Brad's Books and Organizations

Books

Books

Organizations

Organizations

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

« swipe left for tags/categories

swipe right to go back »

A New Approach To The US Election Process

Comments (35)

Amy and I were talking about the election process during our vacation.  Both of us dislike the electoral college process and have concluded that the cycle is way too long, the primaries are stupid, and the amount of money being spent is totally obscene.  We are also deeply tired of all of the endless partisan crap.

So I came up with a new process.  How’s this?

  • There is one election.  No primaries.  No parties.  As many people can enter as they’d like.
  • The winner is whomever gets over 50% of the votes.
  • The election is a multi-day process.  On day one, all voters vote from the entire pool of candidates.  If someone gets more than 50% of the votes they win.  If no one gets > 50%, then anyone with > 10% of the votes gets to be on the ballot for day two.  Repeat – this time only people that get > 20% of the votes get to be on the ballot on day 3.  If day 3 doesn’t have a winner, the ballot is now between anyone with > 30% of the votes.  Yes – there’s a slight risk that no one will get over the minimum threshold on day 1, but assuming someone does, it should work. 
  • The winner of the most popular votes is president.  #2 is vice president.

It needs more work, but you get the idea. 

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_irel49311 steve_irel49311

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the “strategic” voting aspect i.e. the ones that lose don't enjoy throwing their support behind the person that just beat them. That's exactly what happened in 2006 in Alberta when Stelmach (a virtual unknown even by the media) with only 15% of the vote ended up winning with 58% – three rounds – one day http://is.gd/39mA

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_irel49311 steve_irel49311

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the "strategic" voting aspect i.e. the ones that lose don't enjoy throwing their support behind the person that just beat them. That's exactly what happened in 2006 in Alberta when Stelmach (a virtual unknown even by the media) with only 15% of the vote ended up winning with 58% – three rounds – one day http://is.gd/39mA

  • http://www.ashimmy.com alan shimel

    Brad the guy with the second most votes is the VP is what we used to have back in the time of Adams and Jefferson and it was a disaster. Under a pure popular vote scenario a state like California could single handedly just about elect a president. The electoral college serves a purpose, it just needs to be tweaked, not thrown out.

    • Anthony

      Interesting – a couple of comments – in australia voting is mandatory, you live there so you should have to vote – not unlike jury duty…

      2. Electronic voting – vote a library or at home – instant and accurate – no Florida recounts till you get the answer you want…

  • http://herd.theodore.nordsieck.net nordsieck

    What you are describing is an inefficient, slightly buggy version of instant runoff voting.

  • http://www.tnl.net/blog Tristan Louis

    Brad,

    That's the way it works in France (the 50% and multiple turns). Also, you should make sure that election day is a national holiday so that everyone can vote.

  • http://herd.theodore.nordsieck.net nordsieck

    As far as “partisan crap” and “totally obscene” amounts of money go, as long as the government is a patronage system (military contracts one one side, university research grants on the other), it is economically rational to try to capture the decision making process.

    As the “War on Drugs” has shown, attempts to curtail economically rational activity is difficult at best.

  • Rick Gregory

    Sure… if you want to elect people who are well known. Because that's what happens in systems where you shorten the cycle too much and eliminate primaries. You favor the well-known candidates who can raise a lot of money initially. Bill Clinton might well not have been President and it's very likely Obama would not be the nominee this year.

    The problem with the length of the cycle is that the media tries to crown a nominee based on the first couple of primaries, so you need to campaign for a while before those to make sure you show well… then you have to slog though the others. And, usually, the primary cycle is meaningless after about March 1 as the nominee is almost always decided by then… but you still need to hold all of the rest of them even though they mean nothing.

    Another way to solve this is to mandate regional primaries separated by, say, 2-3 weeks. The cycle starts on March 1 and is over by June 1. This STILL favors known candidates though and I think we benefit by letting lesser known candidates emerge somehow.

