The Electoral College: Necessary?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by ktwsolo, Dec 19, 2001.

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  1. ktwsolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2001
    star 4
    First of all, if this descends into an argument about what happened last election, I will...be mad, I guess.

    There have been discussions in the JCC about this before the Senate came around, and I think we need new opinions on the matter. My question is thus: Do we need the electoral college, or should it be strictly how the majority rules?

    I think the electoral college isn't necessary. The original idea behind the electoral college was that generally people are stupid, so we should have these other people do the real voting (the electoral college). Also the founding fathers were afraid of mob rule.

    However, the electoral college really doesn't make that much of a difference. Think about it. The states with the highest population have many times more the electoral votes as other states. I believe California has 50-something, while here in Maine we have 4. So how does this significantly change the idea of majority rules? If more people vote for a candidate, usually they will win the electoral as well. Of course there are exceptions, but why should the electoral college have precedence?

    I've also heard that if we didn't have the electoral college, the candidates would ignore the small states and focus on those with the highest population. But isn't this what happens already? The states with the highest population have the highest electoral votes, so obviously a candidate will spend more money and time campaigning in California than Maine.

    So basically, my main points are thus:

    1) The electoral college basically reflects how the majority votes, so we should just follow the majority.

    2) The number of electoral votes is based on the population of the state. Therefore, states with higher populations have more electoral votes. Then why have the electoral college?

    3) In a rare time that the electoral votes do not reflect the popular vote, there is no reason to hold the electoral votes higher than the majority, besides that it's in the Constitution.

    In other words, it's redundant legislation.

    Discuss.
  2. InnocentIII Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 29, 2001
    star 1
    I know you don't wnat this to degenerate into an argument about the last election, but the electoral college was put into place by the founding fathers specifically to let something like that happen (and it has happened before).
    And what they say about small states being ignored is true- Bush won the college because of small states. If electoral college votes were directly proportional to population (which they aren't) Montana, North and South Dakota, and all those midwestern states with small population would be completely ignored. Such as it is, having them can provide a major support base for a candidate.
    I say, keep it.
  3. Coolguy4522 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Dec 21, 2000
    star 4
    I do think it is a good thing. It does make a difference, like the last election. It prevents some region of the country from deciding who wins. Say all of the northeast voted for some stupid person 100%, they could win the election in a popular vote. Basicly the electoral college forces candidates to be concered with more than a few state's interests.
  4. Medical-Droid Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 14, 2001
    star 2
    Dump the electoral college. It is prima facie unnecessary, and counterintuitive in extremis - a system in which the candidate with less popular votes can win is irrational.

    EDIT-

    Without making this explicitly about the last election, as per the wishes of the thread's originator, I can keep this purely abstract.

    The idea of the popular vote is conceptually utilitarian - the population expresses a choice among options, of which the recipient of the largest number of votes is appointed to the given station. The electoral college adds a step between the popular vote and the appointment to office, ostensibly to affirm the will of the electorate. However, there is no such provision which *mandates* that the electoral college follow the will of the masses. As such, it is conceptually possible (and empirically verifiable) that an individual who did not receive the majority endorsement claims the seat of power. It is at this point that the system becomes self-defeating. The population prefers one candidate, those entrusted with power elect another. In these cases, the will of the population is not met, at which point representative government is an intellectual sham.

    Lose the electoral college; give people a weekend to vote. Elections are, perhaps, the most important events in the nation; they deserve more time and respect than they are given.

    OTHER EDITS- subject/verb agreement; geez...
  5. Jades Fire Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 1998
    star 4
    I think the Electoral College should be eliminated. It is anachronistic.

    The Electoral College was orginally founded to serve as a more learned body for electing a president. At the time it was created, it was feared that a less educated population wouldn't have the capacity to understand or care about politics (not sure today's society does either), AND the general population wouldn't have a chance to meet or hear a particular candidate's views. There was no mass communication or easy way to travel to get out and campaign. Therefore, a College of electors who knew more about the process and the candidates would elect the President. As was mentioned earlier, the Electoral College is under no obligation to vote the way the popular vote in a state voted.

