On watching the coverage of this election, I keep hearing about people wanting to get rid of the Electoral College.
To this I say, bah!
The Electoral College gives your vote more power than it deserves.
Look, please, at Florida now. This one state is deciding the next President. I think it was Clinton who said "Nobody will ever be able to say again that their vote doesn't count." And it's because of the Electoral College that this is true.
'But,' you may interject, 'what about the popular vote? The Electoral College may elect a President the people don't really want!'
To this I say, bah!
It's already been asserted that America isn't really a democracy. The truth is actually much worse than this. America isn't just a country; it is a confederacy. (Hence the name United States.) The states belong to the country, and the people belong to the states.
Notice even the Constitution recognizes this: the people vote for the senators and representatives for their states, but when it comes to the presidency, "Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress..."
The national tally of the popular vote is (IMHO) merely anti-Electoral-College propaganda. The popular vote doesn't mean anything because it isn't supposed to mean anything.
Now, as for what I said about the Electoral College giving your vote more power... It's a kind of 'big fish in a small pond' compared to a 'small fish in a big pond' kind of deal.
Take, for example, Alaska, a small state
populationwise, with its three electoral votes and about 230,000 people who voted for President this year. An Alaskan therefore has 1/230,000 of his state's electors. If the electors he wants are chosen, he has 3/538 of the Presidential vote. Multiplying these, we find that an Alaskan can have about 1/41,000,000th of the vote. Given that about 126 million people voted this year in the whole country, voters in Alaska had three times as much power as they would have had in a popular election.
For the opposite extreme, we take California, a large state populationwise, with fifty-four electoral votes and about 9,800,000 voters this year. The Californian has about 1/97,000,000th of the vote, 125% more than a popular election would give them.
Why do smaller states have more power than larger states? Well, they get it because of the way electors are assigned: representatives plus senators. The number of congressmen a state gets is based on population, but the number of senators is always 2. This +2 adds more, proportionally, to smaller states than larger states. Also, there doesn't appear to be an upper limit to representatives, but no state can have less than one, so the smaller states get more than they might "deserve" there, too.
And it is important that smaller states have more power. The system requires candidates to have more widespread appeal than just going for the "big states".
Also, I do recommend the article at the URL in dh's writeup here.
novalis: Please do more than just assert that the math is bad. In my writeup I don't 'consider the chance that one person will affect the outcome', because that is not relevant to what I'm calculating, but I'll do it now if you like:
To take your analogy, the chance of mutton is 1, because the sheep's decision can only cancel one of the lions'. But that's a popular, one-vote-one-man-one-vote, which is what I'm saying we're not dealing with. If the sheep's vote is worth an Alaskan's (three) and the lion's vote worth a Californian's (1.25; or two-and-a-half for the both together), then the sheep outnumbers the lions and there will be no
mutton, regardless of what the lions decide. If I understand you correctly, this is what you meant by the individual having no chance to affect the outcome--which is true when everyone's minds are made up--but is not relevant to the main issue of this writeup.
novalis: In a perfectly democratic election, or even an election where electors were directly based on population, then you'd be correct: A voter could not have more than 1/Xth of the vote. But our electoral system adds votes to this at the state level: electoral representation is based on representation in both houses of Congress: not merely population figures (i.e., number of representatives) but also an even two added to every state (i.e., number of senators). This makes the state's votes worth more than it would be going by its population, with more power, proportionally, going to the smaller states. A one-congressman state gets three electors: 3-to-1 representation-to-population, while a fifty-congressman state gets fifty-two electors, 52:50 representation:population.
As the state receives more electors, so the voters in the state receive more electoral power (except possibly in the few remaining states without winner-take-all in place). The actual number or percentage of voters is immaterial for this point.
George Dorn and novalis: You both misunderstand me. I don't say that the Electoral College gives more than 1/Xth the vote, where X = the number of voters (which is, as you say, mathematically unsound). I say that the vote under the Electoral College gives more power compared to the popular vote. That is to say, the Electoral College system gives the hypothetical Alaskan voter an equivalent of three votes under the popular vote system.
novalis wrote: All the EC does is redistribute the power. I know you wouldn't support simply giving Alaskans 2 votes each and having a popular-vote election - so why is it different when we hide it in the EC?
Actually, that's the purpose of the EC, to do the equivalent of give voters in lesser states more power. The advantage of "hiding" it in the EC is that the EC's numbers are tied to numbers already in use for representation (i.e., members of the houses of Congress) and automagically update with them.