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Author Topic: Presidential Elections Broken
The Rabbit
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If there is any one thing we ought to be learning from the GOP presidential primary circus, it ought to be that the our system for electing a President is horribly and disastrously broken. Every part of it, from the nomination process, to influence of money, to the electoral college is horribly undemocratic and is not resulting in selecting the kind of leaders most Americans respect and support.

The process is fundamentally flawed. It isn't something that can be fixed with by tweaking the primary election process or regulating donations. It's time to scrap the whole system and replace it from the ground up by constitutional amendment.

Here is what I'd propose.

1. Eliminate the electoral college and replace it with direct election of the President in a non-partisan election*.

2. Two candidates for the office of President will be selected via a nationwide primary election to be held no more than 2 months prior to the general election. Following the primary, the top two candidates would select running mates for the Vice President and then face off for the final election.

3. Access to the primary ballot would be granted solely via petition. All those who could obtain signatures of 3%** of registered voters in each of at least 90%*** of the states between January 1 and June 30 of the elections year would be listed on the primary ballot.


I'm thinking this proposal would reduce several problems. First and foremost, it would make every voter count equally in the Presidential election. There would be no more focus on swing states and no more early and late primaries. Candidates wouldn't have to shift from campaigning only to their party to campaigning to the whole country. Requiring all candidates to petition for the ballot would force all candidates to focus on ground level organization to collect signatures which would help level the playing field between the grass roots and big money. Requiring successful petition drives in nearly all of the states would force candidates to have a national focus. Campaigning only on big metropolitan areas or one region would not get them on the ballot.

**This is a number used in many states for ballot access. I think the number should be somewhere between 1% and 5% and probably not fixed in the constitution. I'd suggested capping the number in the constitution at 5% but then allowing each state to select a percentage below that cap.

***I decided 90% rather than 100% so that a candidate couldn't be blocked by failure in a few obstinate states. This number is certainly open to discussion.


So what do you think? What are the flaws in this proposal. How can we make it better? Are there any other proposals out there?

I know it's a long shot for any sort of reform but lets not focus on that right now. Let's just brain storm to come up with the best system we can and then we can worry about implementation.

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BlackBlade
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How do you protect the government from being taken over by a demagogue and his/her cronies without the check the electoral college provides?

[ January 05, 2012, 11:02 AM: Message edited by: BlackBlade ]

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Raymond Arnold
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It sounds like a step up, but I'm bad at figuring out how to game systems.

I have been wishing for the ability to rank multiple candidates in order of preference, or to choose all candidates that you liked, or some similar system, so that third party candidates have a better chance. Any of those suffer from "the average voter may not understand the game theoretical implications and get confused/annoyed", though.

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scholarette
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I don't like number two because of the two candidates. That locks in the whole 2 party system which I would like to see broken down if possible.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
How do you protect the government from being taken over by a demagogue and his/her cronies without the check the electoral college provides?

How does the electoral college make any check against that happening? It seems to me that the electoral college system is fundamentally far more prone to that kind of thing than a direct democratic election. All a demagogue needs to do to win the Presidency is to stack the electoral college with their cronies.

Why wouldn't a direct election where every citizens vote counts equally be far safer?

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
I don't like number two because of the two candidates. That locks in the whole 2 party system which I would like to see broken down if possible.

No it doesn't because the two candidates in the General election aren't selected by the parties. They are chosen in the primary election from a field that could include as many as 20 candidates (assuming that each candidate had to get signatures from 5% of the voters and that voters could sign only one petition, more if want to relax that restriction).

In the system I've proposed, the general election is a run off election between the two candidates that got the most votes in a nationwide primary. It could be replaced with a series of run off elections that successively narrows down the field but at some point you have to limit the number of elections in order to keep people interested and involved and let politicians do their jobs instead of perpetually campaigning to keep it. There are a number of instant run off elections that have been used but I think they are so complicated that people feel like they lack transparency. And if you have more than 2 people on the final ballot, you run the risk of the a person winning even though a sizable majority voted against that person.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
It sounds like a step up, but I'm bad at figuring out how to game systems.

I have been wishing for the ability to rank multiple candidates in order of preference, or to choose all candidates that you liked, or some similar system, so that third party candidates have a better chance. Any of those suffer from "the average voter may not understand the game theoretical implications and get confused/annoyed", though.

The instant run off sound like a good idea, but every system I've seen is simply too complicated and therefore vulnerable to manipulation and producing undesirable results.

I think the only real way to accomplish what's wanted is with a series run-off elections in which you eliminate the weakest candidate and then ask everyone to vote again, which is what I was aiming for with a national primary.

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Geraine
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You do realize that this would pretty much only benefit Democrats right?