    And I'm sorry to say it, but the arguement that the smaller states aren't ignored doesn't quite hold water. The smaller states are still ignored in the elections. Instead, the candidates campaign in a handful of medium to larger size states that are deemed swing states. Look at the past election and the states where the candidates spent the most time campaigning(population rank in parenthesis): Florida(4), Pennsylvania(5), Illinois(6), Ohio (7), Michigan(8), Missouri(15), Wisconsin(16), Washington(18), Minnesota(20), Oregon(29), and Iowa(30). Not many small states in that list.

    Instead of trying to win over a majority of the people across the US, the candidates try to win over a majority of people in a relatively small number of states.
  6. Obi-Wan McCartney Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    I agree, the electoral college is a botched effort. What is the point? Isn't the President representing every person in the country, not the states? I mean, why should a person in Oregon or something have more of a vote than someone from California?

    All the electoral college does is give people of the smaller states and regions more of a vote, their vote is worth more than people from say New York Illinois or California.

    As for the founding fathers, their system was out of whack from the beginning. I mean, they didn't anticipate factions or political parties, so Jefferson had to serve as vice-president to Adams of the oppostie party! And then, when they "corrected" it for the next election by giving TWO electoral votes to each state, they forgot to specify which vote was for the Pres and which was for his running mate, so Jefferson's running mate (Aaron Burr?)turned on him and claimed that since he got as many electoral votes as Jefferson, he should be President. What's more is that it took like 29 votes of Congress before they could decide Jefferson was President.

    They fixed it again, but if you ask me they botched it from the beginning. Electors now are bound by the votes of the people, but that wasn't the intent at all. Electoral college is typical of American beaurocracy, it's not what was intended, it's not what we want, it's not the best method, it's not really fair, but since it's a pain the try and change it, let's just settle for the status quo.
  7. Red-Seven Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 21, 1999
    star 5
    I think the Electoral College is necessary, relevant, and one of the checks and balences of our Constitution.

    The role of the electoral College is to protect and promote regional autonomy and interests. It prevents the population centers for imposing their will on less populous regions.

    It would be quite simple to run a campaign focused SOLELY on urban or regional areas, and elicit the necessary number of votes to wash out other areas.

    Majority rule can be frought with danger, and that is the reason we live in a Republic. Democracy can degenerate into mob rule; a Republic is a Government of laws that protects individual rights. As James Madison observed in The Federalist Papers, many issues of grave consequence "are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority."

    The Electoral College is a good defense against regionalism and neglect of large parts of our diverse nation (do not forget the problems that plague other large, diverse contries) because it forces presidential candidates to seek support throughout the nation.

    Finally, if you reject the EC, you're rejecting the Federalist foundation for our Govt as well...are you all willing to argue against abolishing the Senate?



    (as a note, given how close 2000 looked in October, I was actually rooting for a candidate to win the election while 'losing' the popular vote. Mainly, because Americans tend to be ignorant of the EC, and prone to whining about it...and that sort of result would get EVERYONE hot and bothered! Of course, having Florida decided by a few hundred votes took the humor out of the situation.)
  8. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    Red Seven-

    I don't buy that argument. It has been a long time since we needed the EC - in the modern age, there is no real reason why it is necessary.

    "Mob rule" has an unsavory pergorative context, especially since the very areas that candidates would likely campaign (and, ironically, do campaign) with the greatest intensity are the centers of academia, politics, and culture. I'm not suggesting that the area between the mountains is a desolate wasteland by any stretch, but proportionately the population centers tend to have more universities, policy centers, and support for the arts. There are exceptions to this, I know, but demographics support this conclusion.

    Regardless, for every argument of "mob rule" in the popular vote, there are arguments of paternalism and inapplicability in the EC. Electoral votes are an all or nothing concept, which is why candidates still campaign disproportionately in more populous states. Regardless of how close the race actually is, popular votes mean nothing once the state has been "decided." This inherently abnegates the votes of that part of the population who did not vote for the candidate. In the last election, for example, Pennsylvania "voted for Gore." I personally voted for him, but I know many people who did not. The EC effectively wiped clean the political slate by awarding everything to one candidate, and nothing to the other. The EC effectively undermines the political will of the minority party in a given state. That is inherently nonsensical - it doesn't accurately portray the political will of the populace.

