August 6, 2007

Alter: I Hate Democracy

It's almost impossible to keep one's jaw in place while reading Jonathan Alter under the best of circumstances, but his column today requires a bungee cord wrapped around one's head to avoid serious TMJ. Alter endorses "mischief" by state officials attempting to make end-runs around the Electoral College as long as it reflects the "popular will" -- but when Republicans actually offer a referendum to the people for ending the winner-take-all assignment of EC votes, Alter accuses the GOP of trying to steal the next election:

Our way of electing presidents has always been fer-tile [sic] ground for mischief. But there's sensible mischief—toying with existing laws and the Constitution to reflect popular will—and then there's the other kind, which tries to rig admission to the Electoral College for strictly partisan purposes. Mischief-makers in California (Republicans) and North Carolina (Democrats) are at work on changes that would subvert the system for momentary advantage and—in ways the political world is only beginning to understand—dramatically increase the odds that a Republican will be elected president in 2008.

Right now, every state except Nebraska and Maine awards all of its electoral votes to the popular-vote winner in that state. So in mammoth California, John Kerry beat George W. Bush and won all 55 electoral votes, more than one fifth of the 270 necessary for election.

Instead of laboring in vain to turn California Red, a clever lawyer for the state Republican Party thought of a gimmicky shortcut. Thomas Hiltachk, who specializes in ballot referenda that try to fool people in the titles and fine print, is sponsoring a ballot initiative for the June 3, 2008, California primary (which now falls four months after the state's presidential primary). The Presidential Election Reform Act would award the state's electoral votes based on who wins each congressional district. Had this idea been in effect in 2004, Bush would have won 22 electoral votes from California, about the same number awarded the winners of states like Illinois or Pennsylvania. In practical terms, adopting the initiative would mean that the Democratic candidate would likely have to win both Ohio and Florida in 2008 (instead of one or the other) to be elected.

This is a great example of why the Left has democracy backwards. In the aftermath of the 2000 election, where Gore won the overall popular vote but lost in the Electoral College, all sorts of shenanigans got suggested to make presidential elections follow the popular vote. One scheme endorsed by the Left involved state compacts that would have hijacked the popular vote within each state. These states would have made agreements to ignore the will of their own residents by changing their EC votes to automatically support the candidate with the highest national vote tally.

Alter calls this "reflecting the popular will," and has no problem with state officials bargaining away their electorate's wishes. That, Alter claims, is good mischief. He has no problem with rigging elections without even checking with the voters to determine whether they agree with that or not.

However, Alter has a huge problem with offering a direct-democracy vote on ending the winner-take-all EC assignment in California. Why? Is it because it "toys with existing laws"? Not at all. It asks Californians to consider a change to a law, one of the basic elements of democracy and self-government. Does it dismantle the Constitution? Absolutely not. In fact, by keeping presidential elections on a state-by-state basis, it adheres more closely to the Constitution than these oddball state compacts do.

No, Alter dislikes it because it will hurt Democrats, at least in the short run. California's EC delegation has been a slam-dunk for Democrats for the last 15 years or longer. Any plan that removes the winner-take-all format that 48 of the 50 states use will make it tougher for Democrats to be elected President. Alter points out that they would lose the equivalent of Florida in a Congressional district allocation.

So let's recap: Alter loves it when Californian acts to undermine the Electoral College without even considering whether the voters wish to allow the state to disregard the results of actual voting in the state for presidents. Alter hates it when California voters get to choose for themselves whether to change the allocation of its EC votes.

In other words, Alter hates democracy, but loves autocracy. At least he's in the right party.

UPDATE: Jonathan Alter replied to me by e-mail:

Hey, captain...what the hell are you talking about? those in both parties who favor the direct election of presidents--the candidate with the most popular votes wins--are by definition more pro-democracy than those who do not. i favor a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college, but short of that, state compacts to achieve the same result. you oppose both and obviously favor the status quo--where had President Bush lost a few thousand votes in Ohio in 2004 he would not be president today, notwithstanding having won more popular votes than kerry.

