November 16, 2012

Is Posner wrong about the value of letting swing state voters determine who will be President?

Jaltcoh thinks so, and I push back in the comments.

34 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

If we go with the popular vote, then does it follow that we also get rid of the Senate or we apportion Senate seats by population?

Dante said...

Ann, I think I'm correct in saying the way the electoral college allocates votes is up to the states.

What has happened is that some states with large numbers of electoral college votes have become so beholden for a party their votes are "kept" votes. CA, as an example, gets very little lip service during the election, and little return on its large contribution of federal dollars.

If CA wanted to change this, it could proportionally allocate its electoral college votes. That would be in the best interests of the state, but not in the best interests of the party at the Federal level.

In summary, CA could be a player, but it would rather suffer to offer up influence at the Federal level. To me, this is a exactly right. It's the United States of America, not Government of America.

We were conceived as a Republic, not a Democracy.

Dante said...

Ann, I think I'm correct in saying the way the electoral college allocates votes is up to the states.

Rewritten:

Ann, I think I'm correct in saying a state allocate electoral college votes is up to the state.

Ann Althouse said...

The Electoral College isn't going away, so cool your jets.

The subject is reasons to like what we've got. Are they good reasons?

Nonapod said...

I'm against giving any individual vote more power than another due to geography. Location seems slightly arbitrary when talking about selecting a President for all areas.

Dante said...

The subject is reasons to like what we've got. Are they good reasons?

The electoral college keeps open the door to redistribute power to the states. It's a good thing, isn't it? If states like CA decide they want more power, they have ways of doing it. Maybe not under today's political climate, but eventually.

To me, large, monopolistic things are always inefficient (always interested that leftists rail against monopolies, but leave out the largest one in the world: the US Federal Government). Businesses have been so effective at innovation because experiments die out, and the profitable ones survive.

So to me, that's a very good aspect of the Electoral college. Not to mention making it so that if things get bad in one state, you can always move to another one.

Isn't that a good thing?

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm against giving any individual vote more power than another due to geography. Location seems slightly arbitrary when talking about selecting a President for all areas."

Why don't you love our Constitution?

edutcher said...

Leave it the way it is.

This year's swing state is next time's safe Republican state.

AJ Lynch said...

If we go with the popular vote, then does it follow that we also get rid of the Senate or we apportion Senate seats by population?

No, it means they'll be busing people in from Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago to tilt the vote their way in every state.

cubanbob said...

The electoral college exists for a reason. Get rid of it and the succession movement will turn from being a hot air ventilation movement to a real movement. Fortunately cooler heads will prevail. A slightly more credible movement would be of several states splitting in to two or more states. Does the rest of Illinois need or want Chicago? Michigan need Detroit? Pensylvania really wants or needs Philadelphia? Like I said above there is a reason why there is an electoral college and why each state has two senators and the underlying validity for that remain the same.

Nonapod said...

I also realize that it's by design that certain states effectively have more power than others due to having more congressmen, therefore giving voters in those states more political power.

This discussion goes back to the whole Federalist versus Democratic-Republican arguments I guess. As I see it the problem is that the Federal government wields too much power to begin with. If the fed-gov just concerned itself with defense and maintaining a basic monetary system and left everything else to the states it would be perfectly fine to have a system which rewards certain states more than others.

Nonapod said...

Why don't you love our Constitution?

I do love it. Unfortunately the government we have now doesn't exactly reflect what the one that was originally set out to be. The Federal government has currently has too much power over the states.

SteveR said...

Complaining about the EC is a loser lament. You know the rules going in.

Above that its just a matter of changing it via the process in place. Talk is cheap.

Hagar said...

Lefties always want to "rationalize" the form of government, failing to realize that the most "rational" form is a dictatorship.

Or they do realize this, but have faith that the "laws of history" will favor their side being in charge.

But history also shows dictatorships to be the most brittle form of government and subject to spectacular failures from "unexpected" causes.

Lem said...

The Electoral College is the high end application of affirmative action... or something.

Nonapod said...

Ideally I want a system that doesn't give some random person in Ohio more power over my life than my own damn self.

AJ Lynch said...

SteveR said:

"Complaining about the EC is a loser lament. You know the rules going in. "

But it is the libruls who just won who are keen to change it. I see it more as their effort to be in charge permanently & thoroughly akin to their fueling never ending strategies and battles over SCOTUS appts & other court appts.

Dante said...

