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Standing Up For The Electoral College

I’ve been meaning to write something on this topic for months — and I would have preferred to do so before the election.  But better late than never.

I am a fairly flexible and open-minded person, always eager to learn things I don’t know and talk to people who have different life experiences for me.  I am certainly stubborn, but I’ve always prided myself of being a voracious learner. 

That being said, there are two things that I’m an Absolutist about.  The most important — sticking to the Constitutional principles, especially the First Amendment.  I have rarely found an issue of speech come up in my life where I didn’t stick to being a First Amendment Absolutist.  I may hate the what the person is saying, I do believe that free speech has consequences and one should accept those — but I RARELY will stand behind an effort to chill speech in advance.

The second Absolutist issue for me is the quadrennially-maligned Electoral College.  Yeah, I’m a geek about it.  In my view, the problem isn’t the Electoral College system itself — but the ignorance about it (and our system of government as a whole) by the American populace at large.

It PAINS me that our system of government and the philosophy behind America’s creaton is barely taught, and openly mocked, by our public schools and universities.  We have a dumbed down electorate that doesn’t understand WHY the process is what it is.

I think there might be a way to restructure the EC to make it more workable — each Presidential candidate wins one Electoral Vote per Congressional District, then the Two “Senators” Votes if they win the State’s Popular Vote.  But aside from some reform, the College works!!

I could go on and on for days about why the Electoral College is important, relevant and critical to our Federalist system of government.  Luckily for all of you, I was rescued by a more eloquent defense of the Electoral College by Richard Posner at

Here is Posner’s reason #2:

2) Everyone’s President
The Electoral College requires a presidential candidate to have transregional appeal. No region (South, Northeast, etc.) has enough electoral votes to elect a president. So a solid regional favorite, such as Romney was in the South, has no incentive to campaign heavily in those states, for he gains no electoral votes by increasing his plurality in states that he knows he will win. This is a desirable result because a candidate with only regional appeal is unlikely to be a successful president. The residents of the other regions are likely to feel disfranchised—to feel that their votes do not count, that the new president will have no regard for their interests, that he really isn’t their president.

Please read the whole thing.  And forward it to friends and family who voted but don’t know anything more about our system of government than Sandra Fluke does.   Thank you.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)



  1. Absolutely agree, Bruce – been thinking of writing something about the EC myself. One thing I believe would be beneficial would be if every state were to go to the congressional district method of awarding EC votes as Nebraska and Maine do – it helps to spread the votes regionally at the state level, and it honestly seems to me that it would result in more equitable results than the current “winner takes all” method. Living in Florida, I know that the larger cities carried our votes – and frankly it doesn’t seem fair to those of us who live in rural areas that we’re overrun in that way!

    Comment by leftbrainfemale — November 15, 2012 @ 4:05 pm - November 15, 2012

  2. A president has to win the support of the *states*. This is key. And similar to Posner’s #2. If we go election by popular vote, then you can have a single state, that leans heavily to one candidate, forcing a president on the country that the other 49 states do not prefer. Think about it. Every single state goes 51% for candidate Y, but California (just to pick an example) goes 70% for candidate X. Congratulations, America, everyone gets President X.

    Comment by Rick67 — November 15, 2012 @ 4:43 pm - November 15, 2012

  3. The only people I meet who want to abolish the EC are liberals. Their candidate won the EC handily. Besides, the EC and the popular vote have differed in only 3 elections.

    Comment by Ignatius — November 15, 2012 @ 4:52 pm - November 15, 2012

  4. This post kind of got away from me and I didn’t want to steal Posner’s thunder. But I should have noted that my idea about reforming the EC comes from our 2000 experience (Gore wins Popular Vote, Bush Wins EC)…. and the possibility raised this year of a similar thing happening.

    But is important to remember that the 2000 election was a major outlier. In any case, I still think the Congressional District scenario would be a good improvement and make it easier for the public to understand and also help decentralize the campaign even more.

