Social Question

Blueroses's avatar

Is the electoral college obsolete and open to corruption?

Asked by Blueroses (18190points) March 12th, 2011

In this age of computers and instant information, is there a case for moving to direct elections?
One idea might be to issue each voter a unique PIN for voting online or even at a participating ATM.
Might counting each individual vote allow a more honest representation of the USA’s population?
Inspired by this question

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

41 Answers

Jaxk's avatar

These are really separate questions. The electoral college is merely an extension of our representative government. I’m not aware any abuses or corruption in that process. There have however been a few times over our history where the popular vote and the electoral vote have differed. Primarily as a result of the winner take all nature of most states. It does seem to be a bit out of touch with the country as a whole and a popular election would not be difficult nor have much impact.

Changing the voting methods however is a bit more risky. I kind of like the idea that if you want to vote, you have to show up and do so. Even the drive to absentee ballots seems a bit prone to abuse but assigning a pin or some other such device would really throw it open to abuse. Hell, you wouldn’t need to bus people to the polls but just get their pin and vote for them. Sorry I’m of the opinion that if you don’t care enough or don’t know enough, to vote, you shouldn’t vote. Show up, show an ID, and vote. That’s the way I’d like it.

john65pennington's avatar

I have always asked this question, concerning the electoral college:

Why does the public even vote, if the members of the electoral college, elects our president?

It’s a waste of tax money.

It’s just show and tell for the taxpayers.

All of this money could used for a much better purpose.

Cruiser's avatar

No I do not think it is obsolete and anything is open to corruption but anyone selected by it’s party to be its representative in the EC, pretty much will vote the party line or be skinned alive. FWIW, the EC vote most times represents each states popular vote and does work in it’s much maligned, misunderstood, under appreciated way.

Jaxk's avatar

@Cruiser

You’re right in that it works but there is little reason to retain it in today’s world. The best outcome for the EC is for it to match the popular vote so why not just use the popular vote.

As for corruption, the only instance I can recall, is back in the 30s (maybe the 40s) when Minnesota ( maybe Wisconsin) changed the vote to proportional division to try and get thier party more votes. Then after the election went back to a winner take all. Regardless it didn’t work thier guy still lost.

Cruiser's avatar

@Jaxk for the original reason that it implemented to thwart the “influence” of the passion of voters swayed by $5.00 gift cards for casting a vote and free rides to the voting booth engineered by “grass roots” coalitions as effectively executed by Acorn and other corporate organizations bent on buying elections.

filmfann's avatar

The electoral college is definitly open to corruption, but hopefully those in power can rise the level of our hopes.

Jaxk's avatar

@Cruiser

Whereas I would agree with “influence” you mention, I don’t see how the electoral college minimizes that. It is your votes that elect the electors and they then vote for president as they have pledged. Any votes purchased elect the electors and then on to president. It’s still the votes that make the difference. The state system of winner take all is what drives the rare election that differs from the popular vote.

As I recall, the electoral college was originally created to insure we didn’t elect some yahoo that would be detrimental to the country. If the popular vote was obviously misguided, the electoral college could correct that mistake. Based in a time when communications were difficult and the population uneducated. Hell, communications were so slow that we could have elected a dead person. Times have changed.

Cruiser's avatar

@Jaxk without going through lengthy elaboration I think we are close if not the same page.

Jaxk's avatar

@Cruiser

I get so little agreement on this site that I won’t say anything could spoil my euphoria.

beancrisp's avatar

This is how I think the electoral college should work.
A candidate gets two votes if they win the statewide popular vote.
A candidate gets one vote if they win the popular vote within a congressional district.

perspicacious's avatar

Yes and yes. I would like to get rid of it. Every vote cast should have the same significance in national elections. This is not true as long as the electoral college exists.

Blueroses's avatar

I think that we are in an age when the popular vote can and should count for more, but I’m really enjoying the love dance between @Jaxk and @Cruiser . You both did say the same thing. Get a room already.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@john65pennington When we vote in the presidential race, it’s for electors. If you look at a ballot, it even says “Electors for [Candidate’s Name]” in the presidential column. If no one voted in that race, there would be no electoral college and no president (or the election would be decided by Congress). We elect electors, the electors elect the president.

The original idea was that every state would have potential electors for each candidate, and they would pay close attention to the election campaigns. They started out committed to a particular candidate, but each was theoretically allowed to change his mind if swayed by one of the campaigns. In practice, however, that rarely ever happened—and it never happens anymore. Indeed, 24 states have laws against defecting in this way. This seems to undermine the purpose of the Electoral College, though, and I admit I share your doubts about the institution’s continued usefulness.

jlelandg's avatar

The party system seems to have made an otherwise interesting way to elect people seem really crappy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wow. Now a question for the ages.

