The Electoral College and Popular Vote

EDIT: Whoops. Forgot to proofread my work and left in the notes to myself to add the links to support my words.

rxl2yIt seems like the proctologist business is booming because there seems to be a lot of butts that are hurt over the recent United States 2016 Presidential Election. Namely, over its results. The God-Emperor Donald J. Trump, the madman himself, has won the presidential election. That’s right, despite almost every news station, newspaper, news website, celebrities, hell, despite what several popular YouTubers said about Trump being ‘deplorable’, he won. I guess it just goes to show that attempting to no-platform ideas you disagree with doesn’t work forever.

So being the tolerant leftists that they are they stood down and accepted… oh wait. They didn’t. Which is fairly odd because Clinton herself said that Trump was undermining democracy by saying he wouldn’t accept the outcome if he lost. She said this on national television during the third (and I believe the second) presidential debate. Now those of you that watch the full clip will know that Clinton called Trump out on it because he’s a Presidential candidate, but if we are to believe the idea of citizen representatives we have to extend it to all citizens of the United States. So these (presumably) Clinton supporters (or at least a large chunk of them are) are protesting, undermining democracy in the same way their candidate said that which they hate was undermining democracy! Irony and hypocrisy make such a delicious combo. So now they’re protesting, blocking streets, beating up 74-year old men, and damaging property. Now the point of this post isn’t to point out the hypocrisy in people or even the left, I’d be here all day. However, I believe there is something of value to come out of these… protests.

There’s a kink in this victory, the Honorable President-Elect Donald J. Trump may have won the electoral college votes (barring any shenanigans in December), but he LOST the popular vote by about half a million votes (illegal immigrant vote came out this time). So now we run into the fifth case of the person that won the popular vote losing the electoral college vote (again, assuming no elector shenanigans). We’ve had this happen five times in the history of our United States. George Washington was our first president in 1789 and Donald Trump will be our president in 2017. 2017-1789 = 228. But we only have an election every 4 years, so 228/4 = 57. So we’ve had 5 out of 57 elections or 8.7% of elections in which the president did not become the president with the popular vote.

So where are we at today? Well, those same leftists I mentioned earlier are proposing that Clinton should be the president despite losing the Electoral College system vote because she won the popular vote. I cannot agree to this and I’ll tell you why. It’s a simple matter of cities holding the most power.

First, CGP Grey (fantastic YouTuber, highly recommend just watching a playlist of his content) argues against the Electoral College because of a mathematical quirk. In this, he counters the ‘Presidential candidates will only visit densely populated states in a popular vote system’ argument with the swing state condition that we’re in right now. I don’t like his argument here. Right now and for the past several elections, candidates have focused on the swing states. While true, the argue is entirely based on the situation now. That situation can change, and his argument only holds while those swing states remain those swing states. Theoretically any state can become a swing state and I would not be surprised if with some population distribution we could make ALL of them swing states. So I don’t like the ‘swing states exist and presidents ignore all other states’ argument.

Second, CGP Grey (same video above) lists the more pressing problem with Electoral College in that 75% of the country can vote against a candidate and that candidate can still win. This would be a problem if we Americans lived in a true democracy, but we don’t. I think the question here is whether or not we want to accept such a possibility if it were to occur. Is it really fair that 25% of people in the country can decide who leads our nation for the next four years?

Third, CGP Grey has made (another?) follow-up video in which he addresses the concerns that I might have with the Electoral College – trust. Do we really trust the electors to vote as the states requested? It’s illegal in some states to not do so, but are the consequences of not doing so steep enough? The answers to these questions are up to you but I do believe they’re worth talking about.

Now onto my contribution. The reason I brought this up is because all of a sudden people care whether or not the United States President is selected democratically by popular vote or continues to be selected by the Electoral College. More specifically, I wanted to take a look at this:

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So this is a list of the most highly populated areas in the United States. The implication being that such a small area of the United States would have great power over the United States. Should the president be elected solely by people that live in what looks like an impossibly tiny faction of the United States? I disagreed, but I wanted to see how far this rabbit hole goes so I went digging.

First, I found the average number of electoral votes per state. We have 538 electoral votes, 50 states and 1 Washington D.C. That’s an average of over 10 electoral votes per state. A state cannot have a fraction of a vote, so let’s round down to 10 electoral votes per person. If you look at every state worth 10 or more electoral votes, it looks like this:

rxl2y

(Don’t focus too much on them being marked for Trump, it’s for visualization purposes only)

10 is the average number of electoral votes, therefore there should be about 25 states here, right? Half of the states should be above the average, half of the states should be below it. There are 21 states here. That’s not too far off, but it’s still only 80% the number of states that it should be. What’s the problem? As you can see, 42% of states control 70% of the electoral college votes. Is this fair? It might be. Let’s look at this list of cities with the most population in the United States.

Of the 50 cities, only 4 are not listed within the states I’ve marked red on the map above. Which means if, assuming you win the most populous cities in the United States under a popular vote system, you control the presidency. But I wonder, how many cities do you need to control to control the presidency? For the 2016 election, there were 146,311,000 registered voters. You only need 50% + 1 vote to win, so you need 73,155,501 votes to win. So how do the cities stack up? Well, if every person in every one of those 50 cities voted for you, you’d have 50,102,395 votes. You wouldn’t have the presidency outright, but you’d be 67% of the way there. The odds of this happening are probably negligible but visiting these areas can still give you impact on surrounding cities, so hopefully that balances things out. Assuming you won every state that had one of these major cities in them, you’d have an electoral map that looked like this:

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So this is better in that it includes more of the country, but it’s still 29 states (well, 28 states and D.C.). Most of those states would probably be ignored because they had little to no population. I suspect the midwest as a group would probably be mostly ignored under a popular vote system. So there’s no reason for someone in the Dakotas to bother getting excited about any president because they can disregard the Dakotas completely.

