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Old 10th May 2019, 07:04 AM   #1
BobTheCoward
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Can someone defend the actual electoral college?

What I hat about most arguments about the electoral college is that the side in favor of the electoral college often argue for a principle (state's rights or rural vs Urban or something similar) rather than the electoral college itself.

So let's take that out of discussion. For sake of conversation, let's concede whatever principle you want is correct (whether it is federalism, or identity, or even if you want your candidates to win all the time). State whatever you want.

Why should the electoral college be the system we use to achieve that?
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:10 AM   #2
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Here's the thing. Largely the original design of the electoral college, while concept of balance between states was in there somewhere of course, was as much or even more about the fact that in a pre-industrial age country counting votes, tallying votes, getting physical ballots from one place to another and all that jazz... took time. Sometimes a lot of time. And things could change in that time.

Electoral Voters were also imagined as a check & balance against the fact that vast majority of voters didn't have up to date information on the candidates so if John Q. Powderwig gets the most votes but two days before the votes are tallied gets kicked in the head by his mule and up and decides to give Virginia to the Ottomon Empire and nominate his Koi Pond to be Secretary of State and that information didn't have time to filter down every country hovel across the nation then the Electors could go "Okay well they wouldn't have voted for him if they had know that..." and adjust.

It was an, at best, imperfect system with huge places for misuses even at the time, but at least there was some sense of logic behind it.

It just all became null & void pretty much the moment the telegraph was invented.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:19 AM   #3
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The only half-decent, contemporary, pro-electoral college argument that I have heard that it is much easier to properly administrate an election where there are only 538 votes involved as opposed to an election where there are about 130 million votes involved.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:26 AM   #4
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Eventually we'll all just text our votes to computers, which will tally them up and announce the results.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:27 AM   #5
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Because there's isn't a modern "argument" for the Electoral College, only inertia (well that's the way we've always done it...) paired with a vague sense that it's "fair."

As always I look at it this way. Let's say American has always had direct elections. Now present an argument for why we need to change to an Electoral College system. What problem would it be solving and how would that solve it?
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:30 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
The only half-decent, contemporary, pro-electoral college argument that I have heard that it is much easier to properly administrate an election where there are only 538 votes involved as opposed to an election where there are about 130 million votes involved.
But that gets to the point in the first vote.

Let's concede the goal is ease of administration.

What is the defense of the number 538 and how it is distributed?
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:33 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But that gets to the point in the first vote.

Let's concede the goal is ease of administration.

What is the defense of the number 538 and how it is distributed?
538 is the number of total Senators and Representatives, plus 3 (for the District of Columbia) and it's distributed the same way, as a weighted distribution of population.

And don't go "Well what's the reason for that then" in perpetuity.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:40 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
538 is the number of total Senators and Representatives, plus 3 (for the District of Columbia) and it's distributed the same way, as a weighted distribution of population.

And don't go "Well what's the reason for that then" in perpetuity.
I didn't ask for the reason. I know the reason (I listen to the 538 politics podcast). I asked for a defense of using that number.

I'm conceding the ease of use argument (the conceit of this thread). I'm asking for the defense of 538 vs 500 or 600.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:43 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I didn't ask for the reason. I know the reason (I listen to the 538 politics podcast). I asked for a defense of using that number.

I'm conceding the ease of use argument (the conceit of this thread). I'm asking for the defense of 538 vs 500 or 600.
Because if it was 500 or 600 you'd be asking the same question.

It has to be SOME number. Might as well use (or be based on) one we already have a system in place for calculating.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:44 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Because if it was 500 or 600 you'd be asking the same question.

It has to be SOME number. Might as well use (or be based on) one we already have a system in place for calculating.
Why?
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:46 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Why?
You are a heap of molecules standing on a heap of molecules whirling through space. There is no reason for anything.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:46 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
I didn't ask for the reason. I know the reason (I listen to the 538 politics podcast). I asked for a defense of using that number.

I'm conceding the ease of use argument (the conceit of this thread). I'm asking for the defense of 538 vs 500 or 600.
If you want that answer, then read the Constitution.

You have often claimed to have read the Constitution.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:46 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Why?
Oh for Gods sake.

I tried. I tried to talk to you like a human being.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:49 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Oh for Gods sake.

I tried. I tried to talk to you like a human being.
If we had Elizabeth Warren and I asked her questions about why her policies chose X instead of Y, she can articulate the answers.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:49 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
What I hat about most arguments about the electoral college is that the side in favor of the electoral college often argue for a principle (state's rights or rural vs Urban or something similar) rather than the electoral college itself.

