Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: You always wanted a compact

23 Responses

  • Paul Campbell,

    The electoral college made sense pre-telegraph where the logistics of electing a national president in such a large country involved taking the ballot results to a central location - electing people to represent you to do that made a lot of sense - these days CNN wants results within hours of the polls closing

    I think that the main reason why the big states wont move to proportional representation is because of the effect that would have on the dominant party in their state - for example in California there's been a push from the Republicans to change - because they would win the most (close to half of Ca's electoral votes in a state that hasn't voted for them in years) - while the Democrats who have tended to dominate both the state govt (where the change would have to come from) and the state presidential vote would have the most to lose .... if you're winning a state and in control you don;t want change here, it's not in your interest

    It's more an issue of "how can we get them all to change at once" - if they could do that then they would get more buy in .... problem is that Americans seem to b e very conservative with their electoral system - the status quo is very much entrenched in people's minds

    A few years ago there was a push for a solution to the "change all at once" problem where some big state people proposed local changes that do along the lines of "if our state plus enough other states to hold a majority of the electoral college then we will appoint our states electors to represent the winner of the national vote" which solves the change problem because local representation doesn't change until enough states are in the pot and it avoids the small states for whom this would reduce their representation (someone in Wyoming, as you say, gets a much larger representation that in CA).

    The up sides? all states are in play, presidential candidates have to pay attention to ALL states, not just the few that might change

    The down side? well think of Florida, 2000 spread across every state, city and ballot box in the country .... and think of the money they'd have to spend to advertise in the larger media markets - they don't spend much in CA, or NY or TX these days because we already know where those states will vote

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2201 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    I think that the main reason why the big states wont move to proportional representation is because of the effect that would have on the dominant party in their state - for example in California there's been a push from the Republicans to change - because they would win the most

    Absolutely. Allocating electoral votes (for the presidency) proportionately doesn't make a lot of sense, and it certainly doesn't on a piecemeal basis.

    The up sides? ... The down side...

    Some of the arguments arrayed for and against the electoral college/the national popular vote get kinda cool: the electoral college is bad, because it means that state actions disenfranchising voters don't harm a state's voice in the presidential race, for example.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    well I'd disagree - allocating electoral voters for the presidency would make sense if every state did it (and that avoids a constitutional change) but doing it piecemeal would disrupt the rather delicate balance that keeps the bigger states out of play and gives the smaller states more relative power which IMHO is the real barrier to reform

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2201 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    well I'd disagree - allocating electoral voters for the presidency would make sense if every state did it

    And if every state did it, the 2000 Presidential election would have been won by George Bush, and Joe Lieberman would have been his Vice President.

    And just about every presidential election following would also have been determined by the House of Representatives, and the Vice-Presidential race by the Senate, because no candidate would get the required electoral college majority.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    ah but remember the electoral college is supposed nut out the president between them - they don't have to vote for the guy they represent - in 2000 Nader would probably have ended up holding some electoral votes and eventually would have fallen in behind one of the other candidates - the congress only get involved it the EC can't eventually get its act together

    But you're right - making the EC proportional at the state level (to avoid a constitutional amendment) is still a vague approximation of true representative democracy

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2201 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    remember the electoral college is supposed nut out the president between them - they don't have to vote for the guy they represent - in 2000 Nader would probably have ended up holding some electoral votes and eventually would have fallen in behind one of the other candidates - the congress only get involved it the EC can't eventually get its act together

    Nope. The electoral college doesn't even meet. Each state's delegation meets seperately in its own state, not even all states on the same day, just some time before Congress first meets for the new term.

    They tally up their votes and send the results, from their one round of voting, to Congress, which opens them up and certifies the result as their first(?) item of business.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    hmm you're right - I wonder why I ended up think they actually got to meet and argue? I guess it has something to do with some states which used to actually directly elect (or appoint) the electors and they potentially get to argue

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2201 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    I'm not a great critic of the electoral college – sure it's an anachronism, but I think it is a legitimate way for a country (particularly a federation) to choose its head of Government – the national compact is just a really clever idea...

    Hey, it worked for the USSR so why fix it?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1620 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    A few years ago there was a push for a solution to the "change all at once" problem where some big state people proposed local changes that do along the lines of "if our state plus enough other states to hold a majority of the electoral college then we will appoint our states electors to represent the winner of the national vote" which solves the change problem because local representation doesn't change until enough states are in the pot and it avoids the small states for whom this would reduce their representation (someone in Wyoming, as you say, gets a much larger representation that in CA).

    That would be the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which currently has 50 of the 270 electoral college votes it needs (but may be about to swag California). And it seems to be a pretty good solution to a C18th anachronism.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1668 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    So no-one read to the end of my piece? :-(

    Are they too long :-)

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Um, I just quoted the end...does that count?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1620 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Hey, it worked for the USSR so why fix it?

    And is roughly equivalent to the way it works in China, or at least is supposed to work in China, albeit with several layers of electors.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Graeme, I have to admit my eyes glazed over before I got there. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And not in a nice way.. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16996 posts Report Reply

  • Tim McKenzie,

    ... and the Senate chuses the Vice President (which, if you think about it, is how we choose our Prime Minister).

    Is there a legal distinction between the US Constitution's "chuse" and the ordinary word "choose"? :)

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2007 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    No.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Susan Snowdon,

    So no-one read to the end of my piece? :-(

    I really really wanted to. I think I needed some visuals, maybe a map and some graphs. Or pie charts.

    Since Mar 2008 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    So no-one read to the end of my piece? :-(

    D'oh.

    I hope the link helped anyway.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1668 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Is there a legal distinction between the US Constitution's "chuse" and the ordinary word "choose"? :)

    As Graeme said but a valid point considering spelling mistakes were not unheard of in the constitution.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4947 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    So no-one read to the end of my piece? :-(

    Or read the title either it seems =)

    Don't worry, I did - and even kinda half almost possibly understood a partial amount of it. On the second read.
    But when I DID get there, I agree - that Compact is very cool although fraught with all kinds of obvious challenges from those who disagree with it.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1722 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    So no-one read to the end of my piece? :-(

    I did in hope to find something new, but alas there was only the note that they're going to end up with a mass plurality system for their President, which will leave them even further away from any chance of a Condorcet election for the most powerful idiot in the world.

    Since Nov 2006 • 488 posts Report Reply

  • Just Milly,

    So no-one read to the end of my piece? :-(

    Are they too long :-)

    Hell no keep them coming, most informative, thanks

    Since Jul 2008 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    alas there was only the note that they're going to end up with a mass plurality system for their President, which will leave them even further away from any chance of a Condorcet election for the most powerful idiot in the world.

    Agreed (well it seems like the right word, anyway).

    I did not that in the unlikely event of a constitutional amendment "the only serious alternative being a nationwide winner-take-all (__not necessarily first past the post__) popular vote."

    I would envisage that the best system for a nationwide vote would be a form of preferential vote. The only 'recent' serious attempt at change envisaged a run-off vote if no pair got more than 40% of the popular vote. It still needs some catalyst to happen, however.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

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