So who is more pro-democracy? you or me? the answer is obvious. you are the one who wants to play stupid partisan games instead of just directly electing the president. go ahead and make an argument for that, but don't try to make it the most pro-democracy position. best, jonathan alter

My reply, sent by e-mail:

You're the one arguing for backroom deals to get around the Constitution, and oppose a democratic referendum for the voters to decide on the allocation of EC votes. How does that enhance democracy or the Constitution? You argue for that because you know that most states would never agree to abolish the EC, and so the ends justify the means, as your first paragraph states.

I don't consider the Electoral College a "stupid partisan game", but part of the Constitution that protects the influence of smaller states. Is it the most democratic method of electing a President? No, but if California moved away from its winner-take-call formula, it would at least be closer to that ideal, as it would with every state.

Let's also acknowledge that a disparity between the EC and the popular vote has occurred twice in 124 years. It's not a pressing issue in American history, and the obsession over the Electoral College has a lot more to do with "stupid partisan games" than any deep interest in democracy -- as Alter's attack on a referendum demonstrates.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Alter: I Hate Democracy:

» Today's news in pictures from Right Truth
I thought it would be fun to refrain from commentary and present the top news stories in pictures. Go visit the individual sites for the full stories: Al-Qaeda's Beaver Boy, Random Thoughts - Do They Have Meaning? Daily Kos diarist: [Read More]

Comments (36)

Posted by Scott | August 6, 2007 7:46 AM

I live in California. I will vote for the proposal to allocate electoral votes by congressional district if it makes the ballot.

This state is about 45% Republican. The coast is where all the "action" is here, as the coast is the home of SF and LA and the Hollywood crowd, etc.

The rest of the state is rather conservative, full of farms and ranches and new suburbs full of young families who DON'T tend to vote liberal.

The liberals in the Legislature have tried to change the law to give all the electoral laws to the winner. I can just imagine how enthused the liberals would be to give all 55 votes to a Republican winner.

Yeah. Right.

Posted by Larry J | August 6, 2007 7:56 AM

Just like with the Fairness Doctrine, the old Soviet tactic applies: "What's mine is mine. What's yours is negotiagle."

After 2000, there were efforts to change the formula for EC votes here in Colorado and probably in other states. It was voted down. If they think it's such a good idea, let's try it in California first.

Posted by The Yell | August 6, 2007 7:59 AM

Quite a few Beltway pundits consider California's initiative system to be dishonest, destructive and unAmerican. Including George Will I'm sorry to say.

Posted by Jazz | August 6, 2007 8:18 AM

Ed, in the interest of fairness, it's worth pointing out that you fail to mention that Alter also criticized the Democrats for attempting the same trick in another (albeit much smaller and lower EC impact) state. The real question to my way of thinking, however, is whether it is "ok" for some states to have partial EC counts and others not.

Yes, I know we have two rogue states that already do it, but should they be allowed to? I suppose the constitution seems clear on this, leaving the choice to the legislatures of the various states, but is the election still as "valid" when we pick and choose which states do it which way? Frankly, I think it needs to be uniform. Personally, I would prefer to scrap the EC entirely, as a now useless appendage from a technologically infantile stage of our development, but it seems that will never happen.

The point is, it still comes down to partisan politics and Alter *does* ask one poignant question... why is it that you don't see the RNC throwing its muscle behind similar initiatives in primarily red states? Same reason as what you seem to be suggesting about Alter. It would hurt the GOP.

Seems to me that either every state should break down their EC vote by district (a system which is fraught with its own problems, as Alter correctly points out, due to gerrymandreing by both sides over the years and the lack of any real competiton in 93% of the districts) or we should either go with the popular vote results statewide, or leave it as it is and get the remaining two states back in line so we're all doing it one way.

Posted by Bennett | August 6, 2007 8:27 AM

I'm no Constitutional scholar but I think that concern about how the "popular will" would play out in Presidential elections is exactly why the drafters came up with the electoral college in the first place.

I don't think Alter hates democracy, I think he just dislikes the fact that Republicans have won the Presidency 7 out of the last 10 election cycles.

