|FROM ||Rick Moen
|SUBJECT ||Re: [Hangout-NYLXS] Serious danger to state sovereignty and your
|Quoting Ruben Safir (ruben-at-mrbrklyn.com):
> Serious danger to state sovereignty and your right to have your vote count
I'll just repost here what I said elsewhere:
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2016 12:26:17 -0800
From: Rick Moen
Subject: Re: [skeptic] Rural and urban divide
Quoting James H.G. Redekop:
> I also wonder if the result would have been the same if every state
> used the Maine & Nebraska approach to distributing Electoral Votes.
> Interesting development: Maine has just voted to start using
> instant-runoff ranked-choice voting for Senate, Congress, Governor,
> State Senate, and State Rep elections.
Also encouraging is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
implemented under the Constitution's Compact Clause (Article I, section
10, clause 3):
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of
Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any
Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or
engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as
will not admit of delay.
Now, reading that, you would correctly read that as _banning_ compacts
among the states without Congressional approval, but the US Supreme
Court in Virginia v. Tennessee, 148 U.S. 503 (1893) clarified that the
Compact Clause requires congressional consent only if the agreement
among the states is "directed to the formation of any combination
tending to the increase of political power in the States, which may
encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United
Ten states plus D.C. have ratifief the National Popular Vote Interstate
Compact, constituting so far 165 electoral votes (61.1% of the 270 votes
at which point it would activate and have legal force). The Compact
states that the signatory states agree that, in any year where their
combined electoral votes constitute an Electoral College majority, they
agree to cast _all_ of their Electoral College votes for the nationwide
popular vote presidential/VP winners.
The problem, as usual, has been getting states who benefit from the
present embarrassingly distortive system to agree to join -- 'red'
states and swing states that get disproportionate power and funds from
the present skewed system. In that regard, the Electoral College
distortion is as addictive as gerrymandering, voter suppression tactics,
lifetime disenfranchisement of former felons, the Three-Fifths
Compromise, poll taxes, and voter literacy tests -- all of those being
thumbs on the national scales.
Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the California Legislature's
ratification of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in 2007,
on the insultingly obvious specious grounds that 'it could require their
states' electoral votes to be awarded to a candidate who did not win a
majority in their state', one of the times IMO when Der Gubernator most
let the state down. (This was a bullshit sleight-of-hand objection
because, under a national popular vote system, state-level majorities
are irrelevant: In any state, votes cast contribute to the nationwide
tally, which determines the winner. The preferences of individual
voters are thus paramount, while state-level majorities are an obsolete
intermediary measure.) However, current Governor Jerry Brown signed it
when the current Legislature ratified it again in 2011.
California is also _among_ the states that have adopted pretty-good
solutions to ending gerrymandering, via a Citizens Redistricting
that starting in 2008 has had sovereign power to redraw districts after
each decennial census and consists by law of five Democrats, five
Republicans, and four commissioners from neither major party. Arizona
has a basically identical setup, adopted in 2000.
21 states use some variant of this process for either just state
legislature districts or those plus US House of Representatives
districts, preventing incumbents from putting their thumbs on the
California also adopted in 2010 a unique 'Top-Two Primary' system
(http://www.independentvoterproject.org/top_two_primary) to prevent the
_political parties_ putting their thumbs on the scales. This has
likewise been helpful in eliminating partisan divides and keeping the
_parties_ from putting their thumbs on the scale.
But then we have the states that still think 1820 was a really good
year, and keep trying to go back.
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2016 13:51:51 -0800
From: Rick Moen
Subject: Re: [skeptic] Rural and urban divide
Quoting Michael D. Sofka:
> I had not heard about this before, and leads me to yet another
> scenario we haven't seen, but which at this point would not surprise
> me. Imagine the Electoral Collage and popular vote go for one
> candidate, but the result is close enough that one of the states,
> whose legislator and governor are from the other party, pass a bill
> directing a slate of electors for their own party, overturning the
> decision. Not possible? Florida's legislator was threatening to do
> just that in 2000 should the recount lead to a Gore victory in the
Yes. It's _always_ been the case that a state's slate of electors can be
pawns of its legislature and governor, completely ignoring the will of
the state's voters (unless of course they rise up and carry out an
improbably rapid recall election).
And all of this is because the Founding Fathers were dealing with some
pretty skeevy political compromises that were inherent in the politics
of their day, _and_ also really didn't have a lot of faith in their
system _and_ were frankly petrified of democracy.
If you can find Season 1, Episode 7 of 'Adam Ruins Everything' with
Adam Conover, the episode entitled 'Adam Ruins Voting', you might find
that a delightful explanation of that entire historical background.