    Comment by Bruce (GayPatriot) — November 15, 2012 @ 5:14 pm - November 15, 2012

  5. I prefer the EC over the proposed alternatives. The only change I can think of that I’d like to see is doing away with the Electors themselves, but retaining the electoral votes from the States, thereby eliminating the danger of “faithless Electors” in close elections.

    Comment by JohnAGJ — November 15, 2012 @ 5:23 pm - November 15, 2012

  6. I don’t think anyone has mentioned my reason for supporting the Electoral College. Without it, candidates would spend all their time campaigning in the biggest cities, which have the largest population count and of course tend to be heavily Democratic. The College serves the function of forcing politicians to run in places they might otherwise ignore, like Iowa and Nebraska. That works for me.

    Comment by Dottie Laird — November 15, 2012 @ 5:39 pm - November 15, 2012

  7. “Living in Florida, I know that the larger cities carried our votes – and frankly it doesn’t seem fair to those of us who live in rural areas that we’re overrun in that way!”

    This post implies that rural vote should count more than the city vote.

    Comment by Aaron — November 15, 2012 @ 6:03 pm - November 15, 2012

  8. [i]This post implies that rural vote should count more than the city vote.[/i]

    How much food can you grow in a city?

    How much food can you grow on a farm with $10.00/gallon gas?

    Comment by Adriane — November 15, 2012 @ 6:20 pm - November 15, 2012

  9. Dottie – we’re not far from that now… except that the campaigns center on a few high-EC vote swing states. If you live in Kansas or in California, you don’t even rate a stopover (except, in CA’s case – private events to get Hollywood cash).

    There isn’t much trans-reagional appeal – it’s the coastal states vs the interior.

    I’m not convinced that the EC should go but it would be interesting to know how the popular vote would work out if candidates had to appeal to voters across the country. My guess is that some voters in the lock states don’t bother to vote (why vote for BHO if you live in TX or Romney if you live in CA?).

    When I lived in CA (in a rare GOP congressional district) I voted for McCain – knowing I was just spitting into the wind. If not for Prop 8 and the congressional race, I wouldn’t have bothered.

    I find it ludicrous to see billions poured into trying to get votes from a tiny population of swing voters in just a few states.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — November 15, 2012 @ 6:29 pm - November 15, 2012

  10. Abolishing the EC would cause the same problem except the states would be different, namely those with large urban populations. I like that the swing states have more power: it forces candidates to contest in larger states with heavy opposition and swing states change, meaning strategies and messages must change. W/out the EC, the same few states (and their voters) would decide for the rest, election after election. I also like that recalls and election fraud are limited to state boundaries and that regional issues or regional candidates don’t dominate national elections.

    Comment by Ignatius — November 15, 2012 @ 6:42 pm - November 15, 2012

  11. I prefer getting rid of the Electoral College, and having the popular vote determine the winner. Right now, the election is determined by swing states such as Ohio, so candidates focus their attention more on those states, because it doesn’t matter if they convince thousands of voters to change their minds in states such as California or Texas. With a popular vote, it could very well matter.

    Although the 2000 Election was the first time in 112 years that the winner lost the popular vote, the possibility seems more likely now. In fact, Romney was ahead in the popular vote when Obama had clinched the victory. Campaigns are focusing only on certain swing states for victories, which increase this possibility.

    Short of getting rid of the Electoral College, the idea of a) getting rid of the actual electors; and b) awarding an electoral vote for each congressional district, would be an acceptable alternative. I would prefer not to have the two extra electors for each state, since that would give states with fewer congressional district more electoral clout than congressional districts in states with with more congressional district.

    Getting rid of the Electoral College would, of course, require a constitutional amendment. Even the above alternate (with or without the two at large electoral votes) would also require an amendment since states get to determine how the electors are selected.

    The other option, is to render the Electoral College obsolete, by having states determine their electors by who wins the popular vote. The National Popular Vote Compact has been approved by states with about 1/4 of the electoral votes. If it gets to at least half, then the election will be determined by who wins the popular vote.