Posted by docjim505 | August 6, 2007 8:32 AM

In all fairness, the Founding Fathers weren't too big on "democracy". The Electoral College was (as I recall from junior high school civics!) designed to put the political elite of the several states in charge of electing the president. By custom, it became a "winner take all" dictated by the popular vote in the state.

The states have an inherent right to determine how their electoral votes are cast, and the fact of the matter is that politicians for both sides will try to game the system if they can. Due to democrat whining after the 2000 election (will they EVER move on???), the system that we've used for a couple of centuries has been placed into doubt. Where there is doubt, there is room for the unscrupulous to make mischief.

Hopefully, John Q. Public will see these shennanigans for what they are and realize that they will cause nothing but trouble. We've had (more or less) open and honest elections in this country for over two hundred years. Let's not screw around with a system that isn't broken.

Posted by Jerry | August 6, 2007 8:51 AM

Interestingly enough the plan to allocate the electoral college by congressional district is pretty much in keeping with the spirit of the founding fathers. The original purpose of the EC was to ensure that the small states were not ignored in national elections. It was thought that winning enough EC votes to win the election would make candidates think nationally rather then concentrate on only a small demographic segment, i.e, in our case urban voters. Allocating the EC by district would force the Democrats in particular to broaden their electoral base and I think that would be a good thing. Had this system existed in 1960 and 2000 we could have avoided the controversies that clouded these elections.

Alter shows how irrational Democrats/liberals are to reason. If the allocation of the EC were by congressional district then they would pick votes in states like Florida and Texas to compensate for votes lost in California, New York and Pennsylvania.

Posted by KauaiBoy | August 6, 2007 9:13 AM

"We've had (more or less) open and honest elections in this country for over two hundred years. "

Now if there was only some difference between the miscreants seeking public office or at least a few truly worthy of the public trust.

Posted by Immolate | August 6, 2007 9:24 AM

The question you should ask yourself is: what would your reaction be if, instead of California, the resolution was being pushed in a variety of solid red states. The impact of divided EC votes is two-edged. It guarantees the minority party in that state at least some electoral votes, but it also makes a close state much less attractive to presidential candidates for campaign purposes. Threshing the electors that way would make Ohio and Florida much less attractive to campaigners.

I am not going to argue that weighted electoral votes doesn't make some sense. But if only some states do it, it doesn't have much of a positive theoretical impact on the election as a whole, except to those who benefit. Who benefits is not necessarily a static position.

If it makes the ballot and passes in California, Republicans win big time. But it is an issue of what California's residents want, and whatever they decide is their choice. With the majority of the state leaning left, however, I can't see why they would choose to empower the Republicans in that way.

Posted by Rhymes With Right | August 6, 2007 9:28 AM

This would make the process of gerrymandering even more critical.

After all, consider what this would have done here in Texas in 2000 -- Texans would have seen a majority of their electoral votes go for Gore despite a majority of the popular vote going to Bush, due to the Democrat Gerrymander of 1990.

Posted by SouthernRoots | August 6, 2007 9:33 AM

A state basing the allocation of EC votes on the vote results within their state is easily within the Constitution. It can be debated as to what is fair, right, or not, but at least it involves the election results of the citizens of the state.

However, when a state decides to allocate EC votes based on election results outside their state, I think they have gone over the line.

Posted by Jerry | August 6, 2007 9:40 AM


Had the EC been allocated by congressional district nationwide in 2000 there wold have been no contraversy. Bush carried would have had well over 300 Electoral votes and Dade results would have been a footnote. Just because a district elects a Democrat to Congress doesn't mean that they wouldn't split their vote and vote Republican.

Posted by Counterfactual | August 6, 2007 9:43 AM

Alter favors changes in election laws that make it more likely the winner of the popular vote wins the presidential election and opposes changes that make it less likely. You can disagree if you want, but by what kind of twisted logic is that equal to 'hating democracy'?

Changing California's law in the way mentioned does more than hurt the Democrats in the short-run. It also makes it more likely that the loser in the popular presidential vote will win the electoral college. I would have thought that might be a legitimate reason for opposing it, which I, as a California Republican do. I guess I was wrong, I guess it is just that I hate democracy. A bit of a bummer to find that out now after living 45 years thinking I actually liked democracy.