Cruiser's avatar

The EC is iron clad…worked exactly as Hamilton envisioned it to work even 200 some odd years later. It worked 8 years ago…it worked this year and every election since it was created.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s a matter of opinion @Cruiser. I think it was a bloody disaster this election.

Cruiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III Is it a bloody disaster merely because your candidate lost to a Cheeto? I am open to your perspective as to why the EC is no longer a legitimate extension of our electoral system.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s not because my candidate lost. It’s the person who won. He’s a goddamn dangerous fool.

Why do they even bother with a popular vote if it doesn’t make any difference?

Cruiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III I understand your frustration…can you offer why you know why a popular vote will more accurately reflect the will of all the people in all the states of our Country?

Dutchess_III's avatar

What? It’s self explanatory.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Cruiser “The EC is iron clad”

“Ironclad” is one word, and it has two possible definitions:

1. Covered in iron.
2. Impossible to contradict or change.

I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean either of those, so you may want to pick another word.

”[It] worked exactly as Hamilton envisioned it to work even 200 some odd years later.”

We could have had a system where each of the states was worth a certain number of points. Hamilton was the one who wanted the electors to be actual people who would watch the election and be free to vote against the person to whom they are pledged if he or she proved incompetent. This was specifically to keep people like Trump out of the office (which is why the group that was trying to stop the Electoral College from voting for Trump called themselves the “Hamilton Electors”).

Hamilton also wanted to prevent the electors from being people who were too devoted to any particular candidate. After all, it makes no sense to insist on using actual people if you’re only going to nominate diehard fans who would never become faithless electors. But while he got his way with regard to keeping elected officials from being electors, he was not able to prevent candidates from stuffing the Electoral College with diehard supporters.

In short, the simple fact of the matter is that if the Electoral College had worked exactly as Hamilton envisioned it to work, Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect right now (though Bill would not have been allowed to be one of her electors).

“It worked 8 years ago…it worked this year and every election since it was created.”

I suppose it depends on what you mean by “worked.” Obviously, the Electoral College has continued to be the actual determiner of the president, but that’s a pretty thin definition of “worked.” I suppose it has also served its original elitist goal of keeping the presidential election out of the hands of the people (and in deferring the question of slavery into the future so that the Founders wouldn’t have to deal with it). But if that’s the Electoral College “working,” then I’d much prefer it not to work.

Besides, the question isn’t whether or not it works. The question is whether it works well—and whether or not something else would be better. Remember, the Constitution was created as a response to the failures of the Articles of Confederation, and one of its explicit purposes was “to form a more perfect Union.” The Founders knew not just that they were fallible, but also that no unchanging document could be fit for an ever-changing world. So they wisely included an amendment process in the Constitution to be used when change was needed.

Finally, one last point about Hamilton. One of the less discussed reasons for Hamilton’s support of the Electoral College is that he believed it would make it harder for foreign powers to interfere with US elections. Yet it was precisely this electoral anomaly that foreign powers sought to take advantage of this time around. The modern age makes it a lot easier to target the Electoral College system than the popular vote, and so what may have once been a strength has become a potential weakness. In that regard, then, the Electoral College cannot be said to have worked at all this time.

There’s also a distinct irony in a conservative resting so heavily on the opinions of a Federalist like Hamilton. So while you have accused @Dutchess_III of being against the Electoral College because her candidate lost, it seems more likely that you are for it because your candidate won. After all, you were willing to agree with @Jaxk five years ago when he said that times had changed.

Cruiser's avatar

@SavoirFaire Eloquent prose but I was perfectly fine with the Electoral College when Obama won…twice. I sucked it up then…and even though I wish the losers would suck it up now as well…I won’t hold my breath.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Cruiser Do you have anything to say about the actual content of my answer (in which I pointed out that the entirety of the answer to which I was responding was false)? Or should I take the fact that you responded only to my whisper text as a tacit admission that you have no counterargument?

Furthermore, what exactly am I supposed to be “sucking up” here? I accept that Trump won. I also knew that the Hamilton electors were wasting their time. But I’ve been against the Electoral College since I was in high school, regardless of who it has chosen. Why should I change my opinion now?

Cruiser's avatar

@SavoirFaire I am not challenging the accuracy of your comments…just the timing. Everything seemed fine with the EC until Hillary lost.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Cruiser The timing? The timing is based on nothing more than the fact that @Dutchess_III dredged up a five year old question that I was already following and that you posted something blatantly false to it shortly thereafter.