Democrats would really only need to focus on large population states such as California and New York, which traditionally vote liberal in Presidential elections. Republicans would need to spread out more to get votes from the smaller yet more conservative states.

I like the idea, but I don't think it is "balanced" enough.

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Mucus
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Well, that's the case now. But I think the parties would quickly adapt to the new system (or be replaced). For example, the electoral college now means that conservatives can't gain by campaigning in larger states because of the "winner take all" aspect, with the new model they could. In Canada, that means conservatives have a greater motivation to reach out to conservative visible minorities that are often in urban areas whereas it seems that they get washed out to a greater extent in the States (suburbs in larger cities are another natural conservative constituency).

One thing that I do wonder about is that if the primaries are made front-and-center in the "nationwide" way that the proposal does (as opposed to party-wide), I wonder if that would have a moderating effect on candidates with people chosing the least objectionable candidate from the "other" party or an extremist effect as people chose the candidate from the other party that is less likely to win.

Edit to add:
Was the first asterisk meant to lead somewhere? Perhaps some proposal having to do with whatever a "non-partisan" election means?

[ January 05, 2012, 12:11 PM: Message edited by: Mucus ]

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Raymond Arnold
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Bigger than the "it benefits the democrats" problem is that "it flies in the face of the entire two-part infrastructure, which both parties are built around."

We're ignoring this problem for now, but overcoming that vested interested (as well as status quo bias) is going to be nigh-impossible.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
You do realize that this would pretty much only benefit Democrats right?

Democrats would really only need to focus on large population states such as California and New York, which traditionally vote liberal in Presidential elections. Republicans would need to spread out more to get votes from the smaller yet more conservative states.

I like the idea, but I don't think it is "balanced" enough.

It's not about which party benefits its about whether the country benefits. The current system may benefit the republican party but it really doesn't benefit the republican voter.

Maybe you don't realize it, but your complaint is precisely true in the current system. In fact its even worse. To win an election, a candidate needs to focus only on a few key swing states (which by the way don't include California, New York or Utah). Under the current system, a vote for a republican in New York or a democrat in Utah is worth absolutely nothing to a candidate. What's more, the current system means that one more vote for a republican in Utah (or democrat in New York) is also worth nothing to a candidate. The only votes that matter are those in swing states. Under this system, every vote would count equally so both Democrats and Republicans would have an incentive to fight for every vote. Right now, Democratic candidates have absolutely no reason to concern themselves with any interests of any Utah voter and Republicans don't have much incentive to listen to Utah either because they are virtually guaranteed to win in Utah.

The argument that the electoral system forces candidates to pay more attention to small states is simply not consistent with the facts. The electoral system forces candidates to pay more attention to swing states and the only small rural state that is even arguably in that category is Montana.

And by the way, I think supporting a system which is obviously unfair because it benefits you to be rather morally dubious at best.

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Raymond Arnold
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I sort of assumed that BlackBlade was joking, and that Geraine was commenting on "how would we persuade people to do this?"
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Mucus
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Presumably the president could just indefinitely detain some people with the swanky new powers the Republicans gave him and just make it happen [Wink]
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Blayne Bradley
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The "preventing demagogues" from gaining power argument reminds me of the "whats to prevent fringe parties from holding the balance of power" argument against proportional representation systems, both I consider to be dubious and undemocratic arguments.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
Bigger than the "it benefits the democrats" problem is that "it flies in the face of the entire two-part infrastructure, which both parties are built around."

We're ignoring this problem for now, but overcoming that vested interested (as well as status quo bias) is going to be nigh-impossible.

America's party system is a really strange hybrid which is a big part of the current political mess. I was trying to explain to one of my Trinidad colleagues the other day and she found it shocking to learn how the US system works.

In a parliamentary style government you vote for a party not an individual (I know this is an oversimplification but it's mostly true), the prime minister is then selected by the winning party (or coalition). The Prime Minister can "fire" and replace members of his party in parliament and the Parliament can fire the Prime Minister. My colleague kept saying, "You mean that Obama can't fire anyone in congress? You mean congress can't fire Obama? You mean the only power Obama has over congress is talking to them? Well no wonder he can't get anything done." I'm not saying a parliamentary system would be better, I just found the outsiders perspective interesting.

In the US, members of congress and the President are elected as individuals. They are elected to represent a region not a party. And yet after they are elected, it seems (particularly among the republicans) that people act as representatives of the party first and only after that as individuals and representatives of their region. I find that fundamentally problematic.

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kmbboots
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Getting rid of the electoral college is a fine idea but would require a change to the constitution. One step that could be easily taken by the states is to change the "winner take all" rule to dividing the electoral votes proportionally. It isn't as good as getting rid of the electoral college, but it would address many of the problems and be much easier to accomplish. Two states already do it.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Edit to add:
Was the first asterisk meant to lead somewhere? Perhaps some proposal having to do with whatever a "non-partisan" election means?