I'm against giving any individual vote more power than another due to geography. Location seems slightly arbitrary when talking about selecting a President for all areas.

It depends on what you think of as the role of government. If a primary role of government is to manage trade between the states, it seems like a pretty good approach. Add in the need for the common defense, the house seems like a good idea.

The problem is you have a different view of what the federal government ought to be than that for which it was originally intended.

rehajm said...

What kinds of policies would we get from a president who could win the election by maximizing turnout in New York and California instead of having to court voters in OH IA and NV? What kinds of polices would we get from a president who could win the election by maximizing turnout in the midwest and the south while ignoring the coasts? The EC keeps a nation with a diverse electorate together. At least it has to this point.

Nonapod said...

The problem is you have a different view of what the federal government ought to be than that for which it was originally intended.

No, the problem is that the federal government we have now isn't what was originally intended.

SteveR said...

But it is the libruls who just won who are keen to change it

No doubt they want to preserve the status quo from the possibility that republicans figure things out. I think they are overrating both sides.

Writ Small said...

The swing states are necessarily those states that mathematically most mirror the composition of ideology and voting interests of the country as a whole.

There are weird distortions that occur when a swing state has interests unshared by other states, and so we get Newt pitching moon bases to Florida voters, but there are far worse systems than having small groups who well represent the larger group taking the greater responsibility to make the calls.

campy said...

The subject is reasons to like what we've got.

We didn't have a President Albert Gore Jr.

I rest my case.

Methadras said...

The only way Romney could win this election is if the electors revolt against Obama and give it to Romney come December. That's who the power really lies with.

Michael McNeil said...

If we go with the popular vote, then does it follow that we also get rid of the Senate or we apportion Senate seats by population?

The first (abolishing the electoral college) could be accomplished by ordinary constitutional amendment. The second — abolishing the Senate or reorganizing its representation by population — could not.

There's a clause in Article V of the U.S. Constitution which requires that all the states acquiesce if their representation by two senators each is to be changed.

And as Lazarus Long (aka Robert A. Heinlein) once put it (quoting from memory): “Unanimously?! Shucks, you couldn't get that many to whistle Yankee Doodle unanimously.”

Shawn L. said...

I'll reprint my comment from over on Jaltcoh here (skip if you've already read it there)

I find some that Posner's arguements for the EC (especially the one discussed here) are more arguments for "winner take all" which is not in the constitution.

I personally disagree with "winner take all" as it makes it all to easy to take some states for granted, or written off entirely. Making the matter of "more important voters" even more of a problem that it would be if the Maine/Nebraska model of assigning EC votes (2 for winning the state, 1 for winning each congressional district) were widely adopted.

Disposing of the EC entirely is a near impossibility anyway as it would require a constitutional amendment and I doubt 2/3rds of the states would approve of such a change. Changing the way EC votes are assigned can be done state by state, no constituitonal change required.

The largest of states may balk at the ME/NB model, or maybe even be reluctant to do it unless all the states do it ("You first" "No, YOU first.") So a constitutional amendment to have all states adopt this could be passed, 2/3rds of the states might agree with this, though getting Congress on board may be a bigger problem.

That problem is that suddenly congressional districts serve two purposes, for electing members of the House of Representatives, and the President. This would change the dynamics of how these districts are drawn up. I wouldn't go so far as to say it would eliminate gerrymandering, but it would lessen the effect, as the desire to make "safe" districts for congressmen has to be balanced by the need to maximize the potential votes for President.

So, getting Congress to approve of such a change may not be in incumbent congressmen's best interests (probably easier done after redistricting than before)

Sandi Denio said...

Well. It sure skews the one man one vote slogan.

sonicfrog said...

What kinds of policies would we get from a president who could win the election by maximizing turnout in New York and California... We already have this.

...instead of having to court voters in OH IA and NV?

Why wouldn't you still have to count the votes in OH, IA, and NV? There are people in those states after all.

What kinds of polices would we get from a president who could win the election by maximizing turnout in the midwest and the south while ignoring the coasts? The EC keeps a nation with a diverse electorate together. At least it has to this point.

I don't think it has.

Note, I'm not a strong advocate of abolishing the EC, but I'm not sure it serves a useful purpose anymore. I know the argument is that the EC keeps the smaller states relevant, but, in the modern age of instant communication, does it? Let's face it, campaigning 200 years ago was indeed the only way to get the positions of the candidates out there, and have any real meaningful contact with some citizens. In today's wire world, the message is already out there.