Cruiser's avatar

Ouch @SavoirFaire That hurt…I can shake it off…the last eight years sucked butt I survived…can you man up for the next 8 years?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Cruiser Man up about what? Can you point to any place where I have complained about the election?

P.S. I’m not a Democrat. Just because Trump was not my preferred candidate doesn’t mean that Clinton was—or Obama, for that matter.

Jaxk's avatar

Since my post from 5 years ago was cited on this question, I feel compelled to put it back in context. The Electoral College is comprised of people that could in fact change their vote based on information they have that the general population doesn’t have. At least that’s the theory. When Hamilton was around information could take weeks or months to be distributed to the general public. No electronic data distribution and even with a smaller country information was distributed via horseback. Today, the Electors have no more information than the general public. Information is distributed instantaneously across the world. That’s what I meant about times have changed. There’s no longer any reason for the electors to be able to change the vote since the electorate has access to the same information as the Electors.

The Electoral College uses a weighting system to give rural areas some say in who’s elected same as the congress in making law. Without this system places like Nebraska and Wyoming would have no say in elections nor would anyone spend time campaigning there. Elections would be decided purely by the biggest cities, NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago. The founding fathers didn’t want that and neither do I. I don’t like the idea that the electors could arbitrarily change their votes and thus change the outcome but that has never happened.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Exactly how did the last 8 years suck for you, @Cruiser?

Given the fact that there are so very few electors, I think the position is much more vulnerable to bribes and corruption. There is no way you could bribe and corrupt millions and millions of citizens. Overall, those who vote are pretty savvy. Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote to Baby Bush, and what a disaster that was. I believe Gore would have been a much better president.

@Jaxk the circumstances of rural people have changed since the EC was invented. It doesn’t take days for country folk to get to the polls any more, and doesn’t disrupt their lives significantly like it would have in 1787.

Cruiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III I paid 6.5% more in taxes and have zip to show for it, infrastructure is in worse shape than ever. I have had to eat 45+% increase in my health care costs…double triple the inflation rate. Borrowing money requires near 100% capitalization. My kids level of education was scaled back big time, Our nations debt was doubled, the industry my business operates in was regulated to the nth degree, .01% interest on savings essentially means any money have had for the last 8 years has collected nothing more than dust. Opportunity has not been knocking for many the last 8 years.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Trump to make things better for you.

Cruiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III He already has….have you not seen the DJIA skyrocket since Cheeto was elected?

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s temporary. “On Tuesday, Bill Gross, the so-called Bond King, said Trump’s trade policies were sure to short-circuit parts of the economy and the market, and that his spending and tax plans will create more debt that will hurt long-term growth for years to come. Last month, a top Goldman Sachs strategist, Charles Himmelberg, predicted that the S&P 500 will end next year at 2,200, 40 points below where it is now.”

But it did so consistently under Obama.

Cruiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III It will be time will tell. My stock broker who I grew up with and was best man at both my weddings counseled me that the DOW is postured to got to 30K. It is beyond inevitable that Trump will have to direct his cabinet to short circuit many things Obama has screwed up…one step backwards but 2 steps forward. Fixing our country will undoubtedly be a bumpy ride.

Dutchess_III's avatar

IMO our country is healthier than it’s been in decades thanks to Obama. But Trump will see to it that it doesn’t stay that way. His sole initiative now is to see how much richer he, personally, can become in his role as president. And he won’t care who he steps on to achieve that.

Cruiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III The fact that I/we have electricity, clean water, WiFI, internet and garbage pickup all I agree wholeheartedly and is good for both of us. BUT never in my 36 years of running my own businesses have I ever felt the oppressive thumb of our government…for the last 8 years specifically. Trump has promised relief and I am all for it. Never in my lifetime have I ever felt more vulnerable from foreign threats…Trump is a glimmer of hope. I know we will not anytime soon agree so can we just shelve our disagreements in the greater effort of just enjoying the moment?

Strauss's avatar

@Cruiser $5.00 gift cards for casting a vote and free rides to the voting booth engineered by “grass roots” coalitions as effectively executed by Acorn

What’s your source for this information? I remember the scandal, but I don’t recall very many details.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So much safer from foreign threats.

Trump is a blustering, chicken weenie and they know it.

Cruiser's avatar

@Dutchess_III What a pile of crap story. Sure it is off our coastline but it is 30 miles out to sea. Even with the best binoculars you could not see a ship 30 miles away yet the disingenuous media chooses to post a picture of some Ruski ship in a harbor that is most certainly not a US port giving the impression it is some kind of threat or Putin taunt. What they are not telling you is Flynn invited the ship to come to the US to celebrate his appointment. What is so wrong with that? Seriously?

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther