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Proposal to Update the Electoral College 922

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the now-just-work-on-their-counting-skills dept.
A Stanford Professor has put down an idea (and also co-wrote a 620-page book for those who are that interested) on how to update the often criticized Electoral College system for presidential elections. Under the proposed system participating states would form a compact to throw all Electoral College votes behind the winner of the national popular vote regardless of which candidate won in any individual state. This proposed system would also make it much easier to bring the system up to date since it would not require a constitutional amendment to change or disband the Electoral College.
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Proposal to Update the Electoral College

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  • interesting theory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by preppypoof (943414) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:28PM (#15777703)
    this system could possibly yield better voter turnout...if someone who wanted to vote republican lives in a traditionally "blue" state, they might not have voted knowing their vote wouldn't matter. if everyone's vote counted the same in the entire country, however, that person would be more likely to go to the polls.
    • this system could possibly yield better voter turnout...if someone who wanted to vote republican lives in a traditionally "blue" state, they might not have voted knowing their vote wouldn't matter. if everyone's vote counted the same in the entire country, however, that person would be more likely to go to the polls.

      What about those of us living in 'blue' states, who want to vote 'green'? Our votes already don't matter. Something drastic needs to happen before any of these current shenanighans are going
      • by mrxak (727974) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:39PM (#15777810)
        Personally, I think voting should be MANDATORY for all citizens, but I don't think that will happen either.
        So you want millions of uninformed uncaring citizens to start determining national policy? The solution is to education people so that they want to vote, not force people to vote on things they know nothing about.
        • by alienw (585907) <alienw...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:26PM (#15778320)
          What makes you think the voters that are already at the polls are educated or informed? There is a reason polls are conducted during working hours in the US. The politicians know that the vast majority of people voting are senior citizens. Let's see, we rely on people who are generally uninformed or misinformed, have little remaining intellectual capacity, and generally refuse to alter their beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence. That sounds just like our political system, doesn't it?
          • by crumley (12964) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:49PM (#15778556) Homepage Journal
            The politicians know that the vast majority of people voting are senior citizens.

            There aren't enough senior citizens for them to make up the vast majority of voters in the US. Sure, a larger percentage senior citizens vote than other age groups, but that doesn't make them the vast majority of voters.

            The polls in most states are open at least 12 hours, and if that still doesn't work for you could get an absentee ballot.

          • by kevlar (13509) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:27PM (#15778928)
            What makes you think the voters that are already at the polls are educated or informed?

            What the hell are you talking about? You're confusing the influencing force that drives people to vote with whether or not people are smart enough to make a "smart" vote.

            There is a reason polls are conducted during working hours in the US. The politicians know that the vast majority of people voting are senior citizens.

            The last time I voted for President, I voted at 7 or 8PM. You're right though, it is a conspiracy to keep the seniors and AARP in charge.


            Let's see, we rely on people who are generally uninformed or misinformed, have little remaining intellectual capacity, and generally refuse to alter their beliefs even in the face of overwhelming evidence. That sounds just like our political system, doesn't it?


            This is the silliest of all your statements right here. What you mean to say is that these people refuse to alter their beliefs in favor of your own. They are uninformed or misinformed according to your standards.

            Don't get me wrong here, there are plenty of stupid people in the world who subscribe to ridiculous beliefs. Our system right now limits us to two parties (generally) which I think is both good and bad. It is good because it does not allow a nut-case with a majority vote which represents a significant minority of the country get into office. It is bad because it does not provide enough diversity for political beliefs. On the other hand, the two party system does produce a significant middle ground of swing-voters who can go either way.