O yes, it did lead somewhere at one point I have no idea what happened to that paragraph. What is said was that by non-partisan election I meant that ballot access would not be determined via a party nomination. Candidates could still advertise affiliation with a party and parties could still endorse a candidate, but party endorsement and membership would not give you ballot access and would not be listed on the ballot.

The biggest problem I see with the scheme is the process for narrowing down the candidates. Suppose we end up with 4 conservative candidates and 2 liberal candidates on the primary ballot, a result where the top two candidates were liberal even though a majority preferred conservatives are pretty good.

Savvy politicians will then of course deal with each other behind the scenes to get someone to drop so as not to split the vote. Since part of the current problem is that the candidates get chosen before most voters have any input, I'd really prefer a system that would really let the voters choose. The most straight forward way to address that is to have more run-off elections with the low man going out in each round.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
How do you protect the government from being taken over by a demagogue and his/her cronies without the check the electoral college provides?

How does the electoral college make any check against that happening? It seems to me that the electoral college system is fundamentally far more prone to that kind of thing than a direct democratic election. All a demagogue needs to do to win the Presidency is to stack the electoral college with their cronies.

Why wouldn't a direct election where every citizens vote counts equally be far safer?

With our two party system it's virtually unheard of for one party to be able to stack the electoral college. Generally speaking the electors vote based on the popular vote, but in case the people are seduced by a demagogue they are empowered to vote their conscience rather than along the popular line.

It's a check that fortunately we've never had to see used before, but I still see no reason why it couldn't come into play one day.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Getting rid of the electoral college is a fine idea but would require a change to the constitution. One step that could be easily taken by the states is to change the "winner take all" rule to dividing the electoral votes proportionally. It isn't as good as getting rid of the electoral college, but it would address many of the problems and be much easier to accomplish. Two states already do it.

Yup, I'm definitely talking about amending the constitution. Dividing the electoral votes proportionally would definitely be an improvement over the current system but it only addresses the small part of the problem. As I said in my open post, the current system is so deeply fundamentally flawed that it needs to be rebuild from scratch. Tweaking what we've got just can't fix the biggest problems.


It should be an embarrassment to the nation that our President isn't selected in a democratic election where each persons vote is counted equally. Democracy is supposedly an American value and yet we can barely start a serious discussion about democratically electing our President without people jumping in to say its an impossible dream or touting the advantages of the our current undemocratic approach.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Generally speaking the electors vote based on the popular vote, but in case the people are seduced by a demagogue they are empowered to vote their conscience rather than along the popular line.

It's a check that fortunately we've never had to see used before, but I still see no reason why it couldn't come into play one day.

What you are saying is that you think a demogogue would have an easier time seducing the majority of American people than a small pool of electors? Why? What is it about this pool of a few hundred electors that makes them so much better at identifying dangerous demagogues than majority of Americans? Do you somehow think the electors form an elite group that is impervious to the types of persuasion to which ordinary voters are susceptible? I know that was the kind of elitist thinking of the founding fathers but I consider it rather naive in the modern world.

Under our current system, the electors are selected by the party of the winning candidate, so if the majority voted for a demagogue, the electors would all have been nominated by the demagogues party. They are not a group of neutral senior statespersons with no personal stake in the elections who are merely shepherds of our society who would choose only to interfere with our choices if we go too far astray. They are chosen by the winning party to represent the winning party.

If the extraordinarily unlikely did occur and this elite enlightened group of electors chose to override the voters of their states, I'm pretty sure it would be followed by violent revolution. Demagogues supported by a majority of the people usually make fine revolutionary leaders.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Getting rid of the electoral college is a fine idea but would require a change to the constitution. One step that could be easily taken by the states is to change the "winner take all" rule to dividing the electoral votes proportionally. It isn't as good as getting rid of the electoral college, but it would address many of the problems and be much easier to accomplish. Two states already do it.

Yup, I'm definitely talking about amending the constitution. Dividing the electoral votes proportionally would definitely be an improvement over the current system but it only addresses the small part of the problem. As I said in my open post, the current system is so deeply fundamentally flawed that it needs to be rebuild from scratch. Tweaking what we've got just can't fix the biggest problems.


It should be an embarrassment to the nation that our President isn't selected in a democratic election where each persons vote is counted equally. Democracy is supposedly an American value and yet we can barely start a serious discussion about democratically electing our President without people jumping in to say its an impossible dream or touting the advantages of the our current undemocratic approach.

Yes. And I am talking about what is actually possible.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Yes. And I am talking about what is actually possible.
How do you know what's possible unless you try? You are limiting us to what you think is manageable with no idea of what could be possible.