    Comment by Pat — November 15, 2012 @ 7:11 pm - November 15, 2012

  12. A greater concern of mine is the number of members in the House of Representatives, fixed at 435. As our population increases, each American has less representation and as districts become more urbanized, Democrats tend to fare better.

    Comment by Ignatius — November 15, 2012 @ 7:30 pm - November 15, 2012

  13. We need the Electoral College, but the states need to stop the early voting.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — November 15, 2012 @ 7:42 pm - November 15, 2012

  14. “This post implies that rural vote should count more than the city vote.”

    Well, right now the rural vote doesn’t count for anything at all and hasn’t for many years. The large cities continually pick our president….how fair is that? And if you live on a coastal state, particularly in the northeast and west coasts, traditionally heavily democratic with a very large number of EC votes, and they pick our president….how fair is that to the rest of us who don’t live in those areas? Or even for those who do live in those areas, but know their vote essentially doesn’t count because of where they live?

    Look at the map of this last election that shows election results by county for the whole country and you will notice that much of that map is red, except for the big cities and places like CA, NY, etc…yet we get stuck with a president much of the country did not want. If we are going to keep the EC, changes must be made so that election results are reflective of the whole country rather than the president that the big cities wanted.

    Comment by wendy — November 15, 2012 @ 7:43 pm - November 15, 2012

  15. I believe one refinement should be made on the way most states allocate electoral votes. If all of the states adopted the same mechanism that Maine, Nebraska, and New Hampshire use, I would be fine with it. The problem I have is “winner take all” electoral votes. This allows the primary metro in most states to control ALL of the electoral votes in the state beyond their proportion of population. I suggest the following:

    1. Winner of the overall popular vote in the state gets 2 electoral votes.

    2. Winner of each House district in the state gets 1 electoral vote.

    This does two things:

    1. It makes it nearly impossible to win the electoral votes yet lose the popular vote of the nation.

    2. It limits the impact of the urban areas and prevents the disenfranchising of other people in the state and allows the wishes of those other people to be felt.

    So instead of the city of Chicago being able to effectively control the 20 electoral votes for the entire state of Illinois, its impact would be limited to 2 + the number of House districts in the Chicago area. The winner of the state still gets an edge for the two electoral votes that represent the state’s Senators, but the votes that represent the House members would have to be won district by district. Massive GOTV efforts in one metro area would not be enough to carry a state’s entire load of electoral votes. Pennsylvania ALMOST went to this system for 2012 but for some reason changed their mind.

    This also allows third party candidates to collect electoral votes. Campaigns would be forces to address the issues raised by those candidates and could no longer ignore them. Also, it would mean campaigning to EVERYONE and not just to rural areas for Republicans and urban area for Democrats. It would select candidates that got the greatest share of the overall national demographic.

    Drawback is that redistricting now has a larger impact on Presidential election but overall, I believe the benefits outweigh the drawback.

    Comment by crosspatch — November 15, 2012 @ 8:59 pm - November 15, 2012

  16. “Look at the map of this last election that shows election results by county for the whole country and you will notice that much of that map is red, except for the big cities and places like CA, NY, etc…yet we get stuck with a president much of the country did not want. If we are going to keep the EC, changes must be made so that election results are reflective of the whole country rather than the president that the big cities wanted.

    Comment by wendy — November 15, 2012 @ 7:43 pm – November 15, 2012”

    How can you say we got stuck with a president much of the country did not want when over half of the people who voted wanted him? It doesn’t matter how many counties went for the president because, lucky for Obama, the elections are not decided by square footage.

    The article clearly states that there is an inherent advantage to winning states with low populations because they carry more weight (the Wyoming example) Of the seven states with three electoral votes, Romney carried five of them. The mathematical advantage provided by this glitch in the system is marginal, and obviously would not have changed the outcome for Romney. However in 2000 the same five states went for Bush, and could possibly be identified as a tipping point for Bush, who only won 271 to 266. Reading between the lines in this article leads me to believe that rural areas actually do have an advantage.