            I always raise an eyebrow when I see someone suggest that everyone be forced to vote. My first question to them is: Why? My second question to them is: How? Then I ask them to research Latin American countries that force their entire populace to vote and fine them if they do not. Take Peru for example. Peru recently elected Alan Garcia [wikipedia.org], a former Peruvian President whom during his first administration was caught in a huge bribery scandal and managed to drive the Peruvian Sol's inflation up 2.2M% (thats 2.2 MILLION PERCENT!!). This threw the country into serious turmoil which terrorist organizations fed upon. It wasn't until Fujimori that the country stabilized, only to get thrown to the shitter again after Fujimori decided to bribe the entire Treasury dept and leave for Japan (a country that does not extradite citizens) with the entire national budget of Peru, bankrupting the country. Ironically though, Fujimori's bankrupting of the country had less of an effect on the country than Garcia's hyperinflation.

            So how exactly do the Peruvian citizens elect such corrupt individuals? The answer, IMHO is that they are generally uneducated and are fined if they do not vote. So they vote for the person who has the most popular last name and promises to get him and all his buddies jobs in his government. The fine for not voting something like $50/election which is an enormous amount of money for a poor person in Peru. They have no choice but to make an uneducated decision.

        • by tonyr1988 (962108) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:29PM (#15778360)
          Actually, proposals for mandatory voting aren't as crazy as they sound. All of the quasi-sane ones also put a "blank vote" on the ballot. That way, you can say "I don't support either candidate (or have any idea what's going on), but I want my vote to count".

          Mandatory voting would eliminate any barriers to inequality as well. In the 2004 Presidential election, many people criticized Republicans (especially in Ohio) of not having enough polling stations in black communities. As a result, the lines were extremely long, and many black individuals eventually gave up after literally HOURS of waiting in line. Mandatory voting would bring these issues more to light. Since you're forcing people to vote, you inherently eliminate all barriers.

          This also includes socioeconomic factors. Many people, especially those with multiple jobs, literally don't have the time to vote. Lots of those people don't know about absentee ballots, and/or don't know how to get them.

          Finally, we wouldn't be the first. After World War I, they lost over 60,000 citizens. They felt that the freedoms their soldiers fought for shouldn't be thrown away. As a result, they implemented mandatory voting, and it's worked well for them so far, not to mention the voter turnout increase from 59% to over 95%.

          Even if you can't vote for some reason, they send you a postcard in the mail after the election. If you give them a legitimate excuse, they don't fine you.

          Now tell me - what's so insane about that?
          • by Akaihiryuu (786040) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:44PM (#15778506)
            Another idea is to make election day a national holiday, like it is in *every* country except the US. Close everything down, except the polls. A lot of us have to actually *work* for a living, and we can't afford to lose an entire day's pay to sit in line at the polls...but our jobs do give us paid holidays. If they'll shut everything down for the commercial BS of Christmas, they can certainly shut everything down for election day.
            • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:48PM (#15778550) Homepage Journal
              Another idea is to make election day a national holiday, like it is in *every* country except the US.

              You do know that your employer is required by law to give you time off to vote, don't you?

              No?

              *sigh*
              • by vertinox (846076)
                You do know that your employer is required by law to give you time off to vote, don't you?

                That is nice to know, but I think we should celebrate elections much we do other holidays. Voting should be a celebration, but not a hassle or a burden where we have to stand up and ask our employers time off when we know it will be 6 hours in line at the polls.
                • That is nice to know, but I think we should celebrate elections much we do other holidays. Voting should be a celebration, but not a hassle or a burden where we have to stand up and ask our employers time off when we know it will be 6 hours in line at the polls.

                  It's not our fault your state hasn't taken Oregon's lead in abolishing the voting booth altogether. You get six weeks to vote, and you can vote anywhere you choose as long as you get your ballot back to county elections by 7PM on the last day of t

              • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @05:23PM (#15779505) Homepage Journal
                You do know that your employer is required by law to give you time off to vote, don't you?

                Not true in all cases - though it looks like roughly 3/5ths of the states do *something* about it:

                http://www.timetovote.net/voter_leave_laws.html [timetovote.net]

            • by dajak (662256) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @05:28PM (#15779561)
              Another idea is to make election day a national holiday, like it is in *every* country except the US.

