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  • « Election eve at Obama campaign HQ | Main | Another year, another separation »

    November 02, 2008

    What about an electoral/popular vote split?

    Posted by: Andoni

    Vote_worthToday's New York Times has a great article enumerating the inequalities of our presidential election system. The article entitled "How Much Is Your Vote Worth?" shows the relative weight of each individual's vote (by state) when translated into the vote the really counts- an electoral college vote.

    A shocking conclusion is that theoretically a candidate can win the presidency with only 22% of the electorate's vote, representing only 16% of the population. Go check it out.

    This brings me to a point I have been worrying about for a while. What if Senator John McCain manages to win 270 electoral votes (still possible) while losing the popular vote by a rather large margin?

    This is very possible for two reasons. First, there is the relatively much greater weight of a person's vote in a red state such as Wyoming versus the diluted weight of a voter in a blue state such as California. See the above New York Times map. Secondly, in the blue states, especially the large population blue states such as New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland, Obama is winning by a very large margin and the margin is growing. In the traditional larger population red states, such as Texas, Florida, Ohio and Georgia, because Obama has run a 50 state campaign, if McCain wins these states, the margin of popular vote victory will not be as large as in the past. Obama will be adding significantly to his national popular vote total, while still losing those electoral votes.

    The scenario would be McCain squeeks by in enough states to give him 270 electoral votes, but Obama blows him away in all the other states. Using today's national polls which show a rather big spread in popular sentiment, this could translate into Senator John McCain winning 270 electoral votes, but losing the popular vote by as much as 10 million votes.

    What would happen then? The Constitution says McCain would be president. However, this would clearly be a dramatically undemocratic result in the eyes of the majority of the nation, let alone the world.

    Do you think the Constitution would survive this debacle?

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    Comments

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 2, 2008 10:53:59 AM:

      Do you think the Constitution would survive this debacle?

      Well, yes, the Constitution would survive. Don't forget that Al Gore won the popular vote 2000, but lost the electoral vote and the election. So, there you have it.

      However, your observation raises questions about our election system. Is this "electoral college" system the best system? Or is it flawed for the reasons noted in the NYT piece? Honestly, I am not informed enough about it to say, but again, the NYT piece raises some interesting questions that merit further study.

    1. Georgiaguy on Nov 2, 2008 1:21:51 PM:

      Let's hope that a Democratic majority helps reform the American voting system from top to bottom, starting with the Electoral College which robbed Al Gore of a win in 2000--despite leading the popular vote by a large majority. Does anybody think we would be better off in that scenario had played out in 2000. The Republicans have been masterminds in fixing elections since gaining control. They redistricted in Texas to get more Repulbicans elected and have few races where there was a competitive race. Restrictive voter ID laws in Indiana and Georgia (with early poll closings) help to ensure start on first base in an uneven playing field. The Republican Secretary of State in Georgia refused to open up more hours and ensure more people vote. Republicans win elections when they can set up a series of roadblocks to prevent voters from exercising their right, be it long lines in Democratic neighborhoods or faulty voting equipment. Republicans have a lot in common with the Communists in the Soviet Union, rigging elections which are neither fair nor free.

    1. susan on Nov 2, 2008 5:40:00 PM:

      The current system does not reliably reflect the nationwide popular vote. The statewide winner-take-all rules makes it possible for a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

      In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

      Nationwide popular election of the President is the only system that makes all states competitive, guarantees that the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide wins the Presidency, and makes every vote equal.

      The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

      The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

      See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

    1. susan on Nov 2, 2008 5:40:30 PM:

      The current system does not reliably reflect the nationwide popular vote. The statewide winner-take-all rules makes it possible for a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

      In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

      Nationwide popular election of the President is the only system that makes all states competitive, guarantees that the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide wins the Presidency, and makes every vote equal.

      The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

      The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

      See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

    1. susan on Nov 2, 2008 5:40:37 PM:

      The current system does not reliably reflect the nationwide popular vote. The statewide winner-take-all rules makes it possible for a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

      In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

      Nationwide popular election of the President is the only system that makes all states competitive, guarantees that the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide wins the Presidency, and makes every vote equal.

      The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

      The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

      See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

    1. susan on Nov 2, 2008 5:40:47 PM:

      The current system does not reliably reflect the nationwide popular vote. The statewide winner-take-all rules makes it possible for a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

      In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

      Nationwide popular election of the President is the only system that makes all states competitive, guarantees that the candidate with the most popular votes nationwide wins the Presidency, and makes every vote equal.

      The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

      The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

      The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

      See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

    1. Doug on Nov 2, 2008 5:45:08 PM:

      Amen, Georgiaguy. Unfortunately since Republican Party is morally bankrupt and without a message it's only hope for winning elections is to keep people from voting.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Nov 2, 2008 7:08:14 PM:

      Oh, the drama.

      Restrictive voter ID laws in Indiana and Georgia (with early poll closings) help to ensure start on first base in an uneven playing field.

      Funny how Democrat voters never have a valid photo ID, even though it's required to a) buy cigarettes and liquor, b) drive a car, c) cash a check, and d) be hired for a job.

