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Jay Evensen: Electoral College must stay, no matter what happens Tuesday

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  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 12:46 a.m.

    Changing the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment. This will never happen because several small states would have to agree to it. Since the small states are over-represented in the electoral college, they would voluntarily have to cede power. No one willingly cedes power in our country.

  • a bit of reality Shawnee Mission, KS
    Nov. 1, 2012 6:36 a.m.

    The electoral college does a couple of things. First, it makes individuals in small states more valuable than voters in large states—effectually, an individual voter in California gets 1 vote, an individual voter in Wyoming gets 3 votes, and voters in other states get a number of vote that scales between those two ends. People tend to really like that aspect of it.

    The other aspect is that it's winner-takes-all at the state level. That means if you are from one of about 10 swing states your marginal vote matters, and if you are a voter in any one of the other 40 states, your marginal vote doesn't matter at all. I don't see how it is good for the nation for candidates to spend hundreds of millions of dollars pandering to the voters in Ohio and Florida, while ignoring the voters in New York, Kansas, and Utah.

    If you wanted to make every vote count for something, but also give smaller states a louder voice, just give folks from smaller states a louder voice by weighting their votes more heavily. But if you want to effectually disenfranchise voters from 40 states, keep the current system.

  • isrred South Jordan, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 7:46 a.m.

    "Changing the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment."
    While factually true, many states are passing laws that would simply make the electoral college irrelevant without a Constitutional amendment. There is a movement among states passing laws declaring that, once enough states pass the same law to reach a majority of electoral college votes, those states would all agree (by their own law) to award their votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Nov. 1, 2012 8:12 a.m.

    Roland's point is cogent but Jay's point about big vs. small states is part of a distant past.

    Overall, I think the electoral college should go. Yes it was designed to make sure that smaller states would not be overlooked in a national election - that they would retain relevancy despite the larger population in their "rival" states. That hasn't happened. At least not in my lifetime.

    There are still states that matter and states that don't. But it is not the small or the large states - it's the "purple" states. Reliably red or blue states don't matter and don't get a lot of attention. Only the swing states matter and are the focus of the campaigns (not that I am sure they relish the attention).

    I used to defend the college but I find it increasingly difficult to do. Can anyone tell me what the benefits are for a non-swing state? I am looking for a discussion not an argument.

  • Noodlekaboodle Millcreek, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 8:32 a.m.

    @Twin Lights
    Moving to a popular election would help some states, but still not Utah. A small state(3 million people) that vote mainly republican isn't going to get any national attention. California and New York would benefit, because their massive population would be needed to win the election. I guess my argument against the popular election is that it give the small states even less power, Utah for example, has 1% of the electorial votes, 6 out of 538 in a popular election Utah has 3 million potential votes out of 350 million votes.

  • isrred South Jordan, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 8:45 a.m.

    "Moving to a popular election would help some states, but still not Utah. A small state(3 million people) that vote mainly republican isn't going to get any national attention. "

    I'm not sure I agree. Think about it: this year whether Romney wins Utah by 1 vote or by 1 million votes the payoff is the same. However, if this were a popular vote election then they would have very strong incentives to get every single vote they could from a place like Utah. It's easier to put effort into getting people who already agree with you to actually vote than it is to try and convince someone to agree with you and THEN get them to actually vote.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 8:46 a.m.

    "Simply put, it keeps the emphasis on states and the issues that matter to them. In a far-flung and diverse nation, it keeps someone from getting elected by pandering to the interests of one populous region to the exclusion of others."
    Thanks to the Electoral college, the swing states are the ones that get pandered to. And Why? Because of a demographic quirk. Because their states happen to be divided about 50/50. The states that are dominated by one party are largely ignored both big and small.
    In the current circumstances large populous regions can be excluded if they happen to be in a state where the vote is already determined. In the current system a state like Colorado holds more weight than California, because they are part of the few states that end up deciding the election. How is that fair? How is that better?

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 8:53 a.m.

    "If you require the winner to have at least 50 percent, plus one, the country would mire itself in runoff elections."
    I for one love to see a system that actually allowed third parties to compete. Doesn't seem like they could do much worse than the two parties that have led us to the edge of bankruptcy. In the current system if an issue isn't raised by a republican or democrat it doesn't get mentioned at all.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 9:14 a.m.

    A state may decide on its own to make their electoral college votes proportional to the popular vote in that state.

    It will never happen in Utah until the GOP monopoly is finally broken.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 9:15 a.m.

    Funny.

    Now that it looks like Mitty is gonna lose the Electoral College but win the popular vote, repubs have suddenly flip flopped to be hating on the Electoral College. What a huge flip flop from just a few years ago. Had we gotten rid of the Electoral College a few elections ago, our country would have been saved from the tragedy that was the worst administration in our country's history. Deaths, economic stagnation, growing of our government, torture, war, and trillions of dollars of debt.