              No, it isn't. Here in the Netherlands we always vote on a wednesday, except when election day coincides with a religious day, in which case we vote on the tuesday before it. Nothing is closed, everybody goes to work, voting is not mandatory, and we still have a voter turnout of 80% for parliament. We obviously have no presidential election in a monarchy.

              The most important difference is obviously that we use a proportional voting system, and your vote counts for your candidate regardless of where you live.

              A lot of us have to actually *work* for a living, and we can't afford to lose an entire day's pay to sit in line at the polls

              We hardly ever have lines at polling stations though, and nearly everyone, except for the most remote farms, votes at a station in walking distance from his house. It is just a matter of having very small polling districts, which is basically a function of the number of election committee volunteers available per capita.

              I always thought it funny that Americans think people standing in line for bread or soap is a sign of a failed political system, while they think nothing of standing in long lines to exercise their democratic rights. The message it communicates is that democracy in the US is apparently an artificially scarce good.
        • by penguinstorm (575341) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:47PM (#15778540) Homepage
          > So you want millions of uninformed uncaring citizens to start determining national policy?

          They already do.

          This will do nothing to encourage voter turnout though. Voter apathy is a much more complex issue.

          Historically, one of the most effective ways to increase voter turnout is to force people to live under dictatorial rule for an extended period of time.

          Me? I keep voting in order to AVOID that. Usually it works.
        • by timeOday (582209)

          So you want millions of uninformed uncaring citizens to start determining national policy? The solution is to education people so that they want to vote, not force people to vote on things they know nothing about.

          I have personal opinions and think I'm pretty well informed, but my attendance record at the polls is spotty. Why? Because one vote doesn't matter. There is absolutely 0% chance that my single vote will sway the Presidential election, because they can't even count within that margin of error,

        • by nathanh (1214) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:26PM (#15778916) Homepage
          So you want millions of uninformed uncaring citizens to start determining national policy?

          The problem with voluntary voting systems - such as in the USA - is that the voluntary voters aren't necessarily informed. However the voluntary voters are almost certainly opinionated.

          The end result is the vote is decided by minority groups with political agendas. Mandatory voting forces the politicians to appeal to the largest demographics, rather than the noisiest minorities.

      • by bhima (46039)
        If I could vote for "none of the above" and if enough people did it it would them find another contender... then I'd be truly interested.

        But these days I can't decide between one vile reprehensible scum bag and another. Nearly daily I stand in awe seeing how these people are fucking up an otherise perfectly fine contry. I am beginning to think we'd be better off deciding law and foreign policy with one of those ping pong ball lottery machines.

        Also I don't actually live in the US any more and given the sta
    • by parasonic (699907) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:17PM (#15778227)
      this system could possibly yield better voter turnout...if someone who wanted to vote republican lives in a traditionally "blue" state, they might not have voted knowing their vote wouldn't matter. if everyone's vote counted the same in the entire country, however, that person would be more likely to go to the polls.

      Or, rather, it could do the opposite. A voter could be in a state with a small population where his vote would count more. Perhaps he would be in a state that is nearly split down the middle, and his vote may matter more with the electoral college than with the gross sum voting system. The electoral college is there to give each region (state) as much power as the next region in the federation, creating a balance of power in the federal level.
      • Or, since your vote will never be the deciding factor in any national or state election, it won't make a difference at all.
    • Re:Two words (Score:3, Informative)

      by vertinox (846076)
      Proportional Representation [wikipedia.org]

      Isreal is one of the few nations that practice this and it tends to help with new political parties come in and not stagnate with with a two party system.
  • Sorry. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:29PM (#15777709) Homepage Journal
    This is a fantastic idea which seems to have the ability to cut down on red tape and electoral disputes while more aaccurately projecting the wishes of the population onto the American government. And that's precisely why it'll never get anywhere close to implementation by the very people kept rich and powerful by the current system.

    Still, Professor Koza might as well get something for his troubles. Someone slice up a banana for him, and put his favorite video on.
    • Still, Professor Koza might as well get something for his troubles.

