Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What is Massachusetts thinking?

The Massachusetts legislature voted this past week to climb aboard the National Popular Vote train. This is the plan in which states agree that, no matter how their state votes, they are instructing their Electoral College people to vote for whichever candidate won the popular vote. This will go into effect only when enough states to account for at least 270 electoral votes have signed on to this agreement. Massachusetts joins five other states (Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and Washington)that have passed bills. According to the NPV website, there also seems to be a a strong move ahead in New York to go forward.

Put aside however you feel about the Electoral College. There are arguments on both sides and reasonable people can disagree. Those who oppose the Electoral College realize that they will never get an amendment through three-fourths of the states since small states get a bonus through the Electoral College since each state, no matter the size, gets at least three votes. So the National Popular Vote scheme is their way to get around the constitutional obstacle.

My main question is why there would be any benefit for an individual state to do this. Notice the states that have signed on. They are all pretty reliable blue states. They would most probably only go for the Republican if it was a pretty big wave election when there wouldn't be a difference between the electoral and popular votes anyway. Think 1980 or 1984. In fact, this would only be important when there is a close election. So the only way that there would be a need for any of these six states to cast their votes electoral differently than the popular vote is if there were a close election and, assuming that these states kept their traditional Democratic majorities during close elections, the Republican won the popular vote. Think 2004.

So what the legislatures of these six states are telling their citizens is, no matter how those citizens themselves vote, their legislators want their state's electoral votes to go to the Republican if the Republican won the popular vote. They're telling the people of Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington, and Massachusetts that their legislature would have wanted their states' electoral votes to have gone for George Bush in 2004. Is that really the stance that these legislators want to be taking? And when their citizens wake up some day in the future and find out that their representatives have done, are they going to be happy? Of course not!

The legislators of these six states might feel all pumped up by how they've found a way around the Electoral College, but in the meantime, they've gone directly against the interests of their own states.

34 comments:

Brynmor said...

As a Massachusetts resident, this one has me puzzled. MA is a very, very blue state, so on the face of it this could only benefit a republican. So why and why now? I could understand a knee-jerk response to Gore's defeat in 2000, but 10 years later? The only way this could work for the dems is if MA (and the other blue states that are adopting this) go red, but the dems rack up huge numbers of votes somewhere else. This would appear to potentially facilitate massive voter fraud in a few highly populated states.

Stan said...

"What could they be thinking?"

Thinking's got nothing to do with it? These are Massachusetts legislators!

Kevin T. Keith said...

Leaving aside the characteristic knee-jerk idiocy of the right-wing commenters above, the logic behind the NPV Compact is simple, and the implications are serious. Actually giving it some thought might be helpful.

The vote to adopt an NPV stance does not change any state's EC votes in isolation - in every case it is predicated on many other states agreeing to do the same thing; the policy would only come into play when at least 270 EC votes would be governed by NPV, such that elections would be de facto NPV nation-wide. The point to joining the movement is not to change one particular state's EC votes in any given election, but to shift all presidential elections to an NPV basis. The practical question is not whether a particular state is with the EC majority or not, but whether the country as a whole is more likely to choose the "right" candidates on an NPV basis as opposed to the current EC system.

An NPV election would turn out differently from an EC election only in cases where the EC vote goes against the total national popular vote. It hardly matters whether Massachusetts's EC votes went to Bush in 2004 or not, since he would have won the election either way. But NPV voting would have prevented Bush from stealing the 2000 election by gaming the vote count in a single state; in that case Gore won the popular vote nationwide and would have rightfully become President under an NPV system even with the irregularities in Florida. Thus in the only case in over 100 years in which NPV voting would have changed the historical outcome, the result would have favored the Democrat. If that's the only way you can conceive of the issue, then that's an obvious motive for blue states to make the shift - though there is an argument from basic fairness as well.

The real question is how the switch would affect electoral dynamics. It could broaden campaigning, since it would effectively enfranchise the minority party in winner-takes-all EC states (their votes don't make any difference to the outcome, currently, but would count toward the candidates' overall totals under NPV), and give smaller states influence in proportion to their population. On the other hand, this may hurt smaller states, since they currently have disproportionate influence (EC votes are not apportioned strictly by population, and small states have a per-capita advantage). NPV would certainly make third-party candidates much more influential (but no more likely to win); getting 5% of the vote in a winner-takes-all system makes no difference, but it can make a huge difference in an NPV system.

