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Question about the voting system in the US

boxleitnerb

Platinum Member
Nov 1, 2011
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It's not like we don't have quite some similarities with our system over here in Germany, but in the US it seems much more pronounced, so I'm curious:

Why do these PACs and Super-PACs exist? Isn't that essentially bribery, buying into someone's campaign and then expecting special treatment when this person is in office, be it governor, president, judge...?

Why is there a need for electors? There are (albeit few) cases where one candidate gets the overall popular vote but the other one gets the electoral vote. That is simply not right, isn't it? Why not make it simple, ditch the electoral college and middle-men altogether and just count the votes. Who has the most, wins.
And especially no "winner takes it all". What purpose does that serve aside from skewing the will of part of the electorate, treating them as if they had never voted in the first place?
 

Hayabusa Rider

Admin Emeritus & Elite Member
Jan 26, 2000
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PACs and such exist because our courts have determined that funding the election of someone is an act of political expression and is permitted. Funding takes advantage of that to help elect those who seem to express the most sympathetic perspective to whatever the givers want. Yes it is bribery.

The electoral college is a throwback to the less technological days of the US, and as it's in the Constitution it stands because it's a hard document to change. The reason it hasn't is because when one of the two dominant parties believes the system works to their advantage they undermine attempts to change it. Whether that's through active discouragement or claiming reformation with the intent to do nothing doesn't change things. What it will take is a President winning the EC vote while losing the popular one. Then something might change, but don't hold your breath.
 

crashtestdummy

Platinum Member
Feb 18, 2010
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The question comes down to asking, what is free speech? People are allowed to discuss whatever political issues they want whenever they want with whatever resources they have.

Similarly, a newspaper, magazine or television show is allowed to use its resources to endorse candidates, make commentary, or provide coverage of events from a particular point of view.

The question then becomes, what is the difference between a Super Pac and a politically-themed television show or magazine? The only difference is that the magazine may have other things they do as well, but that is not sufficient reason to declare a distinction, nor is it an enforceable one.
 

boxleitnerb

Platinum Member
Nov 1, 2011
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Interesting angle.

In contrast to the PACs, the media may endorse a candidate, but do they expect something tangible in return? Cheaper paper? :D
Maybe exclusive interviews or stuff like that.

But I would say that is different from for example a large oil company getting favorable treatment specific for their business field. And more often than not that can hurt the people. In that example it may be drilling permits that destroy the environments and make people sick or tax exemption that takes away money from communities/states that could be used to improve infrastructure or go into the school system.
 

Hayabusa Rider

Admin Emeritus & Elite Member
Jan 26, 2000
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I chief flaw I see is that we are dominated by two parties. There is no mechanism to hold them accountable in office such a vote of no confidence. There is no means by which other parties or ideas can gain sufficient momentum to reach fruition. The Democrats and Republicans own us here in the States since we have a choice of two parties, two Presidential candidates, two ideologies. Two, just two.

While it ensures that both will have a turn at control it also costs a great deal in power sharing and finance. While a quid pro quo is illegal, the more subtle influence of party policy can be used to the benefits of the donors. That might be union or corporate or whatever. Sell your soul and the Devil give you the world if you will.

If we had alternatives then we'd have more ideas and perhaps less influence by special interests on policy, but we can't know because those who would be charged with change are the ones who would have to surrender power. That doesn't seem likely.
 
Nov 29, 2006
14,688
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PACs and such exist because our courts have determined that funding the election of someone is an act of political expression and is permitted. Funding takes advantage of that to help elect those who seem to express the most sympathetic perspective to whatever the givers want. Yes it is bribery.

The electoral college is a throwback to the less technological days of the US, and as it's in the Constitution it stands because it's a hard document to change. The reason it hasn't is because when one of the two dominant parties believes the system works to their advantage they undermine attempts to change it. Whether that's through active discouragement or claiming reformation with the intent to do nothing doesn't change things. What it will take is a President winning the EC vote while losing the popular one. Then something might change, but don't hold your breath.
That has happened before and recently as well. 2000 i think it was. Bush lost by over half a million votes to Gore.