      Prison? Advocating any change in government is obviously a "terroristic threat".
      • Still, Professor Koza might as well get something for his troubles.

        Prison? Advocating any change in government is obviously a "terroristic threat".

        He might get "Plamed".

        Especially since his last name sorta-kinda looks muslim-ish.

    • Re:Sorry. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RexRhino (769423)
      The U.S. government was not supposed to "project the wishes of the American people". The U.S. government was supposed to keep agressive people from "projecting their wishes" on other unwilling innocent people. The U.S. government was supposed to be peacemaker and guardian of individual liberty, not dictator and grand potentiate.

      The U.S. government was designed to be limited. It has fallen far short of that ideal and has become quite authoritarian... but making it even more top-down centralized is not going
  • by DeathPooky (559729)
    This would effectively give a small number of states control over the electoral system. Looks like your candidate won't be winning the popular vote? Have states that might otherwise support him drop out of the system, either causing the system to collapse or become ineffective. A few states dropping out would then cause a chain reaction of other states dropping out to counteract the problem.

    The electoral college is in many ways a bad idea in modern times, but a constitutional amendment is the best way to
    • by mrxak (727974)
      States like MA that have consistantly voted Democrat since, forever, would probably not join anything like this. Other states that always vote Republican would probably do the same. The only states where their people would feel they have something to gain would be those that are consistantly "too close to call". Otherwise, it's betting too much state power on something that could only have a downside.

      I agree, the only way to fix the electoral college is a constitutional amendment.
      • >The only states where their people would feel they have something to gain would be those that are consistantly "too close to call".

        Interestingly enough, under our current system those states get boat loads of attention... any by attention I mean money... in an effort to lock in votes.

        In summary, no one likes this idea.
  • Semantics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by christopherfinke (608750) <chris@efinke.com> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:32PM (#15777736) Homepage Journal
    So basically, their plan to update the Electoral College is to give the presidency to the winner of the popular vote? Isn't that more of a removal than an update, since that would make the College useless?
    • Re:Semantics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:30PM (#15778372) Journal
      It's not just semantics. It's counter to the very idea of States' rights. While the EC was meant to approximate the elective power of each state according to their population, it reserves the right of each state to allot their votes as they choose. Most states have a winner-take-all system, but at least one state splits its EC votes according to the popular vote in that state.

      The author of this idea should focus on convincing states to implement a better system for assigning the votes of their electoral college reps. Taking the power of this choice from the states is just one more way that we're seeing a homogenization of states that, IMO, benefits only the majority.
  • I love how fruity the left land of silliness is! How about this for the importance of the Electoral college? Make the State Senates vote for the US Senators; that would put a bee in their bonnet!
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  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by acvh (120205) <geek AT mscigars DOT com> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:35PM (#15777765) Homepage
    The whole point of the "United States" is that we are a federation of 50 states. That means that we have intentionally crafted a system in which each state gets a certain minimum representation, both in Congress and in selecting a president. Proposals such as this would change the rules under which smaller states joined the union; their voices would cease to be heard.

    If this is really the way we want to go, then we should eliminate state government, replace it with regional governors to attend to regional issues, and stop pretending that states matter.

    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by UserGoogol (623581) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:25PM (#15778904)
      Except the states are not being represented in the CURRENT SYSTEM. In the current system, states don't elect presidents, people do. Gradually over history, state governments decided that they didn't really want to elect the presidents, and instead decided to pass the buck to the populations of their states. If you want the states to be represented, then you should support a movement to eradicate popular elections entirely and have the state legislatures decide directly what electors they want to send to the college.

      As it currently stands, the people are electing the president, but we are treating them as if the states are the ones doing it. The power has already been voluntarily transfered from the states to the people, but the voting system does not acknowledge this in any way.