Posted by AmendmentX | August 6, 2007 10:02 AM

Ed- As a conservative, all of us, including the Founding Fathers, abhor democracy. Democracy is not found in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. We do not live in a democracy...let me correct that: We're not supposed to live in a democracy, but we do;we're supposed to live in a constitutionally mandated democratically elected representative republic.A lot of words, but all very important. A republic, not a democracy.The Founder were quite purposeful in how and why the constructed the government the way they did.Remember, a gang rape and lynching are pure democracies.
As I read at Joseph Sobran's column "the U.S. Constitution poses no serious threat to our form of government".

Posted by Dust Bunny Queen | August 6, 2007 10:13 AM

I also live in California and welcome this change. My County votes about 70% Republican and is conservative and mostly rural. In every national election, we just get the discouraged feeling that our votes don't count. because all the electoral votes are always given to the democratic candidate. We are out voted by the coastal liberals in national elections and in State issues.

In fact, there have been many attempts to seceed from the rest of California.

The electoral college is a very important institution to protect the interests of smaller, less populated states. If we went to a popular vote nation wide for elections, there would be no point in voting if you lived in Montana or Rhode Island. All elections would be decided by the coastal states like California and New York.

Posted by The Yell | August 6, 2007 10:27 AM

"The point is, it still comes down to partisan politics and Alter *does* ask one poignant question... why is it that you don't see the RNC throwing its muscle behind similar initiatives in primarily red states? Same reason as what you seem to be suggesting about Alter. It would hurt the GOP."

It's not the RNC behind it. It's not even the state GOP behind it, they are too cautious. To file an initiative in CA he needs only pay something like $5000 fee to the Secretary of State, and then get 400,000 registered voters to sign before next April to be on November's ballot. Any citizen could do that.

So states without the initiative won't bother at all, and even those that do, will probably see the parties indifferent to a private venture, just like CA is. I'm sure one party or another is more favorable, but it's still citizen's initiative not a partisan ploy.

Alter is wrong to suggest there's an Article II challenge inherent in anything drafted by initiative, there was an attempt to have judges draft districts instead of the Legislature and if the Legislature has chosen to endorse the constitutional option of legislation by initiative, election reform can't be challenged on the grounds that the Legislature has not been heard; the Assembly and Senate can cancel out a successful initiative, and therefore if they don't, they assent to its provisions.

Posted by David M | August 6, 2007 10:39 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/06/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by Adjoran | August 6, 2007 10:55 AM

The real problem here is that Ed is bothering to read Alter at all. I recommend Sudoku as a far better time-waster - it can actually improve brain function, whereas reading Alter can only diminish it.

There is no particular reason states should be allocating EC votes the same way. The Constitution gives the power to the state legislatures, and it is quite normal to find some variation.

There is, of course, NO SUCH THING as a "national popular vote." Our Presidential elections are conducted state-by-state for good reason: this, and other protections for state power, were necessary to form the Union in the first place. Were any sort of "national popular election" contemplated, the smaller states would never have ratified the Constitution.

Someone should buy Alter a history book and a clue.

Posted by sestamibi | August 6, 2007 11:35 AM

I hate to give anyone as loathesome as Alter any credit, but I have to admit grudgingly that he's right about two things: the Dems tried this is NC too, abandoning the effort only at the last minute.

Also, Alter is right and The Yell is wrong. The Constitution explicitly vests the authority for appointing electors with the state legislature in such manner as they direct. Thus, this is one instance where a referendum wouldn't fly in court.

Posted by glenstein | August 6, 2007 12:30 PM

I think this is a little unfair. I bet Alter, and anyone else, would be perfectly happy if similar measures were adopted in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, etc. alongside the effort to do this in California.

If anyone wants this genuinely, let's do it in a way that doesn't amount to manipulating the electoral college such that favors one party, while leaving in place that very structure we find so objectionable in other states.

