Author Topic: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System  (Read 3820 times)

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Offline ytowndan

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The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« on: October 21, 2012, 04:15:32 AM »
The idea of going to a direct/popular vote has been pretty popular for quite some time now.  Gallup began asking the question in the 1940's and, since then, the majority of people want to go to a direct vote.  However, I'm curious about your feelings on a system that would, essentially, end the total dominance of our two major parties and give us more choices. 

Direct voting systems include; plurality-voting (winner-takes-all, whether he/she gets an absolute majority or not), two-round voting (if a candidate doesn't win an absolute majority, another "runoff" election is held between the top two remaining candidates), and instant-runoff voting (a ranking system, where we rank the candidates in order of our preference).  Plurality and two-round voting doesn't solve the problem of vote-splitting, so it wouldn't be optimal.  Instant-runoff voting is superior for the following four reasons.  First, we rank the candidates as "first choice", "second choice", etc., so it eliminates the idea of "a vote for a is really just a vote for b".  Second, our voter turnout sucks as it is, so imagine how shitty it would be if we made everyone show up twice (not to mention the cost of an additional election).  Third, it gives us an absolute majority, so we won't end up with a president that 60% of the country hates.  And, fourth, the nature of IRV drastically decreases the amount of nasty and dirty campaigning, because the more a candidate comes off as an asshole, the less "second choice" votes he/she will receive. 

So, what do you say?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2012, 06:00:15 AM by ytowndan »
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Offline Guyute

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2012, 07:48:35 AM »
The electoral college is an antiquated system which prevents many people's votes from counting.   Even a simple % of the vote is the number of electorates you get would be something.   In reality there is no reason in this day and age not to have a straight popular vote.  1 person, 1 vote. 

I hate that if I wanted to vote Romney here in New England it is meaningless or vote Obama in much of the south it is meaningless.   Really? My fate lies in Florida's capable hands every election?
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Offline mattstick

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2012, 07:56:07 AM »

Parliamentary system or bust.

Offline Hicks

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2012, 10:52:11 AM »
If Romney wins the popular vote and Obama wins the electoral college, which is looking increasingly likely, I guarantee that this will happen.

In any event, sure, it's a pretty outdated system without much benefit at this point.
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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2012, 10:44:33 PM »
^^^
You mean like the way Gore won the popular and W won the electoral on 2000?
The system has got to go- my fear is that too many people of power are too entrenched in it to change.
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Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2012, 10:52:02 PM »
First off, +k for the topic (and the 4am post kicking it off).

I voted no because I don't think there is enough evidence to suggest this is a serious problem (much like voter fraud) - in 56 elections this has only happened 4 times and only once in the 28 elections since the turn of the 20th century (I'd point it out but I know you guys are still fighting that battle like the South and the Civil War). Therefore, I don't believe a Constitutional amendment is needed to address a problem that doesn't really exist. And Dan, to your point about ending the two-party dominance (which I TOTALLY support), I just don't see how this change would address that problem. If anything, I think Ds and Rs would be even more motivated to work to limit ballot access for third party candidates and in the end it would come down to the same choice between dogshit and horsecrap.

To Dan's specific points:

Plurality and two-round voting doesn't solve the problem of vote-splitting, so it wouldn't be optimal.

Agreed, both systems seem like a train wreck in waiting given the public's already low level of general interest in the political system. And as you say below, if less than 2/3rds of eligible voters turned out in 2008 (the highest in 40 yrs), good luck trying to get more than half the population coming back for a second (and do we really want to put up with even the potential for a couple more months of campaigning and political ads?).

First, we rank the candidates as "first choice", "second choice", etc., so it eliminates the idea of "a vote for a is really just a vote for b".

Seems to me that a large portion of the country would just vote for the same candidate they otherwise would (D or R) and not put very much thought into anything else. You may get people who are firmly committed to one of the two parties voting for all the other minor candidates and then the opposite major party just to be dicks, but in general, I don't think many, perhaps most would take the time to learn about multiple candidates and make more informed judgments about them than they do now.

Third, it gives us an absolute majority, so we won't end up with a president that 60% of the country hates.