    Too bad indeed.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    Why is it that those who "say" they support and defend the Constitution,
    are almost always the one who think it's broken and want to "change" and "fix" it?

    Believe me, I dispised the fact GWBush lost the popular vote, but somehow won Electoral votes by chad.
    But he won, and I had to bite my lip and support him as President regardless while he trashed America -- because I truely love and defend the Constitution - as is!

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Nov. 1, 2012 9:37 a.m.

    Noodlekaboodle,
    I am not specifically concerned with Utah but rather the nation (states and people) as a whole.

    One Old Man
    I understand that states may decide how to allocate their electoral votes. But that just creates a fractured system and only partially addresses some of the issues with the college (such as voting “weights” varying by state of residence).

    The Real Maverick
    My issues have nothing to do with this particular election. It has been something I have been thinking about for a long while.

    All
    The larger question still remains. If the college does not solve the problem of only a few states getting all the attention (it just shifts which states those are) then is it doing its job? If not, then should we not be looking for a different model? Also, are their other good options other than a simple popular vote?

  • Eric Samuelsen Provo, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 10:05 a.m.

    >Twin Lights
    I haven't really thought about the electoral college, because I think that's a constitutional amendment without a constituency. Since no such amendment will ever pass, why worry about it? But I do take your point about purple states.
    To me, a much more important issue is ideological polarization. I genuinely believe that most Americans are moderate politically, and would prefer compromise and problem solving, rather than partisan name-calling. But gerrymandering rewards extremism. There's no political advantage to be gained in taking middle-of-the-road positions.
    I think that's a reason why people despise Congress, while rather liking their own Congressperson. I'm also concerned about the caucus system by which candidates for office are chosen. Caucuses are decided by whoever shows up; they're also kind of boring. So the people who do show up are people who care a whole lot about politics, which means, often enough, ideologues.
    To much of our system rewards folks who take extreme positions. Not sure how to fix it.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Nov. 1, 2012 11:16 a.m.

    Eric Samuelsen,

    Yes, such an amendment would be without a constituency (especially because the winners have no incentive to change it). But I am enough of an idealist to tilt at a windmill or two when time allows. I just think we need a system that makes more of the country relevant and (hopefully) engaged.

    Ideological polarization does have a solution. It is called war - or at least a common enemy. During the Cold War the parties held their fire a bit. There was an underlying concept of a "loyal opposition". Maybe (and I am just guessing here) some of this came about as a reaction to McCarthyism.

    I, like you, am very concerned about the current polarization. To some degree a democratic republic such as ours depends on the good will of the people - that each feels at least somewhat enfranchised and that their issues are being dealt with fairly (if not always the precise way they would like). I think we are beginning to lose some of that and that (frankly) scares me.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 11:17 a.m.

    As one who believes that in the current world the only person in government that even might represent all the people of the United States is the president, I believe that president should be elected by popular vote without regard to states.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 11:37 a.m.

    Politicians campaign in States most evenly split.

    No reason for Mitt Romney or any other GOP candidate to show up and campaign in Utah except milking for money$$$.

  • RedShirt USS Enterprise, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 12:38 p.m.

    To "LDS Liberal" didn't Michelle Obama come to Utah to milk it for some money? Didn't Obama have fundraisers in ultra liberal California locations to milk them for money? Why is it wrong for Romney to attend fundraisers in states that support him, while you have no problem with Obama doing the same thing?

    I am getting the feeling that you just hate conservatives, regardless of their actions. You also show that you are a liberal lemming because you have never found fault in Obama, and may never see the destruction that he has caused.

  • Ute in NV Henderson, NV
    Nov. 1, 2012 12:49 p.m.

    I have often thought the some of the problems with the Electoral College could be resolved by allotting to each state 1 electoral vote per representative in the House of Representatives, rather than allotting votes also for Senators. This would resolve the problem with Wyoming's voters essentially counting for 3 votes for every 1 California voter.
    Then, each state's electoral votes would be awarded based on the number of districts won by the candidate in that state. This would lead to candidates visiting more states to campaign in those districts where they could be successful, even though they wouldn't win all districts in the state.
    Still not a perfect system, but these seem to me to be a couple of simple tweaks to the system to respond to some of the imperfections in the current Electoral College.

  • Kevin J. Kirkham Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 1:11 p.m.

    Let me stir the pot a bit -

    Those who want to get rid of the college should likewise favor getting rid of the US Senate. If the states have no special standing in the vote, why should they have special standing in the legislative branch?

