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In Our World We the People

No Wonder We Suck

Nearly half of all Americans believe that the civil liberties of Muslim Americans should be restricted. Now, the article doesn’t mention which liberties should be restricted, and it also doesn’t mention if it’s only the liberties of Muslim Americans. After all, if the poll asked about restricting the freedoms of all Americans, it would include the Muslim count, yes? But I suspect that it was aimed specifically at this group.

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We the People

Money Matters

Are you concerned about terrorism? I don’t mean in a general, worldwide, sort of way. I mean on a regular, even daily, basis. I know I’m not. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think there is any reason for concern (so no need to prove me wrong, Osama). It simply means that, on a daily basis, I don’t think that the activities in which I engage are particularly good targets for terrorism. And if I should happen to be on a plane or train, or perhaps even a boat or a car, and become a victim of terrorism? Then perhaps I should have been more concerned and you can all stick out your tongues at me.

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We the People

Veterans and Liberty

Today is Veterans Day in the US. This day is set aside to remember all those who have served – according to the page above, those who have served honorably – in wartime or peacetime, even if they are still living. If you want to remember those who died serving, you want Memorial Day instead.

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We the People

Political Affiliation

Okay, so it’s been a week and you’re jonesing for your political fix. Of course, there are certain exceptions – many people are getting theirs from last week’s results that still haven’t been resolved. Nonetheless, so that you can be practiced for the next time around, whenever it may happen, here are some political sites to entertain you.

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We the People

Who Did we Elect?

There are plenty of voting problems in North Carolina, but they nearly pale in comparison to those in Santa Ana (California). Apparently the voters there elected a near-unknown to a position on the school board. Steve Rocco had apparently failed in at least two previous political campaigns (though not for the same position).

Personally, I think this is cool. A candidate who spent nothing, showed up nowhere and actually won? What will those crazy Californians do next? Surely they realize that if this keeps up, there’s going to be a few hundred million in spare change sitting around come the next presidential election, since it’s apparently not important to advertise!

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We the People

Disconnected Reality

It seems that Tuesday’s voting saw many bond issues across the nation receive approval from those voting on them. This isn’t really a surprise – many people will vote for spending on roads or parks or schools. What I don’t get is that people don’t seem to make the connection between higher spending and higher taxes.

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We the People

Internet Voting

So the commander of the space station can vote via email. I realize that votes via email aren’t necessarily the best method for transmitting data. But if this guy gets to vote via email just because he’s in space, how come we all can’t do it?

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We the People

Apportioning Example

As previously mentioned, California has 55 electoral votes. That’s a huge number, and while California certainly doesn’t want to give up the massive power that such a voting bloc represents, there are a huge number of people in that state who are effectively without a voice, because the state has decided to award all of their Electoral College votes to a single candidate.

Maine and Nebraska have systems for apportioning their votes between candidates, if the need should arise. It apparently didn’t last night, but that’s irrelevant. The states have become flexible enough that they are able to do so it that’s what the residents want. Colorado also considered such an initiative last night, but it failed. No matter – at least they considered it. I suspect that, as with most ballot initiatives, it wasn’t particularly well explained to those who were voting on it.

In any case, let’s look at an example if Calfornia should decide to apportion their votes based on the will of the people. The only problem that I have in this first example is that I’m not aware of any map that shows voting results by congressional districts. CNN, however, does offer reults showing voting by county, so I’ll use those here. However, California appears to have 58 counties and only 53 congressional districts, so I will throw out two counties from each candidate, as well as one county for the candidate with the most counties.

Using this method, George W. Bush would receive 34 electoral votes (with victories in 37 counties), and John Kerry would receive 19 (21), based on congressional districts alone. Kerry would then receive the two senatorial electoral votes because he was the winner of the popular vote, for a total of 21. So instead of Kerry receiving all 55 votes, he would receive 21 votes and Bush would receive 34.

After thinking on it some more, I think that the division of electoral votes based on the popular vote results is a better method, as it more closely resembles the will of the people as a whole. Theoretically, you could end up with congressional districts of just a couple of people that is otherwise equal to a congressional district of millions.

So using that method, if you allocated those votes based on the popular vote (Bush 44%, Kerry 55%), Bush would receive 24 votes and Kerry 31, which would appear to more accurately reflect the will of the voters in California.

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We the People

Changing the Electoral College

All in all, our electoral college is not an inherently bad system, though Thomas Jefferson may have disagreed with that statement (calling the process a blot in our Constitution). But while the idea may have been a good one when written, it may not best serve our needs now.

At the time the constitution was written – and even amended – the population of the states was reasonably well apportioned. Naturally some states had higher populations than others, so they’ve never been completely equal – but they were at least closer than they are now. Fast forward to today and take a look at California, with it’s 55 electoral votes. Fifty-five! That’s nearly one-fifth of the majority currently needed to secure the presidency through the electoral college.

Yet as in most states, the popular vote winner in the state gets them all. It seems strange to me that arbitrary state boundaries should hold such sway in this system. I don’t fault the electoral college system itself, or the framers of our Constitution for creating it. I do fault the current crop of career politicians who don’t do anything about it.

The electors in any given state number the same as the representatives from that state and the senators from that state combined. In Maine, they have 4 electoral votes that they do not necessarily distribute all at once to a single candidate. Their votes are given based on the winner in each congressional district (the winner in each district receives that district’s vote) and the final 2 votes are given to the popular vote winner. This could result in as many as three different candidates receiving votes from Maine (though that has apparently never happened) and makes all sorts of sense.

If you want to change the system, start with your state. It’s certainly not a priority to politicians on the national stage, but at the state level, it can happen. In fact, in this year’s elections, Colorado voted on the issue (it appears to have failed rather badly). Their proposal was to allocate votes on a ratio of the popular vote – I prefer Maine’s model, but the details are not terribly important. I like that people are at least consdering their options. What is important is to get involved.

Elected politicians are our representatives, and they can’t fix something if they don’t know that it’s broken. And perhaps more importantly, if they don’t have anything to fix, they’ll find something to fix for us, and no one wants that.

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We the People

Our Electoral College

Many people ask why we have the electoral college these days, what with the ability to quickly count the popular vote and all. Well, within our system of government, created by the Constitution of the United States, we elect the president through the electoral college rather than by popular vote (Article II, Section 1, Clause 3). This can of course be changed by amending the Constitution, but it hasn’t happened yet – and doing so is a challenging process.

It’s only speculation on my part why the Constitution is written this way, but I’d suspect that it was pretty difficult to gather the popular vote in those days. Allowing different congressional districts to vote on their elector, and have their elector cast their vote, made more sense. This is probably not much of an issue if the popular vote matches the electoral college vote. But let’s face it – that doesn’t always happen.

In 1824, John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson in the presidential campaign, yet Adams won neither the popular vote nor the electoral college vote (see the preceding clause 3, as well as amendments XII and XX, for how this can happen). In 1876, Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote but Rutherford B. Hayes won the electoral college vote (by a single elector, in a disputed count!). The same thing happened in 1888 when Benjamin Harrison defeated incumbent Grover Cleveland in the electoral college vote but lost the popular vote (Cleveland returned and reclaimed the presidency in 1892).

Things quieted down until the year 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 500 thousand votes over George W. Bush, but lost in the electoral college. As I write this, the 2004 election holds the possibility – remote, but possible nonetheless – of the opposite happening, with John Kerry hoping to unseat Bush in a reverse of what happened 4 years ago. We may not know for a while yet.