I'm not sure I follow this: wouldn't the ranking system have to be given declining weights (i.e., 10=first choice, 9=second, etc.)? If so, it there were enough parties on the ballot (but as I said above, I'm skeptical of even that), couldn't you still have scenarios where the winner didn't receive an absolute majority?

Also, why should the public's feeling as POTUS depend on his popular vote percentage? Does the fact that I voted for Obama in 2008 preclude me from disliking him now (I wouldn't use "hate", but certainly STRONG discontent)? I mean, would people who voted for W as their second (or third or last) choice be any less likely to hate him in the absence of this system?

And, fourth, the nature of IRV drastically decreases the amount of nasty and dirty campaigning, because the more a candidate comes off as an asshole, the less "second choice" votes he/she will receive.

Disagree, I think it would lead to a lot more cutthroat campaigning, especially by the two major parties who would almost be incentivized to work together to prohibit or delegitimize minor party candidates to maintain their stranglehold on the process. Once they "established" that the minor parties were totally insane, they could get back to the civilized and serious business of Big Bird and debt clocks.

Overall, I think until people begin to seriously get behind third party candidates (cough...Gary Johnson...cough), it will be difficult to break the two party system (although the fact that more people would rather register as Independents than either D or R tells me the level of frustration with both parties is a real thing). But that's why I don't understand the disillusionment with the "Tea Party" faction of the GOP. I'm not saying I agree with many of their stated positions (which more often than not belie the small gov't principles they purport to advocate, most of which I DO agree with). The Tea Party, if nothing else, has provided a model of how to affect change within the system. To me, one of OWS' (many) crowning failures was that they chose to occupy everything rather than following the Tea Party's lead and trying to find and elect candidates (either D or R although we all know which they'd be) who would represent the causes they supported.

I hate that if I wanted to vote Romney here in New England it is meaningless or vote Obama in much of the south it is meaningless.   Really? My fate lies in Florida's capable hands every election?

This is the only cogent reason I have heard for going to a popular vote. If people are disenfranchised because their vote doesn't matter based on their location, that is an actual problem. But is that enough of a reason to change the Constitution to "fix" a problem which, as noted above, has only happened 4 times in our history? That I'm not so sure about.

I agree the EC made more sense before the 17th amendment when the 3 bodies were elected by 3 methods with 3 different terms for what I think were legitimate reasons (House/popular vote/2 yrs; Senate/state legislatures/6 yrs; POTUS/EC/4 yrs). But since that system has already been blown up there's definitely not as compelling a reason to maintain the EC (other than, as mentioned, more often than not it works out). Although I do take offense to the fact that amending the Constitution to go to a popular vote for POTUS is seen as a sane and reasonable approach (the EC is "antiquated," as you say) whereas repealing the 17th is a crazy John Birch radical idea. (for twatts, who's gonna love that answer and who asked me about this a ways back: here's a liberal law professor saying that while he doesn't support the idea, we should stop pretending that it's only lunatics who support it and that the apocalyptic warnings of corruption are, at best, a bit overblown).

Parliamentary system or bust.

LOL. Because it's working out so well in Greece, and Italy, and UK. We know, everything is better in Canada. Unless, of course, you value free speech. Or property rights. Or pretty much anything that goes along with living in a free society. Or if you just don't want your professional hockey and baseball teams to suck ass.

If Romney wins the popular vote and Obama wins the electoral college, which is looking increasingly likely, I guarantee that this will happen.

Increasingly likely? Can I get some of that action? I'll give you hella odds.
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Offline twatts

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2012, 01:31:27 AM »
Too drunk...  Bur here it goes...

Electoral College:  I'm actually curious as to why no one really talks about who is on it, or how it functions...  Especially after Chads in FLA...  But it is a last "wall" between "democratic" popular vote and "republic" representative vote...  We do not vote in any Federal Election, per se.  We vote in State Elections for our Federal Representatives that go onto vote for us...  Would it be advisable to give Congress the power to "elect" the Exexcutive???  Then we would have more of a Parlimentary system???  Would it give too much power to the Legistalture in the Balance of Power???  Debate...

Two Party System:  It it a correslation or causation per above???  I think our system makes it easy to be "for it" or "against it", but is there really any difference in the Parlimentary system???  BOth ways, there are those in the Minority and those in the Majority Ruling...  Look at the various faction in both parties we ahve in the US now...