Im a huge EC hater because it lets candidates ignore like 90% of the states while pandering to just a few. It also doesnt really represent states very well with all but 2 being winner take all. If KS for example was like 500,000 Dem and 500,001 GOP..all the EC points would go to the GOP while technically the state is split 50/50. But KS is not that close. It is pretty solidly a red state meaning if you plan to vote Dem you may as well stay home. This is actually how most states are. They totally favor one party historically and if you are the "minority party" you vote doesnt really count due to winner take all.

Popular vote all the way. its the only fair way for ALL of the US regardless where you live youre vote will count/
 
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monovillage

Diamond Member
Jul 3, 2008
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Interesting angle.

In contrast to the PACs, the media may endorse a candidate, but do they expect something tangible in return? Cheaper paper? :D
Maybe exclusive interviews or stuff like that.


But I would say that is different from for example a large oil company getting favorable treatment specific for their business field. And more often than not that can hurt the people. In that example it may be drilling permits that destroy the environments and make people sick or tax exemption that takes away money from communities/states that could be used to improve infrastructure or go into the school system.
Yes, they get important access to the candidate and/or the office holder. They get favorable legislation passed. The media outlets such as ABC, CBS, NBC,CNN, Fox,New York Times etc. get rewarded for supporting a winning candidate.
 

JTsyo

Lifer
Nov 18, 2007
10,940
230
106
The EC exists so that some like Lady Gaga doesn't get elected President just because they are popular with the public. The EC is a bit tricky since most states it's an all or nothing vote. Either you get all the votes for the state or none. That means, there's not any difference between getting 50% of the votes and 100% for these states.This is a way to get more popular votes and still not win even if the EC votes along with popular votes.
 

Genx87

Lifer
Apr 8, 2002
41,061
494
126
It's not like we don't have quite some similarities with our system over here in Germany, but in the US it seems much more pronounced, so I'm curious:

Why do these PACs and Super-PACs exist? Isn't that essentially bribery, buying into someone's campaign and then expecting special treatment when this person is in office, be it governor, president, judge...?

Why is there a need for electors? There are (albeit few) cases where one candidate gets the overall popular vote but the other one gets the electoral vote. That is simply not right, isn't it? Why not make it simple, ditch the electoral college and middle-men altogether and just count the votes. Who has the most, wins.
And especially no "winner takes it all". What purpose does that serve aside from skewing the will of part of the electorate, treating them as if they had never voted in the first place?
The EC was initially designed to stop mob rule. The founding fathers didnt want a direct democracy.
 

boxleitnerb

Platinum Member
Nov 1, 2011
2,597
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Wouldn't a direct democracy mean the use of plebiscites? The US would still be a representative democracy if the electoral college were ditched and a proportional representation were introduced.

Switzerland for example is a direct democracy. They let the people themselves decide directly on specific issues via vote instead of the government (their representatives) deciding.
 
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Genx87

Lifer
Apr 8, 2002
41,061
494
126
Wouldn't a direct democracy mean the use of plebiscites? Having a government that uses their own discretion on decisions isn't a direct democracy.

Switzerland is a direct democracy. They let the people decide on specific issues via vote instead of the government deciding.
We can have referendums at the state level. At the federal level we use representatives(house, senate) to make decisions. And there is a process to amend our constitution to expand federal powers.

California is a great example of what happens when the mob rule is allowed to make decisions of the state. It is utter chaos as the mob passes spending amendments without the ability to raise a tax to pay for it. The result is a fiscal nightmare.
 
Feb 4, 2009
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Let's be more honest PAC's & Super PAC's have no good reason to represent anybody but large donors. They became so important because the Supreme Court made a very poor ruling that if they knew the outcome of that ruling I would bet they would have ruled differently. To change the outcome of that ruling we'll need to amend the constitution which hopefully Obama will at least attempt before he leaves office in his second term. Super PAC's must go, OP's logic is correct if someone spends 10/100/200 million its simply ignorant to assume they are not expecting some kind of pay back.
 

boxleitnerb

Platinum Member
Nov 1, 2011
2,597
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81
We can have referendums at the state level. At the federal level we use representatives(house, senate) to make decisions. And there is a process to amend our constitution to expand federal powers.

