compromise, right?

  • Killazontherun||

    Even you can see why 3/5ths and still willing to ratify the constitution in spite of not having an even larger proportional representation with 1 on 1 means your theory about the EC is bunk, right?

  • Ken Shultz||

    1) It isn't my theory. It's standard American History.

    2) In regards to the bunk, no I don't understand what you're talking about.

    People voted to ratify the Constitution for all sorts of reasons. I suppose the people in the North who voted to ratify the Constitution in spite of a Three-Fifths Compromise determined Electoral College thought that whatever they were getting--in other areas--was better than what they were giving up.

    Voters in the South thought that, too. They presumably thought that what they were getting by adopting the Constitution was better than what they were giving up. But there's nothing presumptuous about what they did once their advantage in the Electoral College proved insufficient to keep Lincoln out of the White House.

    Secession wasn't a presumption on my part; it was a fact.

  • Killazontherun||

    No, it isn't standard theory on the origins of the EC. The Three fifths compromise came about as the result of Northern fears of Southern dominance, not the other way around. There wasn't much to fear on there part given France owned the territories to the West at the time. The Louisiana Purchase came out of the blue, two decades after the ratification. Standard theory includes the increased profitability of slavery through the creation of the cotton jenny being the catalyst for Southern political paranoia later on.

  • Killazontherun||

    on thereir part given France .

    I would have caught that in a better editor :)

  • Ken Shultz||

    Again, you're talking about a fictitious Electoral College, not apportioned by way of the Three-Fifths Compromise, that never existed prior to the Civil War.

    You're talking about an idea of a electoral college that didn't exist--I'm talking about the real one that was ratified in the Constitution and really picked presidents.

  • Killazontherun||

    Your admittance that your assignment of motivation is anachronistic also destroys the one argument that you are not giving any quarter on. Very odd of you, but that is what is happening here.

  • Killazontherun||

    Maybe you just don't understand the geographical nature of the Southern States at the time of ratification. No conceivable threat existed at the time against Southern dominance. This should help:

    http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1160.html

  • CE||

    I'd love to say I'm the genius who thought of this, but this has been standard high school American history for generations.

    Appeal to Authority -- and a questionable one at best. Unfortunately, there's no high school logic classes apparently.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I wasn't arguing for it on the basis of my authority.

    I was pointing out that I'm not the one who came up with this.

    Really. I'm not.

    I gave my reasons in detail, which is ridiculous, because everybody should already know this stuff. And none of my reasons have anything to do with anybody's authority.

  • ||

    Which is TOTALLY why you're repeating that's it's "standard high school American history" every couple of posts, right? Don't lie to us about it Ken, it's painfully obvious that's your intent.

  • robc||

    Overrepresented?

    If slaves had counted 5/5ths, the north would have had less representation.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They couldn't vote.

    They had more slaves in the South, you understand that, right?

    If three-fourths of the slave are in the South, and you count slaves for three-fifths of a person, then South gets three-fourths of the benefit of that counting.

    That's why the North just wanted to count free people.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    0/5ths, 3/5ths, or 5/5ths...

    there is no inherently correct answer. slavery is wrong right? finding a morally accurate answer inside a vile immoral practice is an imaginary and lost cause. the first moral step is to abolish it, not redistribute the x/5ths.

    saying the compromise gave southerners UNDUE power is sheer opinion too.

    you can make a case either way from either perspective of proslavery and abolition.

    i understand the impulse to be punitive to slave-owners, but if you are that 1-dimensional you shouldnt bother thinking about any of this. Discounting slaves hurts there interests. If you were a slave would you rather be recognized as 0/5ths of a person or 3/5ths, EVEN if you had no suffrage?

  • Sidd Finch||

    Incidentally, this is one of the reasons average people in the North despised "slave power" so much--because the Three-Firths Compromise made their votes for the House and for whomever was to be in the White House worth less than they would have been without slavery.

    Why should votes in the South count for more than votes in the North?

    That's what a lot of them meant by "slave power", when they complained about "slave power", a lot of them were talking about slaveholders being overrepresented in the House and in the Electoral College.

    You need an editor.

  • Ken Shultz||

    No, I just need a working preview button.

    There's no way I'm editing myself in what amounts to notepad.

    Until I get a preview button, it comes out the way I type it the first time.

  • Almanian.||

    Hey, while we're at it, why don't we just have Senators elected rather than appointed by state legisl....wait...what? Oh.

    Never mind.

    We're doomed.

  • Free Society||

    but...but... direct election of Senators is more democratic and we all know that more democracy is always more betterer because mobs of people always know what they're doing. Yay populism!

  • mr simple||

    I don't know about the article as I don't read Chapman stuff, but the picture and alt-text are winning. That's how it should be done.

  • Loki||

    Those 18 blue-wall states (joined by the District of Columbia) now provide Democrats 242 electoral college votes"—just 28 shy of the 270 needed to win ... Democrats have been ready to ditch it for at least 12 years.

    Hmmm, something tells me the dems may be about to change their tune on that.