    • garth

      Well, it might make sure we get people elected who are well known for real issues and accompishments, rather than how slick they can manipulate through the primaries. I don't think the primaries build any kind of meaningful notoriety for us about the candidates

      • http://muchosalsa.com/blog David

        I don't think it increases the odds that people who are well known for real issues and accomplishments get elected. Stop after “well known”. The reason for their popularity is probably not going to be intelligence.

  • Steve Ireland

    We use a similar process up here in Canada for choosing the party leaders…it's basically over in a day; like watching a movie.

    “The party delegates vote secretly and individually. No additional names may be placed in nomination once the voting has begun, and the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped after each ballot until one candidate has won a clear majority of the votes cast. If no majority winner is declared on one ballot, voting resumes straight away on the next.”

    “The effect of the rules is to force many delegates and candidates in multi-ballot conventions to reconsider their options and to vote for a candidate on later ballots other than their most preferred one on the first ballot. This promotes “strategic” voting on successive ballots, and prompts most candidates who withdraw or are gradually eliminated from the race to “throw their support” on the convention floor behind an erstwhile opponent.”

    >> can't seem to add a second comment so I'll add to this one…

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the “strategic” voting aspect i.e. the ones that lose don't throw their support behind the person that just beat them. That's exactly what happened in 2006 in Alberta when Stelmach (a virtual unknown even by the media) with only 15% of the vote ended up winning with 58% – three rounds – one day http://is.gd/39mA

    • Chip Schooler

      This is how the U.S. ended up with Lincoln as president. In his day, the candidate was decided at the convention – one day voting. Instead of a primary strategy, a candidate focused on two key areas: strategic voting and a delegate selection and seating.

      Lincoln wasn't close to the most popular choice, there were two others with much more support, but neither had majority support.. Lincoln positioned himself as second choice for each of these groups.

      Turned out that, for second choice, he was a pretty good president.

  • http://barfieldmanagement.com Chase Barfield

    No parties…great idea. They just divide the people. Vote your conscience…what a novel idea.

    I say go for it. Talk of popular vote being disastrous back in Jefferson and Adams days doesn't hold much weight…things aren't that great with the current system. The Republicans wanted to impeach Bill for getting some Monica love and The Democrats want to impeach George for Iraq.

    In my book, things are getting more and more heated in this nation and it isn't just because of the elected officials. The people do not feel like they are being represented. The electoral college…that's a disaster. It was invented because the population wasn't trusted to be informed enough to vote. These days there is an over abundance of information and the electoral college does no better than the average Joe at filtering the truth from the political propaganda.

    As for California…they make up 12% of the population. We still have 88% left. They can influence but not dominate the election. If we came down to a 49.9% vs 49.9% vote…American Samoa's 0.02% is pretty important.

  • Steve Ireland

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the “strategic” voting aspect i.e. delegates who lose are often opposed to voting for the top dog so they form a coalition to bring him down. That's exactly what happened in Alberta in 2006. Watch the progress of Stelmach (a virtual unknown) who started with 15% of the vote and ended up winning the campaign with 58% (in one day) http://is.gd/39mA

  • Artem Frolov

    Although I am not American and maybe I do not fully understand this electoral college system, it always seemed counterintuitive and overcomplicated to me. President can be chosen by a minority of all votes.

    What you describe is very close to what they have in other republics, specifically Russia. With the difference that to get on the list, candidate should gather some amount of “signatures” from citizens (in Russia, I believe, it is a million, which is less than 1% of population). And election may have two stages, If none of candidates gets more than 50% of votes, second day is a bake-off between top two contenders.

    • http://herd.theodore.nordsieck.net nordsieck

      You can think of the early US sort of like the current EU, but with a bit more formality. The reason territories are called 'states' is because until the Civil War, they were essentially mini-countries with a duty to the Federal Government.

