Talk:Electoral College (United States)/Archive 2

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"Opponents also point out that the electoral college assumes that voters within states vote monolithically, when in fact this is not the case. Many states are often deeeply decided over how to vote in a Presidential election."

Nope. It works like this. The assumption is, is that large blocks of people are Democratic or Republican and they will vote along party lines no matter what. From what I've read about 60% of people are strongly affilated. This has been true since the parties crystalized over the last century - but that still leaves 40% who aren't. The battle is for the swing voters. So you go after the swing voters. Where are the largest number of these people? Cities. Since they have no party affilation, they respond to what the candidate can do for them. Take the appeal of Regan and the "Regan Democrats" - swing voters who normally can be counted on to vote Democratic, but decided not to. It would be easy for a candidate to take all the money normally spent on flying around, massive TV advertising, and geographic political palpability and instead concentrate on the large cities. Anyone who would mount a national campaign against someone pursuing this strategy would be committing suicide. You would see a cycle where everyone keeps placing more and more $$$ into the cities, restricting the process to these areas. Take a look at this article [1], to see that, even more than 100 years ago, regions against one another was going strong. And cities nowadays certainly are regions with their own political motivations.Dobbs 05:50 Sep 30, 2002 (UTC)

Of course it is true that voters do not vote monolithically. That is the whole point. But all the arguments you have been making are are assuming that voters vote monolithically, since you claim that people in states only vote for what is in the local interests of the state. You have repeatedly made this point, over and over again. I'm glad to see that you now reject this argument, although it of course removes the main argument you have been using in favor of the electoral college. soulpatch
Ok, without me getting excited. <WINK> Here are my overall reasons for being so fearful about majority vote, and why I think as a voter in a small state I will be disenfranchised. The argument does not weigh in on majority takes all in the state (as it is now) - thus providing an artificial monolithic voting block where none exists. The real issue is how the political system would change (I think for the worse) if it was instituted. Since we both basically agree that 60% of people are affiliated, each major party has that 30% of the vote locked up - no point in preaching to the choir, as it were. So the vote moves to the swing voters. Well, again, all 40% of those swing voters aren't going to vote all the same way, not even close. Realistically, their votes will come down to close to 50 / 50 if no one really campaigns to them. Since who is going to win in that area (since it is a strict majority, no sense talking about the state anymore) will be determined by a small proportion of swing voters located throughout a very large area, it is counterproductive for a campaign to spend time looking for those few hearts and minds - they really don't matter anyway. At most those small number of votes overall will make very little difference. Campaigns will spend time in cities and their associated metropolitan areas. Winning a 48 / 52% vote in New York city proper - or The Northeast overall, would easily overwhelm any 40 / 60 winner (our worst, and impossible case) in the West. So why bother ever campaigning in the mountain west at all? The short answer is, neither side would. It would be pointless - and that is my concern. You may well be right about getting a small majority of votes being "more fair" (in the metaphysical sense) than minority rule, I'd even be willing to concede that to you if it will move the debate forward. But the corrosive effects to national unity would far outweigh giving the election to a plurality winner. People are apathetic as it is. The Presidential election is the one that people most identify with (that's why we are so excited, after all). Taking the ability to influence the election by having the candidates campaign to us and our concerns away, will stop most people for voting - about anything (since all that voting is done at once). Then, you get something close to a collapse in the democratic process that underpins the republic. You think people are suspicious of the Federal government now (the fringe Ruby Ridge and Waco people ARE a fringe, but more moderate justifiably paranoid people exist) just have the Presidential candidates start ignoring Idaho completely.
Yes I may be overstating it for now, but 20 years under that sort of system would destroy what faith many in these parts of the country have in the basic idea of a federal government. These same concerns lead to the first civil war. Now, I don't think there is going to be a civil war anytime soon. But, if serious economic concerns (like the lifeblood of the West, water) are run roughshod over by the government, and no one here thinks that they are getting a fair shake, or even being listened to - then you are shaping up events to come to a head just like the south. National unity by providing a balance between regional concerns and preventing regionalism from dictating the national executive is more important than belief in majority rule. Now, can you at least see that I'm not crazy, overreacting, or PREFER minority rule?
