A Few Basics About the Electoral College

I saw this video over at Free North Carolina.  I hated it.  Now, I have to tell you why.

The video is well produced and the speaker has good tone, modulation, and pace.  But what she is saying is wrong, misdirecting, and often irrelevant.  The claims she makes for the Electoral College are simply unsupported by the facts and counter to history.  One would expect a university professor to be more on the ball when it comes to stuff like academic accuracy than this.  The logic errors themselves are astonishing for just a 5 minute clip.

Claim 1. The Electoral College (EC) protects us from the Tyranny of the Mob.   FALSE.  That is actually the Senate’s role. That is also the role of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.   The EC outcomes almost always reflect the same outcome as the popular vote.  That is because the EC outcome is a product of the popular vote.  They are connected.  In those few times in history when the outcomes have been different, it is because the outcomes were so close that they amounted to a “tie”.  And the outcome of the EC was more a random outcome based on the randomness of state lines and population drifts than reflecting some magical protection being exerted by the EC members.  There is simply no mechanism in the EC which would deliberately permit them to over-rule the will of the people and vote counter to the rules that got them selected as electors for their party.  Even the phenomenon of faithless electors, in practice is so rare that they can be labeled as “attention whores” and dismissed.  The Mob voting to take away your guns, is Tyranny.  The Mob voting to elect a President, is not.  The EC did nothing to protect us from the Mob voting in Obama… TWICE.  The EC would gladly have coronated Hillary, if she had had enough votes in enough states.  People on the left will accuse the EC of ensuring Tyranny instead of protecting us from it by electing Trump.  And even Brock will remember that the EC did nothing to protect us from that great Tyrant, Lincoln.

2.  The EC Coalition and consensus building.  False.  Just how, exactly, does it do that?  Again, magic is the only answer.  There is nothing about the structure or rules governing the EC that enables it to create consensus or forces a party to establish coalitions.  It just doesn’t happen.  The outcomes are determined by people voting and the majority in each state totals up to award EC votes.  Simple.  No Magic.  It is entirely possible for candidates to skip whole states, and still win.  They do this all the time.  That’s why West is called “fly-over states”.  Both candidates KNOW that they aren’t worth fighting over.  They only need 270 EC votes to win.  They intentionally target states where they think they can get those votes at the least expense.  That means some swing states get LOTS of commercials and most of the West and California, get nothing.  That is also why both sides (in a normal year,  this year was NOT normal) spend big change on doing polling.  They need to know where the swing states are so they can target them efficiently.  And they do it at the state level, so they do it where the highest population densities are that are somewhat favorable.  Those will have the highest payoff.  No one cares if the Sheep and goats in Elko, Nevada favor Hillary or Trump.  They don’t matter.  Las Vegas and Reno swallow the rest of the state population as if it didn’t exist.  It’s basic math. Win each state by 1%.  Add to 270.  More is better.  If anything, the winner take all system that operates in almost every state defies consensus building.  It creates the patina of consensus where a state is strongly divided ideologically.  There is no middle ground but the EC makes it look like a state is unanimous.

3.  The EC makes stealing an election harder.  FALSE.  Again, there is nothing about the EC that gives it any benefit at all against stealing an election.  I posted previously that the value of the Johnson campaign was 31 EC votes for Hillary.  Those were 31 EC votes that she would not have gotten otherwise.  While cheating in a few states like California and DC is just spiking the ball, cheating in places like Florida, PA, Michigan, and Ohio would make a huge difference. In this case, not so much.  But in the Bush-Gore race, it was close enough that cheating DID make a difference.  While there are difficulties associated with cheating in a nation-wide election, the EC does nothing about cheating or reducing the impact of cheating.

What is the real point of the EC?  The EC was created because the Founders (TM) had no intention of electing the President by popular vote.  Doing anything by a nation-wide popular vote was unimaginable 250 years ago.  Distances were too expansive.  It could take several days to travel from parts of Virginia to DC. They intended that he be elected by the states. Each state would set its own rules for selecting electors.  It was through evolution of the state rules that we got to where we are today with the burden of an enormous popular election and primary elections.  It’s not better or worse, as ways go.  It’s just different.

Advocates of eliminating or preserving the EC change from one year to another depending on who wins.  This year, “our side” won the EC-popular vote split.  Next time it could be the Anti-Christ.  It really is a random thing, when the outcome is close.  When the outcome isn’t close, it doesn’t matter at all.  We really could eliminate the EC with no hard done.  It doesn’t actually do any of the things it gets credit for doing (good or bad).  It’s just an anachronism going back to a time when the country was only one state deep on the East coast, connected by horse-drawn carriages.

If you fear the mob, a better way to curb their stupidness would be to limit the vote to people who are smart enough or virtuous enough to merit it.  Pick your own measure for that.  But just as with the census and congressional districts, there is no plan you can devise that corrupt career politicians won’t find a way to exploit for their own benefit.

Finally, the EC, as it operates now, defies the American people, and waters down their votes with the votes of foreigners.  There are 535 EC votes.  55 from California.  That is based on the Census of population.  The Census does not ask a person if they are a legal resident or a citizen.  Thus, California gets about 10 extra EC votes for its illegal population.  It gets those and casts them in the EC at the expense of a small percentage of populations in states that have much lower densities of illegal aliens like, for example, Red states.  The EC by itself is an exercise in watering down votes  but watering down votes with the votes of foreigners is something every citizen should rebel against.  You can easily construct a spreadsheet to show that the value of the vote of each person in each state is not the same.  Divide the number of votes cast for the winner in that state by the number of electors in that state.  BINGO.  The cherished notion of “One person, One vote” is shown to be a total farce. It has never been true and it is getting less so every election.

You don’t like “mob rule”, fine.  You don’t like rule by the few over the many, fine.  Just admit, that what you really want is any system that will create the outcomes you like for yourself.  Nothing wrong with that.  Just admit it.  The best reason to get rid of the EC is simplicity and transparency.  There is no good reason to keep it.  None.  And I happen to like the outcome this time.

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About No One

I am totally non-threatening
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