How messed up is our system?

pooky

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 2, 2003
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1
Before you all jump on me for dredging up old news, this is a thread about electoral reform, NOT about who won vs. who we wanted to win the election. Let's keep it that way.

Is this logical in an electoral system?

What if 66,000 people moved from Seattle to Anchorage? 22,000 from L.A. to Las Vegas? 100,000 from New York to West Virginia? 80,000 from WA to ND? 90,000 from CA to SD?

None of those moves would nudge the popular vote by even one vote, but all of them could change the electoral vote. All at once, and suddenly Kerry wins the election. Why should an election for nationwide office depend, when it comes down to it, on who lives where? I'm not saying the above could, or should happen, but it strikes me as a huge logical hole in our system. No other democracy in the world (that I know of - correct me if I'm wrong) uses something like this. Nor do the countries in which we've forcefully installed democracy. Does this mean we don't believe in our own system? Seems to me that we all know it's silly and antiquated, but as a culture we're too lazy to fight the people who live off the status quo for some kind of reform.

If someone can tell me why the system makes sense for a 21st century democracy, I'd love to hear it.
 

miloblithe

macrumors 68020
Nov 14, 2003
2,076
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Washington, DC
The argument is that this way, each state matters. If the vote were simply the popular vote, candidates would have a huge incentive to campaign in LA, NYC, DC, Chicago, etc, but less incentive to campaign anywhere in say, Wyoming. The problem with this argument is that currently, there is only incentive to campaign in the battleground states. No one campaigns in Wyoming or DC because the result of that state is assured.

Regardless, however, the system is all but unchangable. It would have to be in the majority of the state's interests to change the constitution, and small states will never vote for this. Currently, a vote in Wyoming is worth more than 3 times a vote in California (in terms of population per electoral vote). So Wyoming is not going to vote to reduce its power. The same applies to every small state, and there are enough of them to keep the constitution from ever changing.
 

Lyle

macrumors 68000
Jun 11, 2003
1,874
0
Madison, Alabama
pooky said:
No other democracy in the world (that I know of - correct me if I'm wrong) uses something like this.
Correct, as far as I know.

pooky said:
Seems to me that we all know it's silly and antiquated, but as a culture we're too lazy to fight the people who live off the status quo for some kind of reform.
I've never thought about it as a matter of someone "living off the status quo" and thereby actively suppressing efforts to change the system (although legislators from smaller states would probably oppose it since those states currently enjoy disproportionate influence). I definitely agree with the first part of your assertion, however: the problem is that we're too lazy to do anything to change it. I mean, when's the last time you mentioned this problem to your congressman? ;)
 

cluthz

macrumors 68040
Jun 15, 2004
3,118
3
Norway
The scary part about the system is that there are only a few debates and people mostly makes their opinions after watching TV commercials.
Its also questionable that the president, governors and senators are all millionaires.. A system that is based "the survival of the fittest/richest".
 

takao

macrumors 68040
Dec 25, 2003
3,825
432
Dornbirn (Austria)
pooky said:
Before you all jump on me for dredging up old news, this is a thread about electoral reform, NOT about who won vs. who we wanted to win the election. Let's keep it that way.

Is this logical in an electoral system?

What if 66,000 people moved from Seattle to Anchorage? 22,000 from L.A. to Las Vegas? 100,000 from New York to West Virginia? 80,000 from WA to ND? 90,000 from CA to SD?

None of those moves would nudge the popular vote by even one vote, but all of them could change the electoral vote. All at once, and suddenly Kerry wins the election. Why should an election for nationwide office depend, when it comes down to it, on who lives where? I'm not saying the above could, or should happen, but it strikes me as a huge logical hole in our system. No other democracy in the world (that I know of - correct me if I'm wrong) uses something like this. Nor do the countries in which we've forcefully installed democracy. Does this mean we don't believe in our own system? Seems to me that we all know it's silly and antiquated, but as a culture we're too lazy to fight the people who live off the status quo for some kind of reform.

If someone can tell me why the system makes sense for a 21st century democracy, I'd love to hear it.

doesn't have the UK a similiar "the winner takes it all" system ?

of course add to the discussion the different ways of voting in the US (electronic,paper,punch cards etc.)
i saw a map of the US where every county was coloured in a color if voting was doen different...needless to say that it looked like a patch work

and i was even more shocked when i heard that on some voting cards you have to fill it out with a _pencil_ (i hope that is a wrong rumour/myth ...)

seriously the whole voting system needs to be standarised not only the ellectoral system
 

pooky

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 2, 2003
356
1
miloblithe said:
The argument is that this way, each state matters. If the vote were simply the popular vote, candidates would have a huge incentive to campaign in LA, NYC, DC, Chicago, etc, but less incentive to campaign anywhere in say, Wyoming. The problem with this argument is that currently, there is only incentive to campaign in the battleground states. No one campaigns in Wyoming or DC because the result of that state is assured.
I would argue that NYC and LA, both of which are democratic strongholds, wouldn't get much more attention. Bush wouldn't have gone to San Francisco no matter what system we had. The majority of the country, where things are much more even, would get much more attention.