  • Steve Ireland

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the “strategic” voting aspect i.e. the ones that lose don't throw their support behind the person that just beat them. That's exactly what happened in 2006 in Alberta when Stelmach (a virtual unknown even by the media) with only 15% of the vote ended up winning with 58% – three rounds – one day http://is.gd/39mA

  • http://blog.jeffreymcmanus.com/ Jeffrey McManus

    The multi-day process is not necessary. Countries like Australia have what they call instant runoffs where you express a preference for more than one candidate. It only takes one day (one round of voting). If the first candidate doesn't receive a majority then they eliminate whoever gets the fewest votes and tally the votes again and so on until there is a winner with 50%+ of the votes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_runoff

  • sigmawaite

    The US Electoral College is just brilliant, and crucial:

    First, in a country as large and complicated as the US, it is just impossible to have a totally clean and honest election. So, there will always be some voter fraud, tombstones voting, lost votes, polls that had lines too long and closed too soon, questions about who was illegally registered to vote, etc. So, there will always be some disputed votes.

    Second, with just direct popular voting, if an election is close, then 10 votes disputed anywhere in the country can hold up the whole election.

    So, what does the Electoral College do? It means that nonsense in some one state usually doesn't hold up the whole election. First, if the vote in that state is not close, then a few disputed votes in that state can't change the Electoral College vote of that state by even one vote. Second, if the vote in that state is too close to call, then the decision is up to the legislature of that state. This is not a way to guarantee fairness; it is a way to settle disputes quickly in rare circumstances that otherwise might have election disputes go on for months and hurt the country.

    Yes, in some cases, even the vote in the Electoral College can be close. Then have to go to the usually VERY few states where the popular votes were close, do a recount, maybe use the legislatures in some of those states, etc. to solve the problem.

    But in most states, the vote is NOT close so that in those states a little voter fraud is irrelevant. BRILLIANT.

    Mostly the Electoral College just gives the same election results as the popular vote, but it has some BRILLIANT properties to stop the bickering over voter fraud and get the election DONE.

  • Gigs

    The Republicans and the Democrats will never allow this to happen. They are converging into one nationalistic, socialistic, big government loving, party.

    I also agree with sigmawaite, there's a lot of benefits to the electoral college that very few people ever recognize or mention, but I think that anything to break us out of this two-party-converging-to-one situation would be a great benefit.

  • Tim

    I agree that something has been done. I truly believe in Gigs statement that the two major parties are converging into one socialistic, big government loving party. However I think that we can make this happen. Ron Paul sure made his voice heard this time around. Somehow we need to find a way to help these third party candidates get their message out.

  • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

    Brad, I agree with you on so many things — but none of this. Sigmawaite makes excellent points about the Electoral College protecting us from ultimate chaos (a nationwide recount battle). Alan is right about the #2 vote-getter becoming VP being a disaster.

    But there are other problems as well. Having consecutive days of voting would only serve to aggravate the American people who don't much care for politics anyway. Not to mention it would make for terribly uninformed decisions with the candidates changing from day to day.

    In addition, opening the field to all comers and requiring just a 10% threshold to progress would tilt the playing field dramatically in favor of fringe candidates. Without a party nominating process to winnow the field, you would have many mainstream candidates willing to roll the dice. These folks would split the vast majority of votes and likely come in under 10%. At the same time a single-issue or ultra-ideological candidate could mass one of the extremes fairly easily to surpass the 10% since there are fewer viable candidates to compete with them.

    Even if a true fringe candidate didn't emerge, you would still tilt the process toward the extremes. For all the complaints about the existing system, it does a pretty good job of weeding out the more extreme candidates.

    No electoral system is perfect. Our national process is indeed imperfect. But it also isn't the arena where we should be experimenting with dramatic new plans. If another process were to take hold within a state that proved itself over time, it might be worth considering at the national level. But let's not roll the dice with the presidency.

  • http://www.kidmercuryblog.com kid mercury

    lol, what good is any election reform when the people casting the votes are too afraid to vote based on the truth. all reform begins with ourselves.

  • Jay Levitt

    As someone else said, you've basically reinvented instant-runoff voting (aka STV, or Single Transferable Vote). I've always thought that would be terrific, and I think I've read that STV is close to the fairest system possible. (The Wikipedia page goes into more detail, IIRC; there are some potential flaws, but they're small.)