By starting out with the assumption that we are stuck with this horrid system, you pretty much ensure that to be the case. That's why I stated in the OP that I wanted to avoid discussing the challenges of implementing such a system.

Let's start with only the limits of our creativity and intelligence, and imagine something that would be a really good system. Then once we've built a solid vision of where we want to be, we can start finding a way to get there.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
One step that could be easily taken by the states is to change the "winner take all" rule to dividing the electoral votes proportionally. It isn't as good as getting rid of the electoral college, but it would address many of the problems and be much easier to accomplish. Two states already do it.
As a side note, Maine and Nebraska, the two states that don't use the winner take all approach, use the congressional district approach. An elector is chosen from each congressional district based on the winner in that district and the remaining two electors are selected based on the winner in the state. This is still very far from proportional representation. If the a candidate won by one vote in each of the congressional districts, 100% of the states electors would be for that candidate even though 50% of the votes were for the other candidate.
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kmbboots
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As long as you realize that it is merely a fun intellectual exercise, knock your socks off. Too many states would be disadvantaged by this change for it to be ratified by enough states to amend the constitution.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Too many states would be disadvantaged by this change for it to be ratified by enough states to amend the constitution.
There is a popular belief that the electoral college gives small states an advantage, but I think any critical analysis proves that to be incorrect. I think people can be persuade of this.

Under the electoral college system, small states get more than proportional representation and in theory that should mean that the electoral college system is an advantage for small states, but in practice it doesn't work out that way. The added representation small states get has only made a difference in one of the last 30 Presidential elections. It very rarely makes any difference at all in the outcome of elections.

But on the other hand, it makes a big difference in how candidates campaign and what interests they cater to in every election. Under the electoral college system, small states suffer from a kind of double whammy. First, small states tend to be less diverse than large states and therefore they are very rarely swing states. That means that the underdog would have to make a huge effort to change the minds of a large percent of the people in order to gain any benefit. Then, even if the candidate some how succeeds against the odds to swing a non-swing state, there isn't much to gain. Look at the 2008 election. Obama won by 2.8 percentage (240,000 votes) points in Florida and McCain won by 28% percentage points in Utah (260,000 votes). The difference in the number of voters is nearly the same but by winning Florida, Obama got 27 electoral votes whereas McCain got only 5 electoral votes by winning Utah. The math is simple. The rewards for campaigning in a small state are to small to justify much effort.

This has set up a feedback loop that hurts small states from every angle. When the democratic candidate chooses not to campaign aggressively in a small red state, then the republican candidate doesn't need to campaign there either. And the more this happens, the less relevant small state issues become on the national level. The more the national parties ignore small state concerns, the more voters in that state gravitate towards voting on peripheral issues* like abortion and gun rights because none of the economic or foreign policy stuff actually affects their lives. Republicans have capitalized on this and so small states keep becoming more and more republican which gives democrats and republicans less and less reason to concern themselves with the small states.

But now here is the kicker, no matter how much you love your party, chances are good that the other party is going to be in power for about half time. Which means that if one party has nothing to gain by addressing the problems of your region, your problems are going to be ignored at least half of the time. Even if you wouldn't vote democrat if satan was running on the republican ticket, it's in your best interest to make the democrats think they have a chance, because having that chance is an incentive for them to consider your problems and concerns. And that means that your interests are more likely to be considered even when the party you prefer is not in power.

For these reasons, small states actually loose far more under the electoral college system than they gain. If we went to direct election, one vote from a person in Utah, Montana or Oklahoma would be worth the same amount to a candidate as one vote in Florida or Illinois. That would give candidates a reason to fight for my vote, something they've never had under the current system.

Even in the 2000 election, where the disproportional representation of small states in the electoral college had a direct influence on the election outcome, the Republicans weren't working hard to win small state voters -- they were putting their efforts into the large swing states that actually made a difference.

*I call these peripheral issues not because I think they are necessarily unimportant issues but because I think they are issues on which the US President has very little if any influence. At most, the President can appoint people to the supreme court who are likely to favor certain kinds of arguments, but that strategy has backfired more than once. Conservative appointments to the supreme court have yet to stop a single abortion but their rulings on other issues have far reaching effects that most pro-lifers never considered and may come to regret.

[ January 05, 2012, 03:27 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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kmbboots
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Excellent. Good luck with your amendment. Let me know how it goes.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Excellent. Good luck with your amendment. Let me know how it goes.

It won't go anywhere unless people like you are willing to help work to strengthen the ideas. Come on Kate. Allow yourself to imagine a better world than the one we live it. What's it going to hurt?
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kmbboots
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It is going to be more of what always defeats liberals - letting our idea of what would be perfect keep us from supporting and working for what would be merely better but is attainable. It is the same mindset that puts us at risk of electing any one of the dreadful Republican choices president because we are disappointed in President Obama (and he is disappointing). It is the idealism without practicality that kills us all the time. And I am tired of it.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
I wonder if that would have a moderating effect on candidates with people chosing the least objectionable candidate from the "other" party or an extremist effect as people chose the candidate from the other party that is less likely to win.
Voting for an bad candidate in the primary to improve the chances of your candidate winning in the general election is a very high risk strategy but I fear it might have to backfire once before people took the risk seriously.