The shift to NPV would undoubtedly have a dramatic impact on campaign strategy in close races where the NPV margin is smaller than the EC margin (i.e., where the national vote is close but one candidate leads in states with large EC votes). For instance, Nixon lost to Kennedy in 1960 by barely 100,000 votes, and won against Humphrey in 1968 by barely 500,000, but the winner in each case had an EC margin of around 100 votes. The 1976 Carter/Ford race was also decided by relatively few total votes and a larger EC margin. While the actual EC and NPV totals agreed in these races, the outcome might have been different if the losing candidates could have won by pulling out a few hundred thousand more votes from minority-party populations in winner-take-all states (or if George Wallace's 10 million votes in 1968 had been more in play). It is not clear here whether the change would have benefited Democrats or Republicans most (interestingly, Nixon himself apparently endorsed an NPV scheme).

So the issue of benefit to one party or another is complicated, and it does not turn solely on the question of whether a given state is "red" or "blue". In 2000, NPV would have benefited the majority party in Massachusetts, and in 2004 had no overall impact, but the issue is more more involved than that.

equitus said...

But NPV voting would have prevented Bush from stealing the 2000 election by gaming the vote count in a single state

There's some "characteristic knee-jerk idiocy" for you.

From your essay, Kevin T. Keith, I take it that the point of the legislation is to override Constitutional provisions without having to abide by the amendment process. Do I have that right?

Rick Caird said...

I believe Kevin is deluding himself. Bush did not game Florida. Gore attempted to game Florida. But, with an

Rick Caird said...

I believe Kevin is deluding himself. Bush did not game Florida. Gore attempted to game Florida. But, with an NPV rather than just recount Florida, then the whole country will need to be recounted. That is the first problem the NPV guys don't acknowledge.

But, the second problem is even more insidious. Kevin may remember there were attempts to change the votes of several electors prior to the electoral college meeting. Even if NPV is in effect, there is guarantee any individual electoral will be able to hold his nose and vote against his state' popular vote. In addition, no legislature can bind a subsequent legislature. So, unless the NPV mantra becomes enshrined in each state's Constitution, there is not guarantee at all that a state will not flip and vote as its states voters voted. I can hardly see Massachussets, as it is now, agreeing to overturn its voters and vote for a Republican if the eEpublican got the most votes. All it would take for that condition is a very close election in many states where Massachusetts could have split 50.5 to 49.5 for the Democrat, but now must cast its vote for the Republican even though the Democrat would be elected if Massachusetts honored it citizen's vote.

If Kevin doesn't think that would happen, Kevin is deluding himself. When it comes time to fish or catch bait, Massachusetts will vote for the Democrat no matter what. Bet on it Kevin.

Pat Patterson said...

Two real big probems. The first in that Article I Secton 10 forbids the states from making compacts or treaties among themselves. And Article IV Section 4 cleary describes the country as a republic not a democracy. "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government."

Any attempt at an end run will simply fail because many of the states will jealously guard their perogatives and the SCOTUS would never approve.
BTW

BTW, can I assume that Kevin is probably TV with the same loose grasp of the Constitution and US history?

John A said...

Perhaps looking into the future, we can see the Senate being redesigned. Why should Nebraska get as many votes as California? Minnesota as many as New York? Or, in the other direction, Rhode Island as many as Texas? Delaware as many as Illinois?

Welcome "the tyranny of the majority."

- - -

If the president were picked by national popular vote, he argued, candidates would spread their attention out more evenly.

Erm, ah, no. They would no longer have incentive to visit perhaps two-thirds (land area) of the country. Idaho and Rhode Island, for instance, would be visited by PotUS candidates only if they lived or vacationed there.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

And Article IV Section 4 cleary describes the country as a republic not a democracy. "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government."

that one is truly humorous, pat

please tell us why you think the united states is not a democracy

Pat Patterson said...

You must be kidding? A democracy, such as the polis in Greece had, voted on every issue from if to invade Sicily under Alcibiades to the color of the eyes of the Pallas Athena. We delegate powers to our leaders which is by definition "res publica." That is acting in the name of the people. NPV is a form of direct democracy which as I pointed out is expressly condemned by the Constitution.

So Cal Jim said...

Hey Pat...Do you think that folks could use the name of one of our legislative bodies (The House of Representatives) as a pretty strong clue that the USA is a republic as opposed to a pure democracy?