    @Chip: You don't actually need multiple days of voting. Voters rank the candidates in their preferred order, and the votes automatically transfer as candidates are eliminated. It's brilliant, and it eliminates the two-party system, by eliminating most of the “spoiler” effect that keeps us from voting “purity over pragmatism”.

    Of course, the reason it will probably never happen here is because it eliminates the two-party system and allows us to vote purity over pragmatism.

  • Daniel Tunkelang

    In addition to reviewing the history of the electoral process in the US and in other democracies, folks here might consider folks reading up on Arrow's impossibility theorem, which mathematically proves that no voting system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide ranking while also meeting a certain set of reasonable criteria with three or more discrete options to choose from.

    Granted, some of Arrow's assumptions can be questioned. And the electoral college system–not to mention the primary / caucus process–is hardly anyone's idea of an optimal expression of popular choice. But, if you're serious about electoral reform, at least read the theory. It's a much harder problem than you might think.

  • Brian Kellner

    I've been thinking the thing that bothers me the most is negative advertising. I'd love to see a rule where candidates can only talk about themselves in their ads. If an ad mentions a candidate, he or she has to approve it. Ads can only talk about one candidate.

    I like the voting proposal, but it's certainly possible that on some day only one candidate clears the threshold (e.g. on day 3 only one candidate gets 30%). Since there are apparently voting schemes like this, there is probably a mechanism to account for it.

    Anyway, I'd settle for changes in rules around the advertising.

  • Dave Hanley

    Any thoughts on Australia's compulsory voting with financial penalties?

  • susan

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  • susan

    Even with a single pool of 122,000,000 votes, it is conceivable that the nationwide popular vote could someday be extremely close (say, a few hundred or a few thousand votes out of 122,000,000). In that event, the inevitable recount and controversy would be handled in the same way as its is currently handled—that is, under the generally serviceable laws that govern all elections. The guiding principle in such circumstances should be that all votes should be counted as fairly and expeditiously as possible.

    In terms of logistics, the personnel and procedures for a nationwide recount are already in place because every state is always prepared to conduct a statewide recount after any election. Indeed, there are statewide recounts for certain statewide offices and ballot propositions in virtually every election cycle. As Senator David Durenberger (R–Minnesota) said in the Senate in 1979, “There is no reason to doubt the ability of the States and localities to manage a recount, and nothing to suggest that a candidate would frivolously incur the expense of requesting one. And even if this were not the case, the potential danger in selecting a President rejected by a majority of the voters far outweighs the potential inconvenience in administering a recount.”

  • susan

    The fact is that recounts would be far less likely to occur under a national popular vote system than under the current system.

    The probability of a recount is 1 in 332 elections. There were, for example, 23 recounts among 7,645 statewide elections in the 26-year period from 1980 to 2006. The average change in the margin of victory was 274 votes. The original outcome remained unchanged in 9 out of 10 recounts.

    * Fair Vote. 2007. Survey and Analysis of Statewide Election Recounts 1980-2006. Available at http://www.fairvote.org/reports/?page=1786&ar….

    If the President were elected from a single nationwide pool of votes, one would expect a recount once in 332 elections, or once in 1,328 years.

    Under the current system in which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes in a particular state, there are 51 separate opportunities for recounts in every presidential election. Thus, our nation’s 55 presidential elections have really been 2,084 separate elections. This is the reason why there have been five seriously disputed counts in the nation’s 55 presidential elections. The current system has repeatedly created artificial crises in which the vote is extremely close in certain states, but not at all close on a nationwide basis.
    A national popular vote would reduce the probability of a recount from five instances in 55 to 1 in 332 (i.e., once in 1,328 years). In fact the reduction would be even greater because close results are less likely as the size of the jurisdiction increases. Indeed, only two of the 23 recounts were in big states (among the 7,645 statewide elections in the 26-year period from 1980 to 2006).