      Federalism is a good idea. It is a good idea to have certain aspects of governance be adminstered by local subgovernments. But that is all states are: local subgovernments. And as it currently stands, the local subgovernments have no direct impact on which president is elected. But the system treats elections as if they did. Thus the problem.
  • This = PR (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FhnuZoag (875558) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:36PM (#15777773)
    Really, all this represents is a way to getting in Proportional Representation via the back door, with all the advantages and disadvantages that PR provides - and in a way that can bypass any wingeing states/parties who might complain about reductions to their political importance.

    Not to say that this is a bad idea, but just to note that it's only the method here that is new, not the end result.
  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:36PM (#15777780)
    That's the worst idea ever. The president was NEVER supposed to be elected by popular vote. The Framers hated that idea to the core. It's a bit of a "states rights" thing but it's up to the states individually to determine how they will cast their votes. There's nothing in the Constitution itself that says people are suppose to vote for senators or presidents. To the Framers, that choice was supposed to be made by the officially elected state government. That way somebody smart, and already elected once was making the choice for who the next higher up officeholder would be. On the surface it seems anti-democratic, but in reality, many of our Federal govt problems are directly related to Federal elections and officers being separate and disconnected from the lower branches of government. Think of how fast all the issues with Bush would be resolved if he and the senate had to answer not just to the idea of "voters" but to specific branches of state government.. Where would we be if our state legislatures or governors could call our Federal Senators on the carpet and demand their votes the way the States demand it to be because they appointed them, not the voter sheep. We'd see a much higher quality of govt if the feds were responsible to somebody local not "everybody" in a nebulous get elected next term way.
    • I would disagree with you. First and foremost, the framers set up the constitution to be ammended with the times because they knew that they couldn't think of everything. What the Framers envisioned 220 years ago is not necessarily applicable today. They never could think of the internet or TV. The population as a whole is now not as nebulous as you describe due in large part to the forums like the one we are using now to discuss the issues across the nation. The internet links us together and can be used t
    • I can't remember if the Constitution specifically required Senators to be selected by the state governments, but it took a constitutional amendment to force (permit?) direct election.

      Senators can still be temporarily replaced by the state government, with the next general election selecting the person to serve out the rest of the term. Representatives have to be replaced by special elections.

      This was an important point after 9/11. Had a loaded plane hit the Capitol while Congress was in session, you might
    • by The Fun Guy (21791) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:22PM (#15778283) Homepage Journal
      The president was NEVER supposed to be elected by popular vote. The Framers hated that idea to the core.

      The framers of the constitution, for all that they believed in democracy, didn't really trust it to the extent that we do today, since no one really had any experience with running an entire country on democratic principles. The biggest lesson they took away from the ancient Greek polis and the Roman republic was how susceptible it was to being taken over by a charismatic leader and turned back into a monarchy.

      The Electoral College was a mechanism put in place to prevent the rise of populist demagogues, on the assumption that the elected officials at the state levels would be less likely to be swept up in mob psychology furor to throw over the democratic structures in order to put a hero on the throne.
    • I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pavon (30274) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @05:26PM (#15779539)
      Note - I am replying to a whole bunch of posts in general in this one not just yours - I don't want you to get the impression that I am putting words in your mouth.

      Many of the original intentions of the founders no longer apply to the extent that they once did.

      Yes, the founders originally intended to create a system that balanced direct democracy and rule by the Gentry class. Back then, the only people with any education to speak of were the wealthy. The only ones with opportunities to apprentice into government were the wealthy. Therefore they were the only ones fit to govern. That is no longer the case - we have universal (if mediocre) primary education, and anyone who shows merit and initiative can get an excellent university education, regardless of their class. While most politicians continue to come from political families, many others have risen from low beginnings, and have served the country well. The balances meant to keep the gentry in power are no longer necessary or beneficial.

      Yes, the founders intended for the states to have more influence on the selection of national leaders, but they also intended for the scope of the national government to only deal with large inter-state issues that the individual states could not. Things like interstate and international trade, treaties, and national defense. The federal government has greatly exceeded those original aims, and now passes laws, collects taxes, and runs social programs that directly affects the individuals in our country, rather than indirectly though the states. Therefore, the citizens should have direct representation in the federal government, rather than indirectly through the states.