Drunk...

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Offline ytowndan

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2012, 02:32:13 AM »
Jimbo, I don't have your awesome quoting skills, so I'll just try to address your points in one post.   :-P

First, I completely disagree that the EC is not really a problem.  A 5% failure rate is unacceptable for a democracy electing its leader.  Also, it unfairly gives some voters way more of a "vote" than others based on the state in which they live.  Not to mention that it's a factor in voter apathy for those in a solid state ("I live in a red/blue state, my guy will win/lose either way, why show up?").  Direct election won't totally solve apathy, some are just apathetic towards politics in general.  But getting off this current system will no doubt increase voter turnout.  These are just a few reasons why it's definitely a real problem. 

In response to your question about absolute majority with IRV, I'll try my best to explain it.  IRV actually guarantees that an absolute majority will be reached through a process of elimination (if need be).  Say the ballot has, from "left" to "right", Jill Stein, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Gary Johnson.  Being the type of liberal that I am, I'm gonna mark Jill Stein as my number one choice (because I know, one way or another, I'm not throwing my vote away).  I'll then make Obama my second choice, Romney my third, and Johnson my last (or I could just leave him off if I choose (you don't have to rank all of them if you don't want to)).  I then cast my ballot, along with the rest of the nation. 

My fictitious results are in. 
Obama - 45%
Romney - 44%
Stein - 6%
Johnson - 5%

Obama won, but he didn't win with an absolute majority.  So the first round of instant-runoff takes place.  The candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated.  Which is Johnson.  But, everyone who made Johnson their number one pick still gets a say.  They didn't throw their vote away (like they would have under any other system).  All Johnson votes now get transferred to the voters' second choices.  Just to make it simple, let's say that every one of them had Romney as their second choice.  So, we transfer the 5% from Johnson to Romney.  He now has 49%.  Romney is now winning but, again, not by an absolute majority.  And so begins round two of the instant-runoff.  Bye-bye, Jill.  Again, we'll keep it simple and say that all of the Green Party voters had Obama as number two.  So we move them over to Obama.  Now, Obama has 51% and Romney has 49%.  We have a winner by absolute majority.  Of course, if one of them has an absolute majority from the get go, then it just ends there with no elimination/transfer round(s) needed. 

It's not just a direct, democratic, voting system that will always produce a winner by absolute majority.  It's a system where everyone can truly vote the way they feel, without having to vote strategically in fear of being a "spoiler" -- like the Nader voters in 2000, or the Perot voters in 1992.  This will open up a new attitude toward the process.  We no longer would have to settle for "the lesser of two evils" if we don't want to.  We can explore third-party policies, totally independent candidates, etc.  Will the more mainstream choices win?  Sure, especially in the beginning.  But, over time, we'll have a system that allows us to better change and evolve our political system.  And that was really my main point.  IRV will allow everyone to look at other options should they so desire.  Options that used to be nothing more than a spoiler would now be a legitimate choice. 
« Last Edit: October 22, 2012, 02:42:36 AM by ytowndan »
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Offline mattstick

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2012, 04:39:15 AM »
LOL. Because it's working out so well in Greece, and Italy, and UK. We know, everything is better in Canada. Unless, of course, you value free speech. Or property rights. Or pretty much anything that goes along with living in a free society. Or if you just don't want your professional hockey and baseball teams to suck ass.

A) Someone needs to chill the fuck out and take things less seriously
B) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Charter_of_Rights_and_Freedoms
C) Are the Chicago Cubs Canadian-based? The Pirates? All the other shitty pro sports teams?
D) Don't even bother answering, you're on my Ignore list - congrats.

Offline VDB

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2012, 09:54:15 AM »
Dan, I'm with you on this -- perceived voter disenfranchisement and apathy in non-swing states is enough reason to ditch the EC, as far as I'm concerned. This could also benefit other races on the ballot by making them more competitive if supporters of the minority party (in that given state) are more encouraged to turn out.
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Offline mbw

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2012, 10:23:41 AM »
this is what happens when a third party candidate who is on the ballot in 38 states shows up to a presidential debate

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/green-party-candidates-arrested-at-presidential-debate/


Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2012, 10:30:17 AM »
twatts - The amount of sense you make is inversely correslated with the time of your post and how drunk you are.I would make you my chief exexecutive any time.