California is a great example of what happens when the mob rule is allowed to make decisions of the state. It is utter chaos as the mob passes spending amendments without the ability to raise a tax to pay for it. The result is a fiscal nightmare.
But this discussion isn't about that. It is simply about voting for the representatives directly. The decision making power would still lie with the government.
 

Fern

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 30, 2003
26,907
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-snip-
Why is there a need for electors? There are (albeit few) cases where one candidate gets the overall popular vote but the other one gets the electoral vote. That is simply not right, isn't it? Why not make it simple, ditch the electoral college and middle-men altogether and just count the votes. Who has the most, wins.
And especially no "winner takes it all". What purpose does that serve aside from skewing the will of part of the electorate, treating them as if they had never voted in the first place?
Here's a decent explanation of the E.C system and the original purpose for its creation.

A third idea was to have the president elected by a direct popular vote. Direct election was rejected not because the Framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a "favorite son" from their own State or region. At worst, no president would emerge with a popular majority sufficient to govern the whole country. At best, the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.

Finally, a so-called "Committee of Eleven" in the Constitutional Convention proposed an indirect election of the president through a College of Electors.

The function of the College of Electors in choosing the president can be likened to that in the Roman Catholic Church of the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope. The original idea was for the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State to select the president based solely on merit and without regard to State of origin or political party.

The similarities between the Electoral College and classical institutions are not accidental. Many of the Founding Fathers were well schooled in ancient history and its lessons.
http://uselectionatlas.org/INFORMATION/INFORMATION/electcollege_history.php

As a practical matter our E.C. system functions such that it is a popular vote system with no "middlemen" (as you put it).

It should also be understood that to officially change, or abolish, the E.C. system would require a Constitutional amendment. That is a lengthy and exceedingly difficult process. IMO, we simply haven't had the kind of outrageous (or any, really) problems with the E.C. system that would unite the American people in passing a Constitutional amendment.

Fern
 

boxleitnerb

Platinum Member
Nov 1, 2011
2,597
1
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I don't really get this.

I would assume most if not all of the electors vote for "their" assigned (?) candidate? It would be funny if 70% of the people in a state voted for Romney, but 80% of the electors voted for Obama for some reason. That would not be right or fair either. Does it happen (often) that electors vote against the will of the voters?

To eliminate this problem, one would have to abolish the majority vote system as well and not vote by state but put all the votes in a nation-wide bowl. That way no unfair advantage or disadvantage would exist. Even the most populous state voting for their "favorite son" wouldn't matter as the other votes (for other candidates) from said state would still count and the "favorite son" votes would have to compete with votes from all other 49 states. Unlikely that favoritism would substantially skew the result unless one state would account for like 60% of the US' population.
 
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Fern

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 30, 2003
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I don't really get this.

I would assume most if not all of the electors vote for "their" assigned (?) candidate? It would be funny if 70% of the people in a state voted for Romney, but 80% of the electors voted for Obama for some reason. That would not be right or fair either. Does it happen (often) that electors vote against the will of the voters?
Not in modern politics.

Those elected to be E.C voters are rabid party members. They are not going to vote for the other party's candidate.

I'd have to confirm, but states require the electors to follow the popular vote, at least in primaries (where they vote for candidates of the same party to be the nominee). I could be wrong, but I'd be surprised if there weren't rules requiring the E.C. members to vote the way the people vote. I don't think it's necessary, but still, I'd be a bit surprised if such a rule didn't exist.


To eliminate this problem, one would have to abolish the majority vote system as well and not vote by state but put all the votes in a nation-wide bowl. That way no unfair advantage or disadvantage would exist. Even the most populous state voting for their "favorite son" wouldn't matter as the other votes (for other candidates) from said state would still count and the "favorite son" votes would have to compete with votes from all other 49 states. Unlikely that favoritism would substantially skew the result unless one state would account for like 60% of the US' population.
See my sig.

