Win a copy of The Edible Ecosystem Solution this week in the Forest Garden forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Mike Haasl
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • James Freyr
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • jordan barton
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Greg Martin
  • Leigh Tate

The electoral college?

 
gardener
Posts: 2732
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
451
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't understand many things about the U.S political system but this one really baffles me----> so could someone please explain what the electoral college is, and, more specifically, what benefit it serves the spirit of democracy?    
 
pollinator
Posts: 428
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
76
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To be blunt, the electoral college is the official vote in the United States.  The popular vote has always been a 'poll' of opinion within a state.  The electoral college 'validates' or ratifies the popular vote of the state they represent.  This has always been debated and justified with different arguments, but has never really been a lightning rod issue, since they have always voted based on their jurisdictions popular results.  (forgive my memory, civics class have been a few decades ago.)

But legally and realistically the electoral college can vote anyway they think represents the true will of their jurisdiction.   That is good or bad, fair or evil depending on one's view point.  But that is the short version.

There will be others whom have the patience to flesh this out tonight.  I do not.  I am sure the debate will get lively; but I have had my fill for today.  Sleep well, all.
 
gardener
Posts: 931
Location: PNW
538
trees books food preservation cooking writing homestead
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Many Americans DON'T see a benefit to it, especially if they live in a state where their opinions put them in the minority so their presidential vote never actually matters.
 
gardener
Posts: 859
Location: Piedmont 7a
298
hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think the main point is to give some geographic balance, otherwise it is just big city values that carry the day. You need to appeal to more than just coastal liberal elites to carry the day.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1479
Location: northern northern california
227
forest garden foraging trees fiber arts building medical herbs
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
one of the reasons for it is about population and giving smaller, less populated, states more sway, or trying to equalize their input.... without being squashed and so outnumbered by the largest states.

this is the logic behind it anyway. so new hampshire and nevada say...or one of the dakotas can have a bit more input than just their small population numbers would allow.

one interesting fact i just learned is that democrats have actually won all of the last elections by the popular vote, and for a really long time. i knew that true of many or most, but apparently all of the presidential elections for dozens of years wouldve gone to the democrat if we only used the popular vote.

there is a lot of talk of doing away with it, as well. there is a lot of talk of voter reform and "democracy reform", changing some fundamentals about elections and the structure of government.
the republicans are not for voter reform, which is...well kinda lame. if they cant win on an even field than they cant win.
 
gardener
Posts: 3762
Location: Pacific Wet Coast
1375
duck books chicken cooking food preservation ungarbage
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
leila hamaya wrote:

one of the reasons for it is about population and giving smaller, less populated, states more sway, or trying to equalize their input.... without being squashed and so outnumbered by the largest states.

Canada has similar issues (the Island I live on is larger than our smallest province, Prince Edward Island for example), but there are ways to solve the problem other than the Electoral College. I suspect there are other models than Canada's of balancing the rural/urban divide around the world also. Mind you, I suspect *every* system has some faults - sometimes people prefer to stay with the "devil they know" because it is quite possible to end up with something worse.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
Posts: 1479
Location: northern northern california
227
forest garden foraging trees fiber arts building medical herbs
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
not that it benefits the spirit of democracy for me, but i do kinda like it, because i always live in very deep blue states.

i can vote third party, green party, or independent and not split the vote for someone else.
i know that my state will go to the blue, and my one vote is rather useless in a sea there...but it has given me the freedom to choose the third party candidate that i actually want to vote for without hurting the blue candidate or getting the other party a win.
i wouldnt care one way or another. maybe it would be ok if they did away with it...i would be ok with voting third party when i wanted to. i dont know if theres enough support one way or the other though...
 
Roberto pokachinni
gardener
Posts: 2732
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
451
hugelkultur forest garden fungi trees books food preservation bike solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So I guess my next question is:  why have a popular vote, unless it is a poll, as Jack Edmonson wrote here:  

To be blunt, the electoral college is the official vote in the United States.  The popular vote has always been a 'poll' of opinion within a state.  The electoral college 'validates' or ratifies the popular vote of the state they represent.  This has always been debated and justified with different arguments, but has never really been a lightning rod issue, since they have always voted based on their jurisdictions popular results.  

