that *pop* was the sound of my head going all explodo

Senate Backpedals On Legislation Requiring Paper Trail For E-Voting Machines
Democratic senators on Wednesday made another push for banning electronic voting machines that lack paper trails, but they've backed away from doing so in time for next year's presidential election.

Are they trying to say, "that's ok, we didn't expect to win anyway?"

And in almost equally WTF news,

California Republicans are pushing a ballot measure to divvy up the state's electoral votes by Congressional district in 2008. That could put the equivalent of Ohio back in play for the GOP, just in case one Ohio debacle wasn't enough.

I think the Electoral College system is pretty much bullshit, but come on: you can't change this shit one state at a time. It has to be simultaneous.

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29 Responses:

  1. niteshad says:

    Actually, yes, yes you can change these laws one state at a time. At least one other state divides its electoral votes this way.

    • rapier1 says:

      Both maine and nebraska do this. I think its unlikley this will actially pass in Ca because it would, in effect, diminish the importance of California's votes. Also, the only realistic way to do this would be to change it one state at a time. Since the winner takes all system favors large swing states they'd be likely to block any amendment from reaching the necessary super majority needed in the house.

      • ciphergoth says:

        There's a compact several states have signed up to that once they have a majority of electoral votes in the compact, they will all throw their vote in with the popular vote no matter what the result in their state. That is an "all at once" change achieved through a "state by state" change; until the compact is large enough nothing changes, and once it is large enough the popular vote will decide Presidential elections.

        • rapier1 says:

          This is possible but again, unlikely. It still doesn't address the merit of the underlying idea though.

        • That proposal scares me. People talk that they are not represented by "winner takes all" at the state level - how much worse to be "all or nothing" nationwide!

          • ciphergoth says:

            How are you going to make a Presidential election anything but all or nothing? Genetically engineer a hybrid president using DNA from the candidates proportional to their share of the vote?

    • ciphergoth says:

      You seem to be having a little trouble here, so let me help you out. Where JWZ says "can't" here, he doesn't mean that it's actually impossible. He means it would be unbelievably stupid and wrong.

  2. rapier1 says:

    The problem with direct election by popular vote is that it completely undermines the power of smaller states. Large states like california, texas, and new york would become *the* arbiters of executive power. Smaller states like vermont, Maine, New hampshire, delaware, wyoming, the dakotas and the like (heck most of the states actually. only way to balance would be to set up regional super blocs) would become even more marginalized in executive power decisions than they are now. The reasoning which went behind the creation of a bicameral legislature is the *same* reasoning for the electoral college. If we wish to dispose of the college we should, logically, get rid of the senate as well. Which may be a fine idea but the house of representatives tends to be where all the really crazy bullshit starts. We could dispose of both and just have direct democracy but, of course, we aren't the majority. In fact, most of the time the majority is pretty batshit crazy as well (hence the HoR). Until we can breed an army of Platonic philosopher kings I'm not sure how much better most other formalized systems would be.

    • bodyfour says:

      > The problem with direct election by popular vote is that it completely undermines the power of smaller states.

      Is that a problem? If fewer people live there then doesn't it follow that they should have proportionally fewer votes? What sense does it make that someone in Wyoming has almost four times as much say in the selection of the president as I do?

      • ctd says:

        The smaller states weren't interested in being part of a Union in which they'd continually get steamrollered on issues by larger states. Hence electoral votes and the Senate, and the (technically) limited power of our federal government. You will probably learn about this when you become a sophomore in high school.

        States aren't just randomly allocated spots of contiguous color on a map.

        • bodyfour says:

          > The smaller states weren't interested in being part of a Union in which they'd continually get steamrollered on issues by larger states.

          I understand the historic idiosyncrasies that produced our messed up system. That does not mean that it's correct.

          > States aren't just randomly allocated spots of contiguous color on a map.

          If it were 1787 that statement would be arguably correct.

          • ctd says:

            In 1787 and 2007 it is quite correct. States can pass all sorts of wacky laws the federal government can't. I am not telling you to like it - I am just suggesting that you lump it.

        • editer says:

          And maybe when you finally pass freshman year (third time's the charm! Good luck this year!) you'll understand that you're talking about the legislature, not the executive. When the Constitution was written a direct popular vote for president was a logistical impossibility, so a system of electors was instituted to convey the will of the voters from the states to the capital. Even senators weren't chosen by direct popular vote until much, much later.

          As it is the Electoral College functions as an economic development and tourism plan for swing states. "That's the way we've always done it," which your argument boils down to, isn't a strong argument for keeping the system.

          • ctd says:

            And how were the numbers of electors calculated? Ah, we are back to the point of smaller states objecting to proportional representation.

            Also, I am not arguing against changing the system. That is something you made up in your head. I would argue, though, that the smaller states have enough power to keep the system from ever changing.

          • rapier1 says:

            What do you mean it wasn't possible? Of course it was possible and was under consideration during 1787. It was rejected in favor of the electoral college in order to balance the power between the large and small states.

          • The EC is an attempt to balance the concerns of small states and large states for a singular office, the same way the bicameral legislature of proportionally represented and state represented houses does. There's a reason the number of electors equals the number of reps + senators.

            If you actually gave it a moment's thought, you'd realize there's more to it than "that's how we've always done it". The US is not a democracy, no matter how much you'd like it to be.

            • gryazi says:

              Most of the arguments against the EC boil down to "Aww, fuck, I have to keep track of state politics too?"

              I've got to admit, I do feel the pain on that one, since only the unemployed have enough free time to actually keep track of all the shit that goes on in Washington, let alone in the local capitol where you're electing people to represent you who, chances are, you've never heard of or heard a statement by.

