I’ve had so much to say since this election, but this hasn’t felt like the right place to say it, for two reasons: one is that as far as I can tell this site is mostly read by people of like mind who are already thinking the same things, and the other is that everything I need to say is being said by others, usually better.
But there are a couple of things I wanted to note down. One is that as far as I can tell, the Electoral College is a useless and antiquated system and should be abolished (not just because of this election; I’ve been complaining about them for a long time). I don’t think I need to explain how it works, but someone else-internet asked why it worked that way, and what the advantages are, and I might as well save what I wrote there (tl;dr: AFAIK, there really aren’t any).
I read Thomas Jefferson’s original reasoning – at least the reasoning he admitted to – in his own letters. Remember that news was much less of a thing then than it is now. He believed that if people elected their own government, they just wouldn’t do a good job, because they wouldn’t have enough insight into the candidates to know who would be a good President. But if they elected the best, smartest people they knew, and those people used their best judgement, we’d end up with a much better person in office. (He may have thought differently after Adams was elected, given their relationship at the time!)
Caveat the first: You will note that the current system isn’t anything like what Jefferson envisioned, since electors are no longer expected to use their judgement.
Caveat the second: I suspect Jefferson had some other motivations he didn’t discuss in those letters:
The practical one: President and VP are the only offices everyone across the country votes for, and that’s a lot of votes to count by hand. I suspect that voting for local electors made the counting much simpler.
The immoral one: how many electors a state gets depends on the size of that state – and if you remember the 3/5 Compromise, that meant that slave states had a greater effect on the election than their voting population actually warranted (hence the number of early Presidents from Virginia).
The other thing you will notice is that not one of the reasons cited above applies today. We all know a lot about the candidates by the time of the election, and electors aren’t supposed to use independent judgement anyway; we have computers to count; and all non-felon adults of sound mind can vote. So I do agree with the people calling for the dismantling of the Electoral College.
So why do some people want to keep it on the argument that it protects less-populous states? Each state has the same number of electors as it does Congresscritters (Senators plus Representatives). Therefore, no state has < 3 electors, since all states have 2 Senators, and each state has a number of Representatives proportional to its population, with a minimum of 1. Therefore, states with a very small population have a disproportionate influence on the vote. Which would make sense if you were Thomas Jefferson and thought that farmers were inherently more righteous than businesspeople (well, businessmen, if you were Jefferson). Some problems with this: The District of Columbia ALSO has three electors, and thus the same disproportionate influence as those hardy sons of of the soil. And who thinks giving the most political city in the US some extra clout is a good idea? If you are in sitting at a bar somewhere in France or Japan or Ethiopia, and you ask someone from Missoula or Grants Pass or Tulsa where they're from, they're almost certain to say "America", or "the US" if they want to be precise. (One exception: Texans tend to start with "Texas" and only admit to being part of the US after that.) Only when you get talking in more detail do they identify which state they're from. We started out as a union more like the EU, and there's no doubt that we still have some strong regional identities, but while, say, Arkansas might not want to be overruled by New England, I don't think they care much if they have more or less votes than Tennessee or Vermont by Massachusetts. I think we've gone beyond the need to filter national elections through the states - that's what Congress is there for, to protect local interests. Also, logically, the disproportionate power of rural voters is offset by the winner-take-all system, in which all electors for a state go to whoever got the most votes. This means, for example, that a state like Oregon, which has 4 million people with over half of those in metro Portland and another big chunk in Eugene, still votes blue despite most of the state (by land area rather than population) being red (check out the map on this page).
So basically as far as I can see, the only possible advantage to anyone at all in the Electoral College system, is that it gives the people who like to shout about states’ rights something to shout about.
(I didn’t really answer the question as to what the real advantage of the system is. As far as I can see, there isn’t one.)
Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.