As it stands, breaking up California's typically Democratic EC votes without also doing it in other states would be rigging the game in favor of Republicans. Maybe it is wrong for Republicans in California, but it is no less wrong for the minority vote in Texas or Florida, yet I see no one standing up for them.

Posted by Ray | August 6, 2007 12:36 PM

"Thus, this is one instance where a referendum wouldn't fly in court."

It is my understanding that in California, the state's Constitution allows the use of referendums in which to force the Legislature to modify existing laws or impose new laws, regulations, etc. Therefore, a referendum to change the state's method of allotting Electoral votes would stand up to a court challenge.

Posted by Ray | August 6, 2007 1:04 PM

"As it stands, breaking up California's typically Democratic EC votes without also doing it in other states would be rigging the game in favor of Republicans."

Would it really "rig" the allocation process in favor of one party or another or would it actually even the playing field in regards to California? There's no way anyone can tell until such a change takes place.

Remember, it doesn't matter in the State of California (or any other state) how the citizens of another state votes. The US Constitution guarantees that each state can choose their electoral votes in any manner that state deems as necessary and legal within the limitations set in each state's Constitution.

Changing the state's allocation of electoral votes in this manner may appear to give an advantage to one party or another when viewed on a national level, but there's no guarantee as to which party will benefit the most or how long that benefit will last.

Posted by kmccrory | August 6, 2007 1:10 PM

"The Electoral College was (as I recall from junior high school civics!) designed to put the political elite of the several states in charge of electing the president."

That is completely incorrect. The electoral college was designed to allow smaller states to have a say in elections. The large states (VA, NY, MA) would always be able to impose their will by the size of their populations. The small, less populous, states ( RI, DE, NH) would always be at a disadvantage. Another reason for the electoral college is that the presidential candidate is forced to appeal to a large cross section of the country to win the election. A candidate can't win by just winning a couple of more populated states.

Posted by glenstein | August 6, 2007 1:25 PM

Ray, I would say that since every state must experience the consequences of a national election, it does matter incredibly how other states vote.

Supposing that a majority of Californians voted for a Democratic president, but that their EC votes are split up in a manner that tips the election to a Republican, it again will not even the playing field.

I respect what you are saying here and I think splitting up votes would be fine in the abstract. However, trying to isolate what is fair for Californians from what the affect would be nationally, seems to me to be an attempt to find a semantical justification for something that is obviously inconsistent. We all know that this plan specifically would just favor Republicans. There is nothing wrong with that in general, but surely it could be avoided.

I say we do it everywhere, or if we can, gradually get more states to accept it without doing in it a manner that risks throwing elections. If we care enough, we can put in that effort.

Posted by Brett | August 6, 2007 1:41 PM

The general worship of the constitutionally irrelevant national popular vote tells me one thing: the congregation finds the States to be quaint inconveniences, and the choir would eliminate the Senate.

Posted by cessnadav | August 6, 2007 1:51 PM

The electoral college does slightly favor smaller states by adding the number of representatives to the number of senators, but larger states of course still vastly dominate the college. Its original purpose was to prevent local voters from always selecting local candidates and then ending up with a broad field of presidential candidates, none of whom had any significant inter-state support. The advent of political parties more or less made that reasoning obsolete. The only practical current effect is to give smaller states a little more say, but that was not the main original purpose of the college.

Posted by docjim505 | August 6, 2007 1:56 PM


I think you're thinking of the Senate vs. the House and the Great Compromise. The problems you've described are among the very arguments against the Electoral College; when's the last time presidential candidates spent a lot of time campaigning in Wyoming or Delaware?

Posted by viking01 | August 6, 2007 2:06 PM

Alter simply confirms what most of us know about Liberal activist media. They're fans of democracy as long as the populace supports them and their socialist goals. The instant that changes they become awash in conspiracy theories. Typical mindset for the hippie culture which now owns the Democrat Party. There always has to be a bogeyman for everything whether the "military industrial complex, " trying to blame Dick Cheney for anything / everything or a vast right-wing conspiracy having planted Monica's blue dress.