 Is it true that the electoral votes are always in line with the popular vote of the same state?  
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
Posts: 1479
Location: northern northern california
227
forest garden foraging trees fiber arts building medical herbs
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Roberto pokachinni wrote:So I guess my next question is:  why have a popular vote, unless it is a poll, as Jack Edmonson wrote here:  

To be blunt, the electoral college is the official vote in the United States.  The popular vote has always been a 'poll' of opinion within a state.  The electoral college 'validates' or ratifies the popular vote of the state they represent.  This has always been debated and justified with different arguments, but has never really been a lightning rod issue, since they have always voted based on their jurisdictions popular results.  

 Is it true that the electoral votes are always in line with the popular vote of the same state?  



usually, but not quite, totally because within the states you have different areas that vote differently. some of the states can split their electoral college votes. actually i think that did happen this time. nebraska i think? had two for red and one for blue...and maine is very diverse, so one for each.
 
gardener
Posts: 853
Location: Western Kentucky
322
dog gear foraging trees hunting food preservation cooking fiber arts woodworking wood heat rocket stoves
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Roberto pokachinni wrote:So I guess my next question is:  why have a popular vote, unless it is a poll, as Jack Edmonson wrote here:  

To be blunt, the electoral college is the official vote in the United States.  The popular vote has always been a 'poll' of opinion within a state.  The electoral college 'validates' or ratifies the popular vote of the state they represent.  This has always been debated and justified with different arguments, but has never really been a lightning rod issue, since they have always voted based on their jurisdictions popular results.  

 Is it true that the electoral votes are always in line with the popular vote of the same state?  



The popular vote is federal. The results are what states use to choose their electors, who take a pledge to vote for a certain person. 165 times so far, electors have violated their oath and voted faithlessly for a variety of reasons, but rarely for the opposite leading candidate. Their main purpose is to maintain balance between federal and state power in elections, and to prevent mob rule when emotions run high.
 
gardener
Posts: 2051
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
458
trees food preservation solar greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think for all states except Nebraska and Maine, the ALL electoral votes of the state have to go to the candidate who got the largest portion in that state. So it has happened for the past couple of decades that the popular vote was always majority Democratic, but the electoral vote was very close between the two main parties, and more or less alternated between which one got the actual win. On one hand it means that the thinly populated regions get a voice. On the other hand it means that the large portion of the population who live in the big states, for example California, each individual's vote is worth about one quarter of the vote of a person who lives in a less populated state.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 420
Location: Beavercreek, OR
130
dog bike woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Excuse me if this is too wonky...

The origins of the Electoral College are rooted in a smaller and less mobile country.  I'm not a historian but I think it goes likes this:
a) the founders weren't ready for full-on democracy.  Just the idea of self-rule was a huge step, so the whole "give the people the vote" thing was too much.
b) it was hard to travel and communicate.  So each state would nominate folks to send off to discuss things and figure out who should be elected.  In effect, the electors are proxy votes.
c) the electoral college gave a figleaf to slave owning states and the infamous 3/5 rule (a slave counted as 3/5 a man for population and representation purposes).  Wikipedia tells me that in 1790 Pennsylvania had 3,737 slaves while Virginia had a whopping 287,959 and Virginia wanted the representation bonus of 172k people - about the same as the non-slave population of New Jersey
d) the apportionment of votes in the electoral college gives small states more weight ... its a vote for each senator and representative.  All states have two senators and at least one representative.  So small states are over-weighted in senators ( this is particularly seen in Senate matters, like Supreme Court judicial confirmations where a person in Wyoming (smallest population) has something like 87 times the influence of a person in California
e) each state gets to choose the manner in which the electors are selected.  It used to be the state legislature or governor would do it, the direct vote is a relatively new practice.  Indeed some retrograde activists (I can say that ... my uncle is one of them) want to revert to Senators being selected by the state legislature instead of by popular vote.
f) there are some seriously weird possibilities ... like the state legislator sending one group of electors and the governor sending a different slate.  Which has happened.

