[EM] Electoral College (was Re: Voting by selecting a published ordering)

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Thu Apr 27 06:00:29 PDT 2006

At 01:06 AM 4/27/2006, Dave Ketchum wrote:
>>It appears that the Constitution allows just about any method of 
>>choosing electors that a state wishes to follow: this, indeed, is 
>>the source of the problem, for it led inevitably to all-or-nothing, 
>>since that benefited the majority party in each state.
>You did not explain how any state would agree to such destructive action.

I did not explain "how" since I thought it obvious: whenever a party 
has a clear majority in a state, it is in its interest to assign all 
its electors to that party. This is done by the legislature, i.e., by 
politicians, it does not require any action by the people directly. 
So it is easy for a strong party to put such a thing through. And 
then to remove it requires a majority in the other direction, but 
this time a majority that may be voting against its own interest, and 
it is not only against its own interest, if it is done in a simple 
way, to move back to proportional representation on the college, but 
it is also, because of the status quo with other states, against the 
public interest as well, for it reduces the balancing effect, leaving 
those states assigning all-or-nothing having an edge in influence 
over the final result.

Now, I assumed that Mr. Ketchum was referring to the original 
implementation of such legislation, state-by-state. States *did* do 
this, it is not speculation.

Why would a state, then, take the plunge and reform the system on its 
own? Well, if the proposal were a pledge system, where electors were 
pledged to vote according to a formula that acts to balance the 
overall result toward proportionality, this, under certain 
circumstances, will act to benefit the minority parties. How could 
the minority parties accomplish this against the interest of the 
"majority party?"

The necessary circumstance is that the sum of those voters supporting 
all of the lesser parties, plus those voters affliated with the 
majority party who want to end the inequity without unfairly harming 
their own party, is a plurality. I think there are quite a few states 
in this situation.

But it would take an organized effort, and it would have to be an 
effort that was not, in itself, affiliated with any party at all. The 
effort would have to be, in appearance and in reality, non-political, 
its goal would have to be fairness and nothing else. Not to help this 
or that specific party.

Ahem. Metaparty.beyondpolitics.org is an example of this kind of 
organization. But there might be other possibilities.

Note that the only cirumstance under which this kind of measure would 
harm the major party would be one in which the major party would 
otherwise win against the popular vote. That is rare, and there are 
plenty of people affiliated with major parties who strongly dislike 
winning in such a way. For one thing, ultimately, it tends to 
backfire. But a lot of damage can be done in the meantime.

>If the electors are to perform as originally intended there is no 
>point to their getting elected by the people - the legislature can 
>appoint those who will meet as a committee and interview prospective 
>candidates.  There is nothing in this for electors to campaign intelligently.

There is nothing in any election law that provides for candidates to 
campaign intelligently....

The legislature can do whatever it likes, within the bounds of the 
state and federal constitution. If the measure, which would 
presumably be a constitutional initiative, provided for public 
election of the electors, and that only the names of the electors 
would appear on the ballot, this could not easily be subverted by the 
legislature in a state close to balance between the major parties.

As *I* would draft it, the initiative would specify that the electors 
would appear on the ballot without party or other affiliations. Don't 
you think that they would campaign? They would have the money, those 
likely to support a major party candidate, it would come from the 
national campaigns of those parties, among other sources. But 
independents would, under this system, have a shot at winning, 
whereas now, they have none at all.

Readers should know by now that I consider elections, in themselves, 
to be anti-democratic under most circumstances. Representation should 
be a right, not something to contest others over. Business figured 
out how to do this a long time ago, and, interestingly, the business 
solution is similar to the original intention of the Electoral 
College; but a compromise in the Constitutional Convention led to, 
effectively, representation of the state legislatures on the College, 
not representation of the people. We must remember that democracy was 
a suspect thing at the time of the Convention, and strong 
anti-democratic traditions continued well into the last century, and, 
indeed, to some extent, continue today. And today's institutions are 
still heavily marked by these traditions.

It should also be understood that the campaign to reform a state's 
assignment of electors should itself be conducted, in my view, 
democratically. That is, the form of the amendment should not be 
something fixed in advance, but should be created through 
deliberative process with wide participation. My suggestion is just 
that: a suggestion. A good process with wide participation is likely 
to come up with something much better. To me, the key is to begin 
that process, not to immediately start working on a very specific 
proposal. Proposals like mine (and a somewhat similar one which has 
received press attention recently) should only serve as an example of 
what *might* be done, i.e., as a sign that there is light at the end 
of the tunnel, making it worthwhile to explore further.

>  davek at clarityconnect.com    people.clarityconnect.com/webpages3/davek
>  Dave Ketchum   108 Halstead Ave, Owego, NY  13827-1708   607-687-5026
>            Do to no one what you would not want done to you.
>                  If you want peace, work for justice.

And if you want justice, don't just sit there. You will have to act. 
Reading, alone, is not going to cut through the fog that keeps us disempowered.

But it is my contention that it is not necessary for everyone to pour 
their lives into reform. Collectively, were we organized, it would be 
*easy* to reform the system. So the question boils down to how we can 
organize, in a way that does not fall into the pitfalls that have 
trapped similar efforts in the past. FA/DP is one answer; there may 
be others, but we won't have *anything* if we don't start recognizing 
the real problem instead of tilting at symptoms, no matter how 
outrageous the latter might be. By all means, treat the symptoms, but 
don't neglect the disease itself.

By the way, Mr. Eppley, as to myself, Page House, 1961-1963. Don't 
you wish there were steam tunnels *everywhere*?

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