Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Electoral Votes by Congressional District?

There's been lots of talk about the electoral college among political pundits. Generally there's three ways suggested to assign presidential electors.

Winner Take All - This is used in 49 states. The candidate who wins the state gets all of the elected votes.

National Popular Vote - Not used but passed in 9 states. The theory goes if states adding up to 270 electoral votes enact this, the popular vote winner will win. I staunchly oppose this for several reasons. I said this on
Don't monkey with the system unless it is a must. It's not needed here. How often is the popular vote relatively close? Often. How often does the person who loses the popular vote win? Rarely. Three times I believe. Hayes, Adams, and Bush the first time. That's it. 



  • This gives urban areas much more power. It doesn't help rural populations.
  • Vote fraud. Chicago and Milwaukee affects the country instead of Illinois and Wisconsin.
  • Recounts. How will recounts be conducted under this. Instead of being confined to one state, it could go to hundreds of cities in fifty different states with fifty different rules under the NPV. It potentially creates a giant clustermuck with a capital "F".
  • Election rules. This will quasi-nationalize elections. Michigan is in the process of cleaning things up with elections with ID laws and such. If Ruth Johnson's reforms pass, what will happen nationally with the NPV? It's a quasi national system and will lead to quasi national election rules across the country. If this goes national, what happens with this? Are we going to be forced by SCOTUS to honor other state election laws in our own state with our own elections, and be forced to toss our election laws?  

  •  There's a lot of bad consequences. I'm a little more intrigued by the third way and am open to this here in Michigan, although I have concerns about that as well.


    Maine/Nebraska - This is where the state winner gets 2 electoral votes, and the winner of each congressional district gets another. Some want to bring that to Michigan. Five years ago, I'd be all for it. Now? Not sure. It's a hell of a gamble. Pros and Cons:

    Pros:
    After Presidential losses of 16 and 9pts, Michigan may soon be ignored. This would change it as several districts are close. This also limits Detroit's influence on the election as they self-pack. It would heavily focus on MI-01, MI-06, MI-07, MI-08, and MI-11. Maybe MI-03 and MI-04 in a bad year.

    Cons:
    It puts a lot of presidential election power in the hands of the state legislature and governor. While APOL limits gerrymandering to a degree, it's not 100% followed for federal districts (federal law conflict) and we could have nasty gerrymanders, especially if Voting Rights Districts are lifted. It also ignores districts like MI-02, MI-05, MI-09, MI-12, MI-13, and MI-14.

    Wildcards:
    Will Michigan go to a redistricting commission which puts these in the hands of bureaucrats not accountable to the people. (Commissions can be good or bad ie Mathis in Arizona). What will the districts be in 2021?

    How will other states react? Could Texas do this? Indiana? Florida? Ohio? Would this lead to NPV instead? What will the unintended consequences be?

    From a purely Livingston County, Michigan standpoint, this is a good thing. Overall, I'm not so sure. I prefer this to NPV, and prefer this to being hung out to dry by campaigns that publicly quit or make promised that aren't kept. It would be good for eight years, but what about the 10 years after that? I don't know, and that's my concern.


    8 comments:

    toto said...

    Maine and Nebraska voters support a national popular vote.

    A survey of Maine voters showed 77% overall support for a national popular vote for President.
    In a follow-up question presenting a three-way choice among various methods of awarding Maine’s electoral votes,
    * 71% favored a national popular vote;
    * 21% favored Maine’s current system of awarding its electoral votes by congressional district; and
    * 8% favored the statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of Maine’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide).
    ***

    A survey of Nebraska voters showed 74% overall support for a national popular vote for President.
    In a follow-up question presenting a three-way choice among various methods of awarding Nebraska’s electoral votes,
    * 60% favored a national popular vote;
    * 28% favored Nebraska’s current system of awarding its electoral votes by congressional district; and
    * 13% favored the statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of Nebraska’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide).

    NationalPopularVote

    &&&&

    Republicans want to split electoral votes in blue states......but not red states.

    Dividing more states’ electoral votes by congressional district winners would magnify the worst features of the Electoral College system.

    If the district approach were used nationally, it would be less fair and less accurately reflect the will of the people than the current system. In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. Although Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he won 55% of the country's congressional districts.

    The district approach would not provide incentive for presidential candidates to campaign in a particular state or focus the candidates' attention to issues of concern to the state. With the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all laws (whether applied to either districts or states), candidates have no reason to campaign in districts or states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In North Carolina, for example, there are only 2 districts (the 13th with a 5% spread and the 2nd with an 8% spread) where the presidential race is competitive. Nationwide, there have been only 55 "battleground" districts that were competitive in presidential elections. With the present deplorable 48 state-level winner-take-all system, 80% of the states (including California and Texas) are ignored in presidential elections; however, 88% of the nation's congressional districts would be ignored if a district-level winner-take-all system were used nationally.

    Awarding electoral votes by congressional district could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.

