Saturday, June 06, 2009

Our Incompetent Government

I could just as well be writing about the national government now, but this is about the Washington State government.

You would think that one who chooses to hold public office would want to know something about how our government is supposed to work. Sadly, that is asking far too much.

Washington 9th in line to kill the electoral college
Washington State is front and center on ridding the U.S. of the Electoral College and pushing for electing the president by National Popular Vote (NPV). Olympia legislators passed Senate Bill 5599 which made Washington the 9th state in the U.S. ready to kill the Electoral College. Ironically the NPV law only needs 270 out of the 538 electoral votes to be enacted into law. The vote is currently at 60 or 23%.

Why we have an electoral college

The Founding Fathers decided against NPV because it would not represent the smaller states. Candidates could ignore rural areas, and focus on densely populated regions where they could get more votes. The Electoral College (EC) is meant for candidates to work harder to get their votes. Each state gets a certain number of electoral votes based on the states population, determined by the U.S. Census. Washington State has eleven votes, less populated states, like Alaska and Delaware only have three while California has the most electoral votes at 55.
Would the end of the Electoral College mean a better democracy. If you are not already convinced by the preceding that the answer to that question is no, then note;
Is a NPV really more representative?

A National Popular Vote doesnt just mean a 51/49 split. It means whoever gets the majority wins. A candiadte (sic) could very well win with a mere 20% approval. It is more complex than people understand. It might kill the two-party system that has carried elections throughout history. Currently, each party has to agree on a candidate who can appeal to the greatest number of citizens to gain a majority of votes of the Electoral College.

Paul Greenberg argues that this shift in electoral reform makes us more like the French. There were thirteen candidates in 2003, and barely any of them could carry a majority. The result was to have a second round of voting that put a right wing radical against an unpopular conservative. Ridding the U.S. of the EC would water down the quality of candidates and open the door for right and left wing radicals to be legitimate presidential contenders. It would segregate states, regions, and people.
Of course none of this means anything to the idiots that run our government and the poorly informed electorate that continually rëelects them.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. Washington is not one. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided "battleground" states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 "battleground" states. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

Anonymous said...

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Anonymous said...

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. This national result is similar to recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Delaware --75%, Maine -- 71%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 73% , Massachusetts -- 73%, New York -- 79%, and Washington -- 77%.

Anonymous said...

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 28 state legislative chambers, in small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

Anonymous said...

Support for a national popular vote remained steady, at 77% overall, after the National Popular Vote Bill was signed by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire. A survey of 800 Washington state voters conducted on May 5–6, 2009 showed 77% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states. This 77% support level is the same overall percentage registered on the identical question in a December 2–3, 2008 poll in Washington. Percentages by subgroups were similar in both polls.

By political affiliation, support for a national popular vote in the May 2009 poll was 88% among Democrats, 65% among Republicans, and 73% among others.

By gender, support in the May 2009 poll was 85% among women and 67% among men.

By age, support in the May 2009 poll was 73% among 18-29 year olds, 76% among 30-45 year olds, 76% among 46-65 year olds, and 78% for those older than 65.

By race, support in the May 2009 poll was 78% among white voters (representing 87% of the respondents), 45% among African-American voters (representing 10% of the respondents), and 71% among others (representing 3% of the respondents).

The survey was conducted by Public Policy Polling.

see www.NationalPopularVote.com

Anonymous said...

The small states are the most disadvantaged of all under the current system of electing the President. Political clout comes from being a closely divided battleground state, not the two-vote bonus.

Small states are almost invariably non-competitive, and ignored, in presidential elections. Only 1 of the 13 smallest states are battleground states (and only 5 of the 25 smallest states are battlegrounds).

Of the 13 smallest states, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska regularly vote Republican, and Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC regularly vote Democratic. These 12 states together contain 11 million people. Because of the two electoral-vote bonus that each state receives, the 12 non-competitive small states have 40 electoral votes. However, the two-vote bonus is an entirely illusory advantage to the small states. Ohio has 11 million people and has "only" 20 electoral votes. As we all know, the 11 million people in Ohio are the center of attention in presidential campaigns, while the 11 million people in the 12 non-competitive small states are utterly irrelevant. Nationwide election of the President would make each of the voters in the 12 smallest states as important as an Ohio voter.

The concept of a national popular vote for President is far from being politically "radioactive" in small states, because the small states recognize they are the most disadvantaged group of states under the current system.