    Further, it is an inherently contradictory addition to the process. It can functionally circumvent or contradict the actual will of the populace as a whole. There is *no* argument I will find convincing that states is it better for a candidate to win the popular vote, but lose the election. That is an inherent flaw - if more people vote for you, it stands to reason that the political will of the country, overall, supported that candidate. This is when we get into the paternalistic aspect of the process. It essentially says "Yes, you have offered your views, but I am doing this for your own good, so you won't get what you want." It is upholding a legalistic quirk over expressed political sentiment, which inherently denigrates those who take the time to participate in the process.

    Analagously, what would we say of the usefulness of an extra tendon which normally follows our will, but occasionally moves our arm in the opposite direction from what we wanted? What would we say to an intermediary steering mechanism that normally followed our desired action, but occasionally turned away from where we wanted to go? This is the nature of the EC - it can contravene the will of the populace, which makes it unnecessary at best, and outright dangerous at worst.

    To bring this back to the last election (not to argue one way or another), the EC did more to drive the country into bitter factionalism. There was more acrimony between Democrats and Republicans then than I have seen in a long time. A political system should not be that polarizing, especially since the cause was an unnecessary legalism.

    EDIT-

    It also does not follow that being anti-EC necessitates being anti-Senate. I can reject an aspect of the election process without rejecting part of the legislative function. Rejecting the EC does not necessitate rejecting Madison or Federalism. It is false inductive reasoning.
  9. Blue_10 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2001
    star 4
    I guess I trust the judgement of the founding fathers. They seemed to have something of a head on their shoulders.
  10. cydonia Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 6, 2001
    star 5
    Wow, i thought our conversation from a few months ago answered all your questions, ktw. Foiled again. Curses!
  11. cydonia Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 6, 2001
    star 5
    I am not a thread killer.


  12. ktwsolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2001
    star 4
    cydonia: :). I thought it was time to move the discussion to a more appropriate place.

    And I still think you are wrong :D
  13. cydonia Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 6, 2001
    star 5
    But how could something so wrong feel so right?
  14. ktwsolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2001
    star 4
  15. cydonia Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 6, 2001
    star 5
    Hey, you got bah. Don't sell yourself short. Bah is hard to come by.
  16. Obi-Wan McCartney Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 17, 1999
    star 5
    Red-Seven, I fail to see the relevence of many of your statements. Yeah, a President COULD win by taking the giant populuses, but so what? Why would you think that those people would be "against" the rural folk, or that in many states the aggregate rural vote could turn the state? And what is the all or nothing crap? I mean, Illinois is a good example, where Chicago, where you won't find a Republican within city limits, is chiefly responsible for the whole state going Democratic in most Prez elections, while a whole shload of the congressmen are GOP's. Why should the major city voice NEGATE the voice of all those other people?

    Also, as for the founding fathers, they weren't perfect, and they never claimed to be. They allowed and condoned slavery, there was a slave market right there in Washington's dream city, DC. The created the electoral college because they didn't trust the masses enough at that point, regardless of their liberty rhetoric.

    "Finally, if you reject the EC, you're rejecting the Federalist foundation for our Govt as well...are you all willing to argue against abolishing the Senate?"
    -There just seems like there is a lot wrong with that sentence. Didn't you know that for the longest time, the Senate wasn't even elected? Well, they were elected by the state legislature, not the people. They reformed that practice, and the "Federalist foundation" stayed just fine. The Federal gov still reigns supreme, even if the people elect him.

    Jefferson rejected a great deal of the federalistic beaurocracy and was all about the states rights, but what does that have to do with updating an obsolete and arbitrary institution like the electoral college, or abolishing the Senate?

    Finally, Red-Seven, it has been mentioned before, but the electoral college isn't even the system that the founders envisioned, it's a mutant hybrid between a true popular election and having like a state legislative vote for the Presidency.
  17. President-Clinton Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Oct 19, 2001
    People people, when you win BOTH the electoral AND the popular vote, there's nothing to complain about.

    I think we need the electoral college, it's great for ratings for Tv networks, and as any President since Reagan will tell ya, if you wanna be a two-termer, you better make Tv your friend. Tv was a good friend to me a lot of the time, but she's a fiery mistress, she turns her back on you COLD! But then I win her back, and the make-up lovin is always the best lovin, that's why the Man from Hope will always be around, cause I am and will always be the Comeback Kid.
  18. DarthSapient Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 26, 2001
    star 10
    The electoral college was initially created by the Founding Fathers such that there would be a means of essentially overriding the public if a poll's outcome differed from what the politicians thought to be in the best interest of the country. Back then, the general populace was not as educated and certainly lacked any real knowledge about politics, world news, or the issues of the day. The electoral college preserved the views of those in power.

