[Government] Electoral College: "Math Against Tyranny"

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Why keep the Electoral College?

Because it protects each individual voter's power by shielding him/her against "tyranny by the majority".

In his 1996 article "Math Against Tyranny" at http://www.avagara.com/e_c/reference/00012001.htm, Will Hively wrote that our electoral system is "ensuring the future of our democracy." He presents Alan Natapoff's analysis of the benefits of the electoral system over direct popular vote.

Natapoff found a mathematical proof of the superiority of the electoral system. "His starting point was the concept of voting power. In a fair election, he saw, each voterBs power boils down to this: What is the probability that one personBs vote will be able to turn a national election? The higher the probability, the more power each voter commands."

"To figure out these probabilities, Natapoff devised his own model of a national electorate--a more realistic model, he thought, than the ones the quoted experts were always using. Almost always, he found, individual voting power is higher when funneled through districts--such as states--than when pooled in one large, direct election. It is more likely, in other words, that your one vote will determine the outcome in your state and your state will then turn the outcome of the electoral college, than that your vote will turn the outcome of a direct national election. A voter therefore, Natapoff found, has more power under the current electoral system."

"Nowadays, of course, whoever wins the popular vote in any state wins all the electoral votes in that state automatically (except in Maine [and Nebraska -- NSP], which divides its electoral votes). We no longer need human bodies to cast electoral ballots, Natapoff says. That part of the system is indeed archaic. But it has worked beautifully, he insists, as a formula for converting one large national contest into 51 smaller elections in which individual voters have more clout. The Madisonian system, by requiring candidates to win states on the way to winning the nation, has forced majorities to win the consent of minorities, checked the violence of factions, and held the country together. 'We have stumbled onto something that not everyone appreciates,' Natapoff says. 'People should understand it before they decide to change it.'"

"NatapoffBs theorem now covers all cases. 'The theorem,' he sums up, 'essentially says that youBre better off districted in any large election, unless every voter in the country is alike and very closely balanced between candidates A and B. In that very extraordinary case, which rarely if ever occurs in our elections, it would be better to have a simple national election.'"

Now, this article was written four years ago. What did Natapoff have to say about a situation such as we now have?

"Every once in a while, if we use districting to jack up individual voting power, weBll have an electoral 'anomaly'--a loser like Harrison will nudge out a slightly more popular Cleveland. He sees those anomalies, as well as the more frequent close calls, not as defects but as signs that the system is working. It is protecting individual voting power by preserving the threat that small numbers of votes in this or that district can turn the election. 'We were blinded by its minor vices,' he says. 'All that happens is someone with fewer votes gets elected,' temporarily. What doesnBt happen may be far more important. In 1888, victorious Republicans didnBt celebrate by jailing or killing Democrats, and Democrats didnBt find Harrison so intolerable that they took up arms. Cleveland came back to win four years later, beating Harrison under the same rules as before. The republic survived."

"One other benefit attributed by Natapoff to our electoral college seems almost aesthetic. As usual, itBs easier to appreciate in sports. In 1960, under simpler rules, the Yankees might have been champions. They might have won, for instance, if there were no World Series but only the scheduled 154-game season, with one large baseball nation of 16 teams instead of two separate leagues. The team winning the most games all year long would simply pick up its prize in October. Instead, here is what happened. By the ninth inning in game seven of the series, the Yankees and Pirates had fought to a standstill--the ultimate deadlock. Each team had won three games. The Yankees had led throughout much of game seven, but Pittsburgh astonished everyone by scoring five runs in the eighth inning, after a Yankee fielding error, to go ahead 9-7. They couldnBt, of course, hold their lead. The Yankees answered with two more runs in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 9-9."

"Then, in the bottom of the ninth, Bill Mazeroski, an average hitter without much power, stepped to the plate for Pittsburgh. He seemed a mere placeholder--until his long fly ball just cleared the left-field wall. Rounding second base, halfway home, Mazeroski was leaping for joy, and Pittsburgh fans were pouring from their seats, racing to meet him at the plate. The Yankees had finally toppled. There they were, ahead in the polls, piling up votes like nobodyBs business, until one last swing of one playerBs bat turned the whole season around. 'Everybody regarded it as one of the most glorious World Series ever,' Natapoff says. 'To do it any other way would totally destroy the degree of competition and excitement thatBs essential to all sports.' "

-- No Spam Please (nos_pam_please@hotmail.com), November 09, 2000


How do they decide how many votes each state gets? It certainly isn't based on the population.

-- waaa waaaa (not.fair@at.all), November 09, 2000.

Each state has a number of electoral votes equal to the sum of its number of Representatives and number of Senators. Which is why they all have at least three electoral votes.

-- No Spam Please (nos_pam_please@hotmail.com), November 09, 2000.

Old Git should get at least two electoral votes.

-- dinosaur (dinosaur@williams-net.com), November 09, 2000.

Okay, then how do they decide how many Congressmen they get?

-- waaa waaa (still@not.fair), November 09, 2000.


It is based on the average astrological sign of the state's population. :^)

Best wishes,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), November 09, 2000.

waaa waaa (still@not.fair),

>Okay, then how do they decide how many Congressmen they get?

Congress starts out with two basic rules: (1) each state gets a minimum of at least one Representative, and (2) the total number of Representatives is 435.

After allocating one Representative to each of the 50 states, the remaining 385 are apportioned according to a formula that minimizes the differences between states in (number of people in each state's congressional districts). At the end, each state has a number of Representatives that is as close to proportional to its population as possible within the constraints of the two basic rules.

[I saw a TV show about the apportionment formula several years ago, and saw how it gave fair results, but explaining it would take the rest of the night.]

-- No Spam Please (nos_pam_please@hotmail.com), November 10, 2000.

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