Sunday, October 31, 2004

California and the Electoral College

I am a Californian and my vote is useless.

The Electoral College renders it useless. On December 13, all 55 of California’s electors will back the winner of the state, regardless of how close the popular vote proves to be on November 2. No matter whom I choose - if the winner wins by a little more or if the runner up loses by a little less - my vote will not influence the outcome of the presidential race. By now we all know who the winner in California will be, but because this is a non-partisan issue let’s not spoil it by naming names.

In the 2000 presidential election 5.9 million Californians voted for the candidate who won the state and 4.6 million voted for the runner up. 4.6 million Californians did not have a single voice among the state’s (then 54) electors. That is equal to the total number of votes cast in Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota, Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Idaho, New Hampshire and New Mexico combined. If a legislator were to suggest giving away the votes of 12 states they would be branded a tyrant. But that is exactly what the Electoral College does to California every presidential election.

States are free to set their own laws for allocating electoral votes and a possible solution to the winner-takes-all Electoral College already exists. Maine and Nebraska currently use a district system, in which the winner of each congressional district receives an elector’s vote and the overall winner of the state receives two electors’ votes (the votes representing the state’s senators, if you like). In practice, Maine and Nebraska have never split their electoral votes because the overall winner has always swept all two (Maine) or three (Nebraska) congressional districts. This election day Colorado voters will consider an initiative to distribute their electoral votes according to the popular vote.

Fixing the Electoral College piecemeal would only hurt California, however. Splitting California’s electoral votes while other states continue to vote as a block would cripple our influence. If California commits 26 votes to one candidate and 29 to the other, the net impact of California on the election would be only three electoral votes; the same political clout Alaska’s electors have voting as a block. This is a scenario where California only stands to lose by leading by example.

Abandoning the Electoral College entirely would betray one of the great principles of American government – namely the Great Compromise, whereby smaller states are not marginalized with representation proportionate to their smaller populations. Every state gets two senators and at least one representative regardless of their population, and every state likewise gets a minimum of three electoral votes. Ending this important tenet of the Republic would allow the more populous states to completely overshadow their diminutive neighbors in presidential elections; something even the proudest Californian wouldn’t seriously consider.

The only solution for California voters is an amendment to the US constitution that splits every state’s electoral votes. California will continue to have a major impact on the outcome and the millions of Californians who vote against the majority will finally play their part.

Ideally this amendment would follow Colorado’s proposed model and distribute electoral votes according to the popular vote in each state. For if it is unfair to ignore the minority in a state then it stands to reason it is also unfair to ignore the minority of a congressional district. Even a nationally adopted district system based on Nebraska and Maine’s model would be preferable to the current system, however; if enough states insist on this model for a constitutional amendment, perhaps another great compromise may be struck.

Of course there are other important issues being decided in this – and every - election besides the race for president, but it is the big show. Californians aren’t being encouraged to go to the polls when the most important issue on the ballot is a foregone conclusion. There has been much animated discussion over the years over whether media reports of election day results on the east coast discourages voter turnout on the west coast (where the polls close three hours later), but the fact is that Californians have known who is going to win the state ever since the party nominations. That discourages voter turnout.

I am an American and my vote is useless. Doesn’t that bother anyone besides me?


c said...

i have been living in california for three years now, but i stay a registered voter in colorado (i go to school here and can thus stay a colorado resident) because i, like you, have realized that voting in california will turn out "blue" as always. colorado usually goes red, hence my reason to want to vote otherwise. unfortunately, CO went red again, but that's not what upsets me - what upsets is that since the amendment didn't pass, my vote still doesn't count.

Greg Givler said...

You posit something interesting, in a fit of boredom I did a spreadsheet that took all the electoral votes and distributed them according to the popular vote, a what if scenario. In the 2004 election President Bush still beat John Kerry, so the outcome of the election was not effected in the least.

I can't seem to find the spreadsheet I think it may have gone bye bye when I got a new computer... Ah well...


Sherf said...

I agree with you completely re the Electoral College. The feeling of helplessness overwhelms me on occasion, so I identify with your plaint. I know I've not looked into it, "it" being the process by which one becomes a candidate for Elector in CA. The electors cast the vote. I've only told them who I want them to vote for--but, as I understand it--members of the Electoral College may vote without aligning with the popular vote.


docbaun said...

A little late, I suppose, but the point should be driven home to you like a wooden table leg through Dracula's chestbone - YOU NEVER HAD A VOTE! None of us do. The presidential election, decided by the by Electoral vote, has absolutely nothing to do with how the people, or popular vote, goes. Not Maine, not Nebraska, not anywhere. According to the sturcture of our government, Electors (typically appointed by either their State Legistlators or the Governor) TRADITIONALLY cast their ballots for the candidate they were appointed to represent, HOWEVER, NO-WHERE in ANY legal document, the Constitution or the Articles Parliment of Congress is an Elector REQUIRED to vote for the candidate they were appointed to represent. The Electors can, at their sole discretion, vote for whomever they chose, regardless of their appointment, regardless of whether or not the person they elect even RAN for office. If all the Electors decided they wanted to appoint Donald Trump president, even if he didn't campaign, even if he didn't show up as a write in candidate on any ballot in any state, EVEN IF HE WERE NOT A U.S. CITIZEN, the Electors could quite legally elect him president and there is NOTHING the Congress, the Senate, the Supreme Court or the sitting president could do about it. In presidential elections, the popular vote has NEVER counted, and the founding fathers INTENDED for it to be that way - the problem in their day was speed of communication, with a letter from Boston to Washington taking upwards of 2 weeks to get from one city to another - so they invented this system so that when an election was held it wouldn't take a year or a year and a half for the country to elect a new president. Times have changed, though, and the purpose of the Electoral College has long since passed - it needs to be scrapped and replaced with popular vote, as John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and even George Washington originally intended.