      Yes, the founders originally created a system where representation was dolled out according geo-political boundaries, both in national government, within the individual states. But at the time, opinions and interests were very much clustered geographically. The difficulty of travel, the tightly knit communities, and the fact that the economies of each location was determined largely by it's natural resources, led to this. Again, this is something that no longer applies to the extent that it did when our country was founded. Now opinions on national issues vary as much between members of a community as they do between communities, and only the most popular opinions from each location get any representation in congress. Geographic representation used to promote a wide spectrum of views in congress, now it marginalizes them.

      I agree that it is still useful for the states to have some degree of representation. My opinion is that for presidential elections the states should each have two votes corresponding to the two Senators, while the votes corresponding to Representatives should be determined by the popular vote. This would keep the current feature of smaller states having more influence than they otherwise would, while getting rid of the winner-takes-all garbage that turns elections into a political game and joke, rather than an accurate reflection of the will of the people.

      I would even go so far to entertain the idea of electing the lower house itself according to some system of proportional representation, rather than districting. Why does my small arbitrarily (or gerrymandered) district need its own representative in Congress of United States of America? Really, now - are the views of its 0.25% of the population that much more different from the rest of the state to merit its own representation in the federal government? And yet a political party which holds over 10% of the registered votes - that represents views held by at least 10% of the population - by cannot get a single seat out of the 435 in the House.

      Enacting proportional representation in the House, while maintaining state election(of populus or legislature) in the Senate, would preserve a balance between state (locally clustered) interests, and popular (distributed) interests. It would also break up the current two party syst
  • by malchus842 (741252) <stephen@adamsemail.net> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:38PM (#15777795) Homepage

    The electors, who are actually elected federal office holders, albeit with a very short term and only one permitted act, cannot be bound by any state or federal law to vote one way or another. It's not possible to prevent 'rogue' electors from voting for anyone they wish, anymore than it's possible for a state legislature to force the state's senators and representatives to vote a particular way on a bill.

    Right now, electors represent the party of the candidate they pledge (i.e. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc). You would have to change this to non-partisan electors who agreed to vote with the national popular vote. And even then, you could not guarantee that the electors would do that, since they can't be forced to vote one way or another

    The only way you will ever change this is to ammend the Constitution. And it's not clear that it should be changed. The Electoral College reduces the weight of large states and increases the weight of the small states, which makes it less likely a candidate will try to run up huge numbers in CA, NY, FL, TX, OH, VA and other large states so he/she can ignore the smaller states. Right now, you gain nothing from winning NY with say 70% of the vote vs 50%+1. That helps keep a few large states from dominating the process - the leveling effect limits their impact.

    Of course, I know a lot of people don't agree with me. But that's no surprise, they mostly object to my calls to repeal (among others) the 17th Amendment and restore a true federal system.

  • by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:39PM (#15777797) Homepage Journal
    I'd be curious to see how enforceable the contract turns out to be. I can imagine a state changing its mind midway through the voting, or secretly changing its vote, or something. If the other states sue to enforce the contract, would it prove valid?

    It does make recounts rather a mess. One advantage to the electoral college system is that as messy as the Florida recount was, at least it was in only one state. The election of 2000 was very close even in popular terms, and without the electoral college every single state would have ended up having a recount, because every single vote would matter. But gosh, other countries manage to work it out.

    The states that have already talked about signing on are big states: California, New York, Colorado, Illinois and Missouri. States who are under-represented in the electoral college. The little states, who currently benefit from having their individual votes be worth nearly 3 times as much as a voter from California or New York, will pitch a major hissy fit.

    I haven't run the numbers, but I suspect that such a scheme will tend to favor Democrats over Republicans, at least with the current distributions. Those small states tend to be red states. Certainly the one recent example where one can point to a candidate getting an advantage from the electoral college favored a Republican over a Democrat, so any attempt to swing it towards a proportional vote will be greeted in red states as an attempt to make it more blue.
    • Keep in mind that a "state compact" really is a treaty, but between American states instead of between countries. Actually, a state compact can also include a foriegn government as well.