      But what it also stops is Democrat Party members who use fraudulent registration cards or steal them from others for voting on behalf of that person.


      Republicans win elections when they can set up a series of roadblocks to prevent voters from exercising their right, be it long lines in Democratic neighborhoods or faulty voting equipment.

      Yes, and isn't it amazing how these failures always happen in neighborhoods where DEMOCRATS control the county election boards, which are the ones who purchase voting equipment and makes such allocations?


      Now, onto the question of the Electoral College; the reason it exists is the same philosophically as for that of the Senate, which is to balance the issue of states with larger landspace and population dominating the smaller.

      Furthermore, as opposed to the popular vote, the existence of the Electoral College dilutes the possibility of massive voter fraud in one area unduly influencing the election. For example, given the feverish belief that Republicans manufacture votes in Texas, in a close election, Republicans there and in a few other states could manufacture votes and tip the popular tally -- which, under the "National Popular Vote" bill would automatically swing all electoral votes to the Republican for whom the votes were manufactured.

      A simpler and more-constitutional method would be to adopt the practice of Maine and Nebraska, who allocate electoral votes by the result of each Congressional district. However, this is opposed by Congressional Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who would be devastated nationally if inland California were able to provide electoral votes separately of the coastal region.


    1. JosephB on Nov 3, 2008 9:58:39 AM:

      "A shocking conclusion is that theoretically a candidate can win the presidency with only 22% of the electorate's vote, representing only 16% of the population."....."Using today's national polls which show a rather big spread in popular sentiment, this could translate into Senator John McCain winning 270 electoral votes, but losing the popular vote by as much as 10 million votes."....."Obama has run a 50 state campaign"

      Were you not paying attention to the primaries? If you think that is shocking, you may just want to lay down before you read further.

      Hillary Clinton was demonized for running a 50 state campaign during the primaries., even though her opponent would lack the required number of pledged delegates needed for the nomination.

      1% of voters accounting for 16% of the Democrats pledge delegates. That 1% of voters came from the 14 caucuses.

      Obama, the winner of all but one of those caucuses, bested the pre-caucus polls by anywhere from 12-30 percent.

      Thousands of complaints were filed regarding voter fraud. Individuals showing up to caucus who did not live in the precincts, sign-in sheets missing, votes counted in caucuses from voters who did not vote in a primamry as required by Texas, more votes counted in caucuses from precincts than there were actually eligible voters, people bused in from Illinois and North Dakota to participate in the Iowa Primary and on and on and on.

      During a speech in Iowa, prior to the caucus, Biden began welcoming Iowans, then turned to Barack supports and said, "Welcome Chicago". Obamas campaign has admitted to paying ACORN $832,000 for voter registration during the primaries. In case you missed the latest, ACORN has admitted that over 400,000 of its 1.3 million voter registrations were invalid. In case you missed it part 2, in at least 2 states so far, Obama campaign workers have asked to have their early votes rescinded, as they were not legal residents of that state.

      But like I said in another post, don't dare make too much noise regarding all these complaints, or you might just be painted a racist trying to divide America. You know, like Bill Clinton.

      The love affair for Obama will not last forever. Didn't hear Wrights sermons on hate? Didn't know about Ayers past? Didn't know his Aunts, the AFRICAN AUNT HE WRITES ABOUT IN HIS BOOK, was an illegal alien? The big story now is the first black President. After the election is over, sit back and wait for the next big story to hit. Personally, I think we are in for a ride

    1. Hawyer on Nov 3, 2008 10:38:32 AM:

      DEFINITELY ONE OF MY ALL-TIME HOT BUTTON TOPICS - TO WHICH I PENNED THIS ESSAY EARLIER THIS YEAR - TO BE PUBLISHED IN A LARGER COLLECTION. WOULD LOVE TO GET CITIZEN CRAIN BLOGGER COMMENTS


      Electoral Collage – Americans are exhorted to believe that the Electoral College is a divinely-inspired civic cannon, the understanding of which, while impossible to contemplate, is nevertheless a sacrosanct animus of the politically immaculate conception to which we are commanded to genuflect in November, every fourth year. When, by point of fact, it is so much anti-democratic political detritus, created out of whole cloth by the wig-wearing, elitist, neoaristocrat white men who cobbled together our commonweal out of the ornery, ignorant, and illiterate North American backwater in an eighteenth century smoke-filled beer-soaked Philadelphia tavern – and who, by point of fact, lived in evermore fear that the great unwashed might actually play to heavy a hand in the appointment of their sovereign.

      Now, what with all of the reverence we’re taught about our founding fathers, you’d think they would have made provisions for a federal election. But you would also be wrong. You see, there is no such thing as a national election in the United States. So, electing a president requires the cooperation and coordination of fifty separate state elections, each with separate laws, rules, regulations – and inventive histories of voter fraud, suppression, and electoral jury-rigging.

      To be fair, the electoral college starts with the practical calculus that apportions the House of Representatives per capita, audited by census every ten years to ensure meticulous representative parity, with the growth and shrinkage of the hustings, while maintaining a constant number of seats – or districts, as it were – that totality currently at 435. Thus the congressional district in which one lives – adjusted for strict per capita parity with all other districts – is awarded one electoral vote for the presidency. While the presumption might be that this coveted vote would be cast for the most favored candidate in that district, that is precisely where common sense was maliciously jettisoned .