Tacitus Voltaire said...

what you are referring to is what is called an "athenian democracy", a democracy where every adult citizen votes directly on every issue.

the form of government we have in the united states is a "representative democracy". the united states is a democracy:

DEMOCRACY:

# the political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives
# a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them
# majority rule: the doctrine that the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding on the whole group
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn


de·moc·ra·cy
   /dɪˈmɒkrəsi/ Show Spelled[dih-mok-ruh-see] Show IPA
–noun, plural -cies.
1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
2. a state having such a form of government: The United States and Canada are democracies.
3. a state of society characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges.
4. political or social equality; democratic spirit.
5. the common people of a community as distinguished from any privileged class; the common people with respect to their political power.

World English Dictionary

democracy (dɪˈmɒkrəsɪ) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide]

— n , pl -cies
1. government by the people or their elected representatives
2. a political or social unit governed ultimately by all its members
3. the practice or spirit of social equality
4. a social condition of classlessness and equality
5. the common people, esp as a political force

(american heritage dictionary:)
de·moc·ra·cy (dĭ-mŏk'rə-sē)
n. pl. de·moc·ra·cies

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule.
5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.


Legal Dictionary

Main Entry: de·moc·ra·cy
Pronunciation: di-'mä-kr&-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form: plural -cies
1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2 : a political unit that has a democratic government — dem·o·crat·ic /"de-m&-'kra-tik/ adjective — dem·o·crat·i·cal·ly adverb
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, © 1996 Merriam-Webster, Inc.


you need to go back and tell the people who told you that the united states is not a democracy that they have either made an ignorant mistake or they are misleading gullible people

Tacitus Voltaire said...

(american heritage dictionary:)
de·moc·ra·cy (dĭ-mŏk'rə-sē)
n. pl. de·moc·ra·cies

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule.
5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.


Legal Dictionary

Main Entry: de·moc·ra·cy
Pronunciation: di-'mä-kr&-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form: plural -cies
1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
2 : a political unit that has a democratic government — dem·o·crat·ic /"de-m&-'kra-tik/ adjective — dem·o·crat·i·cal·ly adverb
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, © 1996 Merriam-Webster, Inc.


you need to go back and tell the people who told you that the united states is not a democracy that they have either made an ignorant mistake or they are misleading gullible people

Tacitus Voltaire said...

We delegate powers to our leaders which is by definition "res publica." That is acting in the name of the people.

'res' is latin for 'thing', and 'publica' is 'people'. roughly, 'the people's thing'. 'democracy' is from the greek 'demos', people, '-cracy', rule - rule by the people.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.
Ronald Reagan

History is a ribbon, always unfurling; history is a journey. And as we continue our journey, we think of those who traveled before us. We stand together again at the steps of this symbol of our democracy -- or we would have been standing at the steps if it hadn't gotten so cold. Now we are standing inside this symbol of our democracy. Now we hear again the echoes of our past: a general falls to his knees in the hard snow of Valley Forge; a lonely President paces the darkened halls, and ponders his struggle to preserve the Union; the men of the Alamo call out encouragement to each other; a settler pushes west and sings a song, and the song echoes out forever and fills the unknowing air.
Ronald Reagan, 2nd inagural

equitus said...

Pat, maybe TV has a poll somewhere to prove you wrong.

Pat Patterson said...

Well, at least he got the distinction correct between a democracy and a republic. But I doubt if he understood it himself. People may call the US a democracy, only a few states have the intiative and referendum, but we are a republic.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

pat - refusing to acknowledge that you are wrong just makes you look more ignorant

Tacitus Voltaire said...

People may call the US a democracy

all dictionaries and ronald reagan call the united states a democracy

pat thinks all dictionaries and ronald reagan are incorrect and ignorant

who is stupid, pat or ronald reagan?

Tacitus Voltaire said...

BREAKING!

Pat Patterson Discovers that United States Is Not a Democracy!

All American Presidents Incorrect! All Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, Textbooks, Will Have To Be Changed To Conform To Pat Patterson's Definition!

Phrases "Jeffersonian Democracy" and "Representative Democracy" To Be Expunged From Historical Record!

World Leaders Converge At Pat Patterson's Apartment To Beg Him To Rewrite All Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, And Textbooks To Conform To Pat's Ideas!

BREAKING!

Some Traitorous, Ignorant People Doubt Pat Patterson's Ability To Know More Than All Presidents, Lexicographers, and Textbook Writers! They Traitorously and Subversively Request That Pat Show Evidence For His Contention That The United States Is Not A Democracy! All Good Americans Are Outraged At Demand For Documentation! Pat Patterson Stands By His Right To Redefine Words And Produces An Editorial That Decisively Proves That America Is Not A Democracy And That Dictionaries Are Written By Leftists!

developing...