      The one thing that keeps them under control and from getting out of hand is that all state compacts must not only be approved by all state legislatures involved, but also by the U.S. Congress.... keeping the U.S. Consitutional issues in hand.

      These compacts are usually done for rather mundane tasks like highway construction projects that cross state lines, school districts that take in kids from just across the state line, or other issues that would involve multiple states. Some good compacts I've seen allowed "in-state" tuition at a group of universities in a specific region. Minnesota in particular established seperate compacts to do just that with all of the neighboring states.

      Even more bizzare was a compact between Minnesota and Mantoba, where an airport on the U.S./Canadian border was more cheaply extended across the international border by 1000 feet. It wasn't a huge airport, but the need was there to build the extra length of runway and make a joint state/province authority over the expanded airport. The state and provincial governments ran the airport, but it also needed federal authority from both national governments in order to get this to work.

      Once states enter into a compact like this, it becomes enforceable almost like the U.S. Consitution, and states simply can't back out of it shy of fully repealing the compact by agreement with all of the people participating in that compact. Indeed, something like this ultimately has even more authority in fact than the U.S. Constitution as trying to get the whole thing renegotiated all over again after the compact is in legal force would be something next to impossible to accomplish. All told, I think a constitutional ammendment would be easier to negotiate because of this problem. SCOTUS doesn't let states get away with the same garbage that would be routine for the World Court.
  • by GospelHead821 (466923) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:40PM (#15777813)
    I don't think we need to do away with the electoral college altogether. Allowing each state to have a minimum possible voice is valuable. New York and California already have a lot of electoral votes, but not entirely in proportion to their populations. The problems with the electoral college could be mitigated if only the votes from the college were more granular. As it is, in most states, the candidate that wins the popular vote in that state earns all of the electoral votes from that state. That means that 49% of a state's votes might "not count" in the final decision. As a citizen of Ohio, this problem was really driven home in the last presidential election. The two principle candidates were nearly equal in terms of popular vote, but the state's entire contribution was to George Bush. Let the two "senator" votes go to the popular majority, but let the "representative" votes be divided proportionally to the popular vote.
  • Doesn't work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:41PM (#15777827) Journal
    This doesn't work for two big reasons:
    1. It's a "boil the ocean" solution; it doesn't work at all until it is fully operational. Nothing ever works like that with 50 states. This is also related to the next reason:
    2. The benefits of cheating are too large once half or so of the electoral votes are in the agreement. The benefits of defecting, or threatening to defect, become large, because suddenly the votes become bargaining chips, useful to extract concessions from the other states. This makes it effectively impossible to get to all 50 agreeing anyhow; the more people in the agreement before it gets to 50, the larger the spoiler effect.
    This would make things even worse, because of the horrible bargaining and politicing that would ensue around the electoral votes. Indeed, this would come to swamp the entire procedure, and the game would become getting the states to commit electoral votes, instead of convincing the people to vote for you. Hopefully, it's obvious why this is bad.

    There's no idea so bad you can't extol its virtues for 600 pages.

    Finally, to use the previous election for concrete names, do you really thing California is going to stand for seeing its electoral votes go to Bush? Or Texas for Gore? Unlikely.
  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:45PM (#15777865) Homepage Journal
    One thing this proposal totally misses is the fact that the U.S. Constitution specifically set up the opportunity to disproportionally represent voters in smaller states over those in larger states, so that a Presidential candidate would have to appeal to voters of those smaller states like Wyoming, Hawaii, and Delaware in addition to major voting hubs like New York, Texas, Florida, and California.

    There is no way a state compact could ever be made that would ignore this issue.

    Of the various electorial vote distribution systems that have been proposed, I like Colorado's idea (that was voted down) as the best of the bunch, although the Nebraska & Maine system of having each congressional district determine their own "vote" does seem at least as an alternative. The current "winner takes all" approach that most of the other states use is really the source of some of the current problems.