  • robc||

    Those 18 blue-wall states also have less EC votes every 10 years.

    CA cant keep up with the losses in the NE and rust belt.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Doubt it. Whatever benefit it gives them with the way states fall now is outweighed by the massive, permanent advantage that political-machine fraud will give them under a popular vote system. For as long as the opposition continues putting up with a system that it views as illegitimate, at least.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    What's good for millions of urbanites isn't necessarily good for millions of everyone else

    I thought it was thousands of hicks from the desolate waste land who were imposing their antediluvian crackpottery on the millions and millions of poor defenseless urbanites.

    I am confuze.

  • CE||

    12 years ago the blue states wanted to secede. Now it's the red states.

    I say let them all secede. Why stay together when the philosophical differences are so stark, and the two major political regions are so contiguous? (with the blue being split, of course.)

  • Romulus Augustus||

    We need to get up a petition and send it to Senator Blutarsky.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    This question seems irrelevant. Conservatives will never win the popular vote again.

    Obama voters were seriously embarassed. Yes his numbers were down, but he had 4 more years of illegal aliens, and via the dream act some of those illegals were now able to vote.

    USA being flushed down the toilet is the game plan.

    Anything going the opposite direction is a fluke and would take a small miracle to happen. in 2016 democrats will landslide destroy the republican candidate.

    establishment tipped the scales too far towards democrats by having a "cult of personality" candidate combined with media worship. And they ran his clone in the other party. You can't come back from that. Its massive disenfranchisement of republicans WHILE freebie voters trickle into the country illegally.

    You might say democrats will grow some self-control and start being honest so their side loses some power. Last night I was listening to NPR and the leftists were divorcing Obama for being an eisenhower republican. They are already prepping for 2016 since Obama is immune to voter recall.

    Remember, this is tax funded propaganda that ppl actually listen to. Typically educated white folks.

    Conservatives will never win another national election, and CERTAINLY not with the republican party.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "This question seems irrelevant. Conservatives will never win the popular vote again."

    That's a cause for concern for a number of reasons. Among them, this is how dictatorships justify themselves.

    When democracy fails to protect people's rights, a lot of people don't give up on their rights. They give up on democracy.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    and by the way,

    the justice roberts court will get more sotomayors.

    our only hope is system collapse.

  • Mike M.||

    Oh don't worry, it's coming. And a lot sooner than the average dope in this country realizes.

  • MWD78||

    the real problem in the GOP that no one wants to address is that it was hijacked in the mid-90's by the Religious Right (a small, highly vocal minority within the party at the time) that painted the rest of the party into an absurdist ideological corner that did not reflect their constituency. over the course of the past 25 or so years, that cancer has ruined the party to the point where the Libertarians (the only true Republicans) have had to try and start their own party. personally, i'd think their efforts would be better served in taking the GOP back from the dinosaurs that seem to think the 1950's was the golden age of american culture.

    unfortunately, the Libertarians have (as always after the election) just faded back into the grain silently to be marginalized for another 4 years. then come election time, they wonder why no one takes them seriously, and the GOP is left to run such laughable candidates as McCain or Romney only to get their asses handed to them.

  • Fluhdoten1||

    imo your pov is ignorant.

    forcing your own values on others is tyranny, but the real reason the republican party has failed is because its behavior is that of an amorphous corrupt republidemocrat overspending warhawk. a party that bails out corruporations.

    republicanism survived religious intolerance just fine. in fact, its less virulent than ppl pretend.

    the majority of right wing politicians only pay lip service, meanwhile they never overturned roe v wade.

    saying christians are gonna force ppl into bible camp is a straw man. using govt to forcefully convert ppl was never a threat, meanwhile gays currently use the fed govt and states govts to legitimize their private lifestyle.

    i dont mind you bringing up "values tyranny", just dont be so ignorant about it.

    there is more homosexual value being forced upon our culture via govt than any religious value.

  • MWD78||

    the GOP needs to start representing their constituency, not the misguided agendas of a few loud reactionaries within the party trying to revive an era long-gone. well, at least if they want to remain relevant and have some input beyond pure thorn in the side legislative spite maneuvering. the GOP really needs to remember that as long as they keep their heads in the sand, their asses are right up in the air, and that sends a very mixed message to say the least. it would explain a lot about Bohemian Grove though...but that's beside the point for now.

    its time for the Libertarians to actually show some spine and take the GOP back from the Luddites that took it away from us and cost it all credibility to an entire generation of voters.

  • ||

    When was the GOP ever libertarian? Coolidge, maybe. 83 years ago.

  • Joe Emenaker||

    Agreed. Problem is, it would take an amendment to the Constitution to get it changed at the federal level. So, tell your state legislature to adopt the "National Popular Vote" plan. Under this plan, a state would award all of its electoral votes to the winner of the nation-wide popular vote.

    Once 270 votes'-worth of states joined the bandwagon (and enough states have *already* signed on to get to half of those electoral votes), then the winner of the national popular vote would win the election.