I simply ask this - How many times did either candidate go to RI or Wyoming? The small states are pretty much irrelevant even with the EC.

toto said...

Where you live should not determine how much, if at all, your vote matters.

Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009:
“If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, will not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. There is no incentive for them to bother to care about the majority of states where they are hopelessly behind or safely ahead to win. 10 of the original 13 states are considered “fly-over” now. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree, that, at most, only 9 states and their voters mattered. They decided the election. None of the 10 most rural states mattered, as usual. About 80% of the country was ignored --including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and 17 medium and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. It was more obscene than the 2008 campaign, when candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA). In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

80% of the states and people have been merely spectators to presidential elections. They have no influence. That's more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans, ignored. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

A candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation's 57 (1 in 14 = 7%) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 14 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore's lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

toto said...

During the course of campaigns, candidates are educated and campaign about the local, regional, and state issues most important to the handful of battleground states they need to win. They take this knowledge and prioritization with them once they are elected. Candidates need to be educated and care about all of our states.

In 1960, presidential campaigns paid attention to 35 states. In 2008, Obama only campaigned in 14 states after being nominated. In 2012, the presidential campaigns only cared about 9 swing states.

The number and population of battleground states is shrinking.

States' partisanship is hardening.

Some states have not been been competitive for than a half-century and most states now have a degree of partisan imbalance that makes them highly unlikely to be in a swing state position.
• 41 States Won by Same Party, 2000-2008
• 32 States Won by Same Party, 1992-2008
• 13 States Won Only by Republican Party, 1980-2008
• 19 States Won Only by Democratic Party, 1992-2008
• 9 Democratic States Not Swing State since 1988
• 15 GOP States Not Swing State since 1988

FairVote

toto said...

The National Popular Vote bill would change current state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), to a system guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire United States.

The bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

Under National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

National Popular Vote would give a voice to the minority party voters in each state. Now their votes are counted only for the candidate they did not vote for. Now they don't matter to their candidate.

And now votes, beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state, for winning in a state are wasted and don't matter to candidates. Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 "wasted" votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast.

Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states. The political reality would be that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

When and where voters matter, then so are the issues they care about most.

toto said...

The presidential election system that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium, and large states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

NationalPopularVote

toto said...

In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 338–70 margin. It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and various members of Congress who later ran for Vice President and President such as then-Congressman George H.W. Bush, and then-Senator Bob Dole.

On June 7, 2011, the Republican-controlled New York Senate passed the National Popular Vote bill by a 47–13 margin, with Republicans favoring the bill by 21–11. Republicans endorsed by the Conservative Party favored the bill 17–7.

Jason Cabel Roe, a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant wrote in National Popular Vote is Good for Republicans: "I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives . . . , and it is good for America. National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome.
It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state – and every voter – to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States.

National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help . . . Republicans. . . . Opponents either have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or don’t fully understand it. . . . We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it."

Former Tennessee U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson(R), former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar (R), and former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) are co-champions of National Popular Vote.

National Popular Vote's National Advisory Board includes former Senators Jake Garn (R–UT), and David Durenberger (R–MN) and former congressman John Buchanan (R–AL).

Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the NPV plan would not help either party over the other.

Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:"A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College."

Some other supporters who wrote forewords to "Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote " http://www.every-vote-equal.com/ include:

Laura Brod served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the ranking Republican member of the Tax Committee. She was the Minnesota Public Sector Chair for ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and active in the Council of State Governments.

James Brulte served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.

Ray Haynes served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002

Dean Murray is a member of the New York State Assembly. He was a Tea Party organizer before being elected to the Assembly as a Republican, Conservative Party member in February 2010. He was described by Fox News as the first Tea Party candidate elected to office in the United States.

Thomas L. Pearce served as a Michigan State Representative from 2005–2010 and was appointed Dean of the Republican Caucus. He has led several faith-based initiatives in Lansing.

tim maguire said...

Swing states show at the state level what smart voters have always known at the individual level: if you want to matter, you have to put your vote in play. Guarantee your vote to one side or the other and neither side has a reason to care about you.

Joe said...

How about a system whereby two electoral votes are awarded in each state by majority, the rest are awarded proportional to the vote.

One modification would be that for the latter, the vote would be awarded by congressional district.

(I further advocate increasing the size of the house to 2500 members and return it to be adjusted according to population. This would greatly diminish the power of individual representatives and make it more difficult to gerrymander effectively.)