              Also, again in fairness, the Executive as created, and even moreso as it's been "expanded" over time, has powers that deserve to affect both the states (by the states' share) and the people (by the popular vote). Approving highway budgeting is pretty much a state-by-state matter; going to war affects each individual of the republic equally, and it probably isn't wrong to wish for more proportional representation on that. Which would not be so much a problem if it were still up to the bicameral legislature to start wars, rather than whoever's fucknuts-in-chief at the moment starting a 'police action.'

      • rapier1 says:

        When the framing of the constitution was happening there were overriding concerns that guided many of the structural aspects of it. The first is almost patently obvious; how to prevent a minority of people from exercising tyrannical control over the majority. However, at the same time many were concerned about a more subtle point; how to prevent the *majority* from exercising oppressive control over the minority. The system they came up with was a compromise solution intended to balance these two competing conerns. This is why we have a bicameral legislature and it is why we do *not* have a pure democracy. This wasn't some sort solution imposed by technical limitations but a concious decision made by people all too familiar with the effects of minorities suffering under the mob. You may not agree with this but if you wish to change it you'll need to, essentially, upend some of the most basic principles that the constitution was crafted around.

        I'm not appealing to tradition here though. If a better system exists then we should seriously consider it. But *how* would you protect the rights and support the power of minority positions and groups in a pure democratic system?

      • Yes, it is a problem. Just because they're a minority doesn't mean they don't have a right to live the way they want. They shouldn't be dictated to by people in states far away that don't understand their regional concerns.

        Tyranny of the majority is a terrible thing. The Founders understood that, and that's the reason why smaller states would not have federalized without "compromises" like a bicameral legislature and the EC.

    • jsl32 says:

      then smaller states don't lose their power, and third party candidates have the chance to make the Big Two candidates twitchy enough to campaign in more than ten states.

      • rapier1 says:

        Actually, smaller states generally gain an advantage when the split their votes - larger states tend to lose their power.

      • If you'd ever read the Federalist Papers, you'd understand why we actually vote for electors who vote for the president. We don't vote for "automatic proportional allocation", and that's by design.

    • The notion that all the people in California vote/think differently from all the people in Wyoming is a ridiculous notion. It's perpetuated by the electoral college itself.

      If there is a difference, it's between metropolitan and rural residents, so it's not that Texas and California voters would select the president, but that Bostonians, Houstonians, Los Angelans, Atlantans, Indianapolisans... would rule. Urban (and suburban) concerns would gain in (relative) importance to rural concerns. Presidential candidates would visit large cities across the country, rather than focusing on the residents of a few swing states.

      But realistically it won't make that much of a difference (outside of presidential campaigning), since Congress will still disproportionately favor the smaller states, and that's where the real lawmaking action is.

      • rapier1 says:

        Of course you are correct in saying that all people in one region think fundamentally differently than people in another. However, it would be naive to argue that there is no difference between regions. Even people in major urban areas do not share the all of the same concerns as people in others. People in NYC have different concerns than Chicago have different concerns than LA have different concerns than SF.

        And really, I'm not sure that candidates increasing their focus on urban areas (more than it already is) would be for the good of the country. Like it or not rural dwellers are an important part of the nation and play a vital role in both the culture and strategic viability of the state. What's also problematic is if you do college vote splitting based on the most likely formula - which is by HoR districts you'll have candidates actually reducing efforts in some urban subdistricts. In the current winner take all system used by most states *every* vote within that state counts. If its split up then certain more problematic regions can be effectively ignored. Why bother talking to the people of this poor urban district when we can just focus on the wealthier districts? Heck, you could even afford to completely ignore the densest urban regions in some states and focus entirely on the rural and far flung suburban votes. Which is probably not a terribly good thing.

        One of the problems with making a fundamental change is that we're mostly unaware of what the real ramifications of it will be. Since politics is, generally speaking, less strategic than tactical its tough to predict what will happen if the operational theatres become that much more fine grained. It could be a great thing - but its also easy to see how less than scrupulous actors (meaning all politicians) will attempt to game the system to a unfair advantage.

        As for congress disproportionally favoring the small states. That is true on a purely mathematical basis but structurally speaking I think that is only true in the senate. In the house you do see rural states having notable leverage but thats mostly because they are working together on issues which cross state boundaries (agriculture for example).

        • One of the problems with making a fundamental change is that we're mostly unaware of what the real ramifications of it will be.

          No kidding! If the populist reformers of the early 20th had any idea that making the Senate a popularly-elected body would result in runaway growth of government, they may very well have decided to leave it alone.

          The 17th Amendment was so ill-conceived that it flabbergasts me. The "problem" faced at the time was that political wrangling in the state legislatures was preventing replacement senators from being elected when a seat went vacant. All they had to do was expand the governors' power of recess appointment slightly, so that if the legislature couldn't get it's act together in a timely fashion (30 days from vacancy?) the governor could appoint someone until such time as the legislature did its job.

          • rapier1 says:

            I have to say that I strongly disagree with you on this matter. Both on its inadvisability and its effect on federal growth.

      • The president has to represent the same nationwide realities that the Congress does. It makes sense that some of the same concerns are used for determining the president as are used to determine Congress - i.e. both the states and the people have a stake.

  3. xthread says:

    Are they trying to say, "that's ok, we didn't expect to win anyway?"

    They're saying 'we believe that we'll have a clear enough and large enough majority that we don't need to go through the hassle and expense of fixing this fast.'

    IE, everyone involved believes that there's lots of garden variety retail electoral fraud, but no huge, systemic, election changing fraud.