Trutv.com, alas, hosts the episodes for free online streaming only for
30 days, but perhaps here:
(Most of these 'free' video streaming sites are pretty skeevy. Expect
popunders and other sorts of sleaze.) Much better, it can be torrented:
The one-hour Election Special is available for streaming, and is a hoot:
...but only if you're a customer of a qualifying cable television provider.
For the rest of us:
> The electoral college as constituted could not perform it's original
> intent. All it can do is thwart the majority, which it has done
> twice now in recent elections.
Yes. And _if_ you are talling all occasions over US history
(as opposed to just recently) when majority intent was foiled by the
Electoral College, then four times.
Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2016 11:25:02 -0800
From: Rick Moen
Subject: Re: [skeptic] FW.....electoral votes
Quoting Terry W. Colvin), citing Lou Shanley:
> Just to give an update- - the founding fathers created the electoral
> college and delegate votes to keep the election process fair and
No, they created the Electoral College because they really didn't trust
democracy very much, because a national public election running from
Vermont to Georgia wasn't feasible in the era of horse and buggy, and so
that the slave states could have a thumb on the scales called the
> it's removing the democratic process which is based on an honest
> majority, which we all know is nearly impossible, especially today.
No, it _used_ to be impossible, back in 1787. It's extremely possible
_today_, except that the Electoral College, disenfranchisement of former
felons for life (which is literally a surviving portion of the Jim Crow
laws and exists for the same purpose), disenfranchisement of half a
million D.C. voters in Congressional elections, and chickenshit
voter-suppression tactics prevent it.
> The smaller and less populated states needed a voice to be heard and
> so this republic developed the electoral college.
I think Lou forgot to add, 'and the more slaves a state had'.
> It was advised wisely by founding fathers that all citizens cast their
> vote and the delegates will represent your voice
I think Lou forgot to say 'all white, male, adult citizens who own real
estate and absolutely no others'.
> As a former poll watcher who overlooked the workers and supervisors, I
> can attest to corruption taking place at polling places.
You know why this is so incredibly rare in the 21st Century (albeit
it was common in particular local areas through most of the 20th)?
Because it's a major felony.
If your state or county is so very lawless that major felonies aren't
prosecuted, then indeed you will have corrupt elections (as was still
common in some parts of the USA though the 1960s), but you also have a
lot bigger problems.
But here's the thing that gets me about logic like Lou Shanley's, Terry:
Let's assume that you live in a state where the electoral officials and
local/state law enforcement authorities are so corrupt and slipshod that
massive voting fraud goes deliberately unprosecuted. OK, we're now
running with that assumption. _Given_ that, how on God's green earth
does Lou reach the conclusion that the state electors, personally
nominated by the state's corrupt power elites and then selected by
statewide popular vote administered by the aforementioned corrupt
electoral officials who are distorting the vote, are going to be an
improvement and 'not a perfect system, but right now it is the best'?
Because the electors are coated in special Founding Father sauce? I
really don't think so. If Lou is arguing that his state's popular vote
was corrupted, then his state's selection of electors was therefore also
corrupted, because the first picked the second.
Why is this so difficult for Lou to figure out? Perhaps, because he
doesn't want to?
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2016 21:29:28 -0800
From: Rick Moen
Subject: (forw) The Electoral College thing
Rob Walker is a friend and former co-worker here in the S.F. Bay Area,
whom I worked with at VA Linux Systems, and who comes from a very
conservative family in rural Idaho and Montana. At a gathering
recently, he hit me with a startling assertion that dropping the
Electoral College would lead to 'the French Revolution'. Being somewhat
taken by surprise, even after unpacking his meaning I said merely 'That
bears some thinking over.'
So, I'm getting back to him.
----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen -----
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2016 21:00:33 -0800
From: Rick Moen
To: Rob Walker
Subject: The Electoral College thing
Organization: If you lived here, you'd be $HOME already.
You kind of took my by surprise with the polite question about whether
popular election of US Pres/VP wouldn't tend towards 'French
Revolution', i.e., effete liberal city-dwellers running roughshod
over decent rural conservatives.
There's a very, very legitimate question about how best to structure
the election to balance interests. But I don't go around forming and
expressing opinions on things that _simply aren't going to happen_.
Thing is, whoever are in power always want to keep the Electoral College,
for the simple reason that they won. If you say to a politician of the
winning faction 'Congratulations on your victory. Now, how would you
like to amend away the voting system that put you in office?', your
answer will always be some form of 'no'. Hence, the idea is always
appealing only with a currently _losing_ faction, hence it never
Hence, I don't spend time thinking about it, because it won't happen.
I care only about real-world politics, not about fantasy-world politics.