    The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are ever changed in recounts (averaging only 274 votes), there would have been no recount in Florida or any other state in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates had a 537-vote margin in Florida.

    There was a recount, a court case, and reversal of the original outcome in Hawaii in 1960. Kennedy ended up with a 115-vote margin in Hawaii in an election in which his nationwide margin was 118,574.

    Samuel Tilden’s 3% lead in 1876 was a solid victory in terms of the national popular vote (equal to Bush’s solid percentage lead in the 2004 election). However, an artificial crisis was created because of the razor-thin margins of 889 votes in South Carolina, 922 in Florida, and 4,807 in Louisiana. No one would have cared who received more votes in these closely divided states if the President had been elected by a nationwide popular vote.

    Critics of a national popular vote have argued that there could be an extremely close nationwide count in the future (and historical data show that there would be one such election in every 1,328 years). However, even in that rare situation, there would also almost inevitably be one or more states with razor-thin popular vote margins. Thus, both systems would also have to grapple with the closeness of that kind of election.
    It is important to note that the question of recounts only comes to mind in connection with presidential elections because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors and other officials should not be elected by a popular vote.

  • Kameir

    I would add a process in which the candidates prove that they are qualified to run a country, versus holding on to an American Idol process.

  • http://zerologic.com Michael Sitarzewski

    How's this (pulling it from my @ss)? Instead of the presidential candidates picking the vice president they'd like to run with, the vice president is the person in second place. So in this race's case, if Obama wins the presidency, McCain becomes VP. If we're going to have a two party system, let's embrace it. ;-)

    This should cut down on the negativity since there is a really good chance that they'll be living with their opposition for 4 years. Anyway, everything else works the same, primaries, electoral college, etc. Oh, and can we get some term limits for congress too while we're at it? kthxbai.

  • Head
  • Head
  • http://www.reinkefaceslife.com reinkefj

    Respectfully, stick to tech. The Electoral College ensures that big states don't overwhelm little states. Our problem has been mucking with the Dead Old White Guy's creation without reflection. For example, Direct Election of Senators disenfranchised State Governments and permitted Federal Unfunded Mandates. Prohibition was really repealed by Jury Nullification. The Federal Reserve. The War on Drugs; totally unconstitutional. The phoney “two party” system — welfare 'n' tax versus warfare 'n' debt — two sides of the same coin. Like they are going to give up power without a fight. And, what makes you want to change? Much better the devil we know than the one we don't. Especially when a huge percent of the voters are 'employees' of government and have been dumbed down by socialist government education. No thanks. It may be a mess. But, the fix will be worse. I GUARANTEE it.

  • Ben

    With such long lines at polling stations, why isnt Election day a national holiday in the U.S.?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_irel49311 steve_irel49311

    We use a similar process up here in Canada for choosing the party leaders…it's basically over in a day; like watching a movie.

    "The party delegates vote secretly and individually. No additional names may be placed in nomination once the voting has begun, and the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped after each ballot until one candidate has won a clear majority of the votes cast. If no majority winner is declared on one ballot, voting resumes straight away on the next."

    "The effect of the rules is to force many delegates and candidates in multi-ballot conventions to reconsider their options and to vote for a candidate on later ballots other than their most preferred one on the first ballot. This promotes "strategic" voting on successive ballots, and prompts most candidates who withdraw or are gradually eliminated from the race to "throw their support" on the convention floor behind an erstwhile opponent."

    >> can't seem to add a second comment so I'll add to this one…

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the "strategic" voting aspect i.e. the ones that lose don't throw their support behind the person that just beat them. That's exactly what happened in 2006 in Alberta when Stelmach (a virtual unknown even by the media) with only 15% of the vote ended up winning with 58% – three rounds – one day http://is.gd/39mA

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kidmercury kidmercury

    lol, what good is any election reform when the people casting the votes are too afraid to vote based on the truth. all reform begins with ourselves.

