[EM] Electoral College-Pragmatic approach

Alexander Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Tue Jan 29 12:07:50 PST 2002

It's one thing to give a minority of the population (e.g. the small states)
a veto against the exercise of power, and quite another to let them
exercise power against the popular will.  The latter can happen when the
President is elected against the popular will (we can debate which method
best ascertains the popular will) and nominates a judge or implements a
treaty with the consent of Senators representing a minority of the

The only small states vs. big states arguments that I'm aware of in US
history occured at the Constitutional Convention.  The most polarizing
issue after the Convention was slavery, and there were large and small
states on both sides.  Some might point to debates over land use in the
Western US, where a great deal of land is subject to federal rather than
state control, but many of those federal laws were approved by
environmentalists in states like Hawaii, Rhode Island, Delaware, Vermont,

Nonetheless, there is a perception that the EC protects small states, and
that will make abolishing the EC an uphill battle.  Some uphill battles are
worth fighting, but the list of anomalous elections is small (1824, 1876,
1888, maybe 1960, and 2000).  As long as we have a 2-party system the EC
will function fine with only occasional flukes due to spoilers and/or super-
close races.

Pragmatically, there's no point in fighting the uphill battle until we have
a major third party, sending many Presidential elections to the House.
Anomalous elections will then be frequent and we'll have a powerful
argument for popular elections.

As everybody on this list knows, plurality voting promotes a 2-party
system.  Regardless of what you think about the EC, it will be with us for
some time to come until a long series of anomalous elections occurs, and
that will not happen until we have a different election method.  Since
there seems to be a consensus on the list that Approval Voting is superior
to plurality and is also easy to implement, that is the best target for
immediate action.

Btw, I like the argument that "I could decide that the upper 1/10th of CA
is under-represented and needs protection."

Alex Small

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