I guess what irritates me is that the rights of, say, the ~500,000 people in Wyoming, outweigh those of the ~55,000,000 in California.
 

miloblithe

macrumors 68020
Nov 14, 2003
2,076
28
Washington, DC
pooky said:
I would argue that NYC and LA, both of which are democratic strongholds, wouldn't get much more attention. Bush wouldn't have gone to San Francisco no matter what system we had. The majority of the country, where things are much more even, would get much more attention.

I guess what irritates me is that the rights of, say, the ~500,000 people in Wyoming, outweigh those of the ~55,000,000 in California.
You may be right. It might more clearly divide the US between (as I believe Zim suggested) a rural party and a city party. Democrats would campaign in cities to rally their troops, Republicans would comb the countryside (and burbs) for theirs. It's hard to know exactly how changing the system would change the incentives. But it does seem that more and more people are having doubts about the legitimacy of our system. I was taught that the success of a government (and its ability to stay in power) relies on three pillars: perceved legitimacy, the ability to provide (or provide for the provision) of services, and the ability to ensure security. I'd say the US system is a long way from goin' down, but all three pillars have been taking big hits.
 

skunk

macrumors G4
Jun 29, 2002
11,745
3,993
Republic of Ukistan
takao said:
doesn't have the UK a similiar "the winner takes it all" system ?
Yes. "First past the post" is the usual term. It could work like that. But in the States you have the ridiculous gerrymandering thing going on as well, which accentuates the weakness in the system. It's practically designed to be abused.
 

pseudobrit

macrumors 68040
Jul 23, 2002
3,418
4
Jobs' Spare Liver Jar
miloblithe said:
The argument is that this way, each state matters. If the vote were simply the popular vote, candidates would have a huge incentive to campaign in LA, NYC, DC, Chicago, etc, but less incentive to campaign anywhere in say, Wyoming.
What the hell does it matter where candidates campaign? Like it matters one Goddamn bit to the people of X state if a candidate comes to town?
 

Lyle

macrumors 68000
Jun 11, 2003
1,874
0
Madison, Alabama
pseudobrit said:
What the hell does it matter where candidates campaign? Like it matters one Goddamn bit to the people of X state if a candidate comes to town?
I think milo merely meant that if it were the popular vote that decided things, candidates would tend to adopt positions that appealed more to areas with large populations (e.g. the big cities he mentioned) and pay less attention to areas with smaller dense populations. It's not so much about physically visiting those places as doing things to pander to them.
 

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
8,889
25
Northern Virginia
skunk said:
Yes. "First past the post" is the usual term. It could work like that. But in the States you have the ridiculous gerrymandering thing going on as well, which accentuates the weakness in the system. It's practically designed to be abused.
You should see some of the districts. I seem to remember one in the south that was like 75 to 100 miles long, and only about 6 to miles at the widest point.

Hopefully the SCOTUS case about Texas will force some real changes in that regard.

But the districts don't have much on an impact on Presidential races IMO. For most states the Electoral votes goes by the popular vote for that state. The only benefit from more diverse districts, is that the candidates might have some more battleground areas they would focus attention on.
 

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
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25
Northern Virginia
What I find interesting is that when the US brings democracy and free elections to another country, it is by the popular vote. Guess we aren't good enough for that system here.
 

Lyle

macrumors 68000
Jun 11, 2003
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Madison, Alabama
Chip NoVaMac said:
What I find interesting is that when the US brings democracy and free elections to another country, it is by the popular vote. Guess we aren't good enough for that system here.
I think it's just easier to get it right when you're starting from scratch. ;)
 

Ugg

macrumors 68000
Apr 7, 2003
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Penryn
Lyle said:
I think it's just easier to get it right when you're starting from scratch. ;)
I think there's a lot of truth in that actually. What worked in 1776 is not necessarily the best for 2004. If you look at all the countries that have written new constitutions in the past twenty years, it's obvious that most have avoided the mistakes of those written in the 18th century. South Africa is one that comes to mind. It ensures the rights of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation, creed, etc, etc.

Wouldn't it be nice to totally revise the Constitution every century or so? Sure, the founding fathers allowed us to amend the Constitution but that was when there were only 13 states.
 

Chip NoVaMac

macrumors G3
Dec 25, 2003
8,889
25
Northern Virginia
Ugg said:
I think there's a lot of truth in that actually. What worked in 1776 is not necessarily the best for 2004. If you look at all the countries that have written new constitutions in the past twenty years, it's obvious that most have avoided the mistakes of those written in the 18th century. South Africa is one that comes to mind. It ensures the rights of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation, creed, etc, etc.

Wouldn't it be nice to totally revise the Constitution every century or so? Sure, the founding fathers allowed us to amend the Constitution but that was when there were only 13 states.
I think that is why both side fight every mention of a Constitutional Convention, which if I remember correctly is an option open the the American people. Along with the standard amendment process.
 

stubeeef

macrumors 68030
Aug 10, 2004
2,702
2
Ugg said:
Wouldn't it be nice to totally revise the Constitution every century or so?
Revolution? Happens often, especially in those small African countries that write so well.

Amendments? Happens occasionnally, even in the US of A.