I think the bigger risk is that you could have a large field of candidates (say 10), with very similar moderate views and a couple of fringe candidates with a strong but narrow following (think Ron Paul and Ralph Nader). The 8 similar moderate candidates could split the vote in such a way that the two fringe candidates end up in the top two positions even though 70% of the voters hate them. So I'm thinking there would half to be some way to narrow the field besides a single nationwide primary. Conceptually, I think a series of run-off elections would be the best way to narrow the field but if there are too many that could cause problems as well.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
It is the idealism without practicality that kills us all the time. And I am tired of it.
I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly, but at the same time there has to be a time and a place for creative idealism. If I'm approached by someone who wants me to campaign to change the way my state picks electors and it looks like an improvement, I'd consider joining them. But I won't let that stop me from trying to imagine a better solution.

I supported Obama care even though I think its just a patch on system that should be entirely replace. It is at least a patch. But at the same time, I'm not giving up on the idea of a single payer system. It's not an either or choice.

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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
I wonder if that would have a moderating effect on candidates with people chosing the least objectionable candidate from the "other" party or an extremist effect as people chose the candidate from the other party that is less likely to win.
Voting for an bad candidate in the primary to improve the chances of your candidate winning in the general election is a very high risk strategy but I fear it might have to backfire once before people took the risk seriously.

I think the bigger risk is that you could have a large field of candidates (say 10), with very similar moderate views and a couple of fringe candidates with a strong but narrow following (think Ron Paul and Ralph Nader). The 8 similar moderate candidates could split the vote in such a way that the two fringe candidates end up in the top two positions even though 70% of the voters hate them. So I'm thinking there would half to be some way to narrow the field besides a single nationwide primary. Conceptually, I think a series of run-off elections would be the best way to narrow the field but if there are too many that could cause problems as well.

Switch to a parliamentary system with proportional representation problem solved.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
It is going to be more of what always defeats liberals - letting our idea of what would be perfect keep us from supporting and working for what would be merely better but is attainable. It is the same mindset that puts us at risk of electing any one of the dreadful Republican choices president because we are disappointed in President Obama (and he is disappointing). It is the idealism without practicality that kills us all the time. And I am tired of it.
Over the past year I've become disillusioned in the idea of working through existing political channels to get things done. I'm aware that a large portion of that is the Republican popularization of the idea that "government is the problem," with the resulting incentive "ergo, it's not in our interest to fix problems". But still, if a large chunk of government has that mindset, it doesn't matter whether it's only a problem because of that mindset.

I think we're using a system that made sense 200 years ago when education was minimal, media was limited and the internet didn't exist. I feel like we have the tools now to create a radically improved system, if we were able to do so from scratch.

I don't think that's practical, nor would it be fair, because one of the major purposes of government IS stability and comfort. But I've been (vaguely) following the seasteading movement. I don't think it's going to go anywhere for lots of reasons. I also know a lot of the motivation for it is to create independent Libertarian states, which I don't support. But one of their central ideas is to make it easier to create new states, with a goal of increasing competition among governments, so that bad systems have more incentive to fix themselves.

Part of me feels like that's a more valid goal than trying to fix America in particular. As long as we're talking long-term idealism, anyway.

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kmbboots
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Oooo! We could start them on the moon!
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Glenn Arnold
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I've always thought we should use a Miss America format. Candidates would start at local levels, say county or district level, and be elected in a local run off. Any number of candidates, but one winner. These would go to a convention to narrow the field, where the candidates themselves would negotiate, debate, and vote amongst themselves to narrow the field to candidates for each party (yes I'd keep parties, although you'd end up with more than two). Then the state would have a run off vote for the one candidate that represents the state at a national level.

So you wind up with 50 candidates, who would then go to a national convention, where again the contestants would once again debate (with media coverage), and narrow the field to one candidate per party. These would be the candidates for a general election, which would be won by the popular vote.

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The Rabbit
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I like the idea Glenn, but as long as you have more than two parties, you really need some sort of a run off election whenever no one gets a majority of the vote.

It's not so bad if the President wins with 49% of the popular vote and a clear margin over the other candidates, but what if there were 3 serious contenders in the election and no one got more than 34% of the votes? What if there were so many serious contenders that leader only had 10 to 15% of the vote? At some point, it becomes unacceptable.

If you have more than two serious contenders, you really have to have run-off elections to make sure the winner really has the support of the majority of voters.