And finally, if you believe in majority rule, start proportioning state representatives solely on the basis of majority vote over the whole state. Work that through in a thought experiment what that would do to politics. It is the same argument I make about the College. Northern California would lose their cool if the large cities took over the state government, that's why it is seperated into districts, each with the same vote. That amplifies the Northern California vote, why allow it at all? And this divide is real. As a resident User:soulpatch of California you know what I'm talking about. Dobbs 15:28 Sep 30, 2002 (UTC)
First of all, in a democratic election where majority vote determines the winner, where each voter is equal, then every single vote--every single "heart and mind"--matters. And I might add that in this era of television, where the vast majority of campaign money goes towards TV advertising, the entire electorate can and is blanketed by each of the major party campaigns. By the way, it is interesting that you are talking about the Mountain West as a rural entity, when in fact the state of Colorado where you live has the overwhelming majority of its population living along the highly urbanized Front Range. Your whole conception of regional identity as being one of rural versus urban is ridiculously simplistic. State boundaries don't correspond to the type of scheme you are trying to defend.
As for California, the fact is that in the gubernatorial election, the big cities already do have the biggest say in who wins the governor's race. That's true in every state already, because states directly elect their governors. I accept that Southern Californians have a bigger say than I do in Northern California because I accept the principle of majority vote in the governor's race. Your analogy with distict elections raises an interesting point--namely, that the legislative branch is designed precisely to give regions a say in the legislative branch. But the analogy is flawed. First of all, legislative elections implement the principle of one-man, one-vote, which is the very principle that you oppose (since you endorse giving people in certain states more of a vote for President than those in others, based on a supposed "rural" versus "urban" identity of those states). There is only one President, and that person has to be chosen somehow. There are many legislators, and the whole point of having many legislators is that they each represent a smaller constituency.
I favor making minority viewpoints available to the electoral process, but it should be in the context of a democratic mechanism that reflects the will of all the people and which does not give some individuals greater say in choosing their legislators than others. That is why I advocate making elections more democratic, not less--that means instant runoff elections, for example, which makes sure that minority viewpoints are included. Included does not mean controls, however--the will of the majority is ultimately what should determine election results, not the will of a priviliged minority. (The legislative body is in fact a way of implementing regional representation within the government, which you favor, as do I. Of course, if you really want to make sure everyone is enfranchised in the legislature, then you should favor proportional representation, as almost all European governments have.) More importantly, there is only one executive, but many legislators. The question we come back to, again and again, is how we should elect both those legislators and the executive--by majority vote, or by a convoluted mechanism that gives some privileged minorities more of a say than others in how the single executive who governs the country is chosen.
And on the question is how we should elect the people who represent us, Irepeat my question of whether you favor giving rural counties more of a vote than urban counties in a gubernatorial election.
And by the way, this whole rural versus urban thing is absurd for another reason. Making rural minorites privileged while ignoring other minorities of voters seems a little bizare. The electorate can be divided and sliced into many categories, not just urban versus rural. The fact is that lots of electoral minorities exist out there. If you oppose majority vote because minorities will be ignored, then perhaps we should give African Americans, gays,and the poorest citizens, a host of other groups of people a higher proportion of the vote to make up for the fact that politicians tend to ignore these smaller minorities, especially if they are unlikely to vote. The whole premise of giving rural voters the ultimate control over who wins elections is just plain absurd. soulpatch
If anything, this is an argument that electoral college district lines should be drawn up separately from the state boundaries, since regional concerns are much more distinctly different across rural vs city divides. Of course, that would erode states' rights. Oh, wait, those haven't really existed since 1865. ;) --Brion 06:13 Sep 30, 2002 (UTC)

Deleted the irrelevant bullet point on land mass. Actually, the number of counties is also irrelevant, as AFAIK counties have no meaningful status in any state's federal electoral process. However, counties are at least political entities. Land mass is not, at least not until dirt gets the right to vote. k.lee


Minesweeper toned down my contributed section about the stranglehold of the two political parties over U.S. politics (stranglehold changed to domination), and I just wanted to say, I think it was a good choice to do so :) -Perry


This method has been used in Maine since 1972 and Nebraska since 1996, though neither has ever split its electoral votes.

