Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Interstate Voting Compact

Some people just don't like the Electoral College.

True, it's not "one man, one vote". It was never designed to be. This nation was founded as a republic, not a democracy. The Congress isn't "one man, one vote", either, since each of the states has the same number of senators. The electoral college, like the twin-house Congress, was a compromise necessary to create our nation. It's served us well for over 230 years.

It's happened before, but in 2000, George Bush won in electoral votes but not in the popular vote. Democrats have never forgiven President Bush for winning according to the rules, and neither have they forgiven the Founding Fathers for creating the system that allowed President Bush to win the election.

So they want to change the rules by creating the Interstate Voting Compact.

The Constitution gives to the states the authority to choose their own presidential electors, and with this compact states would agree to give all their electors to the winner of the national popular vote. It's an attempt to get around the Constitution, and this post spells out some of the legal pitfalls of the idea.

I have a better idea, one easier to implement and less fraught with Constitutional peril. Why not just have the state allocate electors in proportion to the vote count in that state? In other words, if Candidate X gets 43% of the vote, Candidate Y gets 38% of the vote, and Candidate Z gets 19% of the vote, just designate 43% of the state's electors to vote for X, etc. That's much more "one man, one vote"-like than what California and many states currently do, which is to allocate all of the state's electors to whoever wins the popular vote in the state.


Tony said...

Actually, the US Constitution allows the individual states the rights to choose the method in which they select their electors. There is nothing wrong with exploring new voting systems, and the one you mentioned certainly has its advantages. These new election "technologies" have grown out of math and economics that simply weren't available to the Framers. They're biggest gift to us was a document that is adaptive and gives our republic the fluidity necessary to last as long as it has.

And at the risk of opening old wounds, it could be easily argued that Bush obtained NEITHER the popular nor the electoral vote.

Darren said...

It's only an old wound, Tony, to the Democrats, who refuse even to accept the Supreme Court as the final arbiter in our nation of laws. If you accept as much, then you can't *easily* argue what you state--because you'd be wrong.

Anonymous said...

The idea of allocating a proportion of each state's electoral votes based on the proportion of popular votes within the state is a good idea in theory, however in practice this would require unanimity among the states in deciding how to allocate electoral votes. This would be virtually impossible as the states have the right to allocate electoral votes however they want. The Interstate Compact would effectively yield the same results as the proportional vote would; either way the candidate witht the majority of the popular vote wins the election. However, with the Interstate Compact, such a system is far more likely to come into existence since it requires only a block of states to commit that yield a majority of electoral college votes.

Darren said...

The IVC seems much more anti-democratic to me. It also seems much more Democratic to me.

Robert said...

I think it's a great idea to allocate electoral votes proportionally to the popular vote in the state. However, I think it would cause a huge number of unanticipated problems.

First, I don't think you could split electoral votes into fractions, so you'd have to fit the results to effect splits between whole numbers.

For example, if a state had 5 electoral votes, then one split might occur at 90% to determine if the winner would get all or only 4 of the votes. To get 4 - as opposed to 3 - he might need 70%, etc.

So, if you think that Florida was a problem because of its closeness, imagine 20 or so states close to a breaking point where a small change could switch a single electoral vote.

The lawsuits would multiply, and every presidential election would become a court battle.

As I started, nice idea but some with some very dangerous potential outcomes!

Darren said...

Those problems are fairly easy to legislate away, and besides, isn't every election a court case now, anyway? The Democrats keep going to court until they get the result they like--see Washington State.

Tony said...

Why is it that sometimes the Supreme Court are "the final arbiters" and other times "activist judges?" :)

Seriously though, I don't see any reason why an elector's vote couldn't be weighted to precisely match the popular vote, if that is the goal. If our Founding Fathers had no problem counting a black man as 3/5 of a person, we should be able to allocate 43.85% of a vote if that's what we choose to do.

Darren said...

Tony, the two are not mutually exclusive. Roe v. Wade is bad constitutional law decided by activist judges--but it's still the law of the land.

As for allocating a part of a vote, I guess there's no reason it *couldn't* be done.

Anonymous said...

Actually electoral votes could be proportionally allocated to the thousandth decimal, which was proposed as a bill a few decades passed but was filibustered in the senate. But an analysis of the very close 2000 election showed that with a what-if proportional allocation of votes in the election, Gore would still have lost the electoral vote majority despite winning the popular vote because the two extra votes based on senate seats mess with the proportions. Another problem with proportionality is that not every vote is equal in states with different concentrations of populations and in states that have grown significantly since the previous census.

rightwingprof said...

It violates the Constitution, Article I section 10, which forbids states from entering contracts without congressional approval. But these morons aren't thinking. Had this been in place in 2004, Bush would have won a landslide in the EC.

Tony said...

Darren, I am a staunch pro-choicer and yet I agree with you one hundred percent. Roe v. Wade is and has always been built on shaky Constitutional ground. I would much prefer laws to be legislated, not handed down from the bench.

On a seperate note, if I were to take your phrase "Roe v. Wade is bad constitutional law decided by activist judges--but it's still the law of the land," and substitute "Bush v. Gore," you would have the exact point of my first comment. I accept that the decision was made and is therefore the law. What I want, as I'm sure you do, is a voting process that produces fair, accurate results in an open and transparent manor. I want all Americans to feel they and their interests are being represented. I realize that this desire may make me CEO of Fantasyland, but that's just my way.

As a personal aside, this is a wonderful blog. I may disagree with you sometimes/often, but I love your passion for open dialogue and for teaching mathematics.

Darren said...

Tony you're obviously a nutjob--but since you like this blog, you're just as obviously not a total nutjob! =)

Tony said...

Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful, yet thoroughly adversarial friendship.

Darren said...

Yeah, never had any of *those* before!