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Sunday, August 29, 2004
Would Abolishing the EC Save us from Another Florida?

By Steven Taylor @ 4:15 pm

The NYT argues in an editorial today that we should Abolish the Electoral College. In making an argument, the piece notes (twice) that the electoral college creates a greater possibility of “crisis” than would a simple popular vote system. This position is predicated on two flawed assumptions: 1) that losing the popular vote but winning the electoral college is a “crisis” (it is not, given that constitutionally the popular vote does not matter), and 2) that 2000, as a model, demonstrates the weaknesses of the EC.

The problem with the 2000 election, and the ensuing recount brouhaha in Florida, was not the result of the EC, but of the nature of the election itself, which was essentially a popular vote tie. The Electoral College helped to contain the problems of 2000 to within the borders of Florida, rather than being the cause of them.

If we had had a pure popular vote system, the very small difference between Bush and Gore in terms of the popular vote that a nation-wide recount could have resulted. Florida wasn’t the only state that was close.

Gore and Bush were separated by a mere 53,2994 votes-only 0.5% of the overall popular vote-enough, depending on the way the law is written, to trigger a recount. Is the NYT saying that a nation-wide recount would be preferable to one contained to one (or even a few) states?

No matter one’s position on the EC, to argue that 2000 is an example of what’s wrong with the system is not thinking the position through.

The piece makes a number of legitmate points regarding the EC, but they also wholly discount our federal system and the ongoing political significance of states as units. Futher, it is unclear, as noted above, that a popular vote system would have avoided the problems of 2000.

Filed under: US Politics

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9 Comments»

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  1. I think they should just put the Presidency on Ebay. The job goes to the highest bidder. The only difference being that any money bid - even by the losing candidate(s) goes into the federal treasury. [/farce]

    Comment by Stephen Macklin — Sunday, August 29, 2004 @ 7:50 pm

  2. Abolishing the electoral college system would be insane. We may as well throw out the constitution and start fresh if we’re going to f**k things up that completely. A few more people need to learn some, you know, history and stuff.

    Comment by Jay Solo — Sunday, August 29, 2004 @ 8:36 pm

  3. I would ask instead if abolishing Florida would save us from the Electoral College.

    Comment by John Lemon — Sunday, August 29, 2004 @ 10:09 pm

  4. Of course, abolishing the electoral college would only make us High School Voters.

    Comment by John Lemon — Sunday, August 29, 2004 @ 10:10 pm

  5. There’s probably a reason that the NYT has come out against the Electoral College. They can count.

    I do have a question, though. Is there any pending legislation to abolish the EC? I don’t believe that there has been since 2000, either. Absence of actual legislative proposals makes one doubt the sincerity of the whining.

    I believe that Colorado has a proposal for the state to abandon winner-take-all. Any other states?

    Comment by Dave Schuler — Monday, August 30, 2004 @ 8:30 am

  6. Dave,

    Good point. Indeed, there has been precious little (in fact, far, far less than I expected) serious movement to eliminate or reform the EC.

    The Colorado move, done in isolation, only serves to marginalize CO in the process. The voters of the state would be, in my opinion, foolish to approve it.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Monday, August 30, 2004 @ 8:38 am

  7. I agree with you about Colorado. I guess my point is that any reform of the presidential election process will be state-by-state.

    Comment by Dave Schuler — Monday, August 30, 2004 @ 12:53 pm

  8. That is one possible route-at least in term of how the electoral votes are allocated. However, to replace the EC would require constitutional reform-which ain’t likely.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Monday, August 30, 2004 @ 1:12 pm

  9. When stealing votes, you cannot normally steal the presidency under the electoral college system… Nobody knows who won the popular vote nationwide last time, and if adjustments are made for vote fraud-all over the place, including large numbers of illegal aliens, and every every big city, it was a dead heat. All vote thievery in America aids Democrats, or course, even on Indian Reservations, so nobody can say with any confidence that Gore’s 532,000 lead would stand up after such adjustments. And if popular votes were to decide the matter, it would not yet be settled.

    Comment by Larry Hughes — Monday, August 30, 2004 @ 4:19 pm

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