    Colorado actually proposed proportional electorial votes based on percentages of votes cast. That would mean states doing this would still get attention even if there was a huge percentage of voters in that state voting for one candidate, but one candidate could still just collect a few thousand more votes in order to get one more electorial vote from that state. Interestingly enough, Al Gore would have won in 2000 had this system been used in most states, and it is the democrats who don't want it changed.

    It should be noted that the Bush campaign comittee specifically targeted the smaller states for electorial votes and it was a part of their strategy to win these "neglected by the Democrats" parts of the USA in order to win the presidential election. This strategy was specifically encouraged by design by the framers of the U.S. Constitution.
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:46PM (#15777876) Homepage Journal
    If we want to change the Constitution, the procedure exists, and affords suitable prohibition of bad ideas.

    Setting up an end-around will only weaken the sanctity of the document.

    Peering into the future, the subsequent election of CowboyNeal ought to be a sufficient caution for us all.
  • by theheff (894014) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:50PM (#15777919)
    This strategy of the state going for the popular vote is very interesting, and I guess in a way it would work, but it doesn't fix the problem of misrepresentation. In fact, it would undoubtedly make it worse. The state would represent itself poorly if the majority of its votes were for one candidate, but the national popular vote forced them to vote for the other candidate. That's not fixing the electoral college problem; if you're going to use this system why even use the electoral college? I realize it's a possible workaround, but senators/representatives would never let this agreement happen in their own states.

    What I think would be fair is a system that allows the electoral vote of an entire state be split. If a state counted as 7 votes, it would be allowed 3 to one candidate and 4 to another. This allows a much more proportional representation. There's absolutely no reason why votes should count more in Ohio/Florida than any other state. This method also allows independent candidates to actually have a chance. It's unfortunate that nothing like this will ever be passed in legislation today because of our stagnant political system full of selfish scum.
  • An interesting proposition, but I think efforts would be better spend on getting Congress to disband the electoral college and actually having a vote count as a vote.

    The Electoral College was useful in the pioneer days when information took much longer to get from place to place. Not everyone had the opportunity to be informed, so they voted towards a certain party and the state threw all of its electoral votes behind the winner of that popular vote.

    The modern day is much different. Information is instantaneous, and people are finding out every little nuance about politicians if they dig deep enough. While the modern citizen probably isn't well informed, they do have the ability now to be informed- they merely need to go to a library to use a comptuer for an hour, or read a few newspapers. This means that citizens can discern which candidate they want. Votes are tallied quickly with the use of punch cards and now electronic voting machines (faults aside). The public's vote should be the only thing that counts now.
  • by tonyr1988 (962108) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:34PM (#15778422)
    is through the Maine-Nebraska Method [wikipedia.org]. Instead of a winner-take-all system (if a candidate wins a majority of electoral votes in a state, he gets all the state's votes), it splits it based on districts.

    Remember: the number of electorates = # of Representatives + # of Senators

    The 2 electoral votes that go towards Senators would go state-wide (like we have now). The "Representative" votes would be split based on the popular votes of the individual congressional districts of the state.

    It fixes several problems of the current system. Your vote counts more, because the division isn't state-wide, but district-wide. At the same time, it doesn't make the division too small (individuals under a popular election). If each person's vote counts equally, then a candidate could win a couple of large states (California, New York, Texas), and win the election.

    The Maine-Nebraska method also doesn't require a constitutional amendment.
  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @07:34PM (#15780515) Homepage
    Mod me to hell and back for this, but really, 230 years after this whole colonies thing, do we still need "states"?

    I can see the value that not every region can agree upon certain laws, but the majority of thoses laws are being superceded by Federal laws at an increasing rate. And the ones that are still left up to the States are more semantic than anything else (employment law, pollution, etc).

    California is moving towards a system less controlled by County government, which is increasing the state's efficiency by eliminating redundancy. This is a slow process, but one that I think will yield great returns over time. What would be so wrong with the States doing the same thing?

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"

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