General Question

KNOWITALL's avatar

Did you see what Ruth Bader Ginsburg said about the electoral college?

Asked by KNOWITALL (21278points) 1 week ago

And if so, how do you feel about it personally?

Speaking at the University of Chicago on Monday, Ginsburg, the eldest Supreme Court judge, said constitutional changes like abolishing the Electoral College are “more theoretical than real,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

“It’s largely a dream because our Constitution is… hard to amend,” she said. “I know that from experience.”

Many Democrats believe that America should elect presidents in a directly democratic fashion — despite America being established as a constitutional republic — to prevent a presidential candidate who earns the majority of votes from losing an election.

However, the Founding Fathers established the Electoral College to provide states with somewhat equal representation, although larger states still maintain a considerable power advantage over smaller states. For example, California, the most populous state, has 54 electoral votes, whereas Montana has just three.

If the Electoral College did not exist, then America’s urban centers, which heavily lean to the left, would likely decide the presidency while smaller, more rural states would have less influence on who becomes president.

(multiple other sources available via Google)

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35 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

You are either in support of democracy, or you are against it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ragingloli Then you support the Constitution and the electoral college?

janbb's avatar

I’m sure she’s right so I’m not going to get my knickers in a twist over the issue.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@janbb Do you think it’s worth fighting for? Amending?

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, Montana has just three electoral votes. But it takes much fewer voters to get one of those electoral votes.

The average electoral vote represents 436,000 people, but that number rises and falls per state depending on that state’s population over 18 years of age. The states with the fewest people per electoral vote, and therefore the highest “vote power,” are Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota.

In Wyoming, there are 143,000 people for each of its three electoral votes. The states with the weakest votes are New York, Florida, and California. These states each have around 500,000 people for each electoral vote.

Why not merge North Dakota and South Dakota into one State? Because then they would lose two Senators.

ragingloli's avatar

All votes must count equally.
To make someone’s vote count more, just because he lives in a smaller state or region, is an insult to democracy, and also demonstrates, that you are not really a country.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Pure democracy is mob rule. All it takes is a good propaganda campaign to get the mob to do what you want. Being a constitutional Republic and having something like the EC offers a tiny bit of insulation against that. Most people don’t really think, they follow, they want to fit in and they parrot what others do. Not only that rural dwellers have different perspectives, different needs and should not be 100 percent subject to the whims of those who have a different way of life. Urban dwellers will vote all perks go to them. They deserve a balanced representation. It’s not a binary issue, plenty of grey.

ragingloli's avatar

I am not arguing for direct democracy.
I am arguing for all votes being equal.
I doubt you would support the vote of a black person or a woman only being worth half of that of a white male’s.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Bearing in mind that in the Founding Fathers’ day the large urban areas were like a few thousand people and the overwhelming majority of the populace lived in rural areas. I don’t think that argument holds much water. The largest city in the US at that time was New York (as now), which had a population of around 30,000. There’s no way New York could have swung a country with a vote-eligible population of around 3,000,000.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@zenvelo explains it well. The Electoral College does not proportion the votes equally.

The electoral college was established to get the slave states to accept the Constitution. It is racist and hateful at its heart.

Demosthenes's avatar

To me, the EC is the best imperfect system. Much of the original motivation for the EC simply does not apply to contemporary America. It is not possible to completely avoid the problem of a few locales having the most say in an election. If we did away with the EC, the urban centers might decide the election, but with the way it is now, it’s the swing states that decide the election. If you live in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, or Ohio, you’re going to decide the next president, not those who live in California, for example, which always goes blue, so voting for anyone else there has little effect.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s an interesting point of ever increasing significance. Both the electoral college and the Senate are stark contradictions of democratic principles. The imbalance grows ever more problematic as rural life becomes increasingly untenable.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think we should abolish the Electoral College and replace it with weighted votes. If you live in states like Rhode Island, you get like 5 votes, and if you live in a major city you get like 0.5 votes. If we did it that way, it would make the inequality more obvious. I also think you’d start to see patterns about who gets more votes become more obvious.

mazingerz88's avatar

Imagine if there’s no EC here in the US and majority of deplorable, cruel and ignorant voters keep electing members of the trump family as President one after the other.