Jimbo, I don't have your awesome quoting skills, so I'll just try to address your points in one post.   :-P

CTRL-C / CTRL-V. You're welcome :wink:

First, I completely disagree that the EC is not really a problem.  A 5% failure rate is unacceptable for a democracy electing its leader.

That's cool, but it's important to note that 3 of those 4 times the US looked substantially different than it does today; it's only happened once in the modern political era. Maybe with growing levels of political polarization it will become a more dominant trend, but for now it seems to me more like a fairly large endevor to enact a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist (again, like voter ID laws).

Also, it unfairly gives some voters way more of a "vote" than others based on the state in which they live.  Not to mention that it's a factor in voter apathy for those in a solid state ("I live in a red/blue state, my guy will win/lose either way, why show up?").

Like I said to Guyute, I agree that location-based disenfranchisement would be the strongest case for going to a popular vote. I am just saying that I am unaware of any studies showing that this indirect voter suppression would have any effect on the outcome of the election. I mean, are there enough Romney supporters in CA or MA or NY or Obama voters in the South that stay home because they live in states that might tip the election in the others' favor? Without seeing some data, I find that to be somewhat of a stretch (but if you have a link, I'd love to read it). To me, this seems more like a solution backing its way into the problem rather than the other way around as it should be.

But shit, what do you care, you live in OH, the only state that ever existed every 4 yrs. Your vote counts for like 4 bvazs.

Direct election won't totally solve apathy, some are just apathetic towards politics in general.  But getting off this current system will no doubt increase voter turnout.  These are just a few reasons why it's definitely a real problem.

Agreed voter turnout is a problem, I just have a hard time believing people aren't voting because they don't like their choices; I think it's more likely people don't like politics/politicians in general. But, to your original point, if a new voting system would give people more choices and power over their gov't, then I would unequivocally support it. More choice ALWAYS equals better choice.

Thanks for the illustration of the IRV process; that definitely clears it up a lot to me (although I probably should have realized it was a runoff given the word is in the name). But still, I'm not sure it would be as easily administered as you make it seem; we have a hard enough time counting votes between 2 people, let alone trying to record and order multiple votes for millions of people. It seems like it would be subject to problems in the face of gross incompetence (which I think we can all agree is rampant in the political process) and ripe for manipulation by the dominant parties and special interests. So in my view, the system seems to fail a (very cursory) cost-benefit analysis.

However, the fact that people are thinking about ways to address these issues (increasing voter turnout, addressing disenfranchisement, getting people more involved in the political process), is IMO undoubtedly a good thing.

LOL. Because it's working out so well in Greece, and Italy, and UK. We
know, everything is better in Canada. Unless, of course, you value
free speech. Or property rights. Or pretty much anything that goes
along with living in a free society. Or if you just don't want your
professional hockey and baseball teams to suck ass.

A) Someone needs to chill the fuck out and take things less seriously
B) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Charter_of_Rights_and_Freedoms
C) Are the Chicago Cubs Canadian-based? The Pirates? All the other
shitty pro sports teams?
D) Don't even bother answering, you're on my Ignore list - congrats.

A) I assume you are talking about yourself, since I was pretty obviously joking. But, let me just say (for the 4 people left not ignoring me), I really don't take this shit as seriously as you think I do. Just because I like to talk politics doesn't mean I can't crack a joke every once in a while (or, in my case, more often thatn not). Shit, the fact that I like talking this shit should be evidence enough of my warped sense of humor.
B) I didn't read the Charter, but we have one of those too; doesn't mean the politicians abide by it.
C) You made Chicago cry. Pittsburgh didn't care because they know they suck (doesn't matter 6 Super Bowls, brah).
D) This is the best news I've heard in a long time. But seriously, I just wish I knew whether it was the OWS crack or the fact that I said Canadian hockey teams suck. I bet it was the latter, you don't joke about hockey in Canada.

But, since you can't hear me:

I'm drunk but that was epuc

fuckin banks man....  people use them shits like woah.

The Line still sucks. Hard.