So the "popular vote" really doesn't mean anything except that its possible for a minority of the population to elect the President (and control the senate).

There is an interesting movement that is gaining some traction - states are passing laws that say regardless of how their population votes the electors for the state will go to the winner of the national popular vote (the National Popular Vote Compact ... 16 states and 196 electoral votes).  Once there are states with the required 270 votes, then the pact kicks in.  The historical position is that this strips the smaller state populations of their power, but another read is that it empowers the political minority in each state.  For instance, Wyoming hasn't voted for a Democrat since 1964 and in California this 64% voted for a Democrat and 33% for Republican.  Being a Democrat in Wyoming or a Republican in California is a futile gesture (Presidentially speaking), but if the outcome were based on national popular vote then suddenly Republicans would care about California and Democrats about Wyoming  - or so the argument goes.

Another remedy that seems unlikely is increasing the seats in the House of Representatives from 438 to something like 800 ... after all we've been stuck at the same number of reps since 1911 and the population has more than tripled since then.  I think we'd still have one elector per representative & senator, so the two "senatorial" votes accorded to smaller states would be diluted.
 
Eliot Mason
pollinator
Posts: 420
Location: Beavercreek, OR
130
dog bike woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Since I'm awake ...
in 2010 the Census found ...
Wyoming population ~ 493k .. or .16 % of the population
California population ~ 34m .. or 11% of the population
USA population = 308,745,538

In the Senate each state gets two votes so .16% = 11% ... or a Wyoming resident has 68x the influence.  Or if you prefer, each Wyoming senator represents 246,500 people.  In California its 17 million.
In the Electoral College, Wyoming gets three votes, California 55.  So each Wyoming elector represents ~ 164k people.  In California its 618k people, so a Wyoming resident gets 3.76 votes relative to a Californian.

This is the extreme comparison of largest vs smallest.  And yeah, I don't know how to make this better.  California has neighborhoods about the population of Wyoming.  The fires in Oregon this year, in total, were IIRC nearly the size of Rhode Island.  Letting the big states rule would not be good for the little states.  But 68 times the influence?  If you don't live in Wyoming that's hard to swallow.

Of course the US is the new Wyoming of the world!  New York City is about 8 million people, with Los Angeles trailing way behind at about 4 million.  In China there are NINE cities as large or larger than NY  and LA would be around #28 in China. Shanghai has about 27 million people ... which makes it more populous than every US State except California.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
Posts: 1479
Location: northern northern california
227
forest garden foraging trees fiber arts building medical herbs
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
wow, thats convincing. i now really dont like the electoral college situation, where i have usually been pretty neutral on it.

i guess i didnt realize that it was that much more influence. i knew that the red states, the republicans...well this is really the only reason they are able to get more of the vote, and more representation than they actually should, because they represent a much smaller segment of the population. i just thought it was a much smaller gap.

because i do agree with the idea that rural america should have sway, the basic premise i do agree with theoretically. those sparsely populated areas should have their say. but not that much more say.
but now i have seen how that has played out, and i never considered that it was that extreme...where a small segment of the population is holding us back from progressing.
 
steward
Posts: 4272
Location: West Tennessee
1776
cattle cat purity fungi trees books chicken food preservation cooking building homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Artie Scott wrote:I think the main point is to give some geographic balance, otherwise it is just big city values that carry the day. You need to appeal to more than just coastal liberal elites to carry the day.



With all respect, I don't believe this is a fair, balanced or accurate claim to lump a population into one group. There are conservative elites that live on the coast as well, and also conservative, liberal and folks who do not identify with either two labels who are of the 99% of the rest of the population that also call the coast home.

