August 13, 2008

Trying and Trying to Put Down the Electoral College

Justin Katz

It probably hasn't surprised readers that a recent op-ed by Lincoln Chafee and Ari Savitzky arguing in favor of a national popular vote system for president strings together muddled thinking. On the one hand, they claim that "the apportionment of Electoral College does not benefit small states." Yet, a few sentences later, "the Electoral College gives Rhode Island a slight mathematical advantage."

One must, of course, appreciate the difficulty of the two authors' task. It is clear, between the lines, that Rhode Island's lack of influence comes entirely from its voters' inability to break their devotion to the Democrat party. And yet that isn't something that Lincoln and Ari wish to undermine, so they toss around rhetoric about everybody having "an equal vote." They bring up irrelevant history about slave states. All the while, their central premise is arguable, at best:

A national popular vote would be vastly superior to the current system, which practically shuts out over 30 "safe states." Not only is this a question of basic fairness, it is also in Rhode Island's interest. Right now, candidates have no reason to campaign here, organize here, or spend money here — getting more or fewer popular votes will almost never change the electoral vote outcome. Under a national popular vote, every vote would count equally, giving candidates an incentive to seek them here in Rhode Island.

Whatever the system, candidates will be operating with the same resources, and they will have to maximize the effectiveness thereof. Rhode Island is such a blue state that Republicans probably wouldn't see much return on their investment, and Democrats probably wouldn't lose much support by failing to set foot, here. Further, given the size of our state, politicians might find it more worth their while to invest in particular counties, or cities, elsewhere, to reach the same number of people; our definition as a state wouldn't mean a thing.

A national popular vote may or may not be the way to go, but it would certainly take away Rhode Island's "mathematical advantage." If securing political importance for our state is the goal, then the solution is to broaden voters' intellectual and ideological habits.

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"One must, of course, appreciate the difficulty of the two authors' task."

What's that? Overcoming Linc's 70 IQ?

Posted by: Greg at August 13, 2008 7:52 AM

I don't vote for Democrats (voting for the state / locals just helps maintain RI's corruption & governmental incompetence machine, while at the national level today's post-1968/72 Democrats are neo-Marxists). So under the electoral college my Presidential votes are merely symbolic, so popular voting holds some appeal.

But Lincoln Chafee (like Patrick Kennedy) stands as a living example of the truth that inherited money does not bring with it inherited intelligence.

Rhode Island's population hovers at just over one million, while the national population is something like 300 million.

Heck, a greater number of illegal aliens enter the U.S. every year or two than live in Rhode Island - and under McCain or Obama within a few years they're going to be entitled to vote (those that aren't already voting illegally via Democrat-ACORN encouraged voter fraud).

In national elections under a popular vote Rhode Island would never amount to anything more than a rounding error; if anything our influence will decrease.

Posted by: Tom W at August 13, 2008 8:38 AM

A national popular vote would ensure that presidential candidates would campaign in the country's largest population centers - and no where else.

Linc Chafee has never been known as someone who thinks things through, so this opion of his, like most others, comes up full of holes.

As for Mr. Savitzky, I don't know much about him, but he fact that he teamed up with Linc Chafee on an "opinion" piece shows he may have an equal disability when it comes to the thought process.

Posted by: George at August 13, 2008 9:55 AM

Exactly right, George. Why buy ads in the Rhode Island market, hitting a whole million people, when you can buy ads in the NYC market and hit up to 25 TIMES as many people?

Posted by: Greg at August 13, 2008 9:58 AM

State Senator Dan Connors put in a bill in the RI Assembly this year that would attempt to get rid of the Electoral College. He's an idiot.

If we got rid of the Electoral college, which is something that LA, NYC, Chicago should advocate for, we'd see the candidates focusing all their attention and money on those cities. You win those cities and get high 40% on the rest of the country and you win. You can basically win the majority of less than 10 states but still become president. How about that. 40+ (or 50+ by Obama-math) of the states vote against you, but you can still become president. That is exactly what the founding fathers did not want when they came up with the Electoral College.

If you want to oppose Dan Connors and all the other propaganda he stands for, support his campaign opponent, Kathy Dennen.

Posted by: Assemblywatcher at August 13, 2008 10:11 AM

Ari Savitzy = former Bill Clinton aide

Posted by: Assemblywatcher at August 13, 2008 10:37 AM

Of course "Linc" is now being widely (hailed) in the MSM regarding involvement with "Republicans for Obama."

Gotta love the irony, since McCain came here to campaign for Chafee to try to save his RINO bacon.

This is what happens when the GOP embraces "moderates" and the "big tent" theory.

The "moderates" follow their heart and side with the Democrats, while voters, unimpressed with "Republicans" that are largely indistinguishable from Democrats, vote for the real thing rather than the reasonable facsimile. McCain will discover this the hard way when he finds out the the Hispanics vote that he is courting heads toward Obama, who is pandering to them even more (he's not even playing lip service to "border security").

That is why the GOP continues to shrink in the areas where it is "moderate" - the Northeast and now California. Yet the national party leadership (e.g., McCain) are determined to continue down this path ... the RIGOP writ large.

Baffling, and it bodes ill for the future or our country, as both parties are leading us leftward, the only differences being the pace of decline ... but both ultimately heading for the same destination, transforming the U.S. from our founding principles into a European-style socialist democracy.

