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PostSubject: Electoral College   Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:05 am

Electoral College - Stay the same, completely get rid of it, or reform?

Interested in what you political freaks have to say about this issue. At a glance, it appears like it mocks democracy to me, in a sense..but I really haven't done any research on it. What are your views?
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PostSubject: Re: Electoral College   Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:26 am

In its current incarnation, it is a bit messed up. But there are good reasons for it existing. The most convincing arguments to me are:

1) it prevents over-representation of urban areas which, as centers of population, tend to override the needs or voting preferences of rural areas
2) it provides an avenue to elect a president based on the informed expertise of the electors if the popular vote candidate dies or becomes ineligible, without holding another general election
3) it prevents the election of a dictator by the mob (maybe we can't foresee this happening, but I'd rather check it than ignore the possibility)

As always, democracy has to be a balance between will and rights. As I've emphasized elsewhere, the United States is not governed by mob rule. It is about projecting the will of the majority, but not to the exclusion of the rights of others who may not constitute the largest voting block (see Prop. 8 for an example of mob rule).
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PostSubject: Re: Electoral College   Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:42 am

Districting and Gerrymandering are far more mocking of democracy in my opinion. The electoral college seems more like a lastline check/procedural incarnation which for the most part never gets used and if it ever did (LoL no we say McCain wins!) it'd probably go away.

Warning Math Content!
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PostSubject: Re: Electoral College   Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:04 pm

Candidates currently go about winning elections by playing the "votes" game. This is how Obama beat Hillary. His team knew he'd lose the big states, so they racked up huge margins in the caucuses (which Hillary derided and/or skipped) and rural states to ensure that he wouldn't lose any ground (Obama actually gained more delegates than Hillary on Super Tuesday because of this strategy, even though he lost the biggest states).

In the general, the entire strategy of winning is based on the electoral college. Obama didn't go to Arkansas because he had no chance of winning it with the immense amount of rural, "low-info" voters. Similarly, McCain didn't spend time campaigning in New York because he wouldn't win it. The strategy play out with the infamous "battleground states" that determine the math that gets one guy over 270.

If the system were changed, campaigning would change. You'd be competing for every vote and the same type of strategy that worked in the primaries (where delegates are allotted in proportion to the candidates performance for the whole state) would be applied. Thus, Obama would spend time in areas he'd get creamed to cut his losses while trying to similarly run up the margins in the urban areas.

This isn't too much different from how they do battleground states, but because a vote in Alabama is the same as the vote in California in a popular vote system, so what I'm wondering is, how much time would candidates spend in various areas?
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PostSubject: Re: Electoral College   Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:57 pm

I would imagine it would be just as you said.

Two determining factors (population and level of support) would produce a marginal gain statistic for a particular geographic area. The candidates would attempt to sway those regions that had the highest areas of marginal gain, and it would likely be subtly different for every candidate and not quite as dependent on their party affiliation.

I don't know why my girlfriend gets so mad at me for always being right, I don't get mad at her for always being wrong.
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PostSubject: Re: Electoral College   Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:31 am

The efficiency of the electoral college is closely linked to the economist Kenneth Arrow's impossibility theorem which states that

(from wikipedia)

Quote :
no voting system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide ranking while also meeting a certain set of reasonable criteria...

where these criteria are

Quote :

1. Non-dictatorship
The social welfare function should account for the wishes of multiple voters. It cannot simply mimic the preferences of a single voter.

2. Unrestricted domain
(or universality) The social welfare function should account for all preferences among all voters to yield a unique and complete ranking of societal choices. Thus, the voting mechanism must account for all individual preferences, it must do so in a manner that results in a complete ranking of preferences for society, and it must deterministically provide the same ranking each time voters' preferences are presented the same way.

3. Independence of irrelevant alternatives (IIA)
The social welfare function should provide the same ranking of preferences among a subset of options as it would for a complete set of options. Changes in individuals' rankings of irrelevant alternatives (ones outside the subset) should have no impact on the societal ranking of the relevant subset.

4. Positive association of social and individual values
(or monotonicity) If any individual modifies his or her preference order by promoting a certain option, then the societal preference order should respond only by promoting that same option or not changing, never by placing it lower than before. An individual should not be able to hurt an option by ranking it higher.

5. Non-imposition
(or citizen sovereignty) Every possible societal preference order should be achievable by some set of individual preference orders. This means that the social welfare function is surjective: It has an unrestricted target space.

The electoral college violates the second criteria in order to allow the possibility of a community-wide preference. The preferences of (for example) Republicans in California do not directly translate into the preferences of the presidential selection since the probability of a Californian Republican influencing the electoral college selection of California is essentially nil.

I suppose I'm not contributing much here since this is purely a positive result. The implication, though, is that to eliminate the electoral college mechanism one of the other criteria would have to be eliminated. As mentioned by Grak, the electoral college helps to stop a dictatorship. So, removing the electoral college so that Californian Republican votes influence the presidency would (potentially) increase the possibility of a dictatorship. (This is not to say this is the only possible result, but it is an example of the implications of this theorem.)

Anyway, just some nerdy food for thought...
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