What it boils down to is Liberalism is simply a continuation of hippie rebelliousness against their parents and life's responsibilities now that their parents are no longer around to support them. Big Government and Big Taxes have become the teat to provide their continued nourishment between crying fits and shakes of the rattle.

Remember the days before the 2006 election where the Dems and their media pimps were claiming suspicions of widespread voter fraud yet those claims immediately evaporated when election outcomes favored their political desires? As Groucho Marx said: "Those are my principles and if you don't like those, I have others."

Notice how critical the Leftoid press becomes of Giuliani's or Thompson's marriages yet remained complacent about Slick's grope-athon union with the resultant Oral Office. How conveniently quiet the Lefty press was about Tipper Gore and Tah-ray-za's shaky lives! Or the "homeless" stories brought out after eight years of storage the instant Slick took his road show elsewhere.

Jonathan Alter is readily predictable. The instant he realizes he's losing the Monopoly game he flips the game board over, curses the Parker brothers and storms out of the room. Thank God the founders made us a representative republic instead of a democracy lest we, like Alter, be led by emotions instead of duty to the cause of liberty we've inherited.

Posted by KW64 | August 6, 2007 2:42 PM

I do not care how states allocate their electoral votes. While I suspect those that go by Congressional District will find that candidates spend much less time and money there since most districts are gerrymandered to lean pretty substantially to one side or the other and campaigning there would be a waste of time, that is OK.

What I insist is paramount is that the Electoral College be preserved so that fraud in one State does not dilute the vote from another state. Right now fraud in Seattle or St. Louis or Chicago does not directly effect the value of my vote. But if we abondon the electoral college, we will launch a race to see who can outfraud the other guy across the whole nation. Everyone will say things like "we want to be honest but we know the Democrats in the State of Washington will add a million fraudulent votes so we have to get a million fraudulent votes to make it even".

Now we see some Districts in King County Washington with more votes than voters. If we abondon the Electoral College, we may have more votes than inhabitants of the whole planet.

Posted by jerry | August 6, 2007 3:02 PM

The Democrats are the party of Hollywood, “urban sophisticates” and the professoriate backed up by their total domination of the African-American vote. To repeat what I said in my first post, the apportionment of electoral votes by the congressional district will force the Democrats to broaden their base because they can no longer win all the state’s electoral votes by piling up huge majorities in a few urban districts. The control of the Democratic Party will then pass out of the hands of a group of anti-democratic elitists.

Alter favors the compact to deliver a state’s electoral votes to the national popular vote winner because it increases the power of the three elites over the rest of the public. This post could really by cross-posted in Kos thread because the two are intertwined. The compact that Alter touts is unconstitutional. The Constitution explicitly prohibits compacts between states without specific Congressional approval. The language from Article I Section 10 reads:
“No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”
Alter, like almost all liberals, has contempt for the Constitution because it does not guarantee their victory in a fair contest.
Very few Presidential elections have been won by the candidate with fewer votes in two party election, i.e, Bush-Gore, Kennedy-Nixon ( votes for Harry Byrd were credited to Kennedy in popular vote totals) and Hayes-Tilden (Tilden had more votes only because the black vote in the South had been disenfranchised.) The entire concept of the Compact is based on the Democrats inability to move on from 2000.

Posted by bridgeguy | August 6, 2007 7:40 PM

Personally I think when they changed the old way and went to the direct popular vote for senators they ended up with a poorer quality of candidate. The Senate was supposed to be less influenced by the whipsaw of constantly changing public opinion that drives the House. Now however the Senate has many milk-toast politicians trying to constantly please both sides of an issue. Banning the EC will also create problems.

In a related point, I'm tired of hearing how this president or that won the popular vote. We have never ever counted all the popular votes. In any election, most states don't count the absentee ballots because there aren't enough to sway the election in that state. Only in close elections like Florida 2000, typically within 1 %, do the states feel the extra cost is justified. By doing direct election for President, all votes will have to be counted and all states will be potential Florida's.

Posted by Ray | August 6, 2007 7:45 PM

"Ray, I would say that since every state must experience the consequences of a national election, it does matter incredibly how other states vote."