zenvelo's avatar

Coincidentally, Samantha Bee just posted this on twitter:

“Experts disagree on whether the Electoral College was created to help slave states, or just had the side effect of doing so. But either way, it enabled the worst thing our country ever did, which should be reason enough to consign it to the ash heap of history.”

seawulf575's avatar

All this chatter about democracy is misguided. We aren’t a Democracy. We are a Republic. As part of our Republic, we have established a constitution. That constitution specifies how the government will be run including when and how elections will be held. Part of that involves elected representations. To be perfectly honest, pure democracy would never work because it would be unwieldy. So for those of you that are hung up on the idea of “what, you don’t like democracy?” get over it. You don’t live in a democracy either and I don’t care where you live. If you did live in a pure democracy, every decision, no matter how small, would be up for a vote.

seawulf575's avatar

And let me give you a real life suggestion that was floated in California when I was living there, just to show you how idiotic and foolish mob rule is. One of the state reps from Los Angeles floated the idea of rerouting the Sacramento River to supply water for Los Angeles so that water prices could be lowered. This idea gained great support by those that pictured their water bills being cut. However, the Sacramento River is a prime supply of irrigation water for a huge agricultural area. Rerouting it would kill that entire area, turning it into a dust bowl. The people living in that area would be forced to move and would likely lose their livelihoods. But the masses would save a few cents on their water bill. The only thing that killed the bill was that a huge environmental effort came up because they found a threatened species that lived by the river that would likely be killed off by the change. But in a pure democracy, the overall picture can be skewed easily. Areas of large population can do anything to the lesser populated areas, regardless of the effects on those areas. It is just that sort of slanted power that the Electoral College was created to avoid…it is specifically designed to prevent one or two high population centers from running everything.

seawulf575's avatar

Not to mention, this idiotic talk about democracy misses the biggest issue. The US of A was not created with a system of government where a centralized government was supposed to rule everything. It was created as a set of sovereign states that have independent rule over their own affairs with a centralized government to help tie them all together. To claim that popular vote should rule the day negates the power of the individual states and changes the structure of our nation to one that is easier to warp into tyrannical rule.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 Ever consider that a major reason the founders followed a representative democracy model was because impracticality of life in the 1700’s, the fact that traveling to DC by wagon was a major undertaking? Did it occur to you that people were needed to grow crops, defend homesteads, etc. and since there was no internet, people weren’t able to keep up with the relevant information nor make votes in a timely manner? Is it possible that we have a representative democracy because the logistics of a direct democracy would be impossible for a nation the size of the USA back in the 1700s?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf There you go, states rights will label you a racist

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws that might have been a reason. But let’s dig a little deeper than the jr. high school answer. James Madison wrote this:

[In a pure democracy], [a] common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

Alexander Hamilton said: ”[t]he ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure, deformity.”

Add to this the concept that the POTUS is supposed to represent all the states and not just a couple. Our basis was in Federalism and the states were supposed to be governed independently and be given as much say in how the federal government was run. You cannot get that with popular vote.

tinyfaery's avatar

A republic is a form of democracy, for fuck’s sake. Don’t try to make it out like a republic is an entirely different type of government than a democracy. Our independent states haven’t had control over their own affairs in over a hundred years (I don’t know that time frame for certain, but it’s been a long, long time.); they don’t have it when it comes to guns, or abortion, or gay marriage, or labor laws, or environmental protections, or drinking age, or a multitude of other things. People only want to bring up independent states and representative democracy when it suits their interests.

RBG is right. It is very difficult to amend the constitution, but that does not mean it can’t be done. It’s been done 27 times, with the majority being in the 20th century.

Personally, I think all the states should have the exact same laws or all the states should be 100% independent. The USA is a failed experiment anyway.