    Wendy’s argument seems to be that the the people who vote in cities shouldn’t carry the same weight as in rural areas. There use to be a similar system called the 3/5 rule. Luckily we evolved as a nation and now everyone’s vote counts just as much as the next person, rural or city.

    I’m not convinced that the EC should go but it would be interesting to know how the popular vote would work out if candidates had to appeal to voters across the country. My guess is that some voters in the lock states don’t bother to vote (why vote for BHO if you live in TX or Romney if you live in CA?).

    Comment by SoCalRobert — November 15, 2012 @ 6:29 pm – November 15, 2012

    This is exactly right. I live in a red state and don’t bother to vote. However, I recently realized that I should because my property taxes keep going up. Old governor Brownback keeps cutting the state education fund, so my municipality keeps increasing property tax because we enjoy educating our children. I’m sure its the same for Republicans in Massachusetts. The direct popular vote for the president, in which everyone’s vote counts the same, is the best solution to the electoral college.

    Comment by Aaron — November 16, 2012 @ 6:47 am - November 16, 2012

  17. To use Ohio as an example… Our fate is determined by the 3 Cs (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus). With the odd exception of Muskingum County, most all the state was red except for those three enclaves.

    By going to straight majority, it shifts the vote to the coasts. The ‘swing states’ at least are all ’round the country.

    Comment by The_Livewire — November 16, 2012 @ 8:06 am - November 16, 2012

  18. The whole structure of the Constitution is laid out to give a balance of power between the small population states and the cities. That is why every state has two Senators without regard to the geographic or population size of the state.

    The Electoral College system mimics this in the event of an election being pushed into the House of Representatives. In that rare instance, the Representatives are divided by states and each “state” casts just one vote. It takes 26 votes (a majority) to name the President. This mechanism also makes the two-party system more likely, as there is no likelihood that the method could actually work out any sort of coalition understanding to throw the election to a third party.

    Under the Electoral College plan, in the event of a House vote, North Dakota has as much voting power as California and that was the intent of the founders. (Yes, dear reader, I know that neither N. Dak. nor Calif. existed or even known to the founders.)

    What is logical in having big blobs of people in cities decide the course of the nation over vast stretches of geography and sparse population? That only makes sense if the big blobs of people are the basic providers of the vast territories of sparse population. For instance, it makes sense for the people along the Nile to control what is going on across the Sahara. But that is not the United States of the vast and fruited plains.

    In Communist Europe, they moved people from the villages to high rises in the city where they were easier to manage. Amassing people in projects is smart in terms of heating, central kitchens, locking them in at night, keeping track of them and shutting them down if they go a little postal. That is, if you have a communist government.

    We tried that in Chicago in a vast project named Cabrini Green which housed about 15,000 people. The gangs took the place over and it became a no man’s land where bullets flew and cops were pinned down by the resident warlords. Real Communists would have put up with that for exactly one Fidel Castro or Chairman Mao second.

    So, when Communist Europe fell, so also did many of their clarinet reeds and Scotch Tape commie-platz junk housing units collapse. The “free” people were sent packing with no money to find housing which was much easier to find and rebuild in the communist population drained countryside. It is not strange that people actually prefer to live outside the compound.

    I live in NYC for about five months of the year and the rest of the year I live just outside of very “sophisticated” town near the joining point of the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. In New York City, I marvel at the beauty of the Hudson as I make my way down 9A skirting the traffic of the city just a few blocks East and then I hurl myself into the fray. On the trip home, I enjoy the vast expanse of the Hudson again as I do battle with New York and New Jersey drivers who are all bent on killing something or everything. In Virginia, one road leads to the traffic and the urban falderal while the other 9/10th of the compass leads to small towns and open country.

    I fully understand and appreciate the costs and socialist mechanisms necessary to make a big lumbering city operate and keep itself glued together. But the people of those cites have no more concept of the small business person serving rural neighbors than they have of how to get home in a forty story apartment when the elevator is down.