So let's take that out of discussion. For sake of conversation, let's concede whatever principle you want is correct (whether it is federalism, or identity, or even if you want your candidates to win all the time). State whatever you want.

Why should the electoral college be the system we use to achieve that?
Tradition.

You've already stipulated that the problem is real and needs solving. This is the solution currently in use. You're not arguing that not having a solution is better than having this solution. You're not arguing that there's a better solution. Therefore, it's reasonable to keep using this solution until a better one is found.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:49 AM   #16
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Well, it makes it easier for one side to win elections.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:53 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Tradition.

You've already stipulated that the problem is real and needs solving. This is the solution currently in use. You're not arguing that not having a solution is better than having this solution. You're not arguing that there's a better solution. Therefore, it's reasonable to keep using this solution until a better one is found.
But I don't know if it solves the problem the person stipulated. Take the only argument presented so far: ease of use. How do we measure ease of use? How do we know the existing solution doesn't have a negative measure of ease of use? If you need an alternative to compare...here it is: 500. Now what?
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:54 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Well, it makes it easier for one side to win elections.
Here is an alternative: mandate that side wins every election.

Defend the electoral college over that on that principle.
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Old 10th May 2019, 07:58 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
If you want that answer, then read the Constitution.

You have often claimed to have read the Constitution.
The Constitution doesn't make a defense of the electoral college.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:03 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But I don't know if it solves the problem the person stipulated. Take the only argument presented so far: ease of use. How do we measure ease of use? How do we know the existing solution doesn't have a negative measure of ease of use? If you need an alternative to compare...here it is: 500. Now what?
Now we keep the current number, since there's no reason to believe that changing it will improve things.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:05 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Now we keep the current number, since there's no reason to believe that changing it will improve things.
Prove it
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:05 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
You are a heap of molecules standing on a heap of molecules whirling through space. There is no reason for anything.
"Okay but what's the reason for the electrons whirling through space?"
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:08 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
The Constitution doesn't make a defense of the electoral college.
You are wrong again.

Since the Electoral College is stipulated in the Constitution, then legally speaking, the Electoral College is quite well defended.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:12 AM   #24
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The Constitution doesn't defend the EC, it defines it.

There is, for sure, a discussion to be had around whether 538 is the right number. But you have to look at how that number is arrived at (based on the number of Representatives and Senators) not just pick another number at random. 538 is the result of a process, not a number picked out of the air.

Is it the right process? I have literally no idea, but you're not going to get anywhere near a solution by playing a game of random number bingo.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:22 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Prove it
Certainly:

Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But I don't know if it solves the problem the person stipulated. Take the only argument presented so far: ease of use. How do we measure ease of use? How do we know the existing solution doesn't have a negative measure of ease of use? If you need an alternative to compare...here it is: 500. Now what?
You propose a change, and give no reason to think that change will be an improvement.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:23 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
Since the Electoral College is stipulated in the Constitution, then legally speaking, the Electoral College is quite well defended.
The key question is why the founders chose to include it.

James Madison explains:
Quote:
The people generally could only know & vote for some Citizen whose merits had rendered him an object of general attention & esteem. There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.
In other words, the substitution of electors in place of a popular vote gave a boost to states (such as Madison's own) which held a large proportion of their residents in bondage.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:25 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by d4m10n View Post
In other words, the substitution of electors in place of a popular vote gave a boost to states (such as Madison's own) which held a large proportion of their residents in bondage.
Indeed. The "Protect the small states from the big states" was just code-speak for another version of the 3/5th rule basically.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:36 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Worm View Post
The Constitution doesn't defend the EC, it defines it.

There is, for sure, a discussion to be had around whether 538 is the right number. But you have to look at how that number is arrived at (based on the number of Representatives and Senators) not just pick another number at random. 538 is the result of a process, not a number picked out of the air.

Is it the right process? I have literally no idea, but you're not going to get anywhere near a solution by playing a game of random number bingo.
Quite true.

The Constitution does define the Electoral College.

Therefore, to change the Electoral College would involve some sort Constitutional Amendment process which is tough to accomplish.

Therefore, legally speaking, the Electoral College is quite well defended.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:40 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by The Great Zaganza View Post
Well, it makes it easier for one side to win elections.
Does it? Then why haven't they won every time?
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:42 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Mike! View Post
Does it? Then why haven't they won every time?
*Slowly* Because "easier" and "certain" are the same words.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:47 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
"Okay but what's the reason for the electrons whirling through space?"
Why are they whirling and not sauntering?
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:48 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Why are they whirling and not sauntering?
I like to think they mostly meander, with the occasional trudging.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:54 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Certainly:


You propose a change, and give no reason to think that change will be an improvement.
That doesn't prove it. Let's go back to your claim.