I don't know about you, but I don't let the voters in California affect how I vote in Minnesota. I don't go into the polling booth to cast a vote in an attempt to negate someone's opposing vote in another state, I vote for the candidate I think is the best in the particular race.

Changing the way a single state allocates their electoral votes may affect the outcome of Presidential elections, but so what? Every state can, and does, affect the outcome in on way or another.

The only real effect such a change would bring is it would force a candidate to stop treating a state as an automatic win and all the candidates would actually have to make greater effort to convince a significant majority of people in that state to vote for them instead of another candidate. I don't see anything wrong with this.

The idea of a national public vote for President ignores the reality that each state is separate from each other. Every state has it's own Constitution, it's own government, and it's own identity. Each state has sovereignty rights, including the right to decide how they will allocate their electoral votes. That's part of what make us the United States of America and not some all-inclusive government like you find in England. Let's keep these kinds of decision to each respective state, as that is what the Constitution requires.

Posted by glenstein | August 6, 2007 9:52 PM

Our constitution isn't some statement on perfection itself as a form of government, it's a well thought out way of making an imperfect government function as well as possible. Because different states decide that they may vote in different ways does not mean that their different choices are all literally the best choices. The value of the constitution is ever being re-asserted by those who use its framework to make good decisions and is ever dependent on our legilatures being able to live up to it; we could still govern ourselves quite stupidly with it, which I think has been proved well enough.

So saying that something is in some way constitutionally sanctioned doesn't de facto mean it is good and unquestionable. Furthermore, if we took these quips too seriously...

The idea of a national public vote for President ignores the reality that each state is separate from each other.

... we could well be arguing also that different states would get to elect different presidents. There is a such thing as a national context which state's judgements have to incorporate and defer to. Another foundational principle of our country is that the minority will agree to abide by the decision of the majority. There are several principles at play, so I don't see why the (important) principle of state indepedence overwhelms everything here and dictates that we should stop being critical.

I don't know about you, but I don't let the voters in California affect how I vote in Minnesota. I don't go into the polling booth to cast a vote in an attempt to negate someone's opposing vote in another state, I vote for the candidate I think is the best in the particular race.

That's not what I mean. A state's interests are inseperably bound up in that national election which it affects. People's individual votes can stay exactly the same, they will still be represented differently (that is, more or less) if the manner of electoral college operation is changed.

Rather than questioning the issue of breaking up votes of each state itself, which I support, I question the idea that we should advance this issue without thought of its effects on the nation.

Posted by Ray | August 6, 2007 11:36 PM


The electoral collage system itself will not be changed if California or other states allocates electoral votes to more than one candidate. Remember, here in Minnesota one electoral vote was issued for John Edwards (who wasn't even running as President) yet there was no national crisis invoked by that vote.

If California or another state decides to divide electoral votes between candidates it doesn't mean the system will be broken, it just reduces that state's influence when viewed on a national level. Any potential president will still need to win a majority of total electoral votes. Having a state split it's votes may make the elections more challenging to a particular candidate, but the electoral process itself will still remain unchanged on a national level.

".. we could well be arguing also that different states would get to elect different presidents."

Each state does have a president of sorts, they are call Governors. But that's not what I meant. I was pointing out that there is no national election process like a popular vote. There are 50 separate state elections and one final tally based on the results of those separate elections. It may not be what everyone thinks as representative of a democracy, but this country is a Constitutional Republic and not a true Democracy and this system has worked well for us for over 200 years.

Posted by Tom Shipley | August 7, 2007 8:04 AM

It's not a pressing issue in American history

Considering we have a very controversial president who received less votes than his opponent, it certainly is a pressing issue in American history.

Posted by jerry | August 7, 2007 8:44 AM


As I pointed out, it wasn't the first time this has happenned and probably won't be the last. However, if I remember correctly the Democrats made a big stink about Ohio in 2004 which wasn't that close but suppose Kerry had won Ohio by a few thousand votes; Do you think Alter would be pressing for this unconstitutional change despite the fact that Bush would have won the popular vote by 2-3 million votes?

Post a comment