    Most, if not all, of the states which have already enacted this legislation have included the stipulation that it won't go into effect *until* there are 270 votes'-worth of participating states, which is why you haven't seen any of them doing it, yet.

    What may help the visibility of this cause is to have some relatively inconsequential state with just about 3-4 electoral votes to start using NPV *immediately* (without waiting for the 270 threshold). That way, in future elections, people would start hearing stuff like "We won't know who got Delaware's 3 votes until the nationwide count is in".

  • CE||

    Yeah, that'll work. Just tell the people in your state, "vote for whomever you want, but we'll hand our EC votes to the national winner!"

  • ||

    This is retarded. Republicans benefit from the Electoral College. I count 6 entities (states plus DC) with 6 or fewer EC votes that went for Obama, and 12 states with 6 or fewer EC votes that went for Romney.

    Romney lost a bunch of swing states by fairly narrow margins. Repealing the EC wouldn't fix his problem he was slightly less popular than Obama.

  • ||

    Whoops 6 states plus DC.

    But, think of it this way: Obama beat Romney by about three percentage points. That is about the same amount or less than his wins in Ohio, Virgina, or Florida. Those three states in Romney's column gets him to 266 EC votes, just shy of 270.

    So, the EC does not give either party a massive advantage if the popular vote is tied.

  • Ken Shultz||

    But wasn't the popular vote a whole lot closer than it was in the Electoral College?

    What do you think is gonna happen first--New York and California turn red or a Republican wins a majority of the vote for President?

  • CE||

    Romney was leading the popular vote throughout the night, until California chimed in, helped by an unexpected surge in voting by young people, worried that college tuition might go up if Republicans won, and saddling all Californians with a free-spending, unapologetically tax-hiking, liberal Democratic super-majority, even as they gave Obama the overall popular vote lead back by a narrow margin, often overlooked when dazzled by the Electoral "wipeout" and even more often overstated as some great victory, when in truth, barely 16 percent of Americans voted for the sitting president.

  • thirtyandseven||

    The Electoral College allocates votes among states but doesn't confer any power on them. Canada lacks the Electoral College, and its provinces enjoy more power than our states.

    Can haz moar non-sequitur?

  • Rich M||

    All this talk of rural vs. urban votes ignores the fact that if the Republicans softened their socially conservative stances, they might actually get a significant portion of the urban vote. I refuse to accept the notion that all city dwellers are as fiscally reckless as the elected Democrats. I find it much easier to believe that most all of them are socially liberal though.

    As far as the EC goes, I'm on the fence between the current system, NPV, and allocation by congressional district. Only 4 times in our over 200 year history has the winner not gotten the popular vote, so how much practical impact is this really going to have? I think it would be much more relevant to reform the primary system, or better yet, do away with it all together and have multiple candidates from the same party in the general election, as was the case in early presidential elections. There's got to be a way to get better candidates on the ballot than the two abysmal candidates fielded by the Democrapublicans this year. Our choice for president should never have to be the candidate that is less bad for the country. The electoral college was of no concern this year compared to the "dumb and dumber" major party candidates.

  • NL_||

    Conservatives are convinced there's voter fraud everywhere. Maybe if the progressives would trade voter ID rules then conservatives would give up the electoral college.

    Personally, I have trouble caring too much. I'm not really invested in the idea of spending time or energy attempting to make politics and elections less dumb.

    I'd rather focus on reforming Congress. 650,000 constituents per district is insanity. I don't know how best to reform that without flooding DC with more people, but maybe a blocking power held by a majority of state legislatures.

    Or more radical, what if districts were no longer geographic at all? If you can get together X number of signatures then you get a House seat. People can add or withdraw support in between selection times based on a representative's actions and statements, giving a direct and continuous link to voter support. An IRV-like reform could allow citizens to rank second-best preferences; if a rep has over the minimum limit, then voters with alternative preferences are randomly reassigned to those preferences (if everybody has an alternative preference, then X number of people must not be reassigned). Not really an election so much as a nomination-and-support system.

  • NL_||

    I was sort of making up this nomination system on the fly, so somebody tell me if it exists somewhere in the world or academic literature. It seems like high-profile people would love a system like this, because presumably they could easily get over the hurdle. The main losers are low-fame rural representatives who benefit from the lack of nearby competition.

    Seems like the biggest administrative mess would be assuring that the people who get reassigned are random. Now that I look at the system again, my design is probably not practical. But I like the idea of a system of continuous feedback. That way reps measure the public in terms of direct nomination support, not phone calls and letters.

  • ||

    Fine article, one assertion I would like for you to consider, Maine and Nebraska are the only state which legally apportions the electoral votes within the state.

    Their law provides that each congressional district chooses it's elector, and the statewide tally goes to the statewide winner. If this system were adopted by more states, the cities and populous areas could only affect three votes from each state and the remainder of the state could actually have suffrage.

    I think the winner take all approach defeated the idea of the electoral college by negating all votes unless located or voting in agreement with the population centers of each state.

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