Quote:
there's no reason to believe that changing it will improve things.
You are not taking a skeptical position of rejecting all claims of effective electoral systems until presented with reason and evidence. You are favoring a position. You have some set of measures that can rank systems and determine if a system is an improvement or not.

If I propose system Y, you dont need me to rank it for you. I'm not trying to argue that you should have different measures (the whole conceit of the first post). You can apply the measures you already have.

Prove that an alternative proposal is not an improvement under your own metrics.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:56 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
*Slowly* Because "easier" and "certain" are the same words.
Well they do share a certain percentage of letters, but they're hardly the same words.
However, in this case, "easier", implies an advantage that I don't think history really supports. Sure, Trump won with less than the popular vote, but it's not about the popular vote. The rules of playing, "I want to be President", are well established before the game begins, play to win the states you need, not the over all votes, and the game is yours.
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Old 10th May 2019, 08:58 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
You are a heap of molecules standing on a heap of molecules whirling through space. There is no reason for anything.
Come watch TV.
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Old 10th May 2019, 09:01 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Here's the thing. Largely the original design of the electoral college, while concept of balance between states was in there somewhere of course, was as much or even more about the fact that in a pre-industrial age country counting votes, tallying votes, getting physical ballots from one place to another and all that jazz... took time. Sometimes a lot of time. And things could change in that time.

Electoral Voters were also imagined as a check & balance against the fact that vast majority of voters didn't have up to date information on the candidates so if John Q. Powderwig gets the most votes but two days before the votes are tallied gets kicked in the head by his mule and up and decides to give Virginia to the Ottomon Empire and nominate his Koi Pond to be Secretary of State and that information didn't have time to filter down every country hovel across the nation then the Electors could go "Okay well they wouldn't have voted for him if they had know that..." and adjust.

It was an, at best, imperfect system with huge places for misuses even at the time, but at least there was some sense of logic behind it.

It just all became null & void pretty much the moment the telegraph was invented.
The other thing being that once they started choosing electors by popular vote instead of the State Legislators, the idea that it would check the mob also became obsolete.

So really all it does not is give the rural states a little more leverage, which I don't entirely oppose but at the very least it should be re-formulated to reduce that a bit. Perhaps move the big states to the head of the line in the primaries. The thing were 3 tiny states get such outside impact on the primaries on account of being first is probably even dumber.

Last edited by ahhell; 10th May 2019 at 09:15 AM.
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Old 10th May 2019, 09:03 AM   #37
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Let's just note that the real problem with the Electoral College is that most states have chosen to apportion the electors on a "winner-take-all" basis. The candidate with 50.1 percent of the votes (or even less if there's more than two) gets all the electors. But nothing in the Constitution requires that, and two states do it differently. If the states assigned electors to candidates in proportion to their popular vote in the state, the EC wouldn't be a problem, and it wouldn't take a Constitutional amendment to change it.
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Old 10th May 2019, 09:05 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
That doesn't prove it. Let's go back to your claim.



You are not taking a skeptical position of rejecting all claims of effective electoral systems until presented with reason and evidence. You are favoring a position. You have some set of measures that can rank systems and determine if a system is an improvement or not.

If I propose system Y, you dont need me to rank it for you. I'm not trying to argue that you should have different measures (the whole conceit of the first post). You can apply the measures you already have.

Prove that an alternative proposal is not an improvement under your own metrics.
Nope.

The burden of proof falls on the alternative proposal. I'm not taking homework assignments from you. I don't subscribe to your idea of "skepticism".

My entire defense of the EC, in the context of the OP, is simply: tradition. The status quo needs no defense against arguments from incredulity.
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Old 10th May 2019, 09:07 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Nope.

The burden of proof falls on the alternative proposal. I'm not taking homework assignments from you. I don't subscribe to your idea of "skepticism".

My entire defense of the EC, in the context of the OP, is simply: tradition. The status quo needs no defense against arguments from incredulity.
The burden of proof falls equally on the status quo position.
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Old 10th May 2019, 09:10 AM   #40
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The Electoral College, 48 of the 50 states having a winner take all policy, and first past the post voting all combine to form an inherently unfair system.

Either ranked preferential voting or ranked electoral vote distribution (If John Q. Powder wigs wins 60% of votes in Maryland he gets 6 electoral votes, not all 10) would fix the issues without getting rid of the Electoral College.
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