I think the main reason people are opposed to the electoral college is because of the influence a republican vote has in California. Why bother voting republican if you’re in California? It’s loaded with democrats and there’s no way you can topple that might. Because you vote for the votes of your state, you may as well not bother getting out of bed that day. But if you’re in a popular vote system, aha! Now your vote matters even if you’re a republican in California. I don’t like this line of logic. Surely if the republicans made themselves distinguishable in California, they might attract more campaign time for those sweet 55 electoral votes. Maybe after a few cycles of this, republicans can make a swing state of California. But you’ll never be heard if you do not vote.

I think the main press for popular vote by the left is because of their base demographic. Democrats are known for their love of social programs. Where are the people that are on these social programs? They’re in the cities! So the left is confident that in a popular vote system that they’ll have more power. Of those 50 cities, how many were in California? 8. There were 8 cities that account for 9,066,724 votes. These 8 cities in California account for over 10% of the votes needed to win the presidency. And they’re all in one small area. The electoral college allows the states with fewer people to be competitive with the larger states… in theory (swing states are still a thing whether we like it or not).

To be clear, I’m not saying that the current system is perfect, but I do believe that it is better than one based on pure popular vote. I’m not suggesting any alternative method. I’m just asking you to reconsider your outrage when it comes to popular vote and the electoral college. That’ll be it from me, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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The Electoral College and Popular Vote

Debate or Debait?

I guess I better publish this one because I’m running out of time. The debate is tomorrow and the East Coasters I expect to read this are probably going to bed like… now. I’m wary of the upcoming democratic debate in New York. I believe that both Sanders and Clinton should be as well. Ultimately, I feel that the debate will be inconsequential. Why? Let me explain.

Let’s examine Clinton first. Clinton has been hit very hard in these debates and town halls with questions that have no “good” answer. One striking example that I remember is a death penalty question she received a while back (source). For those that do not wish to watch the video, I’ll paraphrase the question. The person asks, “How do you still hold your stance on the death penalty, knowing that there have been many cases of innocent people getting killed for crimes that they did not commit”. She makes it clear in her response that she only approves of it at the federal level for a very select subset of crimes. But she justified her answer. She justified her support of the death penalty,and props to her for standing for her position instead of taking the weasel way out and saying that she’s changed her mind. People seem to get especially touchy at the thought of a death penalty, which makes this a loaded question. You know, that might be a topic for another death. The death penalty debate is rather… interesting. A primary criticism is that you can unjail a person but you can’t undead a person. While true (at this point in time *fingers crossed*) it seems irrelevant because you can’t give the time in prison back either. The individual asking the question had spent 39 years in prison. They missed the prime of their life. I can only hope that whatever compensation they received (if any) made up for their lost time. You can’t undo the psychological damage that they may have sustained either. But we’re getting off topic. The /r/Politics subreddit and their Sanders bias loves to come up with questions which put Clinton into a very difficult moral position (but Sanders can do no wrong). I would not be surprised if some of them get aired. It’s not like Clinton hasn’t given them plenty to work with.

However, none of this is my problem with the debates. Or perhaps they are, but only tangentially. My problem is that these questions seem designed to elucidate some aspect of Clinton’s characters, some aspect of their moral standing. It’s airing dirty laundry. Maybe the public cares about dirty laundry, and that’s why they want these questions asked? Personally, I don’t. If people listen to her policy responses, most of them sound fair, if not moderate. But since debates turn into Benghazi 2: Electric Boogaloo, we don’t get to see that. At least, not as much as we’d like.

Now let’s talk Sanders. Sanders has had a low impact on me since debate 3 or so. Why? Understand that I watch debates online because Alaskan time zone not always conducive to watching these debates and town halls. Sometimes when it comes to Sanders, I can’t remember if I’ve seen this one before. Maybe it’s intentional to get the message across, but Sanders has said the same stump sound bites in every debate. He could walk on, say “We need to get the big money out of politics,” walk off, and the same net work would be done for a much lower cost. With very few exceptions, he will always return to this. Two hour debates (airtime), one hour per candidate, and he can’t get his mind off of big businesses. What I want from Sanders is for him to make this a new debate. Give me, and the other undecided voters a reason to pick you over Clinton that doesn’t go back to banks and big corporations.

If this debate is ultimately another regular debate, it will be a waste of time. Clinton will have to defend herself from a barrage of attacks (none of which center on policy), while Sanders will sit pretty. If this is another repeat debate, it’s no wonder Clinton would object to having it. All of these debates are just attacks on her and Sanders gets no kind of interrogation. If the eye is supposed to be on both candidates, why does only one get scrutinized? It’s just a bait to get Clinton out in the open to attack her once more. It’s unfair. And I think that it’s weird how an “issues based campaign” isn’t objecting to attacks on character rather than attacks on policy. Who cares about the transcripts? The transcripts don’t tell me anything about how you plan to address the Middle East. Okay, the fracking might have some issues, but why must you attack so many jobs at once in the name of the environment? Why is nuclear energy off the table? This is just my take on the possible debate, and I hope it exceeds expectations.

Artemis Hunt

Debate or Debait?