Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Electoral College: Should It Stay or Should It Go?

NPR’s Political Junkie has a piece entitled What To Do With The Electoral College? that deals with the question of whether or not the Electoral College should stick around (it also has a poll).

There are very good arguments both for and against the Electoral College and as I stated before, I am really undecided on the matter. Doing away with the Electoral College would be a major change to the Constitution and I’m not sure that that is such a good idea. Plus there was a lot of wisdom used by the Founding Fathers in the writing of the Constitution, especially in regards to their distrust of direct democracy, which they saw as mob rule.

If nothing else this is an interesting discussion.

4 comments:

toto said...

A survey of 800 Oklahoma voters conducted on May 5–6, 2009 showed 81% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

Voters were asked "How do you think we should elect the President: Should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current Electoral College system?"

By political affiliation, support for a national popular vote was 75% among Republicans, 84% among Democrats, and 75% among others. By gender, support was 84% among women and 69% among men. By age, support was 84% among 18-29 year olds, 70% among 30-45 year olds, 75% among 46-65 year olds, and 82% for those older than 65.

Oklahoma voters were also asked a 3-way question: "Do you prefer a system where the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states on a nationwide basis is elected President, or one like the one used in Nebraska and Maine where electoral voters are dispensed by Congressional district, or one in which all of the state's electoral votes would be given to the statewide winner?"

The results of this three-way question were that

* 77% favored a national popular vote,
* 13% favored awarding its electoral votes by congressional district, and
* 10% favored the existing statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide).

see www.NationalPopularVote.com

toto said...

The Founding Fathers only said in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections (only after debating among 60 ballots for choosing a method): "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."

Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all rule) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote.

In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all rule to award electoral votes.

There is no valid argument that the winner-take-all rule is entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all rule.

The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state's electoral votes.

As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all rule is used by 48 of the 50 states. Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district -- a reminder that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not required to change the way the President is elected.

The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.

toto said...

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, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. It would no longer matter who won a state. Elections wouldn't be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states. Candidates could not afford to ignore Oklahoma voters.

The current winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states ensures that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

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 bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. The National Popular Vote bill does not try to abolish the Electoral College, which would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action, without federal constitutional amendments.

The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska -- 70%, DC -- 76%, Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, Minnesota -- 75%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

toto said...

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 30 state legislative chambers, in 20 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Maine (4), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), North Carolina (15), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California (55), Colorado (9), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), New Jersey (15), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11). The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com