 
Artie Scott
gardener
Posts: 859
Location: Piedmont 7a
298
hugelkultur trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That’s a fair point, James. Painting with too broad brush leads to sloppy results.

But I think my main point is valid - that it is designed to give more rural states with smaller populations a bit more power in selecting the president.

And a look at the electoral map does support the general conclusion that the coastal states with large cities/large populations tend to be more liberal, or at least vote for more liberal candidates, than the smaller population states in between.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 3110
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
1171
forest garden foraging books food preservation cooking fiber arts bee medical herbs
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This should clear up any remaining confusion.

 
master steward
Posts: 15182
Location: Pacific Northwest
6869
hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When I think about the Electoral College, I think back to how our county originally was. It was 13 very different colonies. It was, in many way, a lot like the European Union, I think.n Each colonies was used to governing itself, and many weren't too keen on losing their ability to self govern. They wanted to be more like little countries, than just a state.

By having an Electoral College, it's more like our state (like a micro country) putting in it's vote for the president. It'd be kind of like if the European Union decided to elect a president. Each country would probably put in a vote, rather than doing it by popular vote, because the smaller countries would feel like they had no influence or self-governing power if they were lost in a popular vote.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3625
Location: Toronto, Ontario
504
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Actually, the EU does elect a President, although I don't know how they go about it.

I have never seen how the electoral college makes sense in the current context. What is going to happen to small states if one vote from anywhere counts exactly the same? What does it matter?

I would love to hear what people think would happen if the untied states got rid of the electoral college, had a ranked-ballot, mandatory vote where you cast one vote for each elected position, with a second and third choice, and so on, and while we're at it, eliminate elected positions that have no business being elected, like, I don't know, law enforcement, any part of the judiciary, dog catchers...

I mean, that still leaves money in politics, which I think is the biggest travesty in any country, but at least the outcomes might be based at least to some extent on the wishes of the people.

And yes, I am aware of the argument that the states weren't intended by the drafters of your various founding documents to be as democratic as suggestions such as mine would make them, but so what? I have always wondered why "originalists" thought that the country shouldn't succeed past the expectations of its founding fathers. Their views were as limited as that of any individual, except that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, so that we see further. What they started building has grown. Why wouldn't a taller tower yield a more accurate view?

I think the electoral college has become vestigial and prone to health issues. I think it needs to be removed. There are many ways that the system could evolve, but I think some surgical alterations would make for greater functionality.

But seriously, I might be having issues with my personal blindspots. I would love it if someone could give examples of what bad stuff might happen to small states if they aren't given a truly overwhelming thumb on the scale when decision time comes around.

Another thing occurs to me. Who are the financial drivers here, the tiny, underpopulated states, or the giant, bustling, overpopulated ones? And the tiny ones get more say? And some of these tiny ones (all?) are getting federal handouts derived from the wealth of more populous states? Or am I making unfounded suppositions?

Some of this actually never occurred to me before. I mean, I was aware of the effect of the electoral college on the vote, but some of these potential dynamics hadn't been sketched out for me.

If true, that doesn't seem fair to me.

-CK

 
pollinator
Posts: 218
47
duck forest garden chicken cooking building
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

leila hamaya wrote:wow, thats convincing. i now really dont like the electoral college situation, where i have usually been pretty neutral on it.

i guess i didnt realize that it was that much more influence. i knew that the red states, the republicans...well this is really the only reason they are able to get more of the vote, and more representation than they actually should, because they represent a much smaller segment of the population. i just thought it was a much smaller gap.



How many voted for Trump (72 million)? How many for Biden (77 million) That's fairly close to 50-50, it's 52-48. And Biden won.

The country is consistently really close to 50-50 Republican/Democrat, in terms of actual received votes, ignoring third parties that never get more than about 5% combined.

Every eight years, we fairly consistently swap which party has the president. That is *staggeringly* fair.

People who want the electoral college eleminated want it so the party of the 52% *always* wins, so they can cram down a tyranny of a slim majority on the party of the 48%. That is staggeringly unfair. Letting the party representing 48% win the presidency 48% of the time is very reasonable. Making the party representing 52% win 100% of the time is very unreasonable.