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cloark
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From the OP:
quote:
2. Two candidates for the office of President will be selected via a nationwide primary election to be held no more than 2 months prior to the general election. Following the primary, the top two candidates would select running mates for the Vice President and then face off for the final election.
I don't like the idea of a nationwide primary because it favors someone who has enough money, name recognition, money, support and money at the very beginning of the process. It takes millions of dollars to run for president, and I don't see how that can be changed. By spreading out primaries, a candidate can focus on early states and hope to build momentum. (Oh, and money, too.) The candidates are also given time to campaign in some areas while knowing they can leave other areas for later. As ridiculous as the current system is, think of how many Iowans have been able to go have waffles with a presidential candidate this year. With a national primary, that never happens.

Now, as stated, the current system is all kinds of crazy. I'd suggest dividing the country into 5 groups of states. The groups should be roughly geographically contiguous and roughly the same population. Groups rotate who gets to go first each election cycle, and primaries are held 3 weeks apart, making the primary season last 12 weeks. I'm thinking April through June or so.

Yeah, the 5th group of states doesn't get a huge voice in the process, but I think it's worth the trade-off. Each state gets an opportunity to feel important like IA, NH, SC and FL do now.

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Anthonie
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It is possible to accomplish a series of run-off elections in a single election, with voters only having to go to the voting booth once.

quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
I have been wishing for the ability to rank multiple candidates in order of preference, or to choose all candidates that you liked, or some similar system, so that third party candidates have a better chance.

At a touch-screen ballot, we could be presented with the entire list of candidates, with the simple direction "Select the candidate you most prefer from those remaining." Each time we make a selection, that candidate's name is ranked and logged, then removed from the list, and then we choose the one we like next from the remaining.

This would eliminate the problem of a large pool of moderates "splitting the vote" and more extreme thus taking the prize.

An example would be an academic competition from my high school days. There was quite a large field of contestants (between two hundred to three hundred). Out of ten contest events, there were a few students who placed first in three or four events. I placed mentionably in only one (third place). However, overall, I was in the top 10 while some of the students who placed first in a few events were not. This was because I scored consistently well across the board, but not high enough to win any individual event.

So a presidential candidate who gets, say, a lot of 5th or 6th place votes consistently, could very easily win over other extreme candidates who get a lot of 1st place votes but also a lot of last place votes.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
It is possible to accomplish a series of run-off elections in a single election, with voters only having to go to the voting booth once.
I already commented on the problems with instant runoff voting (IRV), but since you bring it up here is an [url=http://minguo.info/election_methods/irv ] article[/url] that explains the serious problems with IRV.
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DarkKnight
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quote:
First and foremost, it would make every voter count equally in the Presidential election. There would be no more focus on swing states and no more early and late primaries.
The focus would then remain solely on the most populated states, and the most populated areas of those states. True, the early and late primaries would be out but why ever go to WY, VT, ND, SD, or AK? Just pander to CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, and a few others and win the primary easily.
Most of your time should be spent in CA,TX, NY, and FL as you could lose probably all 25 of the lowest populated states and still win a huge majority of the vote. I don't see any change in how things happen now, I do think it would be much worse for low population states. Every vote in WY going for one candidate is probably less than the margin of error for CA or TX.
quote:
Two candidates for the office of President will be selected via a nationwide primary election to be held no more than 2 months prior to the general election. Following the primary, the top two candidates would select running mates for the Vice President and then face off for the final election.
Again, given a window of 2 months to run for President you should only focus on highly populated states and try to win them, and stay in the most populated areas.
quote:
Requiring successful petition drives in nearly all of the states would force candidates to have a national focus. Campaigning only on big metropolitan areas or one region would not get them on the ballot.
No, it wouldn't force them to have a national focus just the ability to get sigs in small states which given the fraud and money in politics should be fairly easy. Based on 90% you would need 48 states so you can ignore 2 and checking 3% of those signatures would be such a monumentally large and expensive task we wouldn't do it. Certainly not in 2 months before the election season would start. Candidates would just hit the most populated areas to get the most sigs in the shortest amount of time.
I don't think this proposal would change anything at all, except to give highly populated areas enormous power.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
I like the idea, but I don't think it is "balanced" enough.

Removing the electoral college system removes imbalance. You really only think that this course of action isn't "balanced" enough because it does not preserve enough of the current structural imbalance in your favor, and you've been well-coached to think of that as being 'balance.'

A common theme.

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Lyrhawn
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I think Kate has the right idea when it comes to setting attainable goals along a planned timeline. Two states currently have proportional apportionment of electors, but several states have signed onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The NPVIC does not take effect until 270 electoral votes worth of states have signed onto it, but they're already halfway there with California, Illinois, and several others.