Offline phil

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2012, 10:41:19 AM »
not sure which side is the douche and which side is the turd sandwhich (romney/douche, obama/turd?) but this is pretty much how I view republicans and democrats at this point.

sure we tend to ramble, but that was a 3 page off topic tangent on crack and doses for breakfast?

Hey, I don't know anything. Please help.

Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2012, 10:59:47 AM »
not sure which side is the douche and which side is the turd sandwhich (romney/douche, obama/turd?) but this is pretty much how I view republicans and democrats at this point.

Obama's the turd?!? That's racist, phil.

But Romney is CLEARLY the doosh.
I'm drunk but that was epuc

fuckin banks man....  people use them shits like woah.

The Line still sucks. Hard.

Offline runawayjimbo

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Re: The Electoral College and the Two-Party System
« Reply #14 on: October 22, 2012, 12:09:11 PM »
Token NYT conservative dude must read the Paug

http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/can-the-electoral-college-survive/

Quote
Can The Electoral College Survive?

As the prospect of a replay of 2000’s electoral/popular vote split looms up before us, National Review’s Dan Foster argues that conservatives should resist the temptation to join the electoral college’s critics in the event that a Romney popular-vote victory still leaves the Republican nominee a few electoral votes short.

Quote
… if federalism still means anything — and sadly, that’s something of an open question — then the College is as vital as ever. It affirms that we vote as citizens of the several states, not mere residents of arbitrarily drawn administrative districts.

In the words of Tara Ross, one of the College’s most able defenders, the current electoral system means that the president must secure the support of a broad coalition of “heterogeneous entities,” themselves “safe” factions “composed of individuals with a wide variety of interests.” Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland in 1888 because of the latter’s overwhelming strength in the South, but won the presidency with a coalition of states in the Northeast and Midwest and along the Pacific coast. Likewise, when Bush defeated Gore despite losing the popular vote, he did so while winning 30 states.

This is not an argument that generally finds a sympathetic audience on the left. (It’s fair to say that the ranks of National Popular Vote enthusiasts are filled disproportionately with liberals.) But reading it, I immediately thought of how eagerly many liberals, spooked by the recent Gallup tracking polls showing Romney leading by 5 or 6 points among likely voters, seized on the Gallup cross-tabs showing Obama winning narrowly in every region save the South, where he’s getting absolutely crushed. The Gallup poll is almost certainly an outlier, of course, and the odds of Romney riding this kind of South-versus-the-country split to a popular majority and an electoral loss remains mercifully low. But if it actually happened – if the nation’s first black president won re-election in the electoral college, and lost the popular vote only because the South gave his opponent an absolutely historic margin of victory — I think more liberals might suddenly recognize the virtues of requiring would-be presidents to assemble truly national coalitions, and the limits, in a republic as large and diverse as this one, to the legitimacy that certain kinds of narrow popular majorities deserve to confer.

Of course many Republicans, for their part, would suddenly discover the virtues of small-d democracy, the principled conservative defenses of the college notwithstanding. And that kind of all-too-understandable partisan instinct, present on both sides of the aisle, makes me worry that the electoral college can’t long survive if electoral/popular splits start happening much more frequently. It’s one thing to have a system that almost always reflects the will of the majority, and once every hundred years (or fifty, if you believe Sean Trende’s fascinating analysis of the 1960 popular vote) delivers a narrowly countermajoritarian outcome. It’s quite another to have one that delivers countermajoritarian outcomes every twelve years – or worse, leads to the kind of post-election nightmare scenario (a tie in the college plus an Obama popular vote lead) that David Frum imagines here. However much weight we place on state sovereignty and the importance of heterogeneity in party coalitions, we are still ultimately a democratic republic, and a system of presidential elections that seems too flagrantly and frequently anti-democratic simply cannot be sustained.

Again, I believe in the electoral college’s virtues, and it’s stood us in good stead these last two hundred years. But I sometimes fear that it works best when presidential politics produces landslides more often than nail-biters, and that a long period of 50-50, Bush v. Gore-style polarization will make the countermajoritarian scenario a reality too often — which in turn would put the college to a political test it cannot pass.
I'm drunk but that was epuc

fuckin banks man....  people use them shits like woah.

The Line still sucks. Hard.