    Here's an idea - Since the legislative branch gives equal weight to the Senate and the House, perhaps we should give equal weight to the popular vote and also to the results of each state. We could take the percentage of the popular vote each candidate receives and then add the percentage of the states that each candidate won. The candidate with the highest combined score wins.

    This system would encourage the minority party members in non-swing states to actually vote. Obama would campaign in Utah and Romney would campaign in New York. The swing states where the vote is close wouldn't attract as much attention because winning it or losing it would only mean a 2% difference in the 50% portion that deals with the states.

    Candidates wouldn't dare concentrate soley on population centers for fear of losing the 50% portion that deals with the states.

    It provides balance marginalizing no one.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Nov. 1, 2012 1:22 p.m.

    I have voted in all the presidential elections going back to 1968. I have voted for Republican, Democrat and Libertarian candidates. Not once has my vote or the presidential votes of any Utahns had an iota of effect in choosing our nation's leader. That's because, not once were Utah's electoral votes necessary to decide the outcome. I still vote in presidential election but only because candidates for other offices are on the ballot.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 4:08 p.m.

    Kevin J. Kirkham.

    I agree. Lets get rid of all the unnecessary and redundant parts of government. Start with Senators, then states, then side-by-side cities, etc. etc.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 5:10 p.m.

    I think it's time to put all americans in the same pot. One vote per person, no better or worse than any other.

  • red state pride Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 8:16 p.m.

    @ Roland.. what do you mean "small States are overrepresented in the electoral college"? That doesn't even make sense. If anything they are under-represented. If States were equally represented they would all have the same number of electoral votes: 2. Just like each State has 2 Senators. I think you mean that the people of small States are overrepresented which is arguably true - if you believe in the worst form of Government which is true democracy. But our Federal Government was initially set up so that States and citizens would have equal representation. That basically ended with the direct election of our "House of Lords" (the US Senate).
    I'm just looking forward to seeing all the flip-floppers who criticized the electoral college in 2000 become true believers in the Constitution and start singing the praises of our founding fathers when Barack whens the electoral college and loses the popular. (A consolation prize for me to assuage my despair if Mr O is re-elected.

  • eagle Provo, UT
    Nov. 1, 2012 9:24 p.m.

    Small states are overrepresented and that was the intent. Whether that is a good thing now vs. 200 years ago is a good argument.

    Wyoming has three electors and about 500,000 people, it's elector ratio is 1 per 167,000 est. CA has an elector for about 600,000 people, again best guess.

    I don't think it is even an arguable point that smaller states have it good in the structure of the electoral college.

    But the real advantage/disadvantage now with the electoral college in present-day politics, is that unless you're a swing state, your basically ignored by the candidates.

  • HP in Dixie Atlanta, GA
    Nov. 1, 2012 10:09 p.m.

    I think we need to remember the Founding Fathers and give them a great big thanks for the Electoral College. This one part of the Constitution, along with two senators per state, that has made each state relavent all these many years. Sometimes we don't appreciate what we have until we lose it.

  • rightascension Provo, UT
    Nov. 2, 2012 12:03 a.m.

    As it did in 2000, The electoral college can actually award an election to a person who came in second in the popular vote. This alone is reason enough to get rid of the electoral college and replace it with a straight majority winner becomes president system.

  • Mark l SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 2, 2012 7:46 a.m.

    There is no such thing as a national popular vote. There are fifty-one separate elections in the various states and the district of columbia. We don't have any national elections. The electoral college system is a bit more complicated than having a direct popular vote, but that is no reason to get rid of it. We can all understand our election process.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Nov. 2, 2012 8:12 a.m.

    HP in Dixie,

    The founders were amazing but not perfect men. The document they gave us was similarly amazing but not necessarily perfect - hence the ability to amend it. The electoral college may be an institution that has run its course in terms of its usefulness to the nation. As to keeping states relevant – read the prior posts. Most states are not relevant (big or small) unless they are considered winnable by either candidate. States that reliably vote one way or the other are not focused on at all.

    Mark 1,

    Agreed that there is not so much of a national election but more separate elections in the various states. That is what we have now. But the question is, is that what we should have going forward? It is not a matter of complexity or whether we can understand it but whether the electoral college best serves our needs.

  • jbbevan Heber City, UT
    Nov. 2, 2012 8:20 a.m.

    Mr. Evensen makes some good points. Nevertheless, the electoral college was conceived during a time when transportation and communication were much more difficult than they are today. For that matter, so was our entire system of government. I won't take on that broader subject, but as to the electoral college, in states like Utah (and presumably all of the non-swing states) the electoral college is a disincentive to vote. After a candidate gets 51% in a state, my vote doesn't count any more; whereas, in a popular vote system every vote counts and thus there is a higher incentive to vote. More participation by the electorate is always a good thing and could only make the democracy more vibrant. I agree that this is no more likely to happen than congress voting itself a pay cut or voting for term limitation. The fact that these kinds of things can't happen (practically speaking) shows the elements of ineffectiveness in the system. Our system may be the best compromise, but it's not perfect.