  • nordsieck

    As far as "partisan crap" and "totally obscene" amounts of money go, as long as the government is a patronage system (military contracts one one side, university research grants on the other), it is economically rational to try to capture the decision making process.

    As the "War on Drugs" has shown, attempts to curtail economically rational activity is difficult at best.

  • Anthony

    Interesting – a couple of comments – in australia voting is mandatory, you live there so you should have to vote – not unlike jury duty…

    2. Electronic voting – vote a library or at home – instant and accurate – no Florida recounts till you get the answer you want…

  • nordsieck

    What you are describing is an inefficient, slightly buggy version of instant runoff voting.

  • Chip Griffin

    Brad, I agree with you on so many things — but none of this. Sigmawaite makes excellent points about the Electoral College protecting us from ultimate chaos (a nationwide recount battle). Alan is right about the #2 vote-getter becoming VP being a disaster.

    But there are other problems as well. Having consecutive days of voting would only serve to aggravate the American people who don't much care for politics anyway. Not to mention it would make for terribly uninformed decisions with the candidates changing from day to day.

    In addition, opening the field to all comers and requiring just a 10% threshold to progress would tilt the playing field dramatically in favor of fringe candidates. Without a party nominating process to winnow the field, you would have many mainstream candidates willing to roll the dice. These folks would split the vast majority of votes and likely come in under 10%. At the same time a single-issue or ultra-ideological candidate could mass one of the extremes fairly easily to surpass the 10% since there are fewer viable candidates to compete with them.

    Even if a true fringe candidate didn't emerge, you would still tilt the process toward the extremes. For all the complaints about the existing system, it does a pretty good job of weeding out the more extreme candidates.

    No electoral system is perfect. Our national process is indeed imperfect. But it also isn't the arena where we should be experimenting with dramatic new plans. If another process were to take hold within a state that proved itself over time, it might be worth considering at the national level. But let's not roll the dice with the presidency.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/sigmawaite sigmawaite

    The US Electoral College is just brilliant, and crucial:

    First, in a country as large and complicated as the US, it is just impossible to have a totally clean and honest election. So, there will always be some voter fraud, tombstones voting, lost votes, polls that had lines too long and closed too soon, questions about who was illegally registered to vote, etc. So, there will always be some disputed votes.

    Second, with just direct popular voting, if an election is close, then 10 votes disputed anywhere in the country can hold up the whole election.

    So, what does the Electoral College do? It means that nonsense in some one state usually doesn't hold up the whole election. First, if the vote in that state is not close, then a few disputed votes in that state can't change the Electoral College vote of that state by even one vote. Second, if the vote in that state is too close to call, then the decision is up to the legislature of that state. This is not a way to guarantee fairness; it is a way to settle disputes quickly in rare circumstances that otherwise might have election disputes go on for months and hurt the country.

    Yes, in some cases, even the vote in the Electoral College can be close. Then have to go to the usually VERY few states where the popular votes were close, do a recount, maybe use the legislatures in some of those states, etc. to solve the problem.

    But in most states, the vote is NOT close so that in those states a little voter fraud is irrelevant. BRILLIANT.

    Mostly the Electoral College just gives the same election results as the popular vote, but it has some BRILLIANT properties to stop the bickering over voter fraud and get the election DONE.

  • garth

    Well, it might make sure we get people elected who are well known for real issues and accompishments, rather than how slick they can manipulate through the primaries. I don't think the primaries build any kind of meaningful notoriety for us about the candidates

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/TNLNYC TNLNYC

    Brad,

    That's the way it works in France (the 50% and multiple turns). Also, you should make sure that election day is a national holiday so that everyone can vote.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/daniel_tunk9028 daniel_tunk9028

    In addition to reviewing the history of the electoral process in the US and in other democracies, folks here might consider folks reading up on Arrow's impossibility theorem, which mathematically proves that no voting system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide ranking while also meeting a certain set of reasonable criteria with three or more discrete options to choose from.