Wikipedia has a pretty good breakdown on the status of the law in various states where it is pending in one house or another of the legislatures. I'd say it has a decent chance of being adopted by a few more states in the next couple years, perhaps even by big ones like New York and Pennsylvania. That gets us there. Removing the electoral college via a constitutional amendment later on would be nice, but we have a road to get there in the next decade, and a constitutional amendment fight would take a lot longer than that unless both parties get on board with it wholeheartedly.

Most everything else I would have said has already been said by Rabbit. I don't understand the faith that BlackBlade has in the EC. Why do you think that 535 faceless individuals, all of whom are political people rather than non-partisan, who no one even knows or cares about, would be better deciding the fate of the nation than the electorate at large. Getting to them is a lot easier than getting to the rest of us, and their judgment is hardly immune to foolishness.

Perhaps I missed where it was discussed in the thread, but how are we going to address the issue of campaign finance reform? Sure, the process is broken, but changing it without looking at the role that money plays in elections barely addresses half the problem, and in fact, I think the system being proposed makes it even harder for those without a big bankroll to succeed.

As it happens, I agree with cloark about a new primary system. It's not a new idea, and I've suggested almost the exact same thing here on Hatrack a number of times over the years. One big national primary helps those with name recognition and a huge ground game backed up by big money. There's nothing wrong with the IDEA of an Iowa or New Hampshire, but there is something majorly wrong with it ALWAYS being Iowa and New Hampshire. Every state should get a turn at being the national test tube, and a rotating position for four or five states as the early states with the rest split up geographically and spread out a little bit makes for a much easier campaign schedule for those without a big checkbook or PAC supporting them.

I do agree with moving up the campaign calendar though. There's no reason the election should be a 9 month affair every year. Elections that start in May, at the earliest, and end in mid-June, are more than enough time. They'll be campaigning for months before hand anyway, but perhaps this will leave ever so much more room between mid-terms and elections for actual governing.

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Samprimary
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Both our primary system and our electoral college are messed up in a way which grants the real possibility of creating a crisis which results in the messy but fairly prompt reform of the system.

The Electoral College in particular sits like a dormant time bomb, capable of creating an election outcome so screwed up that it results in an outrageous presidential selection and widespread national outrage and even rioting — no joke. It's got about 30 to 40 years to pull it off, though. We're getting rid of it eventually.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
I think Kate has the right idea when it comes to setting attainable goals along a planned timeline. Two states currently have proportional apportionment of electors.
I checked into the details and this is not correct. Two state (Maine and Nebraska) use the congressional district method to allocate their electoral votes. This is an improvement over winner takes all but it is in no way proportional apportionment.
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Samprimary
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Not to mention, it creates further disparity and discrepancy in electoral strategy, representational skew across demographics, etc.

Poor maine and nebraska, just trying to do sort of kind of what is right for its constituents' representational power, they ended up becoming all but entirely disregardable during presidential elections because there's no point spending time and energy jockeying over the one potential elector that might be in contest.

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Lostinspace
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I think the major problem with a system like the one suggested is that you are moving from a Republic to a Democracy. Many arguments took place in the Federal Convention to express how a Democracy does not protect the minority. This system would not only move power away from minority states like Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming and Vermont but also other minorities suddenly start getting over looked and soon the majority holds all the power. This is the type of system our founding fathers revolted against.

Taking away states individual primaries or caucus (which I prefer) is a bad idea in my mind. Any time you take power from the states and move it to the Federal Government is a move in the wrong direction for the United States. I grew up in Iowa and I see them losing their First in the nation Caucus would be a bad thing. No candidate would even step foot in the state if it was not for our Caucus and the needs and concerns of the Midwest is much different than the needs of the more populous states.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
I think the major problem with a system like the one suggested is that you are moving from a Republic to a Democracy.
Strictly speaking, a republic is any form of government in which the head of state is not an inherited position. So China, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan and Zimbabwe are republics while Canada, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Japan are not. This change would not move the US any further from being a republic.

The US is a constitutional representative democracy as a opposed to a direct democracy. Replacing the electoral college would not significantly change that.

But to avoid arguing semantics, I will agree that the founding fathers were very concerned about preventing abuse of power. They did that primarily by creating a government in which the powers were distributed both between state and federal and between different branches within the federal government. The founding fathers created checks on the majority through numerous means such requiring a super majority for certain types of decisions and then, as an after thought, enshrining certain individual rights within the Bill of Rights. The disproportional representation of small states in the senate and electoral college plays relatively little role in this. It's foolish to put too much weight on the various post-hoc rationalizations of this choice when the primary reason for it was the need to get both small and large states to ratify the constitution.