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    Nov. 2, 2012 8:35 a.m.

    The Founding Fathers did not envision political parties when they put this system together. In fact they wanted to avoid that. They wanted the Electors to act as a "nominating" body and then the House to actual choose the President. Unfortunately regionalism and political parties are now the law of the land. Why should anyone pay attention to the 41 states whose vote can be counted on to go to one party or the other? I appreciate Jay's argument, but I just don't think the current system accomplishes what he wants it to accomplish.

  • oldgulph VILLANOVA, PA
    Nov. 2, 2012 9:30 p.m.

    A survey of Utah voters showed 70% 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.

    Support for a national popular vote, by political affiliation, was 82% among Democrats, 66% among Republicans, and 75% among others.

    By gender, support was 78% among women and 60% among men.

    By age, support was 70% among 18-29 year olds, 70% among 30-45 year olds, 70% among 46-65 year olds, and 68% for those older than 65.

    NationalPopularVote

  • oldgulph VILLANOVA, PA
    Nov. 2, 2012 9:38 p.m.

    The National Popular Vote bill would change current state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states).

    The bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It ensures that every vote is equal, every voter will matter, in every state, in every presidential election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, as in virtually every other election in the country.

    Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count. The candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That majority of electoral votes guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

    Minority party voters in each state would matter to their candidate.

    Votes beyond the one needed to get the most votes in the state would not be wasted. Utah alone generated a margin of 385,000 votes for Bush that were "wasted" in 2004.

  • oldgulph VILLANOVA, PA
    Nov. 2, 2012 9:46 p.m.

    With National Popular Vote, every vote, everywhere would be counted equally for, and directly assist, the candidate for whom it was cast.

    Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states. 80% of states and voters would no longer be ignored. The political reality would be that when every vote is equal, the campaign must be run in every part of the country.

    When and where voters matter, then so are the issues they care about most.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the Electoral College votes-- enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the candidate who receives the MOST popular votes in the country.

    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. Since 1824 there have been 16 presidential elections in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote.

  • MarkMAN West Columbia, TX
    Nov. 3, 2012 6:30 a.m.

    Our country's name describes the reason for the electoral college. We are the United States of America, not the country of America. We were not to be like others, where top down government ruled and the great tyranny ran unrestrained. The United States was to be a bottom up government, an organization much better suited. The STATES were to decide the government for only a few delegated powers targeted at true interstate issues (mostly removing interferences), and foreign relations. God has given us the right to choose our governments (though most of the time history shows that tyranny reined), what we can not choose is the final outcome of eternal natural law. Top down approaches end in tyranny. The process control dead-time is long, usually generations, but the final end is certain.

    Chose wisely.

    Mark

  • Semi-Strong Louisville, KY
    Nov. 3, 2012 3:49 p.m.

    Dwayne,

    A good point reference recounts. I would assume that other countries that have a popular vote have figured out how to solve that.

    Voting by congressional district might solve the problem. Retain winner take all but apply it to each congressional district and give only one electoral vote to each. Removing the senators from the equation would solve much of the problem of vote weighting and would seem to significantly decrease the likelihood that the popular vote winner would not be the actual winner. This should also solve the vote recounting issue and because districts rather than states would be the focus, more areas would matter than just a few swing states.

    Of course the president and vice president represent the people. Who else? Also, they don’t serve at the pleasure of congress. The president and congress are constitutional equals.

    It is not hubris to think about changing our constitution some 200 years later. We have changed how we elect the vice president, how we elect senators, who can vote, etc.

    MarkMAN,

    We are certainly a country. We are citizens of the USA with the right to reside in any state we choose.

  • wrz Ogden, UT
    Nov. 3, 2012 11:28 p.m.

    Retain the Electoral College, but give the win to the person with the most popular votes if/when that occurs. Problem solved.

  • Mr. Bean Ogden, UT
    Nov. 4, 2012 12:13 a.m.

    @Kevin J. Kirkham:

    "Those who want to get rid of the college should likewise favor getting rid of the US Senate."

    Congress has two branches (House and Senate) because that's the way it was/is in mother England. We copied them. Our Senate is the same as England's House of Lords, i.e., the titled folk. Our House is the same as England's House of Commons... common folk who demanded, and got, representation.

    In today's world, we don't need two branches of Congress because we have no titled folk. All are, or should be, equal. One branch (House) would do the trick, meanwhile saving perhaps as much as a $billion in taxes by eliminating the Senate.