    This talk of the city surviving without the country is typical socialist/communist Robert Moses type central planning and useful idiot Utopian boiler plate. Why don’t you city dwellers ever go to Cleveland or Detroit of Gary or St. Louis or some other decaying and stench ridden metropolis and blow life back into the place?

    Just maybe it would be interesting to have the blue areas of the US and red areas of the US separate and become separate countries. We in the red country would have to import the unique output of the blue country and vice versa. I am trying to think what I would need from New York City.

    Comment by heliotrope — November 16, 2012 @ 10:15 am - November 16, 2012

  19. Sadly, I find the vast majority of people don’t understand that we have no Federal elections.

    Comment by BigJ — November 16, 2012 @ 10:51 am - November 16, 2012

  20. Would be nice if more states did what Maine and Nebraska do – let the districts determine their outcome, not the whole state. Heck, you’d see some red from CA

    Comment by Leah — November 16, 2012 @ 11:32 am - November 16, 2012

  21. Under the Electoral College we get the big (lots of EC votes) state vs the little state conundrum, too. Presently, those big states are largely in the pocket of one or the other party, but it wasn’t always so–either the lock up or the party with the lock–and it won’t be so again in the future. So what we have and will continue to have is the campaigns occurring only in those few states that are up for grabs and that subset of them that will aggregate to the remainder this or that candidate needs to get enough EC votes.

    One Electoral College vote per Congressional district? This isn’t materially different from a popular vote determination of the President/VP. Especially if we’re going to be Absolutist about the Constitutionally mandated size of a Representative’s district: a maximum of 30,000….

    Thus, it boils down to whether we want the people to elect the President directly or the several States to elect the President in our names. I would not oppose a Constitutional amendment doing away with the Electoral College. I have no fear of the people’s decisions.

    Eric Hines

    Comment by E Hines — November 16, 2012 @ 3:12 pm - November 16, 2012

  22. Eric Hines,

    Would you also favor a population proportioned Senate where California has a multitude of Senators and Alaska has one?

    In that event, Los Angeles would have several Senators and one would certainly be black and several would certainly be Hispanic and to the East of Los Angeles there might be an enormous sparsely populated geographic area with a Senator and in the central valley there might be a Senator for lots of small towns and farms and then greater San Francisco would come in with a bunch of Senators and there might well be one for gays, one for lesbians and one for breast cancer.

    A popularly elected President does not come from a “Federal Election.” There is no such election. There are 50 state elections and a D.C. election for electors who vote in December on behalf of the people who elected them. The number of electors a state has is equal to it Representatives (which is decided by a population of the state formula and is about 1 to 700,000 people) and the two Senate seats. Each state and D.C. has at least three electors by this formula.

    Now, go to the map that shows the county by county area of the country where the Republican got the majority of the votes. Those areas are red. Now look at where the Democrat got the majority of the votes. Those areas are blue.

    Now consider that concentrating on those blue areas is the heart and the key to the election. The red areas are just extra. You are not looking at states at all. You are focusing on population density. It does no matter in way what the states are like, it is all about what the packed urban areas are about.

    To go with a strictly popular election is a Democrat’s wet dream. All you need do is pile the pork into those areas and shower down Obamaphones like parade confetti and little old Stinktown down the road can just rot.

    Every state has its own version of city folks resenting the cost of services for the spread out country folk and the country folk resenting how all their taxes go to bazillion dollar interchanges for the city folk who insist on creating traffic jams and then sitting in them.

    So, would you favor giving the high density population area more senators as well and completing this circle?

    Comment by heliotrope — November 17, 2012 @ 10:35 am - November 17, 2012

  23. 15. I like your idea, crosspatch. I realize that breaking up a state’s votes might cause some confusion, but the winner-take-all situation heavily favors the candidate who’s ahead at that moment. I’d like to see more of “percentage voting” so it more accurately reflects the voters’ preference.