In small states, the National Popular Vote bill already has been approved by a total of seven state legislative chambers, including one house in Maine and both houses in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It has been enacted by Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

The 11 most populous states contain 56% of the population of the United States and that a candidate would win the Presidency if 100% of the voters in these 11 states voted for one candidate. However, if anyone is concerned about the this theoretical possibility, it should be pointed out that, under the current system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the vote in these same 11 states -- that is, a mere 26% of the nation's votes.

Of course, the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely act in concert on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five "red" states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six "blue" states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

Moreover, the notion that any candidate could win 100% of the vote in one group of states and 0% in another group of states is far-fetched. Indeed, among the 11 most populous states, the highest levels of popular support were found in the following seven non-battleground states:
* Texas (62% Republican),
* New York (59% Democratic),
* Georgia (58% Republican),
* North Carolina (56% Republican),
* Illinois (55% Democratic),
* California (55% Democratic), and
* New Jersey (53% Democratic).

In addition, the margins generated by the nation's largest states are hardly overwhelming in relation to the 122,000,000 votes cast nationally. Among the 11 most populous states, the highest margins were the following seven non-battleground states:
* Texas -- 1,691,267 Republican
* New York -- 1,192,436 Democratic
* Georgia -- 544,634 Republican
* North Carolina -- 426,778 Republican
* Illinois -- 513,342 Democratic
* California -- 1,023,560 Democratic
* New Jersey -- 211,826 Democratic

To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 votes for Bush in 2004 -- larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 votes for Bush in 2004.

Anonymous said...

When presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as in Ohio and Florida, the big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004.

Likewise, under a national popular vote, every vote everywhere will be equally important politically. There will be nothing special about a vote cast in a big city or big state. When every vote is equal, candidates of both parties will seek out voters in small, medium, and large towns throughout the states in order to win. A vote cast in a big city or state will be equal to a vote cast in a small state, town, or rural area.

Another way to look at this is that there are approximately 300 million Americans. The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities is only 19% of the population of the United States. Even if one makes the far-fetched assumption that a candidate could win 100% of the votes in the nation's top five cities, he would only have won 6% of the national vote.

Further evidence of the way a nationwide presidential campaign would be run comes from the way that national advertisers conduct nationwide sales campaigns. National advertisers seek out customers in small, medium, and large towns of every small, medium, and large state. National advertisers do not advertise only in big cities. Instead, they go after every single possible customer, regardless of where the customer is located. National advertisers do not write off Indiana or Illinois merely because their competitor has an 8% lead in sales in those states. And, a national advertiser with an 8%-edge over its competitor does not stop trying to make additional sales in Indiana or Illinois merely because they are in the lead.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the main media at the moment, namely TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. So, if you just looked at TV, candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

For example, in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places don't control the outcome (otherwise California wouldn't have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles.

If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a "big city" approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldn't be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

Anonymous said...

After more than 10,000 statewide elections in the past two hundred years, there is no evidence of any tendency toward a massive proliferation of third-party candidates in elections in which the winner is simply the candidate receiving the most votes throughout the entire jurisdiction served by the office. No such tendency has emerged in other jurisdictions, such as congressional districts or state legislative districts. There is no evidence or reason to expect the emergence of some unique new political dynamic that would promote multiple candidacies if the President were elected in the same manner as every other elected official in the United States.

Based on historical evidence, there is far more fragmentation of the vote under the current state-by-state system of electing the President than in elections in which the winner is simply the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the jurisdiction involved.

Under the current state-by-state system of electing the President (in which the candidate who receives a plurality of the popular vote wins all of the state's electoral votes), minor-party candidates have significantly affected the outcome in six (40%) of the 15 presidential elections in the past 60 years (namely the 1948, 1968, 1980, 1992, 1996, and 2000 presidential elections). The reason that the current system has encouraged so many minor-party candidates and so much fragmentation of the vote is that a presidential candidate with no hope of winning a plurality of the votes nationwide has 51 separate opportunities to shop around for particular states where he can affect electoral votes or where he might win outright. Thus, under the current system, segregationists such as Strom Thurmond (1948) or George Wallace (1968) won electoral votes in numerous Southern states, although they had no chance of receiving the most popular votes nationwide. In addition, candidates such as John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot (1992 and 1996), and Ralph Nader (2000) did not win a plurality of the popular vote in any state, but managed to affect the outcome by switching electoral votes in numerous particular states.