In the Defense and Against the Electoral College

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Should or should we not have an Electoral College?

electoralcollege2016-svg

This post was inspired by three videos CPG  Grey made.

First, a video explaining the electoral college.

Second, an update to the first video.

Finally, an expansion on the first video.

So what really sparked this post is when he says the electoral college had elected a president against the popular vote three times in the past and then four after this election. Which gives it a failure rate of 5% in the past and 7% currently. My first issue is in the word choice. The electoral college has never failed, the president has always been elected by its rules.

If however you believe that the electoral college should elect the winner of the popular vote than yes I can see why you say it failed. That’s the thing though, the electoral college doesn’t need to pick the most popular candidate.

The question we should be asking is “does the electoral college need to be changed?”

Let’s quickly review the Electoral College’s workings. The current population of the United States is 320 million and we have 50 states. The number of electoral votes a state gets is equal to its House of Representatives members plus its senate members. So every state gets 2 votes because of the senate and at least 1 vote from the House. The exact number from the house is proportional to size of a state so the biggest state, California, has 53, the next biggest, Texas, has 36 and so on. Running the math you get 535 plus 3 for DC so 538 total. Finally all but 2 states have  a winner take all system where all electoral votes from a state go to the winner of that state.

So let’s do a thought experiment.

Let’s say 500,000 people live in every state except California where 295 million live. Running through the math California gets 388 votes and every other state gets 3 votes. Since California has 72% of the total votes you can only win by winning California.

Now does that seem fair?

Of course not. The needs of people in the Rust Belt will be different then those of the highly urbanized California. California is a small area of the United States and should not get to control all of it.

Now what if it was determined by the popular vote. Well states, especially California, tend to vote the same way. So even if only 80% of California voted for the same candidate  they’d still win. In fact if 55% of California, in this scenario, voted the same way it’d still be enough for the candidate to win the popular vote. Meaning you still only need to win California.

So is that fair?

Not in my opinion. This would still favor the highly populated urban areas where people are more likely to vote the same way and it is easier to campaign. This give the urbanized votes of California control over the entire country. Even the rural parts which may not be in their best interest.

What if we did proportional electoral college votes. Assuming that one candidate gets all 49 other states and DC they would only need 31% of California to take the presidency. This may be the method I am most happy with. It ensures that the smaller states like Idaho, Nebraska, the Dakota’s, Wyoming, Iowa, who have a large portion of the natural resources of the United States are’d put under the chains of the larger urbanized states. Doing proportional votes also prevents someone from winning with only 22% of the popular vote, which CPG Grey pointed out was possible in his first video with the winner take all system.

So those are my thoughts on this system and how it can change.

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2 thoughts on “In the Defense and Against the Electoral College

  1. thislifeinbooks

    As a Californian, I have to correct some assumptions you seem to be making about my state. First, California is a wonderfully diverse state with several large urban centers, yes, but also millions of people living in rural and suburban areas. This means that a California is not the monolith you presume, something confirmed by the fact that Clinton only won 61% of the popular vote. Second, you characterize California as a “tiny” part of America. 12% of Americans live in California. In a country with 50 states, 12% is not tiny, and I can tell you it is demoralizing to know that in the current system my vote counts less than many others’ and that my state is virtually irrelevant in the presidential politics. Politicians only come here to raise money or be on tv; they don’t need to concern themselves with our interests. Finally, as for those small states with a large portion of our nation’s resources. California’s is the sixth largest economy in the world. California is the nation’s largest agricultural producer, producing more than any of the state of at least 66 crops, including producing nearly all of the country’s almonds, artichokes, and figs. California is a significant producer of energy, ranking 3rd in crude oil production and 4th in hydroelectric generation. California contributes significantly to the national economy and ends up a huge net loser when it comes to paying taxes, receiving $0.81 for every dollar paid.

    I know this comment might seem like an overreaction to your post, but is frustrating to see such an important dismissed and mischaracterized. For the record, I do not know what the answer to the electoral collage is.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah I’m also from California and in the case that I am talking about where there are 295 million people living in California it is not a stretch to say that all of California is urban. Using that theoretical population size and the current land area of California you get 1830 people per square mile which is the population density of Atlanta. That brings it just to the cusp of being urbanized evenly through out. I also don’t recall saying California is tiny but maybe I did however I can’t read the post right now. My main point was that the electoral college is designed to help little states have a bigger voice and that may frustrate some but not me. Even if that means my vote counts less. I also proposed the proportional electoral votes at the end in order to give candidates a reason to campaign in states they normally assume they’d lose.

      Liked by 1 person

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