Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day in the USA

It’s Election Day. Officially. In every state of the union. The first Tuesday of November.

There are 538 Electoral College votes up for grabs. Kind of. It’s basically a winner-take-all system. So they aren’t really up for grabs. Most of us are now familiar with that after the 2000 election in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote.

Some people dislike the Electoral College. I happen to be one of them. Not because I wanted Al Gore to win in 2000, I didn’t, but I think it is an antiquated system that should be updated after 232 years. As we have already established numerous times, I am a huge nerd. And as my saving of holey socks demonstrates, I save everything. Including stuff I wrote in high school.

I have a feeling I’m going to lose a lot of you here, because, well… it’s kind of boring. So just go vote instead. If you’re still with me let’s look back to high school Hairy Swede and his group of four fellow high school students (MMMH, RL, BK, and AT) and their take on the Electoral College in 2001 shall we? A quick mea culpa. This was delivered as a speech by the five of us, hence the complete lack of any sort of citations. You’ll just have to deal with it.

“The electoral college is made up of electors from each state. State legislatures have the power to direct the manner in which the electors are appointed, and the number of electors per state is determined by how many senators and representatives are in Congress. Through this arrangement each state is guaranteed three electors who vote for the president and vice-president, and the two main parties vote in these electors. Most states, except for Nebraska and Maine, operate by the “winner-take-all” system, where if a candidate wins the popular vote in the state, they also win all the electoral votes. 270 electoral votes are needed for a majority win in the Electoral College. Many people criticize this system, claiming that the people are not directly involved in the election of our nation’s leader, because the electors do not vote until December, and it is they who ultimately decide the presidency.

The Founding Fathers intended the Electoral College to be separate from the people in order to keep the masses from making the wrong decision. It was feared that the masses were not educated enough to actually elect a president, and in light of this, a group of well-informed people to decide the outcome of the elections was needed. Mob rule was especially feared after Shays’s rebellion. If the people could not be trusted not to revolt, how could they be trusted to vote for a president? The Electoral College was put into place because the founders feared what would happen if the people were given too much power. By curbing the power of the people the founders felt they could assure that the right person was always elected to the presidency. Many criticisms have arisen from this.

The Electoral College has endured many criticisms since the election of 1824. The major criticism in 1824 and still today is the fact that a minority president can rule the country. Another argument is that the state electors themselves are not bound by law to vote for the majority picked by each state. Others argue that the Electoral College is outdated, and that it allows the nation to be clearly divided amongst the leader of the current time. The “winner-take-all” aspect has been largely criticized. Also, the number of each state’s electoral votes is determined by the census that occurs every 10 years. Thus, the reapportionment of electors fails to account for significant population shifts that often during the course of a decade. The failure of the Electoral College to accommodate third party candidates has also been criticized. Whatever the arguments may be, there is no question that the current way of electing the president is not one that is approved by all members of society. It is in need of a replacement in order to unite the country.

The various criticisms against the Electoral College prove that it is not a premium method of conducting an election that truly represents the voice of the public. Thus, we propose the following changes to our election methods, a viable solution that not only embodies the characteristics of democracy, but also is proficient and accurate. Our solution is essentially one of instant runoff voting, in which each voter has one vote, and ranks candidates in order of choice—first, second, third, and so on. The counting of ballots simulates a series of run-off elections. All first choices are counted, and if no candidate wins a majority of first choices, then the last place candidate (the candidate with the least first-choices) is eliminated. Ballots of voters who ranked the eliminated candidate first then are redistributed to their next-choice candidates, as indicated on each voter’s ballot. Last place candidates are successively eliminated and ballots are redistributed to next choices until one candidate remains or a candidate gains over 50% of votes.

Voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish—their favorite candidate first, their next favorite second and so on. Voters have every incentive to vote for their favorite candidate rather than the "lesser of two evils" because their ballot can still count toward a winner if their first choice loses. There also is every reason for a voter to rank as many candidates as they want; since a voter’s lower choice will never help defeat one of their higher choices. All federal elections except the presidency are decided by a popular vote of the people, and the nation’s chief executive should have to command the same support. It is time to eliminate the Electoral College and implement a more accurate, more representative, and more logical solution. Direct election of the president using an instant electronic runoff would be the fairest and most efficient way to ensure that the nation's chief executive commands support from a majority of voters. It is time to upgrade the method we use in electing our nation’s most powerful office.”

And now you know all you need to know about the Electoral College. From the perspective of a bunch of high school boys seven years ago.

Now go vote.

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  1. i voted. but if things don't change i'm gonna have to find a way over to sweden.

  2. Or you could just vote for one candidate - either Obama or McCain?

  3. @leeann - you'll have to claim some sort of refugee status. and I dont know if they'll accept republican president as a reason...

    @anonymous - thats basically what it comes down to as it stands right now.

  4. ahhh... The AP government group project, if I'm not mistaken. I remember mine fondly, all of us typing away insanely at 3 in the morning, my friend Kevin had earlier that day been punched in the eye and was sporting a mean shiner, but he soldiered on. Our title was "The Government Role in Gat Control. oh, yeah... we got an A.

  5. Ah, IRV. The only problem I have with it the redistribution of, er, "points," which isn't that big or solid of a complaint.