I seem to recall that Maine did split in 2000; I don't recall, swadly, and I suspect a Google for a 2000 electoral vote map would overwhelm me. --Charles A. L. 21:14, Feb 21, 2004 (UTC)

  • Charles, you silly goose. The answer is right under your nose! Click on the last link of the first paragraph of this article....where it says election maps. :) Kingturtle 21:18, 21 Feb 2004 (UTC)
Yeah. You'd never know I've been literate for 23 years or so.... --Charles A. L. 23:59, Feb 21, 2004 (UTC)

On the topic of electoral maps, would it be possible to change the maps in U.S. presidential election, 1996 et al so that the Democratic candidate gets blue states? Every other election map uses this color scheme, and to not do so is damn confusing. I'd do it myself, but how? Yours, Meelar 21:25, 21 Feb 2004 (UTC)

  • I am unsure that I understand your question. All the U.S. presidential election maps have the Democratic party as Red. When you say "every other election map"....what are you referring to? Kingturtle 21:30, 21 Feb 2004 (UTC)
    • Conventional usage on TV news, newspapers, magazines, etc. is to shade Democratic states blue--so much so that "Blue states" and "red states" have passed into common political parlance to signify the divided state of the US following the 2000 election. Meelar 21:32, 21 Feb 2004 (UTC)
      • I believe User:Hephaestos made all the Electoral College maps in Wikipedia. Ask him about it. It might be easy for him to change. He probably still has the original files. Or he can tell you why he chose the color scheme we have. Kingturtle 21:34, 21 Feb 2004 (UTC)
      • Done. Thanks very much, Meelar

This view of Electoral College supporters continue to be slowly defaced in this article. The overall tone of the article is that the Electoral College is a racist hateful system that only evil people would support. Why not just go ahead and say this outright rather than insinuating it oh so subtly.

I don't think the addition goes quite that far, but in any case it was dropped in by someone who's recently been making a bunch of POV additions -- see Richard Nixon, for example. --Charles A. L. 02:51, Feb 22, 2004 (UTC)
I can't see a problem with the first change (the phrasing was awkward but is better now). The second change (the one implying inherent racism) is rather POV, and I can't find anything credible to back it up; the third change just complicates an already convoluted paragraph. Reverting the second change, and going to attempt to tidy up the third one (though I'm still not happy with that paragraph). - Jim Redmond 06:56, 22 Feb 2004 (UTC)
Re: the second change...it was not implying racism. The term minority vote, in this case, refers to the group of voters whose vote totals are in the minority. Kingturtle
I think we're looking at different things here. (In retrospect, I shouldn't have described the anonymous user's changes that way. Too late now, though.) The anon-user changed the lead paragraph in the "A controversial system" section to imply that only conservatives supported the E.C., and then only because it overrepresented the votes of rural whites. I couldn't find anything through a quick Google to back up either of those assertions, so I reverted that paragraph to Skyshadow's earlier version. - Jim Redmond 18:48, 22 Feb 2004 (UTC)

The United States is one of very few liberal democracies to use an indirect method of selecting its chief executive.

Is this true? In a British-style parliamentary system, isn't the prime minister elected indirectly? Can't a party that gets fewer votes than another wind up with a majority of seats in the parliament, and hence elect the PM? Josh Cherry 03:37, 19 Mar 2004 (UTC)


Technically, yes, a member of a non-plurality party can become PM; in practice, though, it doesn't happen often. It's rather complicated for quick discussion here; Westminster system should cover most of it. - jredmond 04:02, 19 Mar 2004 (UTC)
I read Westminster system, but it didn't set me straight. Suppose there are just two parties, A and B. A gets the majority of votes, yet B wins the majority of seats. Who becomes PM? I presume it's the leader of party B. Is this incorrect? If not, how is this fundamentally different from a U.S. presidential candidate losing the popular vote but winning the electoral college? Josh Cherry 04:40, 19 Mar 2004 (UTC)
In that fundamental way, it's no different. Indeed just like the US system, there have been times when the party winning less votes has had more seats in the House of Commons. It happened in the 1950s when Labour won more votes, but the Conservatives more seats for example. David Newton 17:24, 19 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Sorry, mean to direct you to presidential system - strangely, it has a good explanation of the distinctions between the two models of republican government. (I smell a better article coming out of this.)
The PM must have majority support from the Parliament at all times. Through a vote of no confidence or through a shift in the makeup of the ruling coalition, a PM can lose his or her position.
A president chosen by direct or indirect election cannot be removed just because the legislature, Electoral College, or electorate as a whole have stopped liking him or her.
Does that answer your question? - jredmond 05:42, 19 Mar 2004 (UTC)
It doesn't respond to my point. I understand that there are differences between the systems. What I am questioning is whether the prime minister in such a system is directly elected. People don't vote for the PM, they vote for a member of Parliament. A majority of voters might favor the leader of party A for PM, yet party B might win the most seats in Parliament, and hence the leader of party B would become PM. The fact that MPs continue to exercise discretion about the PM's continuing in office does not make the election of the PM any more direct. In fact it could be argued that it makes it less direct, much as if the members of the Electoral College could take a new vote at any time and oust the president. Josh Cherry 14:43, 19 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Sorry, was misinterpreting your question.
Voters in most parliamentary systems do not vote for a particular MP for their particular riding - they vote for a party, that party receives seats in Parliament based on its proportion of the vote, etc. Because those voters know that any party leader will become PM if their party gets enough clout, and because party loyalty is fierce in parliamentary systems, it can be argued that electing a Prime Minister is more direct than using an Electoral College. - jredmond 16:35, 19 Mar 2004 (UTC)
OK, I buy that in a parliamentary system with proportional representation the election of the PM is more direct than the election of a U.S. president. But I think you see my point that in a parliamentary system without PR, e.g. with first-past-the-post voting, the election of the PM is just as indirect. So are the latter really so rare? According to the article on PR, In general, first-past-the-post is only used in former British colonies, and even Britain itself uses PR for the Scottish and Welsh assemblies and for its EU delegation. This seems to suggest that the British Parliament uses first-past-the-post, along with some others. The article on Westminster Parliament confirms this for Britain, and Canadian House of Commons says that in Canada it's one MP per constituency by fist-past-the-post. Australia seems to elect one MP per constituency too, just not by first-past-the-post. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding how these systems work, but if not, the few liberal democracies claim is tenuous. Josh Cherry 00:31, 20 Mar 2004 (UTC)
With respect, given the large number of democracies that use the Westminster System, I'm not certain the United States is all that unique in using an indirect method of electing its head of government. Also, I would submit that its use of an indirect method for electing its head of state is also not unusual for republics. Examples include Germany and India. Ed Unneland 01:55, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)