To directly address the idea that the Electoral College prevents
domination by big cities, actually, no it doesn't necessarily do that at
all. Imagine the following 11 states' electoral votes all choosing one
New York, 29
North Carolina, 15
New Jersey, 14
That's 270 electoral votes: Those 11 _urban_ states can completely
ignore what the other 39 states + DC want. Now, those _are_ the states
with most Electoral College votes, but also exactly the states
containing most significant US cities.
Those 11 aren't likely to agree, but the point is that if they do, the
Electoral College _is_ what would give the huge cities in them control
over the election. So, the assumption in your question was mistaken:
Nothing about the Electoral College is guaranteed to protect the rights
of rural states, or small states, or less-populated states, or
conservative states. It could make the opposite happen, in fact.
That aside, I recommend these very entertaining videos on the subject
by CGP Grey, especially #3:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wC42HgLA4k (6 mins, 30 secs)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcZTTB10_Vo (21 secs)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3wLQz-LgrM (4 mins, 42 secs)
The third is a slight correction to the other two. In the first one,
he had defined population of a 'city' by whoever's in the city limits,
which is plainly not quite right: One needs to consider metro areas.
So, he did, in the third video. (As he notes, this is made complex by
some metro areas crossing state lines, as with NYC metro extending
Worth your time. Grey is interesting even when he's off-target -- and
even his uncorrected first video makes thoughtful points.
E.g., he points out that this equally unlikely but _possible_ edge case
of a voter alliance _also_ tops 270: the aforementioned 'other 39
states plus DC' (if you add New Jersey).
Consider what happens if 50% plus 1 voters in each of these 40 places
(and also 50% plus 1 vote in New Jersey) ever all vote for a single
Wyoming, 3. District of Columbia, 3. Vermont, 3. North Dakota, 3.
Alaska, 3. South Dakota, 3. Delaware, 3. Montana, 3. Rhode Island, 4.
New Hampshire, 4. Maine, 4. Hawaii, 4. Idaho, 4. Nevada, 4.
West Virginia, 5. New Mexico, 5. Nebraska, 6. Utah, 6. Kansas, 6.
Arkansas, 6. Mississippi, 6. Iowa, 6. Connecticut, 7.
Oklahoma, 7. Oregon, 7. Kentucky, 8. Louisiana, 8. South Carolina, 9.
Alabama, 9. Colorado, 9. Minnesota, 10. Wisconsin, 10. Maryland, 10.
Missouri, 10. Tennessee, 11. Arizona, 11. Indiana, 11. Massachusetts, 11.
Washington, 12. Virginia, 13. New Jersey, 14.
That's 281 Electoral College votes -- but, as Grey points out, involves
only 21.91% of the popular vote: Less than 1/4 of the votes cast can nail
the Presidency -- because of the Electoral College. That's certainly
not right, either.
The difficult way to change it is a constitutional amendment, which
won't work because 2/3 of each house of Congress won't pass it. Even if
that happened, or a constitutional convention called by 2/3 of the
states approved one by a 2/3 supermajority, the required ratification
by 3/4 of the states wouldn't approve it. Because politics.
The easier way is a state compact, such as
which would take effect if states comprising a majority of Electoral
College votes (currently 270) approved it. Ten states plus DC have,
comprising 165 Electoral College votes, have approved it -- but it
is pointless until there's 270, which won't happen, because politics.
So, short answer: Electing Presidents by popular vote constituting a
threat to conservatives, rural people, etc. is pure fantasy because
(1) switching to popular vote wouldn't necessarily empower urban liberals
anyway (the opposite can happen), (2) urbanites already _can_ control
such a election via Electoral College given the right state alliance,
and (3) anyway, the USA _won't_ switch, because politics.
 Of the USA's 30 biggest urban areas, that 11 state list misses only
Washington, DC (spread across DC, MD, and VA), Boston, Phoenix/Mesa,
Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver/Aurora, Baltimore, St. Louis (the
part that's in MO, but not the part in IL), Las Vegas/Henderson, and
----- End forwarded message -----
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2016 14:41:06 -0800
From: Rick Moen
Subject: Re: [skeptic] More from the state of fruits and nuts...
Quoting Garrison Hilliard:
[posting somebody's well-stated critique of clickbait site The
Federalist Papers's Dec. 18 story 'Hillary's Popular Vote Win Came
ENTIRELY from California']
I don't have a lot to add, except that I checked the figures about that
1.4 million, and it's correctly calculated.
Popular vote totals from The Cook Political Report are handy (unless you
really want to glean the figures from all 51 official sources, which is
what Cook Political Report worker David Wasserman did).