    I do dislike the Electoral College. I wouldn't mind it so much if a majority of the states didn't do the "winner-takes-all" approach, and if the Electoral College representatives were legally obligated to vote the way of the popular vote.

    I'm still kind of, but at the same time not really, surprised that we haven't changed, or tweaked, our voting process since the Gore-Bush race. Of course, the U.S. citizens haven't raised too much grief over the situation. The recount was a big deal and caused a lot of bitching and whining of all types from all sides, but after the fiasco, it wasn't a big deal; people stopped complaining. (Of course, this leads into voter apathy, which is an arduous and interesting topic worthy of several books).

    I agree with Leeann, I'm moving (specifically to Canada) if the candidate I'm voting for doesn't win. (Well, that's a lie, but I really do dislike the other candidate, and loathe the idea of suffering for four to eight years under him).

    May I ask you three questions?

    I noticed there are a lot of McCain/Palin signs around, as well as a lot of Obama signs; but, when I look at the Obama signs, they're not Obama/Biden, they're just Obama. I've also noticed that McCain, Palin, and Obama have received a lot of media attention, but Biden only makes it into the media if he does one of his "gaffes." SNL did a pot-shot at Biden, but it was nowhere near as funny or popular as their Palin spoofs. Does Biden receive much attention from the Swedish media? (assuming the U.S. presidential race is receiving a lot of to some media attention in Sweden).

    Last question, if you'll permit me: What is the voting process in Sweden?

    Now go Vote
    Okay! :)

  6. Verkar inte vara så stort intresse i sverige att följa valet(vilket jag antar finns i usa) Men här är några som faktiskt är ensama om att hålla en valvaka, allas våra Fredrik och Fillip. Ikväll.


  7. Better one, the other was an old article about the tv program.


  8. I dont think a republican would like to watch a show biased to Obamas favor. I would though, cause I think they are right.

    OP: Big up to the blog, read it a long time but never got my ass of to comment, sorry if I didnt show support of the work you where making here.

  9. I don't know a single swede that would vote for McCain. Swedes are all for Obama from what I have seen.

  10. Another thing people tend to forget though. Is that Obama is religious aswell. Me myself find it abit scary at least, the way alot of americans think. Like some guy said tonight when analysing the american election.

    Me myself, no offense hairy. Is that America really is behind Europe. You guys value so irational subjects for your election campaings. Just the thing that religion plays a huge role and that one of the criteras of a president candidate kinda is that he should belive in god is ridicioulus. I cant believe people think that the earth was created 6000 years ago.

    And how can someone priotate abortion before the global warming, or the wealthfare of all the poor people living in america, as far as i know(okey i dont know, i think im right since i only read it in a paper a day ago), 33% of the population is living below standards, and there is still people going around with no dental care, no access to the hospital unless they get very sick.

    I think, that to an europee, americans really priotate irational things. While here in europe, or especially sweden we focus on more rational subjects. Dont we?

    I can say that i vote for "moderaterna" and if we would compare moderaterna with the american parties. They would be on the left side, while here in sweden moderaterna is the biggest rightwinged party.

  11. @John – there were definitely some late nights but I think your story takes the cake.

    @Phineas – Ill try to answer the questions as best I can:

    In terms of the signs. I don’t have the slightest clue why that would be. I suppose Obama became such a celebrity in a way that he didn’t need Biden on the signs. Palin brought some excitement to the McCain campaign, for better or worse, so maybe that’s why.

    Biden gets very little media attention here in Sweden. There was a bit when he was announced as the candidate, and then a little bit here and there, but overall, he’s been somewhat ignored.

    The voting process isn’t that different really. Obviously there is no Electoral College here. Parliamentary elections take place every four years. The next one is in 2010. You can vote when you turn 18. There are more than just the two main parties like in the US but to make it into the Riksdag the party has to reach a certain threshold of votes. I believe it is 4% but I’m not entirely sure what the exact number is. The speaker is supposed to nominate a Prie Minister and then the Riksdag picks the Prime Minister.

    Hopefully that answers your questions.

    @anonymous – SVT, TV4, and Kanal 5 all had coverage late in the night.

    @anonymous – I watched them for a while last night. They were pretty entertaining actually.

    @sebbe – having lived in very liberal places basically since I left high school I don’t really have much choice but to be surrounded by bias against republicans.

    Glad you’ve been enjoying the blog. Definitely feel free to comment whenever you like, especially now that you’ve started.

    @izi – neither do I. except if I claim my Swedishness here. But there must be one or two out there.

    @anonymous – well, again, this just comes down to the fundamental differences between the US and Europe in general.

    I must say though, I think it interesting that so many people feel like you do that Europeans think in this rational way. But at the same are unable to understand how anyone could think differently than they do. That in and of itself doesn’t seem very rational to me.

    When it comes down to it, each country values different things. It just happens that the US is so big that those values get thrown out or the rest of the world to see.

    Granted, I have problems with the importance of religion in politics and plenty of other things, but to describe the US as irrational for their values and beliefs doesn’t fly with me.

    You are exactly right though when you say that moderaterna would be on the left in Sweden. The Prime Minister even came out in support of Obama, and they are the conservative party here in Sweden. It is interesting how it all works though.