My two cents worth... Deciding whether or not an election is a direct or indirect election has nothing to do with non-plurality winners -- simply, a direct election is one in which a voter votes directly for the candidate, not for some intermediary, whatever the name. otherwise what you got is inherently an indirect election. So, based on that, it seems that relatively few (liberal) democracies directly elect their executives: France, Russia, Finland, Indonesia, Mexico, Argentina, to name a few... and even in the case of France, the President, although very powerful, is not the head of government -- the prime minister, who is appointed by the president, is the head of government. In any event, it seems that the majority of European, North American, and Asian (liberal) democracies chose their executive through indirect elections, generally through (1) parliamentary-type elections (leader of winning party becomes head of government, such as in Britain, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, New Zealand); (2) by electing someone else (say, a president) who chooses the head of government(such as in Israel, Czech Republic, Bangladesh, Iceland, Austria); or (3) through some other system (electoral college, for example, in US, Italy, India, Germany). The point is that the sentence in question -- The United States is one of very few liberal democracies to use an indirect method of selecting its chief executive. -- is not accurate and should be removed. I assume that no one is against this, right? Fufthmin 20:32, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Yet another problem with the electoral college is what would result if no candidate won a majority of electoral votes...

How is this a problem with the electoral college in particular? With a simple popular vote, it is also possible for no candidate to receive a majority. In fact it's much more likely to happen with a popular vote. In the last three U.S. Presidential elections no candidate had a majority of the popular vote, yet in all cases somebody had a majority in the electoral vote. Josh Cherry 23:10, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)

But I mention that if no one wins a majority in the electoral college, there is no winner at all. In a direct first-past-the-post election, at least the person with a plurality could become president, governor, etc.
(In many countries, France being an example, if no one wins an outright majority, there is a runoff) User:Dinopup
My point is that what to do when nobody gets a majority is always an issue (one with no good solution in fact) and has nothing to do with the popular vote vs. electoral college question, so it doesn't belong here. Josh Cherry 03:42, 14 Jul 2004 (UTC)



"Changing the system [to a direct popular vote] requires amending the Constitution, and amending the Constitution requires ratification of three-fourths of the States. Smaller states would be unlikely to ratify such an amendment, as their votes would count for less under direct popular vote than under the current electoral college system."

That statement is just factually incorrect. Consider that the eleven largest states control outright the requisite 270 electoral votes to determine the presidency. If each of those eleven large states changed their election laws to choose their electors based upon the winner of the national popular vote rather than their own state vote, then we would have achieved the equivalent of direct election of the president without amending the constitution and without the consent of a single small state.

Not even all eleven large states would be required to produce a popular vote winner in some cases. In 2000, had only one Bush state chosen its electors by national popular vote rather than state popular vote, the popular vote winner would have been elected.