California's official figures, from Secretary of State Alex Padilla's
Dec. 16, 2016 Statement of Vote:
Based on that, let's subtract California's votes from the nationwide
totals. Then we get:
Nationwide without CA:
Trump's theoretical popular-vote margin in a United States without
California would thus have been indeed 1.4 million.
Garrison's unidentified critique source said:
> But that's not how it works. And -- as he has said many time -- if Donald
> Trump was campaigning for the popular vote, rather than the electoral vote,
> he would have campaigned much differently.
I don't think any amount of campaigning in California would have gotten
him anywhere near half of that 4.3 million vote shortfall. FWIW, the
existing vote split mirrors party-preference registration in the state,
pretty much exactly.
And New York state knows Trump far too well to think he's a credible
candidate for national office, which is basically why he crashed and
burned in that state's tallies.
> The purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent regional candidates
> from dominating national elections...
I'm not sure Garrison's unidentified source is really arguing this
point, because the remainder of the piece appears to undermine it, so
maybe this was supposed to ba part of what the Federalist Papers
clickbait article said?
But let's address it directly.
The _original_ purpose of the Electoral College was partly to give slave
states a thumb on the scales (3/5ths Compromise), but mostly to work
around the practical impossibility of a national election across
thirteen 18th Century ex-colonies with 18th Century transportation and
communication -- and also frankly as a gesture of extreme doubt about
the wisdom of democracy at all, which was quite understandable given
their situation in 1787.
For well over a century, it's had no purpose except to introduce
weirdly random effects on the presidential election. Before the 2000s,
there was a long period when those weird effects happen not to have
manifested, so people forgot about the potential, but it was always
Neither Clinton nor Trump in any way qualifies as a 'regional
candidate', having broad support across the country albeit with
interesting lumpiness. A 'regional candidate' would be someone like
Evan McMullin. And, here's the thing, Garrison: Nothing about the
Electoral College guarantees that candidates with popularity in big
liberal-leaning states like California and New York cannot dominate the
election. It all depends on how accidental state alliances fall. E.g.,
I pointed out that if the 11 most urban states all pick the same
candidate, that candidate wins in the Electoral College.
Here's a scenario where 'regional candidate' Evan McMullin could have
been handed the Presidency _by_ the Electoral College:
Step 1. 37 or more electors pledged to Trump/Pence, in a fit of buyer's
remorse, cast their Pres. votes for someone (anyone) else, depriving him
of 270. Meanwhile, at least enough electors pledge to either or both
slate vote to ensure that McMullin gets the third-highest number of
clectoral votes for Pres.
Step 2. Congress meets on Jan. 6th, and the House of Representatives
holds a 'contingent election' per the Twelfth Amendment to pick the
President from among the three top vote-getters. Each state has one
vote per round, and 26 votes are required to win. If the House followed
the example of the only other time this happened, it would meet in
closed session, and only states for whom a majority of the delegation
agree would be permitted to cast that state's vote. They could easily
decide to jettison both major party candidates and pick McMullin, and
nobody outside the House chamber would even have a firm idea of which
26 or more states opted for the ex-spook from Utah.
This is only the beginning of the weirdness the Electoral College (not
to mention the 12th Amendment 'contingent election' fallback) could and
may in the future bring about.
Anyway, no real point arguing about the stupidity of the Electoral
College system and its Twelfth Amendment fallback. For reasons of
practical politics, as I pointed out separately, we're stuck with them
for the foreseeable future.
> There is some validity to pointing out that the 2016 election is an
> exemplar of a modern trend that generally sees Democratic candidates
> tending to receive large numbers of votes from densely-populated
> metropolitan areas in states such as New York and California, while
> Republican candidates tend to collect votes from geographically larger but
> less populated portions of the country -- one of the main factors behind
> this election's disparity between the popular vote (which Clinton won) and
> the electoral vote that actually decides the election (which Trump won).
> This phenomenon could be viewed as a positive, that our electoral system
> requires winning presidential candidates to have broad national support and
> not just rack up huge margins in a relatively small number of
> high-population centers. On the other hand, some argue that our government
> should represent people and not geography, and therefore the location of
> voters should be irrelevant.
Yes, it's a legitimate question, and not an easy one, about how to
appropriately balance interests.
One thing the unidentified source misses is something else I've
mentioned before, the additionally distortive effect of the
Apportionment Act of 1911
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apportionment_Act_of_1911), which still
In order to implement the effect of the decennial census on each state's
number of House of Representatives members, Congress needed to approve
an algorithm to convert the raw census numbers into seat counts, and
it's gone through several such algorithms. One of the issues is what to
do about fractional seats. The 1911 revision rounds them _up_.
The effect of this change has been to put a small but significant thumb
on the scale for small and less-populated states, making the votes of
their residents count more than they should.
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