    Comment by Dottie Laird — November 17, 2012 @ 1:45 pm - November 17, 2012

  24. Would you also favor a population proportioned Senate where California has a multitude of Senators and Alaska has one?

    Not at all. The several States need, under our social compact, representation in a federal (small f) government, too. The 17th Amendment didn’t change this capacity in any material way, since each Senator’s “district” is the whole State. All that Amendment did was to make the Senators more directly responsible to the citizens of the State, rather than indirectly so via the citizens’ elected legislature.

    A popularly elected President does not come from a “Federal Election.”

    No, but it is the stuff of a federal (small f, again) election, which was part of the point of the Electoral College, as well as the State representation wrought by the Senate election mechanism.

    In any event, I have no fear of black, or Hispanic, or gay Senators, who are fully capable of getting elected in the present system (eliding the question of bigotry), nor do I have a problem with single-issue politicians. That last group will have no longevity, and while they’re serving their terms, they’ll be useful tools for the more serious Senators, thus not materially altering the nature of the…discussions…in the Senate.

    Eric Hines

    Comment by E Hines — November 17, 2012 @ 2:10 pm - November 17, 2012

  25. So, how do you propose to popularly elect the President? Would you have a separate election in which only the candidates run and how would you handle six candidates on the ballot? Would require them to get on one national ballot or 50 state ballots?

    How do you propose to choose the winner from among six candidates? Would he be the person who got at least one more vote than all of the rest?

    Comment by heliotrope — November 17, 2012 @ 4:36 pm - November 17, 2012

  26. Six candidates is a bit of a stretch. However, the method needn’t be too different from what it is now, only substituting plurality for tie. If no candidate gets a majority of the popular votes cast, take the top three vote getters–the Presidential candidates go to the newly elected House of Representatives, who will choose the President, and the top three VP candidates go to the Senate for election of a VP. Whether the method of the delegations voting should be as individuals or by State remains to be settled.

    I suppose if we’re doing this to popularly elect the President (and VP), then I lean slightly toward the delegations voting as individuals. Yes, this will give the larger states an advantage, but they have that already in the EC.

    Eric Hines

    Comment by E Hines — November 17, 2012 @ 6:16 pm - November 17, 2012

  27. Eric Hines,

    The Electoral College system makes achieving the Presidency very difficult for a third party candidate.

    Apparently, you dream of some sort of popular election of the President with the election being thrown into the House of Representatives if one candidate does not have one more than half of the votes cast or more than some esoteric “plurality” of votes threshold.

    You think six candidates would be a stretch. Why? A farm candidate, a Mexican-American border culture candidate, a Union candidate, a communist candidate, a Christian right candidate, an AARP candidate, a Green candidate, a libertarian candidate, a population density candidate, and a healer and uniter candidate would all have their constituencies and what in your view would stop them from dividing the vote into sixths or eighths?

    Do you prefer coalition government of House of Representatives chosen Presidents over our current system?

    Comment by heliotrope — November 18, 2012 @ 3:00 pm - November 18, 2012

  28. While watching the very entertaining Antonin Scalia on a few YouTube videos, he mentioned the huge decrease in power for the States when Senators were no longer elected by legislature. For most Americans by far, States are merely administrative districts of the Federal government. The psychological and emotional (and governmental) power of States now lost, their central role now seems archaic in face of our egalitarian trance about “democracy”…which the Founding Fathers thought was nothing but mob rule by ballot. Nov 6 2012 QED.

    Comment by EssEm — November 18, 2012 @ 3:16 pm - November 18, 2012

  29. Superb post. Yes, a copy of the Federalist Papers in every Christmas stocking this year.

    Comment by Jeremayakovka — November 19, 2012 @ 11:52 am - November 19, 2012

  30. Yes, a copy of the Federalist Papers in every Christmas stocking this year.

    Cheap, too:

    Eric Hines

    Comment by E Hines — November 19, 2012 @ 3:39 pm - November 19, 2012

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