    Because there are generally more close votes on district levels than states as whole, district elections increase the opportunity for error. The larger the voting base, the less opportunity there is for an especially close vote.

    Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person's vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.

    toto said...

    The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 14 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore's lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

    toto said...

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.
    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 (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

    Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.

    If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.

    A nationwide presidential campaign, with every vote equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every vote is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every vote is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren't so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

    Even 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 Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.

    In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.

    Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.

    There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.

    With 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.

    Candidates would need to build a winning coalition across demographics. Any candidate who ignored, for example, the 16% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a “big city” approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would 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 waitress mom voters in Ohio.

    toto said...

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud, coercion, intimidation, confusion, and voter suppression. A very few people can change the national outcome by adding, changing, or suppressing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. With the current system all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.

    National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud or voter suppression. One suppressed vote would be one less vote. One fraudulent vote would only win one vote in the return. In the current electoral system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.

    The closest popular-vote election in American history (in 1960), had a nationwide margin of more than 100,000 popular votes. The closest electoral-vote election in American history (in 2000) was determined by 537 votes, all in one state, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

    For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be two hundred times closer than the 1960 election--and, in popular-vote terms, forty times closer than 2000 itself.

    Which system offers vote suppressors or fraudulent voters a better shot at success for a smaller effort?

    toto said...

    The current presidential election system makes a repeat of 2000 more likely, not less likely. All you need is a thin and contested margin in a single state with enough electoral votes to make a difference. It's much less likely that the national vote will be close enough that voting irregularities in a single area will swing enough net votes to make a difference. If we'd had National Popular Vote in 2000, a recount in Florida would not have been an issue.

    The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

    The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush's lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore's nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes); no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

    Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state-by-state winner-take-all methods.

    The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

    The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

    We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

    The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.

    Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years with the National Popular Vote. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

    The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

    No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

    The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. With both the current system and the National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a "final determination" prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their "final determination" six days before the Electoral College meets.

    toto said...

    There is nothing incompatible between differences in state election laws and the concept of a national popular vote for President.

    Under the current system, the electoral votes from all 50 states are comingled and simply added together, irrespective of the fact that the electoral-vote outcome from each state was affected by differences in state policies, including voter registration, ex-felon voting, hours of voting, amount and nature of advance voting, and voter identification requirements.

    Current federal law (Title 3, chapter 1, section 6 of the United States Code) requires the states to report the November popular vote numbers (the "canvas") in what is called a "Certificate of Ascertainment." They list the electors and the number of votes cast for each. The Congress meets in joint session to count the electoral votes reported in the Certificates of Ascertainment. You can see the Certificates of Ascertainment for all 50 states and the District of Columbia containing the official count of the popular vote at the NARA web site.

    Under both the current system and the National Popular Vote compact, all of the people of the United States are impacted by the different election policies of the states. Everyone in the United States is affected by the division of electoral votes generated by each state. The procedures governing presidential elections in a closely divided battleground state (e.g., Florida and Ohio) can affect, and indeed have affected, the ultimate outcome of national elections.

    For example, the 2000 Certificate of Ascertainment (required by federal law) from the state of Florida reported 2,912,790 popular votes for George W. Bush and 2,912,253 popular vote for Al Gore, and also reported 25 electoral votes for George W. Bush and 0 electoral votes for Al Gore. That 25–0 division of the electoral votes from Florida determined the outcome of the national election just as a particular division of the popular vote from a particular state might decisively affect the national outcome in some future election under the National Popular Vote compact.

    The Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution permit states to conduct elections in varied ways. The National Popular Vote compact is patterned directly after existing federal law and preserves state control of elections and requires each state to treat as "conclusive" each other state's "final determination" of its vote for President.

    toto said...

    A survey of Michigan voters showed 73% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

    Support was 73% among independents, 78% among Democrats, and 68% among Republicans.

    By age, support was 77% among 18-29 year olds, 67% among 30-45 year olds, 74% among 46-65 year olds, and 75% for those older than 65.

    By gender, support was 86% among women and 59% among men.

    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. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

    When the bill is enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    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). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 states with 243 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes - 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote
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    Kevin Heine said...

    Gee, Dan, you post a really thoughtful article, and I figured that the 7 comments so far would be a continuation of the discussion (on the merits of the Congressional District Method). Imagine my disappointment, though not my surprise, to find that every single comment thus far is a troll copying-and-pasting already-debunked pro-NPV arguments.

    Never mind that the Founding Fathers unanimously shot this method down, knowing full well the dangers of direct democracy. Never mind that any county-by-county breakdown of the 2012 POTUS election will show that any presidential election conducted under the NPVIC will allow such an election to be decided by the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the nation.

    I'm actually in the middle of researching how the 2012 Electoral College would have resolved if every state ≥ 4 EV was using the "Maine Method." The data thus far has been rather interesting.

    Kevin Rex Heine
    Contributing Writer, Right Michigan