(but understandable! I also want my viewpoints to also win, and viewpoints I dislike to never win. =P)

Our country was deliberately set up as a Republic of independent Democracies to deliberately avoid the tyrannies of pure Democracies.

If people really want better canidates, then we need a Ranked Choice voting system: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranked_voting

And if people really care about "what the country wants", then we have to first realize that both parties use popular policy proposals to get into office, and then use their power to enact unpopular things the majority don't want (in addition to the popular proposals that they ran on).

Imagine a system where no Democrat or Republican bill could go into law unless 50% of the public agreed with it. Half the Democrat and half the Republican policy objectives would be impossible to enact.

My proposal: you can get rid of the electoral college only if you do ranked choice voting **and** make all bills in the House and Senate require 65% of the House and Senate's vote. The latter would force bipartisan cooperation, and the former would help weaken the two-party duopoly.

Anything less, and I think people just want their party of 52% to win 100% of the time and see the electoral college as something that currently helps their opposition.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
Posts: 3625
Location: Toronto, Ontario
504
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Jamin. That was very helpful. I don't think I agree, though, because the reasoning that every eight years the will of the majority must be overridden in the name of fairness sounds unfair.

I think that perhaps when the population numbers were much lower, leaving all else aside, the small number of voices silenced to please a ruling subset of the population might have been understandable. Now, perhaps not so much, I think. The individual has gained much more power unto itself. At this point, silencing it by removing the already diluted impact of its vote easily breaks the spirit of your First Amendment, as voting is the literalised manifestation of your freedom of expression.

I think that, ultimately, it must be decided whether it is more important to live in the real world of the needs and expectations of the people who elect and pay for your country to exist through their taxes, or whether it is better to discuss abstract ideological constructs and historical precedents while the country literally burns. Except, of course, for where it's drowning.

It would be ironic if the type of popular uprising that is foretold in Marxism was brought about because of a strict adherence to an antiquated system of quasi-democratic republicanism whose followers trumpet anti-socialist and anti-communist slogans.

I think it's cancerous. Cut it out. What of the most happiness for the most people? What is the long game anyways? What is the point of regressing for four to eight years every eight years? The population is, for the most part, highly educated, and even more have the capacity to be, if this absurd idolization of incompetence can be discarded (I'm sorry, but Bones McCoy did a great good ol' country doctor, and he never, not once, seemed to prefer ignorance, and he was opposite Spock, science and reason incarnate. This seeming deification of anti-intellectualism is just incomprehensible to me). I think that these measures that were adopted to counter an uneducated and dispersed, sparse population, whose whims might derail a budding nation, are all vestigial. They gotta go. The people can think for themselves now, and any measure to "safeguard the nation from the whims or tyranny of the masses" speaks of a disdain of the people, to my ears.

Mind you, I like the measures you propose. I see no mention of gerrymandering, which also needs to be addressed, and fake news, which in past years was called propaganda. If everyone has all the information and has been educated sufficiently, it should be possible to trust their judgement, probably moreso than the vested interests wanting to keep their jobs (the incumbent elected officials).

-CK
 
pollinator
Posts: 373
Location: SW Missouri • zone 6 • ~1400' elevation
105
goat fish books chicken sheep ungarbage
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I know some people vote for "the lesser evil" between the two leading parties, when they would rather elect someone else. They believe that since most people will vote for one of the two major parties, that's where all the electoral votes will go, and that if you vote for anyone else, your vote is just thrown away. I wonder how many would change that thinking, if we just went by the popular vote. I bet the two biggest parties would still get the majority, but I wonder if other parties or independants would be taken more seriously. Maybe people would start to vote how they want because "okay, maybe they DO have a chance now". Just a thought. I don't really know if we can even guess unless we try not having the electoral vote.
gift
 
Clean With Cleaners You Can Eat by Raven Ranson
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic