US election discussion

If you must…

(I’m just glad that this dreadful campaign is closing.)

17 thoughts on “US election discussion

  1. One does rather have the impression both candidates are running for President of Ohio.

    Call me cynical, but I think all the money sloshing around in SuperPACs might actually end up opening a way forward. There’s only so much money you can spend in the “swing states”. Apparently some of the PACs seem to be dumping money in no hope states (e.g. Romney advertising in Chicago), there’s so much of it and they can’t leave it unspent.

    Maybe the billionaire tyrants sponsoring these entities will start asking questions about how their money would be better spent in the context of a national popular vote rather than the Electoral College…

  2. They are going to have to deal with the voter suppression issue in the long run. Frankly, the only solution that would satisfy both sides (assuming the pro-suppression guys are at least somewhat sincere rather than attempting to simply shut out black votes) is to issue photo ID (free of charge). Anything else would amount to a poll tax as it would require voters with drivers’ licenses to pay to vote.

  3. There is at least persuasive evidence that the voter suppression laws have partisan advantage as their only object. Moreover, only one party proposes these laws and that same party proposes a variety of other laws to restrict the franchise.

  4. This is terrible. Here you have all those fructovoters eager and willing to bash the electoral college to within an inch of its life and no-one will step forward to defend it.

  5. Perhaps the only way to improve the electoral college is if the voters of the electors was allocated proportionately. The threshold would vary with the number of electors with 3 elector votes having a high threshold of 25% to win one seat, and very low with California having 55 elector votes and the threshold being a little less than 2%.

    Then a Presidential Candidate would be campaigning in all the states to win votes. It would lead to problems in that in some elections, maybe most elections, no candidate would win a majority in the electoral college.

    I heard that the Founding Fathers expected that no candidate would get a majority in the electoral college, and that the election would be decided in the house.

    It might be wise to change the method of electing the President in the house, instead of one state having one vote, it may be better let the President be elected by a simple majority of the members of the house.

  6. Or (assuming maximalist change is off the agenda – Electoral College reform being the Republic issue you debate when your country’s a republic already, it seems) have both Pres and VP chosen by a joint sitting of Congress – one CongressRep or Senator, one vote – since that would mirror the balance of power in the EC which conducts the “first ballot”.

    Defenders of the EC often conflate two issues: over-representation (per capita) of less populous States, and winner-take-all. One could have the latter without the former – eg, various proposals to give each State only as many Electors as it has Reps (chopping off the bonus two for Senators).

    Or vice versa – one could have a direct popular vote but also stipulate that each ticket gets an extra number of deemed votes (equal to [total popular votes] divided by [8.7 x number of States]) for every State it carries by plurality (or only if by absolute majority?). So if 43.5 million popular votes are cast, another 100 million deemed votes are allocated depending who carries how many States. Wyoming is not ignored but there’s also an incentive for New Yorkers and Texans to turn out.

    Or have, say, four Electors by PR in each state plus another 800+ Electors by nationwide PR. Thus each State would split 2-2 unless there were a 60% dominant party. There is a case for stipulating that the ticket with a plurality of EVs wins. If an absolute majority is required, there should be a threshold of 3-5%.

    My point is that there are plenty of variations in between the creaky status quo and a direct nationwide plurality vote…

  7. Why not allow the EC to the role of an actual electoral college, that actually makes a decision?
    Introduce an element of PR (10% statewide threshold), with closed lists, allowing fusion with candidate consent.
    Double the number of electors so each state returns at least 3 electors, while eliminating the electors corresponding to the number of senators.
    Electors would have complete freedom to vote for any candidate, and would not be bound by any pledge (but voting would be public, so they can be tarred and feathered by the electorate later, if necessary). If after a first round of voting no majority winner is elected, all but the top two candidates in electoral votes are eliminated. There would then be a second round to decide the winner (this could be done in one day to avoid any upsetting crises-the French manage it for their senatorial elections)
    This approach would institutionalise the faithless elector, true, but also remove the House from the process and encourage candidates to range more widely for votes, even into places that are otherwise barren territory under winner-take-all.

  8. Perhaps off-topic, but does anybody know anything about the vote-by-mail systems in use in Oregon and Washington? (Maybe elsewhere too, but I only know of those.) I’m curious how they try to ensure votes aren’t coerced, but can’t seem to find much information.

    Seems to me that businesses could have “voluntary” let’s-all-get-together-and-vote-for-the-boss’-favourite-candidate events. Or abusive spouses could demand their victims fill out their ballots right in front of them.

  9. For the entirety of their marriage my parents voted for different parties. My father was left blissfully unaware of this happy fact. Mail voting would definitely have defaulted to male voting had his bliss been disturbed.

  10. The Electoral College never seems to have been conceived as a deliberative body. The Electors themselves walk into polling booths in the capitals of their states and cast their votes. In some states these ballots are even cast privately! In 2004 a Democratic elector in Minnesota accidentally cast his or her presidential ballot for John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, and not for John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate. To this day, no one knows who this elector was.

    If the Electoral College had been made a deliberative body, there would have been no need for the office of the Vice President. Vacancies in the office of the Presidency could have been filled by reassembling the previously elected Electoral College. Emergency situations would have been handled simply by having the senior or designated head of an executive department fill in as Acting President until the Electoral College could reassemble. So the one feature of the system that would have made some sense never happened.

  11. The example of Poland is the main reason that the EC never meets and is not a deliberative body. Polish kings were elected by a deliberative college that met as a single assembly. Foreign powers engaged in massive skullduggery to get their candidates elected and usually succeeded, indeed most kings elected under the system were actually foreigners. Several Founders later wrote about the evils of the Polish EC.

  12. Whoa. Kristen Neel is a good argument for repealing the 26th Amendment. The most charitable explanation is that she was mistaking Australia for Austria (hey, it happens), but even so, Wikipedia lists Heinz Fischer as an agnostic.

    At the same time, Felicity Day’s counter-meme has a few howlers of its own. “No guns” is true only in the same sense that “America has no barriers preventing Black people from voting”. “Openly gay politicians and judges” is true, but citing it as one over the USA is rather unfair to Barney Frank and Vaughn Walker. And “pro-choice on contraception” has me mystified. If it means that contraception is legal, well, yes, but so to in the USA (and even Ireland these days). If it means that the government forces all employers, including those with religious objections, to provide it to their employees, then that’s certainly not true. It is subsidised by the government via Medicare, I believe, so maybe that’s what Ms Day meant.

    As for “evolution is taught in all schools”, five minutes’ persual of the writings of David Marr or Marion Maddox will establish au contraire that Australia is only a few months away from being overrun by a Handmaid’s Tale-style Christian Right theocracy.

  13. I think Kristen Neel had possibly seen an interview with Rudd and assumed that he remained in power and his religion would naturally make him a free market conservative.

    The counter-tweets were generally more informed, although everyone identified Elizabeth II as chief of state where I’d argue the chief of state is the queen or the governor-general depending on the context.

    Still the twitterspehere.au did get into, ummm, a twitter for a while. (Sorry)

  14. I’m kind of surprised to see the interest in replacing the electoral college with some other kind of electoral college. It’s actually easier to use the interstate compact plan, so that the EC result will always reflect the popular vote. The other ideas discussed here will either require a Constitutional amendment; if you can get states with at least 270 EC votes on board, you couldn’t get an amendment passed either, and certainly not for a compromise position.

    Any middle layer between the voters and the final result will inherit all the vices of the electoral system the voters used, and add new ones of its own. So, the American EC has all the vices of the plurality system, and then some. Since the choice of President is pretty straightforward, there’s no good case for not having direct election.

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