So Cal Jim said...

Don't argue with TV. He's a business owning capitalist AND he knows how to access online dictionaries. Hmmmm...I wonder what he'd find out if he looked up the word, "republic?"

Tacitus Voltaire said...

he knows how to access online dictionaries

now you're beginning to get the picture

you should try looking up things yourself sometime - before opening your mouth - you won't embarass yourself quite like you have been as much if you do, eh?

He's a business owning capitalist

yeah - i've been negotiating resale licenses. i've also been an engineer for 25 years, creating commercial products, so i know a lot about capitalism firsthand since i've seen it in action from the inside

and where do you get your knowledge about capitalism, So Cal Jim?

Pat Patterson said...

I'm somewhat surprised that TV is reacting so irrationally to the news that the US is not a democracy. I think that the Constitution places restraints on the behavior of government and the people is news on the same par with finding out that neither the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus exist.

But since the Left generally seems more comfortable wallowing in what they imagine somethng is rather than actually studying our Costitution.

So Cal Jim said...

Whassa matta TV, "republic" is too hard to find in your dictionary? C'mon guy, give it a try and see what you can learn about our nation's form of government.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

Pat Patterson said...
I'm somewhat surprised that TV is reacting so irrationally to the news that the US is not a democracy


i have to thank you for your wonderfully amusing theory, pat. i have posted it on a number of blogs - without any information identifying you, of course - where it has become an instant classic

tfhr said...

TV,

You do agree that the United States is a republic, correct?

Let Leon Panetta and the CIA help you with your troubles.

From the CIA World Factbook, under the subheadings of Government::United States
Government Type: Constitution-based federal republic; strong democratic tradition

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

Click on the links and when you get to Government type you can get a quick run down on a wide array of other forms of government. Compare and contrast, TV.

Here's Federal republic - a state in which the powers of the central government are restricted and in which the component parts (states, colonies, or provinces) retain a degree of self-government; ultimate sovereign power rests with the voters who chose their governmental representatives.

If that's not working for you, try this:


I pledge allegiance
to my Flag,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.


This one's even better:

I pledge allegiance to
the Flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Pat Patterson said...

Aside from the image presented of TV and his favorites harrumphing together and probably picking lice out of their hair I'll ask one simple question. Does the word democracy appear in the Constitution?

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

I'll tell you what else doesn't appear in the Constitution - anything that requires an American citizen to buy health insurance.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

tfhr said...
TV, You do agree that the United States is a republic


the united states is usually described as a democratic republic:

Democratic Republic — Republics where the people elect their representatives and may engage in some forms of popular referenda. Examples include the United States of America.

In the United States, James Madison defined republic in terms of representative democracy as opposed to direct democracy[6], and this usage is still employed by many viewing themselves as "republicans

Modern American democracy is in the form of a democratic republic or a representative democracy. A representative democracy came about in the United States because the colonists were tired of taxation without representation and wanted a more fair system where the people had more say in the rule of the country. They did not desire the Athenian form of democracy however; as they feared it would give the people too much power and would lend control of the government to the uneducated masses. What they came up with was a representative democracy wherein elected representatives rather than direct rule by the people rule the government.


is this clear, or do you need further explanation before you get the point?

Pat Patterson said...

Tv simply doesn't have the coordination for tap dancing. He would rather die then admit his mistake. Originally he claimed the US but now appears to have discovered adectives to confuse the issue.

tfhr said...

TV,

What?

You're incoherent.

I said the United States is a republic and asked you if you agreed. Why are you slopping Wikipedia all over the thread again (unlinked, as usual), instead of dealing with the question?

tfhr said...

TV,

Nothing?


What's wrong? Is your clipboard jammed up so bad that you can't copy and paste?

Pat Patterson said...

BTW, TV implies that he is quoting, but not identifying, from one source. tfhr is right to identify the first as Wikipedia while the last paragraph has been floating around the internet, twice in Huffigton Post, but is from a high school history text where Richard M Pious is quoted.

So in the interest of at least getting TV's ability to write up to the high school level I have provided a link to a description on how to quote.

http://www.quotesandsayings.com/blog/writing/how-to-attribute-quotes-in-an-article/

tfhr said...

Pat Patterson,

I couldn't wade that far into TV's copy and paste. It's like digging into a large box of packing peanuts only to find only more packing peanuts. Good for you for suffering through to the end of his recycling effort though.