It seems you are trying to fix a problem(s) that doesn't actually exists.

Fern
 

ddjkdg

Senior member
Dec 22, 2001
718
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0
But this discussion isn't about that. It is simply about voting for the representatives directly. The decision making power would still lie with the government.
The writers of the Constitution were afraid that fringe factions would have disproportional power in a PR system. It was designed as a two-party system from the beginning which is why all of the House of Representatives are elected from single member districts, first past the post. The Senate was originally not popularly elected, instead the two senators representing each state were appointed by state legislatures. That changed with a constitutional amendment and now they are also effectively first past the post single member districts.

I don't really get this.

I would assume most if not all of the electors vote for "their" assigned (?) candidate? It would be funny if 70% of the people in a state voted for Romney, but 80% of the electors voted for Obama for some reason. That would not be right or fair either. Does it happen (often) that electors vote against the will of the voters?

To eliminate this problem, one would have to abolish the majority vote system as well and not vote by state but put all the votes in a nation-wide bowl. That way no unfair advantage or disadvantage would exist. Even the most populous state voting for their "favorite son" wouldn't matter as the other votes (for other candidates) from said state would still count and the "favorite son" votes would have to compete with votes from all other 49 states. Unlikely that favoritism would substantially skew the result unless one state would account for like 60% of the US' population.
If you Google faithless electors you will find some instances of EC voters defying their obligations. In modern times this has never changed the outcome of an election, but I think back in the 1800's there was one instance where it did have an impact.

As Fern pointed out, originally the President was chose directly by the EC. Over time states passed laws requiring EC voters to support whichever candidate won the state's popular vote.
 

boxleitnerb

Platinum Member
Nov 1, 2011
2,597
1
81
See my sig.

It seems you are trying to fix a problem(s) that doesn't actually exists.

Fern
So you don't think it is a problem to completely ignore the votes for the "looser"? As a voter I would like my vote to actually count. The "all or nothing" system puts the emphasis primarily on the swing states while shifts in other states are ignored unless they turn the tide. Especially in large states like California or New York and Florida, millions of votes are "lost". I would surely call that a problem.
 
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Nov 29, 2006
14,688
2,508
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Not in modern politics.

Those elected to be E.C voters are rabid party members. They are not going to vote for the other party's candidate.

I'd have to confirm, but states require the electors to follow the popular vote, at least in primaries (where they vote for candidates of the same party to be the nominee). I could be wrong, but I'd be surprised if there weren't rules requiring the E.C. members to vote the way the people vote. I don't think it's necessary, but still, I'd be a bit surprised if such a rule didn't exist.


Fern
Actually that rule doesnt exist. They could in theory vote opposite popular vote of the state. But in practice i do not believe it has happened very often if at all.
 
Nov 29, 2006
14,688
2,508
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So you don't think it is a problem to completely ignore the votes for the "looser"? As a voter I would like my vote to actually count. The "all or nothing" system puts the emphasis primarily on the swing states while shifts in other states are ignored unless they turn the tide. Especially in large states like California or New York and Florida, millions of votes are "lost". I would surely call that a problem.
:thumbsup: Nice to see someone from another country understand our lame system more then id say 99% of American do.
 

ddjkdg

Senior member
Dec 22, 2001
718
0
0
So you don't think it is a problem to completely ignore the votes for the "looser"? As a voter I would like my vote to actually count. The "all or nothing" system puts the emphasis primarily on the swing states while shifts in other states are ignored unless they turn the tide. Especially in large states like California or New York and Florida, millions of votes are "lost". I would surely call that a problem.
It is a problem, but it's also wrong to think that your vote is a complete waste of time before even going to the ballot box. You're also voting for representatives, senators, governors (all of which are typically much more competitive than the presidential race - even blue states like Massachusetts elect Republicans for governor and senate), local officials, and on state/local referendums.

There are a couple of interesting charts on this page that show the odds of a single state and voter being decisive in the electoral college.

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/
 

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