    Granted, some of Arrow's assumptions can be questioned. And the electoral college system–not to mention the primary / caucus process–is hardly anyone's idea of an optimal expression of popular choice. But, if you're serious about electoral reform, at least read the theory. It's a much harder problem than you might think.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chase_barf55451 chase_barf55451

    No parties…great idea. They just divide the people. Vote your conscience…what a novel idea.

    I say go for it. Talk of popular vote being disastrous back in Jefferson and Adams days doesn't hold much weight…things aren't that great with the current system. The Republicans wanted to impeach Bill for getting some Monica love and The Democrats want to impeach George for Iraq.

    In my book, things are getting more and more heated in this nation and it isn't just because of the elected officials. The people do not feel like they are being represented. The electoral college…that's a disaster. It was invented because the population wasn't trusted to be informed enough to vote. These days there is an over abundance of information and the electoral college does no better than the average Joe at filtering the truth from the political propaganda.

    As for California…they make up 12% of the population. We still have 88% left. They can influence but not dominate the election. If we came down to a 49.9% vs 49.9% vote…American Samoa's 0.02% is pretty important.

  • Tim

    I agree that something has been done. I truly believe in Gigs statement that the two major parties are converging into one socialistic, big government loving party. However I think that we can make this happen. Ron Paul sure made his voice heard this time around. Somehow we need to find a way to help these third party candidates get their message out.

  • Gigs

    The Republicans and the Democrats will never allow this to happen. They are converging into one nationalistic, socialistic, big government loving, party.

    I also agree with sigmawaite, there's a lot of benefits to the electoral college that very few people ever recognize or mention, but I think that anything to break us out of this two-party-converging-to-one situation would be a great benefit.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Jay_Levitt Jay_Levitt

    As someone else said, you've basically reinvented instant-runoff voting (aka STV, or Single Transferable Vote). I've always thought that would be terrific, and I think I've read that STV is close to the fairest system possible. (The Wikipedia page goes into more detail, IIRC; there are some potential flaws, but they're small.)

    @Chip: You don't actually need multiple days of voting. Voters rank the candidates in their preferred order, and the votes automatically transfer as candidates are eliminated. It's brilliant, and it eliminates the two-party system, by eliminating most of the "spoiler" effect that keeps us from voting "purity over pragmatism".

    Of course, the reason it will probably never happen here is because it eliminates the two-party system and allows us to vote purity over pragmatism.

  • Dave Hanley

    Any thoughts on Australia's compulsory voting with financial penalties?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rickgregory rickgregory

    Sure… if you want to elect people who are well known. Because that's what happens in systems where you shorten the cycle too much and eliminate primaries. You favor the well-known candidates who can raise a lot of money initially. Bill Clinton might well not have been President and it's very likely Obama would not be the nominee this year.

    The problem with the length of the cycle is that the media tries to crown a nominee based on the first couple of primaries, so you need to campaign for a while before those to make sure you show well… then you have to slog though the others. And, usually, the primary cycle is meaningless after about March 1 as the nominee is almost always decided by then… but you still need to hold all of the rest of them even though they mean nothing.

    Another way to solve this is to mandate regional primaries separated by, say, 2-3 weeks. The cycle starts on March 1 and is over by June 1. This STILL favors known candidates though and I think we benefit by letting lesser known candidates emerge somehow.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/alan_shimel2002 alan_shimel2002

    Brad the guy with the second most votes is the VP is what we used to have back in the time of Adams and Jefferson and it was a disaster. Under a pure popular vote scenario a state like California could single handedly just about elect a president. The electoral college serves a purpose, it just needs to be tweaked, not thrown out.

  • Artem Frolov

    Although I am not American and maybe I do not fully understand this electoral college system, it always seemed counterintuitive and overcomplicated to me. President can be chosen by a minority of all votes.

    What you describe is very close to what they have in other republics, specifically Russia. With the difference that to get on the list, candidate should gather some amount of "signatures" from citizens (in Russia, I believe, it is a million, which is less than 1% of population). And election may have two stages, If none of candidates gets more than 50% of votes, second day is a bake-off between top two contenders.