      Our esteemed founders decided that awarding a state’s electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis to the political party with the most votes state-wide would be a keen idea – thus quite literally disenfranchising all voters for the minority party, no matter how slim or fat the margin within the state. And to ad even greater distance between the voters and the election, each vote was decoupled from the ballot box by virtue of its assignment to a surrogate individual appointed by each state – to be cast in fifty separate arcane assemblies and duly forwarded to the sitting vice president of the United States for tabulation. (No, you didn’t miss anything, there is no evidence of logic in this rigmarole.) And – are you ready – the appointed electors are not obligated – repeat, are not obligated – to cast their vote for the winner in their state, a reprobation dubbed by the magnificently understated term of art: faithless elector. Now mind you, a few states have legislated dire repercussions for such an affront, but by and large the act, if exercised, goes altogether unpunished

      But our founding fathers weren’t done yet. To skew the math further, they threw in two bonus electoral votes for each state, cast without recourse by the two senators – the original super delegates. Presumably this was political booty for the status of statehood, back when there were only thirteen royal colonies rimming the eastern seaboard. Given that state senators were then elected by their respective state legislature, this overt thumb on the political scales made for evermore back room wheeling and dealing at the expense of democracy – the end result, a senate once dubbed the “millionaires club” serving powerful private interests. Indeed, under the table shenanigans were so endemic, that progressive reformers rammed through the seventeenth amendment to the constitution in 1913, declaring that U.S. senators be elected by plebiscite.

      But then what to do with the dangling electoral votes allotted to each senator? Rather than scrubbing them along with the regal status of their beneficiaries, it was decided to toss them in to the winner-take-all pool, state-by-state. Thus today, they inflate the deck with 100 trump cards, for a total of 538. By this loopy logic, Rhode Island (a miniscule province smaller than most Texas counties) is awarded the same electoral perquisite as California (in its own right, the world’s fifth largest economy).

      And oh yes, by dent of the pure orneriness of herding fifty sovereign entities into a single federal coral, to date two states (Nebraska and Maine) have actually revolted from the farce, pealing off with another formula known as proportional representation, whereby they allow each of their congressional districts to cast its own electoral vote, irrespective of their states’ majorities. Yet, having sliced through this folderol with stunning logic, they still toss their two senatorial votes into the winner-take-all pool. Then in 2004 Colorado offered up a ballot measure to set its state in an class of its own, whereby its nine electoral votes would be divvied up by the percentage of a party’s popular vote statewide. Apparently too obtuse for the rank and file to parse, it was alas defeated.

      The dislocations of all this illogical calculus are so manifest that they are impossible to enumerate, causing the balance of the free world to gape with primate countenance at the stunning prospect of such an anti-democratic rigmarole. Among its more glaring manifestations is to create vast “flyover” geography in the sparsely populated fruited plains, reducing its citizens to irrelevant ciphers; while elevating populous states to the status of bejeweled principalities by virtue of the winner-take-all bonanza. But perhaps the most egregious of the electoral college’s impact is to erect a firewall against any possibility of a third party contender for the presidency, thus enshrining the Democratic and Republican parties as alternate custodians of an American politburo, fundamentally isolated from the consequences of actual governance.

      Since campaigning in, and winning, the eleven most populous states summarily puts a presidential candidate over the top, that is, of course, precisely what they do – leaving the rest of the country to eat shit and die. Thus, the two reigning political parties have become fat, corrupt, and insufferably tone deaf to the will of the people.

      So what is the solution? Bag the whole electoral college and go to one-person, one vote? While many proffer this as ideal end game, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that this would not solve the real problem – that being collapsing campaigning to the most concentrated urban demographics, and leaving the rest of us unsolicited. Thus morons and pundits alike shrug their shoulders.

      But, alas, the answer is so obvious, so eloquent, so plain-in-sight that it seems to elude us by virtue of its simplicity: proportional allocation; in other words, do away with the winner-take-all state apportionment and allow each congressional district to cast its own vote – and, most importantly, scrub the 100 wild cards altogether. Thus the electoral college deck would be composed of a 438 equal cards, and politicians would be forced to play a no-trump hand.

      [c] 2008 StandPoint Communications Corp - all rights reserved

    1. Hawyer on Nov 3, 2008 10:53:03 AM:

      ALSO - mark this date in history. I actually agree with NDT on something: the voter ID issue.

      While an unrepentant liberal/progressive on all things political, I also have an inherent bullshit detector - and for the life of me can come up with no objections to having voters actually identify themselves with a picture ID.

      As a resident of Georgia, I am keenly aware of the shit-fight that has ensued between the Dems and Repubs on the issue - and totally acknowledge that the Georgia Legislature is full of racists who would love to keep the underclasses from voting.

      BUT - really. If you can make it to the polls, you can make it to the local Georgia DMV to get you F-R-E-E laminated picture ID. Is that really too much to ask to protect the most important franchise in our society?

      OK -- I can see the brick-bats coming (LOL)

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