Thursday, April 14, 2005

You call this a democracy?

How can anyone honestly defend the electoral college? Truly, it boggles my mind.

I happened upon this post in one of my rare readings of Instapundit and it struck me as so bizarre. "God bless the Electoral College"? Honestly?

At the very least, I'm not convinced it solves any logistical problems. As we saw in 2000, even a clear (if relatively small) popular vote victory can turn into a recount nightmare when one state is tied. And we all know from basic stats that the larger the sample size, the smaller the margin of error. So instead of 50 relatively small samples, we get one huge sample where the election would have to be much closer (percentage-wise) to trigger a re-count. (If I'm wrong about my statistical theory, somebody please let me know.

But that's besides the main point, which is the patently undemocratic nature of the electoral college. We all know it the facts: Because electoral votes are allocated for each senator and representative, the votes of people in smaller state count more than those of us from larger states. And because most states allocate their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, candidates only campaign in a few key "battleground" states and most us know that our votes, essentially, don't count.

But of course, because of the extremely high (for better and for worse) barriers to amending our constitution, including the approval of 75% of states, this is sure to never change.

Just like the absurdly undemocratic senate, where the 626,000 people of Alaska have a voice equal to the 34 million people of California in one of our two legislative bodies. Honestly sometimes I think the biggest states in the country should secede, not because of the blue state / red state thing, but because we're so underrepresented in the federal government.

As Hendrik Hertzberg recently pointed out in The New Yorker, "When the new Congress convenes in January, [the Senate's] fifty-five Republicans will be there on account of the votes of 57.6 million people, while the forty-four Democrats and one independent will be there on account of the votes of 59.6 million people."

The red state / blue state issue is relevant here, though. States with smaller populations (and, to the point, no big cities) are more likely to be Republican. And they get disproportionately high representation in the Senate and Electoral College. Is our right-leaning government even representative of the people? Or is it an artifical creation of our undemocratic electoral system that gives people from smaller states a much bigger say?

1 comment:

Michael Koplow said...

Thank you for this item and for the link to Hertzberg. This is an interesting idea, counting up the Democratic and Republican popular votes for senators, but I don't think he counted the right thing. It would be more interesting (or maybe not) to count *total* Democratic and Republican popular votes for senatorial candidates, both winners and losers. To me, Hertzberg's tally seems analogous to counting Bush's (but not Kerry's) Ohio popular vote and Kerry's (but not Bush's) Illinois popular vote.