Category Archives: NPV

the case for the electoral college

I found an interesting article that purports to present the pros and cons of the Electoral College System. As I read this article it heavily favors having the electoral college.

It gives these reasons to prefer the electoral college to a national popular vote:

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Alex Keyssar on “How Not to Choose a President”

Alex Keyssar (professor of history and social policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government) recently published an op-ed called “How Not to Choose a President” for the LA Times.

The article was originally titled in a misleading way by LA Times editors (as “Dump Winner-Take-All”) that incorrectly suggested the Keyssar was a supporter of the Republican proposal to distribute CA electors by congressional district. Keyssar is not a supporter of that plan as is clear from a careful reading of the article.

The article discusses the history of electoral college shenanigans through the US’s history.
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Revived attempt to ‘fix’ CA electorial college votes

I guess that I spoke too soon. The partisan Republican attempt to change the way that California distributes it’s electoral votes is back in action.

The Ballot Access News reports:

According to this story in the Riverside, California Press-Enterprise, wealthy Congressman Darrell Issa of San Diego County has agreed to pay to get an initiative on the California June 2008 ballot. That initiative would provide that each U.S. House district elect its own elector. The initiative already collected 100,000 signatures in August, then had been abandoned for lack of funding.

Here is Jack Santucci’s take on this development (Jack was an analyst at Fairvote.org and I’ve disagreed with him frequently on other matters. Here I am nearly full agreement with him.):

CA Congressman Darrell Issa (R-49) will help bankroll the effort to split California’s Electoral College votes by congressional district (CD allocation). And he’s defending it as a move to “proportional representation.”

“This is about making people’s votes count,” he said. “It’s about proportional representation.” […]

Issa insists that he has not endorsed a candidate for president and said the effort is not motivated by politics, but by a desire to increase voter turnout in the state.

“If Florida had proportional representation [in 2000], Al Gore would be president today,” he said.

In another post I highlight some problems with CD allocation. The biggest (in my opinion) is that doing so would drastically raise the stakes of redistricting wherever the system were implemented. Bluntly, gerrymandering would affect presidential elections.

California Republican Initiative Gives Up

The partisan Republican attempt to “fix” California’s contribution to the electoral college is apparently being abandoned.

Citing Donald Lathbury:

The Los Angeles Times has learned that the electoral college “reform” funded by out of state Republican donors has been dropped due to a lack of cash and support. Says the Times:

“In an exclusive report to appear on this website late tonight and in Friday’s print editions, The Times’ Dan Morain reports that the proposal to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of signatures must be gathered by the end of November to get the measure on the June 2008 ballot.””

fixing the Electoral College

Back in August, Bob H. commented:

Btw, Slate has a new article on problems with trying to fix the Electoral College.

I’d be interested to get your take on it. Cheers.

Quoting from the Slate article now:
Slate; splitting CA electorial college votes for partisan gain

It’s hardly news at this point that, as it works today, the Electoral College undermines American democracy. It does so in three fundamental ways: First, it betrays the principle of majority rule, threatening every four years to deliver the White House to the popular-vote loser. Second, it reduces the general election contest to a matter of what happens in Ohio, Florida, and a handful of other swing states, leaving most Americans (who live in forsaken “red” and “blue” states) on the sidelines. This in turn depresses turnout and helps give us one of the worst rates of voter participation on earth. Third, because of its proven pliability, the Electoral College invites partisan operatives, legislators, secretaries of state and even Supreme Court justices to engage in constant strategic mischief and manipulation at the state level.

This last problem is about to make things much worse, as strategic actors try to exploit spreading discontent with the system by pushing “reform” proposals for purely partisan advantage. Thus, in California, top Republican strategists are now proposing a ballot initiative that would “reform” the system by awarding the state’s electoral votes by congressional district. Its real purpose is to break up the state’s 55 electors, which typically go to the Democrats in a bloc as inevitably as Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma give their 56 combined electors to the Republicans. Following the proposed division of California’s well-gerrymandered blue and red congressional districts, it is likely that the 2008 GOP nominee under this plan would carry away about 20 electors. In one fell swoop, this would ruin the Democrats’ chances for winning the presidency.

This is very plainly not reform. It is tactical gamesmanship.

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