Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Reason to like the Electoral College

In it's current form the electoral college functions as a winner-take all system. That is, in most states, candidate that gets the most votes gets ALL of the votes of that state. The most recent disaster associated with the electoral college was the election of W, when he beat Mr. Stop Global Warming without winning the popular vote.

Disasters aside, I argue that the electoral college serves an important purpose by encouraging cultural homogeneity. Cultural homogeneity is good because it marks the absence of extreme political polarization and the domestic strive and civil wars associated with heterogeneity.

The electoral college supports cultural homogeneity in two ways. First, it encourages us to talk to our neighbors. Knowing that your state's votes go all-or-nothing toward the candidate that you like helps to reduce campaigns to a local level. Especially if you live in a swing state, it makes more sense to campaign at home instead of going to California to preach to the choir.

Second, the college helps to prevent major divisions between states by encouraging migration from homogeneous pockets into pockets of the opposite orientation. For example, if you care about politics and you live in super-liberal land where your vote doesn't make a difference, you might decide to move to Alaska so that you can help to dilute the bad political sensibilities of that state, and possibly make some conservative friends in the process.

7 Comments:

Blogger Sarah said...

Hmm... do you mean homogeneity within parties? It seems to me that in states with a considerable majority voting one way or the other (such as Oklahoma), there's no motivation to reach out to your neighbors because it's unlikely that you'll overcome a 30 point margin.

I guess in swing states there is some motivation to reach out, but still, the ultimate goal is to get 50.0001% of the vote (plus a comfort margin), not to create consensus in your community.

I would agree that the current electoral college system aims to create homogeneity within parties, which theoretically moderates their platforms, which is probably a good thing. Still, it's frustrating to always cast my vote in a state where it doesn't make a difference (and I'm not going to move/register in another state just for the purpose of voting).

5:10 AM  
Blogger My Freakwentness said...

Thank you for this truly devastating critique. I retract everything I wrote.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

No, don't do that! In fact, I was in Oklahoma during the 2004 election and did try to reach out to my neighbors whose yards bore Bush signs. Nicely, with cookies. So my inner idealist wants to agree with you...

11:49 AM  
Blogger My Freakwentness said...

Your inner idealist "wants" to agree with me?? As in, even your inner idealist doesn't quite agree with me? That's OK, I've changed and am no longer that thing that your inner idealist "wanted" to agree with. Your outer realist convinced me!

In other news, I'm planning to vote for McCain so that you'll reach out to me with cookies. Nicely.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.


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 would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

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 National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

susan

3:35 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

That won't be necessary. Perhaps there will be cookies on Friday, and if there are, they will be provided regardless of political orientation.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Mama JJ said...

My Freak-of-a-Brother: I will most definitely NOT give you ANY cookies if you vote for McCain, you hear? On the other hand, if you vote for Obama, I will give you all the cookies that you can eat.

-JJ

7:35 AM  

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