    As we've seen with the election between Bush and Gore, the electoral college may have seen its last real days of action. Personally, I find it to be antiquated and an untrue representation of the actual winner in the polls. It still strikes me as odd how one can have more votes than the other candidate, yet lose the election. If the electoral college had not existed anymore, there would have been no conflict last year. We need to ask ourselves if we are preserving our democracy or simply hanging on to nostalgia. After all, an elector can always vote against the publc if he or she so chooses.
  19. ktwsolo Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2001
    star 4
    So in conclusion, let's trash it.
  20. Emperor_Dan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 1999
    star 4
    What's the benefit? Isn't this a DEMOCRACRY anyway? WE'RE voting, so why don't you count OUR votes?
  21. DarthSapient Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 26, 2001
    star 10
    It's a very outdated practice and only serves as a symbolic gesture to the past. But there still exists an inherent risk in the system. Take the election of 2000 for example. There existed the possibility that even after the votes appeared to be for Bush after much controversy in Florida, it was still possible that an elector for any state could have voted against their party and stirred up even more controversy. Technically, a vote in either direction could have given the election to Gore by the simple vote of one person acting on their own.
  22. Senator Lorena Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 21, 2000
    star 4
    This may seem silly, but I sometimes wonder in a "majority win" election if the counting of votes could be accurate. We have millions of people voting, and I wonder if "little mistakes" in many of the voting districts in the nation could end up throwing the election into controversy.

    I have mixed feeling about our election method.

    Without the EC the Northeast and California would have a magnified effect on the election results. Americans who live in the South, Mid-West, and other Western states would lose some of their influcence. Not that I think people in the Northeast and California are bad -- I just don't agree with their politics.

    The EC does create problems that have been previously addressed. I don't like the idea someone who did not receive the majority of the popular votes can be president, but I'm glad GWB is president (sorry to be hypocritical).

    EC or popular voting methods can cause problems. I don't see the US moving away from the EC any time soon because something unanticipated could come up and cause more trouble than an occassional EC controversy.
  23. Emperor_Dan Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 21, 1999
    star 4
    Without the EC the Northeast and California would have a magnified effect on the election results. Americans who live in the South, Mid-West, and other Western states would lose some of their influcence.

    So what? Why should the president win one state versus another? Isn't he the president of ALL of the states?
  24. Rimkar Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 23, 1999
    star 4
    "Americans who live in the South, Mid-West, and other Western states would lose some of their influcence."

    Well of course they'd lose some of their influence- they'd become equal to everyone else. Isn't equality of representation what we're shooting for here in the first place?

    I live in Texas. Bush was going to win Texas no matter what. Everyone and their pickup truck were aware of this fact.
    Under the electoral college, why should democrats even bother to participate in the democratic process if their vote is assured to mean nothing in the long run? If we were using the majority vote as the determining authority, a vote would still matter even if the people around you didn't agree with your politics.

    Get rid of the EC.
  25. FutureEmperor Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 15, 1998
    star 3
    Senator Lorena

    You hit on something that is unmentioned when it comes to elections. Since JFK and then LBJ, a certain party has been tied to MASSIVE Amounts of voter fraud. Now, this was an old trend, of course, the Republican party in post-bellum America often engaged in such fraud. However, the Democrats know that, as government's reach has expanded, the "spoils" and influence to be won are MUCH more important than they were in 1870.

    For all the talk of black voters in Florida, it was black REPUBLICAN votes that were more likely to be thrown out(this is a fact.) There was a district in Philadelphia that had 100 percent voter turnout, and of course, that was almost all Al Gore. 100 percent turnout does NOT happen, in any precinct.

    Then there were the felons who were on the rolls in Florida. And the fact that polling stations were removed from military bases, by direct order of Clinton's administration.

    No, the EC is a protection against demogoguery and fraud. Not a great protection, mind you, but at least if fraud is overwhelming in one state, it can be overcome in others. If all you go by, is popular vote, then all you need to do is focus the criminal attempts on a few major areas to swing the numbers.

    Many who want to do away with the EC, are also those that have done away with other elements of the Constitution and would like to disarm us all, so they can institute their socialist government.
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