Posted by: Tom W at August 13, 2008 10:55 AM

Since when is a 100% advantage considered only "slight"? We have 4 electoral votes now. If we went to direct popular vote, it would cut our influence precisely in half. 2 of our electoral votes come from population, and 2 that are assigned to each state, the purpose of which is to protect the individual rights of the states, especially the smaller ones. Why even have a Senate under this logic?

PS If anyone here thinks Linc actually penned any of that, I have a bridge to sell you.

PPS Everything they are discussing would require an amendment to the US Constitution, so this is all moot.

Posted by: Will at August 13, 2008 11:24 AM

The small states are the most disadvantaged of all under the current system of electing the President. Political clout comes from being a closely divided battleground state, not the two-vote bonus.

Small states are almost invariably non-competitive in presidential election. Only 1 of the 13 smallest states are battleground states (and only 5 of the 25 smallest states are battlegrounds).

Of the 13 smallest states, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska regularly vote Republican, and Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, and DC regularly vote Democratic. These 12 states together contain 11 million people. Because of the two electoral-vote bonus that each state receives, the 12 non-competitive small states have 40 electoral votes. However, the two-vote bonus is an entirely illusory advantage to the small states. Ohio has 11 million people and has "only" 20 electoral votes. As we all know, the 11 million people in Ohio are the center of attention in presidential campaigns, while the 11 million people in the 12 non-competitive small states are utterly irrelevant. Nationwide election of the President would make each of the voters in the 12 smallest states as important as an Ohio voter.

The fact that the bonus of two electoral votes is an illusory benefit to the small states has been widely recognized by the small states for some time. In 1966, Delaware led a group of 12 predominantly low-population states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania) in suing New York in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that New York's use of the winner-take-all effectively disenfranchised voters in their states. The Court declined to hear the case (presumably because of the well-established constitutional provision that the manner of awarding electoral votes is exclusively a state decision). Ironically, defendant New York is no longer a battleground state (as it was in the 1960s) and today suffers the very same disenfranchisement as the 12 non-competitive low-population states. A vote in New York is, today, equal to a vote in Rhode Island—both are equally worthless and irrelevant in presidential elections.

Keep in mind that the main media at the moment, namely TV, costs much more per impression in big cities than in smaller towns and rural area. So, if you just looked at TV, candidates get more bang for the buck in smaller towns and rural areas.

For example, in California, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate don't campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco. A vote in a small county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles.

If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics... any candidate who yielded, for example, the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas in favor of a "big city" approach would not likely win the national popular vote. Candidates would still have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so... because the election wouldn't be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Ohio.

Evidence of the way a nationwide presidential campaign would be run comes from the way that national advertisers conduct nationwide sales campaigns. National advertisers seek out customers in small, medium, and large towns of every small, medium, and large state. National advertisers do not advertise only in big cities. Instead, they go after every single possible customer, regardless of where the customer is located. National advertisers do not write off Indiana or Illinois merely because a competitor has a 8% lead in sales in those states. And, a national advertiser with an 8%-edge over its competitor does not stop trying to make additional sales in Indiana or Illinois.
Although no one can predict exactly how a presidential campaign would be run if every vote were equal throughout the United States, it is clear that candidates could not ignore voters in any part of any state.


Posted by: susan at August 13, 2008 3:08 PM

You have to laugh at that pathetic peasant, Chafee. He is trying so hard to be relevant. Problem is, when all you have is a last name, and nothing else, you become a backstabbing worm, as he has done to McCain. Do you need to know anything more than the fact that McCain came here to save his sorry ass, and now the inbred Chafee is coming out in support of McCain's opponent? Of course the little weasel conjures up some lame excuse to justify being a backstabbing piece of crap. A real man would have just shut up. Then again, nobody has ever accused Linc Chafee of being a real man. That's because Linc Chafee is really a vindictive little... (rhymes with hunt)

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 13, 2008 3:58 PM

Popular vote campaigns are nothing more than a blatant attempt to remove the Midwest and parts of the South from the election process.

Now which do you figure would benefit from Flyover Country having no say in who is elected President?

Posted by: EMT at August 13, 2008 9:11 PM

Eliminating the electoral college ensures that a few states controlled by democrats will have the same stranglehold on the US that they have on RI.
I think Ari Savitzky is a little young to have been a Clinton aide.He is a political ally of Matt Jerzyk and Dave Segal and is an Obama supporter.

Posted by: joe bernstein at August 14, 2008 5:28 AM

Perhaps this is Chafee's fascination with Obama. They both are advocates of the following:

"For not only is Barack the most pro-abortion member of the Senate, with his straight A+ report card from the National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood. He supports the late-term procedure known as partial-birth abortion, where the baby's skull is stabbed with scissors in the birth canal and the brains are sucked out to end its life swiftly and ease passage of the corpse into the pan." Human Events 8/12/08

"NARAL gave Chafee a 100-percent rating on its review of how senators voted last year on legislation the group considers important" ProJo 5/20/05

These left wing crackpots deserve to be out of office.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at August 14, 2008 11:56 AM

Further proof of Linc Chafee's MENSA credentials...

Posted by: George at August 14, 2008 7:50 PM
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