Lessig wants to fix the electoral college

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/10/13/proportionality.html

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The USSC is not going to magically rescue the situation.

Half of them are fascists, and the swing vote is a fool. They are traditionally a regressive, politically-driven institution, and the current bench is amongst the worst the court has ever seen.


How about we just give Puerto Ricans the right to vote since nobody (including the president) seems to believe they are citizens?


Yes, while we’re at it, can we get something like at least 1 voting representative in the house and 1 elector for each US territory and DC? (How could that actually be done? If all states agree to change their electoral college policy, then it doesn’t require an amendment, but adding representation probably does?)


Sure there is. Our votes are not actually votes. They are merely suggestions to our secret leaders in the electoral college.


While the GOP has benefited most from this sorry situation, the Dem establishment has also blocked this change. The time is long past due for national standards on proportional allocation of electoral votes (per the op-ed) and on accountability for Electors (currently they can vote as they want in some states, popular results be damned). Reform will also open the door for other badly needed federal standards for the popular vote: weekend election days or a bank holiday, guidelines for voting machines, etc.


It’s one of the bedrock principles, that’s existed since the founding of the USA.

To quote Alexander Hamilton, “A small number of persons selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an investigation.”

But Lessig and Painter, despite my historical nitpicking, are right about what needs to happen. Fixing the electoral college is absolutely necessary, and instead of making it less effective, it should be restored to its original function, by removing the “winner take all” nonsense and restoring proportionality.


I’m a big fan of Lessing and normally agree with him, but here, not so much.

Nothing wrong with “fixing” the electoral college, save for the fact that its a red herring. The problem isn’t in the electoral college; it’s in the electorate.


Indeed, the intent of the framers was that the electors would make their own choices, but in today’s system, those choices are constrained by state legislatures and state party leaders. So what happens is that there is not one national election but fifty separate state elections, and the result is like gerrymandering–the idea is to create safe, partisan districts. Our political parties don’t want to change that system, because then they’d have to run real national campaigns for president, and compete for every vote.


That’s one approach. The other option is to say that electoral college votes go to the winner of the popular vote. I suppose by this argument it also disenfranchises some people, although it would presumably lead to the same ultimate outcome. Several states have already agreed to proportion their electoral college votes to the popular vote winner. The agreement kicks in once enough states have signed on that it would actually effect the election.

Of course, fixing the electoral college only fixes the election of the president. Gerrymandering leads to distorted representation in Congress and at the state level as well, which in a normal world where our president isn’t an unstable sociopath, effects people far more than who the president is does.


Or we could get rid of the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 and add 200 reps to the House in order to bring down the batshit insane 700k constituents per Rep to a more reasonable level. Most industrialized countries are in the 100-200k range. If we had had an extra 200 Reps, Gore would have won.


Oh wow, nobody’s ever proposed to reform the electoral college before! At least, not in the last few months. But nobody ever proposes a way around the problem of entrenched power, except Robespierre.


And Gandhi.


Yep. On the other hand they’d love to dissolve the Electoral College, because then they could just campaign in five or six large cities, completely ignoring the concerns of the nation as a whole. It would tremendously simplify campaigns if they only had to pander and lie to the urban populace!

Lessig and Painter are right, winner-takes-all-electors is very harmful, we need to fix the electoral college, not eliminate it.

I fear that you are right and hope that you are wrong, y’know? But that’s why I tend to direct my political dollars and hours towards fixing American education… I figure it wouldn’t hurt to have the next generation of the electorate get a little more schooling.


It would also be helpful if we collectively banned from politics the people who have created this situation, and worked to keep it in place.


This is why I have so little sympathy for the “what will happen to the little states if we elect the President via popular vote??” argument. If you’re a voter living in Wyoming you have more than 67 times as much influence in the Senate than a voter in California does. So screw your “we shouldn’t let the majority of the country decide who gets to be President” whining.

If the electoral college makes sense for Democracy why don’t we see it in any other kinds of elections? I’ve never seen anyone propose that their state uses an electoral college system to decide who is elected Governor. Surely the same logic that dictates “you shouldn’t be able to win the office just by courting the large population centers” should apply to rural counties vs. big cities within the same state?


To say there’s only one problem is, in itself, colossal rounding error


Of course, the small states would hate that. If you were to make it so that each district was no larger than what was, say, equal to the population of Wyoming, Wyoming would still have one, and CA and NY would gain seats. Making a representational system actually representational would dilute their standing.


I have no idea how Lessig intends to prove that the Electoral College – baked right there in the Constitution – is trumped by other provisions of US law. I mean, if you want to try to amend the Constitution – or perhaps work up an interstate compact – then, knock yourself out. But a lawsuit just doesn’t seem to have any purchase at all on this point.

Also, I’m perfectly happy for Wyoming to have 67x the influence in the Senate than does California per capita, because it’s not suppose to represent the population of WY or CA, but the interests of state itself. While the 17th Amendment changed the process for electing Senators, it didn’t change what they’re supposed to do when they get there. If California wants to cut herself up into some more manageable sized chunks, they can seek to do that. I’d be delighted to decamp to the State of Jefferson (aka West Virginia-by-the-Sea).