My point is not to debate the political probability of this happening, only to point out that a constitutional amendment really is not required to achieve a direct popular vote (though that is a very widely accepted view). --Pgva 19:08, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Given that a user saw fit to delete the paragraph on this topic, calling it an "unrealistic" proposal, a word in its defense is in order. The conventional wisdom is that achieving a popular vote through a constitutional amendment is unlikely because the small states would never go along; yet we proceed here to list a number of proposals for constitutional amendment anyway. Well, there exists a way to achieve a popular vote that requires no constitutional amendment and no small state consent, and would be in the interest of the large states to enact. Why this is, therefore, viewed as any less realistic a solution is beyond me, unless we consider ourselves forever bound by our own conventions and lack of imagination. Certainly it deserves at least as much of a mention here as such terribly unlikely proposals as French-style runoff voting. Pgva 11:16, 20 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Anonymous user added: "However the clause of the U.S. constitution that forbids treaties between individual states makes such an agreement difficult in practice." But a state need not sign a treaty with another state to tabulate the national popular vote. A treaty is a mutual commitment among parties. A commitment neither is required nor results from simply taking account of and using another state's vote totals. Of course there is no guarantee that every state publish its vote totals for other states' use (indeed, the lack of such a guarantee proves that no interstate pact would exist), but any state which chose not to make its vote total public would simply disenfranchise itself under this system. That is the common-sense view; Anonymous user has another view, but it is a point-of-view and thus does not belong in the article. I will give others an opportunity to debate the issue before making an official correction of the sentence in question. Pgva 22:44, 29 Oct 2004 (UTC)


Pgva, long time, no see. An idea even simpler than your eleven states proposal would be for the two major party candidates to simply agree that the winner of the popular vote will become president. The candidates could promise that if there were a pop vote/e college mismatch, the e vote winner would urge his electors to vote for his opponent (and electors would be chosen who would do so). Since this idea would require the agreement of two parties, rather than eleven, I would say it is more feasible.
You point out that a Constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college is unlikely to pass, but at least such an amendment is on the table. Many high profile politicians, journalists, and academics want to do away with the e college, a few even want French style runoffs (or IRV). AFAIK, no high profile politician favors the eleven state method. dinopup
Hi, Dinopup. Our proposals are the same fundamentally: no constitutional amendment, and a sufficient number of electors back the national popular vote winner. Yet unless such an arrangement was enacted as a matter of law (as opposed to a "gentleman's agreement"), freelancing electors could very easily throw the outcome into doubt. In fact, they would have numerous incentives to do so, including that current law in many states renders electors who fail to support their party's candidates liable to criminal prosecution. Better to take the electors' will out of the equation (more or less) by appointing the electors loyal to the national winner in the first place. As you point out, no politician has ever favored the "state law solution". But then, few people have thought it through enough to even realize that it's possible (one of the reasons I thought it worthy of mention here) - the conventional wisdom is that a constitutional amendment is required. I will say that no change is likely unless the system implodes, in which case Congress would likely take a leading role, and in that event I would put odds on a constitutional amendment. It's more for the principled advocates of "one man, one vote" that I thought the "state law solution" a potentially useful idea. Pgva 04:11, 31 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Given yesterday's close call in Ohio, we could have easily seen another electoral college/popular vote split, this one favoring the Democrats with 272 EVs versus the one in 2000 that favored Republicans with 271 EVs. Having the minimum 270 EVs allocated by national popular vote would foreclose such an outcome, while a fewer number would render it less likely. But given the EC's ability to reverse the popular vote outcome in favor of either party, any "less than 270" approach would have to include a substantial number of EVs from both red and blue states to handle either situation. Yet an incremental state-by-state approach in tandem with evolving public sentiment may be the best way to eventually achieve a nationwide popular vote without having to amend the constitution. Pgva 05:27, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)

List of electors

The list of electors at the end of the article is currently hard-coded as a multicolumn table. It should really be a straight list, but I agree that that wouldn't be good use of screen real estate. Then again, I don't think thats a big issue, and to have it correctly marked up and looking good in many forms (small screen, printed, etc.) we should not have it split with a table. (and anyway, long lists with mostly short items can be shown nicely in CSS3 in the future.)

Comments? Luke 02:04, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)


The United States is one of very few liberal democracies to use an indirect method of selecting its chief executive (the UK being the other notable example).

How about Canada and Australia? Josh Cherry 03:13, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Good Work

I see why this article is selected to be featured, it is of excellent quality. Good work everyone! ( Feel free to choose to delete my comments afterwards so they don't get in the way :) )--ShaunMacPherson 13:05, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)