Larry Meiring said...

Though conservatives are on the short end of the stick in California, I do not feel my vote is useless. Thanks to our referendum law, we can oust and replace bad laws or bad politicians. However, due to the multitude of vagrancy and the 60's grown-up hippies now running the state, CA is a bureaucratic hog-sty.

Thunder Pig said...

In my opinion, the electoral college system is the only thing keeping us from going the way of Europe, where the people who live in cities have ALL the political power, and here in America, something close to 80% of the people live in only 200 cities. Scrapping the Electoral College would result in our Constitutional Republic being replaced with a Democracy ruled by Demogogues, then a true Tyranny would emerge. The most sure way to change the Electoral College would be through armed revolution, and too many of us have fire arms (and plenty of ammo) for that too succeed.

josephlcotton2 said...

unfortunately the inability of non caucasians to form democracys speeks for itself .its like a bunch of kids that if they dont get thier way they run and hide the way the democrats did here in texas when the supreme court ruled that the democrats had unfairly drawn district lines years earlier and when the republicans corrected the problam the dems hooked em. you and i know that all politicans start off good but eventually give in to greed and lust.the real question is why we dont burn em at the stake for letting child molesters and rapist out on parole.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
n00b said...

a waste of time.

Brinton said...

Well, I'll tell you, it burns my ass that Kentucky has been going Republican in the Presidential elections, and it does make me feel useless in casting my vote for what is good and right. Still, as a citizen of one of the smaller states, I can see that during a time of unrest when there was a "city candidate" that Kentucky's voice would be all but stripped if not for the electoral college system.

Jamey said...

1 person 1 vote.
It's a great concept!

The stupid electoral college was set up because we were a nation of illiterates (has that changed in 200 years?) who couldn't be trusted to actually read a ballot and vote (I'm looking at you here Florida).
And now we're just stuck with this crap?

James said...

I think the electoral college is a very important thing. Raw democracy is nothing more than tyranny of the [voting] majority. I think the way it's set up now is a travesty.

Earlier commentors are correct. It sucks that most people's votes just don't count. The electoral college was set up for 3 main reasons: 1) slow communication 2) most people are stupid and can't be trusted to pick out what to wear to work in the morning and 3) the rich white men who set up the government didn't want to lose their power.

But arguments against the electoral college miss the entire point. Individuals weren't supposed to vote for a Presidential candidate, and they definitely weren't supposed to vote for a political party.

They were supposed to vote for an Elector. You pick someone local to the state, someone you trust to actually choose the President. Then those electors go to Washington DC and actually do the election.

I am setting up a web-site dealing with problems in the government. It's still in a really rough state. It's really not public yet, as I'm still wrangling with things like the actual structure and graphics (if you do bother to check it out, please excuse the way it looks). But I would appreciate it if you checked back in a few days, because this is precisely the sort of issue with which I want to deal there.

jomama said...

The problem with democratic leaders overruling
private decisions is that it relies on a fairly
ridiculous premise: people are too dumb to make
the right decisions in a private market, and yet
they are smart enough to select people in the
political process who will efficiently correct
their irrational decisions in the private

So many distractions, so little time.

Timotheus said...

hmm yes electoral college seems to be a bit of a gip....

this is NOT a representative democracy...

heyy, what happened to the funny stuff??

chuckdaddy2000 said...

I think we should go the full monty and have a parliamentary system. That way if Bush Got 48% of the vote, Kerry 47%, Nader 3%, and Buchanon 2% congress would reflect that voting. If you were able to actually vote for the party you wanted (instead of the proscribed 2 parties) I think people would be more invested in politics.

There's a reason why the entire world continues grow in following our example of democracy, but virtually every (maybe everybody)country uses a parliamentary system over our two party one.

The Jeff said...

How do you think I felt when I lived in Wyoming? If you really want to feel useless, live in a state with only country radio stations.

nynynyny said...

Christ! Don't you know what the hell's GOING ON?? Didn't yoou get this LETTER? I did! Now you have it, too.

Dear Red States,

We're ticked off at the way you've treated California, and we've decided we're leaving.

We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast.

We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly:

You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.

We get stem cell research and the best beaches.

We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get WalMart.

We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.

We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.

We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama.

We get two-thirds of the tax revenue. You get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals.

They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home.

We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals than we lefties.

By the way, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.


Author Unknown

big john pete said...

fuck the electoral college. we need a new system.

DELRIO333 said...

One of the greatest sites ever to encountered by humankind,
THE FIFTH COLUMN shoud be mandotory reading in all schools and churches across the nation!!!