As you likely know, the decennial census counts the population of each state and distributes seats given to each state in the House of Representatives for the next decade. The census purports to do this proportionally. However, the data show that this is not done proportional enough, at least not to meet our modern conception of democracy.
The 2010 census has told us that the most populous state is California with 36,961,664 people. As such, the state has been given 53 representatives in the House. Wyoming is the least populous state with 544,270 people, getting only 1 representative in the House. Thus, in the House, Wyoming has 544,270 people per vote while California has 697,390 people per vote. Each representative’s vote in the House is equal. As such, 544,270 Wyomingites are equal to 697,390 Californians. Wyomingites have 1.28 times greater voice than Californians in the House. Following that formulation, in the Electoral College Wyomingites have 3.64 times greater voice than Californians do; 2.8 times less democratic than the House!
What’s worse is the Senate. Now, the whole reason for the Senate is to give each state equal voice in the federal government. The original Constitution gave the power to appoint Senators to the state legislatures, meaning the voice being distributed was quite literally to the states, not the people. Due to the 17th Amendment, we now popularly elect senators. Since each state gets 2 senators Wyomingites get 67.9 times greater voice than Californians in the Senate!
It’s clear that the structure of our bicameral national legislature favors less populous, usually agrarian states. This is unsurprising considering the mostly rural past of this country. But just like all of electoral engineering issues there are trade-offs and big political implications.
· Without giving the least populated states inflated power, California and a few other large states could dominate national politics. However, one could counter that those states deserve to benefit from such domination; they have the population to back it up.
· Also, the least populous states often favor more conservative politics, likely giving Republicans unrepresentative power on Election Day.
· Pork projects and subsidies are currently often found in states with low populations; think Bridge to Nowhere and Ethanol subsidies.
Lastly, note that the Constitution only reads, “[t]he Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative…” In 1790 the U.S. population was 3,929,214, and the 1787 document allots for 65 representatives, giving 60,449 people per representative. In 2010 the national population is 307,006,550. However, the number of representatives has remained constant at 435 since the passage of the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. Thus, we now have 705,762 people per representative.
My purpose for pointing out such numbers is to show that each generation must look at the decisions made by generations past We must recognize that the old adage of ‘one person, one vote’, is overly simplistic and misleading. If the spirit of the saying was ever true, it certainly isn’t now. Note that gerrymandering and corruption needn’t be invoked. In the final analysis, the only thing holding our nation to our skewed system is ourselves.
The National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).ReplyDelete
Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Elections wouldn't be about winning states. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. Every vote, everywhere would be counted 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.
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).
The Electoral College that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.
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 in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO– 68%, IA –75%, MI– 73%, MO– 70%, NH– 69%, NV– 72%, NM– 76%, NC– 74%, OH– 70%, PA — 78%, VA — 74%, and WI — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE –75%, ME — 77%, NE — 74%, NH –69%, NV — 72%, NM — 76%, RI — 74%, and VT — 75%; in Southern and border states: AR –80%, KY — 80%, MS –77%, MO — 70%, NC — 74%, and VA — 74%; and in other states polled: CA — 70%, CT — 74% , MA — 73%, MN – 75%, NY — 79%, WA — 77%, and WV- 81%.
The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA ,RI, VT, and WA . The bill has been enacted by DC, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, and WA. These 7 states possess 76 electoral votes — 28% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.
Thanks for the post!ReplyDelete
You wrote, "The Electoral College that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution..."
However, Article 2, Sec. 1 of the Constitution states, "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress... The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed." It's clear that the Electoral College was indeed in the original Constitution, and thus endorsed by the founders. However, that clearly doesn’t mean it’s a good idea!
If we follow your proposal, we as a nation must get used to candidates campaigning only in large population centers; it would be an inefficient allocation of resources to campaign in towns and small cities. Again, there are always trade-offs in electoral engineering.
State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award electoral college votes were eventually enacted by 48 states AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.ReplyDelete
The Founding Fathers only said in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections (only after debating among 30 ballots for choosing a method): “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”
Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.
In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote.
In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.
The winner-take-all method is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.
The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.
As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district.
The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all method (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since 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.ReplyDelete
Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on only a handful of closely divided "battleground" states and their voters. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives agree already, that only 14 states and their voters will matter. Almost 75% of the country will be ignored --including 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and big states like California, Georgia, New York, and Texas. This will be more obscene than the already outrageous facts that in 2008,, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign events and ad money in just six states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states (with less than 7 electoral college votes) were not among them. Nor were big states like California, Georgia, New York, and Texas Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). In 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states; over 80% in nine states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states, and 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.