Can’t the south try that secession thing again? I 100% support it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@tiny We agree 100% with states rights, please. Gladly. I love that solution.

tinyfaery's avatar

^ But then what’s the point of the federal government? Let’s break up the U.S.

seawulf575's avatar

@tinyfaery and the electoral college is a tool of democracy for fuck’s sake. Why argue against it? And while you want to negate the State’s rights or their ability to govern themselves, you have to ignore 50 state governments to get to your conclusion. The Federal government is supposed to be there to support those things that the states can’t do effectively themselves such as having a standing army or doing treaties with other nations or even setting up rules for interstate commerce. The fact that it has grown into what the Founding Fathers were trying to avoid means nothing. Hey! I have an idea…let’s limit the power of the Fed! Let’s shrink it to what it is supposed to be!

tinyfaery's avatar

I like my idea better.

stanleybmanly's avatar

While discussing those things certain states can’t seem to do for themselves, let’s consider such issues as civil rights and social security or disability benefits. Why is it that the folks clamoring loudest for states rights coincidentally reside in places that would disappear were it not for federal largesse?

JLeslie's avatar

I’ve always had a problem with the EC since I learned about it on Jr. High.

I do agree with ARE_you_kidding_me that you can get mob rule with a direct democracy, and that can be a problem.

I believe Justice Ginsberg when she says it’s very difficult to get an amendment passed. It was made difficult on purpose.

I disagree that the big cities would have too much control in a direct democracy, because if I remember the stats, it’s about 20% of America lives in rural areas, and then the urban is actually divided into downtown and suburban, and the suburbs certainly are very divided on how they vote.

I’ve always thought a compromise could be to have the electoral vote represent the how the people of state votes. If the state votes 40% for the Democrat, then give 40% of the electoral votes to the Democrat in that state. You could even allow an electorate to go against the vote if you want to give representatives some wiggle room.

My husband took a new job in Tennessee 5 weeks ago. I want to keep my house in Florida, and I really think I’m going to try to keep it as my primary residence. I want to do it, because I enjoy where I live, but also for tax purposes, and also for my vote. If I move I lose my influence on the presidential election because of the electoral college. It doesn’t seem right. I think about this every time I move.

I do think over time, if we can wait long enough, the EC will change, because the north has been consistently been moving South since the invention of air conditioning. Not to mention the South us trying very hard to attract industry with lower taxes, and guess what? That often brings liberals and people who were not born in America. I was in Nashville two weeks ago and over half the people were from states outside of the Deep South. Microsoft is there now. I heard Amazon is coming. TN might be red as a state, but it will probably change over time to not have such an imbalance.

The county I am in and counties around me in FL are changing to be a little more towards purple, when previously they were extremely red.

tinyfaery's avatar

@stanleybmanly This has always been a conundrum to me. If CA (my state), for instance, kept most of its money in the state and only provided money to the federal government for a standing army and diplomatic efforts so many states would have even less than they have now. People would literally starve.

JLeslie's avatar

^^I’m pretty sure CA fell of the list recently, being closer to even. I think NY, NJ, MA, and IL were still on the list as giving more than receiving. There are a few others.

Response moderated
zenvelo's avatar

@JLeslie California still receives far less than it contributes; it is one of 11 states that has a negative balance of payments, meaning it pays more to the Federal government than it takes in.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It will probably get worse, as flyover country grows ever more red, it is also greying up. As the jobs vanish, only the folks on social security, disability pensions, etc. are left to the “affordable” hinterlands.

KNOWITALL's avatar


Most federal aid:

Whatever the cause, the study demonstrates that the current polarization in US politics is misguided and counterproductive. Economically speaking, the red states benefit from the blue states through government redistribution and transfers of capital from blue state savers to red state investments via capital markets.

Blue states benefit from red states, on the other hand, which fuel their higher growth and higher income with attractive investment opportunities as well as cheaper labor and lower prices.

The current political polarization is undermining not only the sense of unity among the American people, but also the future economic growth of the country as a whole.

Whatever the cause, the study demonstrates that the current polarization in US politics is misguided and counterproductive. Economically speaking, the red states benefit from the blue states through government redistribution and transfers of capital from blue state savers to red state investments via capital markets.

Blue states benefit from red states, on the other hand, which fuel their higher growth and higher income with attractive investment opportunities as well as cheaper labor and lower prices.

The current political polarization is undermining not only the sense of unity among the American people, but also the future economic growth of the country as a whole.

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