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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Monday, November 15, 2004


Electoral College

This post is my contribution to this week's Homespun Symposium.

I have argued previously that the Electoral College (EC) is inherently unfair. While I do understand the various practical issues that the EC addresses (and have been pointed out by other Homespun Bloggers this week), I am still going to make a case against the EC...if for no other reason than I think it's an unpopular position and it's always good to have both sides.

My most basic issue with the EC is that it discounts many individual citizen's vote for President. Although we are the United States of America (and not the People's Republic of America, thank God) I still find a basic flaw in the system. Namely that my vote for President has never contributed to the candidate of my choice being elected.

The pro-EC side will argue that it protects us against fraud and even saved out collective butts in 2000 by concentrating the legal battles to a small area rather than allowing them to range across the country. However, this is only the case because the majority of States have decided to allocate 100% of their Electoral Votes to the candidate who wins a majority (or plurality) of their state's popular vote. In fact, Nebraska and Maine have systems that allow the possibility that their Electoral Votes be split, depending on the specific outcomes of local voting. So it is possible, in principle, that all 50 states could adopt a system to proportionally split up their Electoral Votes, thereby negating many of the purported advantages of the EC.

While I readily admit any such change in the state-by-state Electoral Vote allocation rules is highly to absolutely unlikely, the protections of the EC are not inherent in the federal system.

So, we have a system that does provide at least some of the protections cited by its supporters. However, I think that one of the most often cited examples is either misleading, misunderstood, or I'm just missing something.

Proponents of the EC often claim that without the EC candidates would totally ignore small states and states where they would be likely to get the smallest increase in votes per campaign hour spent. So, the argument goes, John Kerry would have spent a ton of time in Massachusetts trying to pump up support from his 62% up higher and higher. Conversely, he would have spent less time in Ohio battling for that last percentage point to tip the scales ever so slightly in his favor in order to reap the large EC payoff.

First off, do the voters in Massachusetts that would have taken Kerry from 62% to 70% have any less inherent value than the voters that would have taken him from 49% to 51% in Ohio? In other words, is it better for our country for Kerry to try to convince 2% of Ohio residents or for him to try to convince 8% of Massachusetts’s residents? In terms of straight numbers, obviously convincing an additional 8% of voters from one area is more significant than getting 2% more from another area.

However, the argument could be made that it's better for the country if Presidential candidates are forced to spread themselves evenly around the country, rather than just concentrating on the places where they already have a large percentage of the vote locked up. But let's think about that for a second. First, this argument assumes that Kerry even could have convinced more Mass residents to vote for him. Is there any reason to suspect that this is the case? I don't know, but there certainly is an upper limit on the percentage anyone is going to get in any state, period. Secondly, under the current system it is obvious that a candidate needs support from all over the country to be elected. Would the situation be any different with a straight popular vote?

Looking at the electoral results by state, it appears that Bush is very popular in those pesky 'fly over' states and Kerry was very popular on the coast. However, if you examine the electoral results by county (as I'm sure many of you have), an entirely different pattern emerges: Kerry wins in cities and Bush wins out in the country.

So, within a given state where the EC votes are all or none and only the popular vote matters, where did Bush campaign relative to Kerry? By the logic of the pro-EC crowd Bush should have only spent time out in the countryside while Kerry should have never left the city limits. After all, it only makes sense to try to run up your popular vote totals where you're already supported, right?

Did this happen, even in the all-important battle ground states? I don't have the raw data, but it was my impression that Kerry was out there asking: "Can I get me a hunting license here?" and Bush spent as much time in the cities as out in the hill-and-dale.

I don't necessarily know that this reasoning can be extending to a national level, but it's at least worth some thought.


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