Under National Popular Vote, when every vote counts, successful candidates will continue to find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Ohio and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support It would no longer matter who won a state.ReplyDelete
Now political clout comes from being a battleground state.
Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are almost invariably non-competitive, and ignored, in presidential elections. Six regularly vote Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota), and six regularly vote Democratic (Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC) in presidential elections. Nine state legislative chambers in the lowest population states have passed the National Popular Vote bill. It has been enacted by the District of Columbia and Hawaii.
Of the 22 medium-lowest population states (those with 3,4,5, or 6 electoral votes), only 3 have been battleground states in recent elections-- NH(4), NM (5), and NV (5). These three states contain only 14 of the 22 (8%) states' total 166 electoral votes.
The 11 most populous states contain 56% of the population of the United States and 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 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.
With National Popular Vote, big states that are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country, would not get all of the candidates' attention. In recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states have been split -- five "red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six "blue" states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). 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. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).
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 19% of the population of the United States. Cleveland and Miami certainly did not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida in 2000 and 2004. A "big city" only campaign would not win.
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.
You’re certainly correct about the winner-take-all allocation of Electoral College votes. And, to make things clear, I’m not against the National Popular Vote, as I pointed out the Electoral College’s… I’ll say anti-democratic nature in the above post.ReplyDelete
You said: “The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates, after the primaries, do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind… Under National Popular Vote, when every vote counts, successful candidates will continue to find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America… 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 19% of the population of the United States."
From a campaign point of view, the important factors are efficiency and media markets. That is, it is economically quantifiable to know how much money a campaign must spend to get a single vote, depending on the media. For example, let’s say it would take a campaign to knock on 10 doors in order to get one vote. It would be much more efficient to knock on 10 doors in the Bronx and the New York suburbs than it would be to do so in the Rocky Mountains. The doors are simply much closer! When talking about speeches and events, the important thing to consider is how far people must travel to see the event. Both of these political realities—including traditional advertising in large media markets—point to political attention in population centers, not necessarily cities. As such, if you add up the populations of the top 20 metropolitan areas—down to Baltimore, MD—you get 116,122,801, according to the most recent census, which is about 38% of the national population. While still not a majority, I think the numbers you’ve use only include those living within city limits—I think most people would say that urban influence doesn’t end at those arbitrary boarders.
Overall, I’m certainly fine with a National Popular Vote. The reason for the post in the first place is to get my generation to realize that the way things are done now needn’t be honored in the future. Once we come into power, we don’t need to honor the decisions, trade-offs, or compromises of past generations. We can make our own rules.
In many cases, low-population areas offer presidential candidates the attraction of considerably lower per-impression media costs.ReplyDelete
Although no one can predict exactly how a presidential campaign would be run under the National Popular Vote plan, we do know how candidates conduct campaigns when running for other offices in elections in which the winner is the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire jurisdiction. In campaigns for governor, U.S. Senator, mayor, and state legislator, candidates pay attention to their entire constituency.
The suburbs, exurbs, small towns, and rural parts of the states 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.
Television advertising (the largest component of presidential campaigns) is premium-priced in the major metropolitan areas.
Television time is far less expensive, on a per-impression basis, in small towns and rural media markets than in larger media markets. It is, for example, considerably more expensive to buy television or radio time to reach Ohio’s 11 million people than to buy television or radio time to reach the 11 million people who live in the 12 least-populous non-competitive states (i.e., the six “red” states of Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota and the six “blue” states of Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, and the District of Columbia).
These facts explain why some Republicans have argued that a national popular vote for President would be good for the Republican Party because it would be a tax on the Democrats. This argument (unlike John Sample’s argument) is at least consistent with the economic reality that television advertising is premium-priced in heavily Democratic big cities. However, Democrats needs not worry about the conjectured “big city tax” because they could easily evade this “tax” by purchasing media time on a nationwide basis. In fact, both parties could avoid this “tax” by campaigning more in the smaller media markets where the per-impression cost is lower and by campaigning nationwide on network television.
An indication of the way a nationwide presidential campaign would be run comes from the way that national advertisers conduct nationwide sales campaigns. National advertisers (e.g., Ford, Coca Cola) seek out customers in small, medium-sized, and large towns in every low-population, medium-sized, and high-population state. National advertisers do not advertise only in big cities. Instead, they go after every potential customer, regardless of where the customer is located. National advertisers do not write off a particular state merely because a competitor has an 8% lead in sales. Furthermore, a national advertiser with an 8% edge in a particular state does not stop trying to make additional sales in the state.