In practice, our bicameral legislature and the electoral college have not been an effective way of protecting minority regional interests from the "tyranny of the majority". Overall, I think that's been a good thing for individual freedom. State and local governments have a far worse track record at protecting individual freedom than the nation does as a whole.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
Not to mention, it creates further disparity and discrepancy in electoral strategy, representational skew across demographics, etc.

Poor maine and nebraska, just trying to do sort of kind of what is right for its constituents' representational power, they ended up becoming all but entirely disregardable during presidential elections because there's no point spending time and energy jockeying over the one potential elector that might be in contest.

The idea of trying to reform the electoral college system state by state only sounds good until you think about it in detail. It's kind of a tragedy of the commons problem. All states would benefit if other states had proportional representation, but all states also increase their influence by keeping the winner take all model. The winner take all system actually increases its benefit to a state if fewer states use it.

The current system heavily favors swing states so those states have no incentive to change anything. If a significant fraction of the non-swing states went to proportional representation, it would increase the power of winner take all swing states even more.

For non-swing state, the benefit of proportional representation goes solely to the minority party so they also have little incentive to change. In every circumstance, the winner take all model benefits the majority in every state. If a red state chooses to go to proportional representation, the benefits go to blue states and visa-versa. There is no case where a state can gain an advantage by going to proportional representation unless all 50 states do it.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
I grew up in Iowa and I see them losing their First in the nation Caucus would be a bad thing. No candidate would even step foot in the state if it was not for our Caucus and the needs and concerns of the Midwest is much different than the needs of the more populous states.
Of course it would be a bad thing for Iowa. They have a huge advantage in the current system. But try imagine for a moment that you grew up in South Dakota or Montana who don't have primaries until June. Because Iowa has a stronger voice in the primary, people from many states have no voice at all. Find me someone from Montana or South Dakota who thinks its a good thing that Iowa always gets to have the nations first primary. Give me an argument for how that benefits someone in Utah or Oregon. It doesn't. Its unfair and it's selfish of Iowan's to insist on keeping that advantage for themselves.

Every injustice has winners and loosers. As long as the winners keep fighting for what is obviously unjust, we will be stuck with a system that is unjust.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Perhaps I missed where it was discussed in the thread, but how are we going to address the issue of campaign finance reform? Sure, the process is broken, but changing it without looking at the role that money plays in elections barely addresses half the problem, and in fact, I think the system being proposed makes it even harder for those without a big bankroll to succeed.

As it happens, I agree with cloark about a new primary system. It's not a new idea, and I've suggested almost the exact same thing here on Hatrack a number of times over the years. One big national primary helps those with name recognition and a huge ground game backed up by big money. There's nothing wrong with the IDEA of an Iowa or New Hampshire, but there is something majorly wrong with it ALWAYS being Iowa and New Hampshire. Every state should get a turn at being the national test tube, and a rotating position for four or five states as the early states with the rest split up geographically and spread out a little bit makes for a much easier campaign schedule for those without a big checkbook or PAC supporting them.

It's very counter-intuitive, but I think a single nation wide primary would actually decrease the influence of big money in the election because it would change the campaign strategy away from expensive advertising and towards having volunteers on the ground. That's a big equalizer because there is a natural unchangeable cap on how much time any individual can donate. It would favor candidates whose message inspired a lot of ordinary people rather than candidates with lots of money.

In the current primary system, an individual or small group with a few million dollars can saturate the early primary states with their message. Coming up with a few million dollars is an unfathomably feat for the average American, but pretty easy for guys like Mitt Romney and organizations like super PACS. And getting a few hundred wealthy donors is a lot easier than mobilizing thousands of volunteers on the ground.

But coming up with enough money to saturate the entire country with advertising is going to be a major feat for any one. That levels the playing field between candidates who can mobilize a lot of volunteers with modesty incomes and candidates who appeal to a few wealthy donors.

This is what I see as the point of limiting ballot access to candidates who can get enough signatures in every state. First, it moves the focus to people and away from expensive advertising. The first step in the campaign process would require candidates to build a ground game with lots of volunteers because courting wealthy donors wouldn't get you on the ballot. Requiring candidates to get qualify by a petition in every (or nearly every) state, would mean a candidate couldn't get on the ballot without working in every state. If a candidate focused on big cities to the exclusion of rural states, they wouldn't make the ballot.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
Not to mention, it creates further disparity and discrepancy in electoral strategy, representational skew across demographics, etc.

Poor maine and nebraska, just trying to do sort of kind of what is right for its constituents' representational power, they ended up becoming all but entirely disregardable during presidential elections because there's no point spending time and energy jockeying over the one potential elector that might be in contest.

Maine and Nebraska are disregardable because practically no one lives there. And perhaps it makes sense to disregard - or "less" regard places states that don't have a lot of people in them. But that argument is at the bedrock of this country. It is why we have a House and a Senate.
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