  • David

    I don't think it increases the odds that people who are well known for real issues and accomplishments get elected. Stop after "well known". The reason for their popularity is probably not going to be intelligence.

  • Brian Kellner

    I've been thinking the thing that bothers me the most is negative advertising. I'd love to see a rule where candidates can only talk about themselves in their ads. If an ad mentions a candidate, he or she has to approve it. Ads can only talk about one candidate.

    I like the voting proposal, but it's certainly possible that on some day only one candidate clears the threshold (e.g. on day 3 only one candidate gets 30%). Since there are apparently voting schemes like this, there is probably a mechanism to account for it.

    Anyway, I'd settle for changes in rules around the advertising.

  • susan

    Even with a single pool of 122,000,000 votes, it is conceivable that the nationwide popular vote could someday be extremely close (say, a few hundred or a few thousand votes out of 122,000,000). In that event, the inevitable recount and controversy would be handled in the same way as its is currently handled—that is, under the generally serviceable laws that govern all elections. The guiding principle in such circumstances should be that all votes should be counted as fairly and expeditiously as possible.

    In terms of logistics, the personnel and procedures for a nationwide recount are already in place because every state is always prepared to conduct a statewide recount after any election. Indeed, there are statewide recounts for certain statewide offices and ballot propositions in virtually every election cycle. As Senator David Durenberger (R–Minnesota) said in the Senate in 1979, "There is no reason to doubt the ability of the States and localities to manage a recount, and nothing to suggest that a candidate would frivolously incur the expense of requesting one. And even if this were not the case, the potential danger in selecting a President rejected by a majority of the voters far outweighs the potential inconvenience in administering a recount."

  • susan

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

    In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

  • Chip Schooler

    This is how the U.S. ended up with Lincoln as president. In his day, the candidate was decided at the convention – one day voting. Instead of a primary strategy, a candidate focused on two key areas: strategic voting and a delegate selection and seating.

    Lincoln wasn't close to the most popular choice, there were two others with much more support, but neither had majority support.. Lincoln positioned himself as second choice for each of these groups.

    Turned out that, for second choice, he was a pretty good president.

  • nordsieck

    You can think of the early US sort of like the current EU, but with a bit more formality. The reason territories are called 'states' is because until the Civil War, they were essentially mini-countries with a duty to the Federal Government.

  • Kameir

    I would add a process in which the candidates prove that they are qualified to run a country, versus holding on to an American Idol process.

  • Head
  • susan

    The fact is that recounts would be far less likely to occur under a national popular vote system than under the current system.

    The probability of a recount is 1 in 332 elections. There were, for example, 23 recounts among 7,645 statewide elections in the 26-year period from 1980 to 2006. The average change in the margin of victory was 274 votes. The original outcome remained unchanged in 9 out of 10 recounts.

    * Fair Vote. 2007. Survey and Analysis of Statewide Election Recounts 1980-2006. Available at http://www.fairvote.org/reports/?page=1786&ar….

    If the President were elected from a single nationwide pool of votes, one would expect a recount once in 332 elections, or once in 1,328 years.

    Under the current system in which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes in a particular state, there are 51 separate opportunities for recounts in every presidential election. Thus, our nation’s 55 presidential elections have really been 2,084 separate elections. This is the reason why there have been five seriously disputed counts in the nation’s 55 presidential elections. The current system has repeatedly created artificial crises in which the vote is extremely close in certain states, but not at all close on a nationwide basis.
    A national popular vote would reduce the probability of a recount from five instances in 55 to 1 in 332 (i.e., once in 1,328 years). In fact the reduction would be even greater because close results are less likely as the size of the jurisdiction increases. Indeed, only two of the 23 recounts were in big states (among the 7,645 statewide elections in the 26-year period from 1980 to 2006).

    The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the miniscule number of votes that are ever changed in recounts (averaging only 274 votes), there would have been no recount in Florida or any other state in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates had a 537-vote margin in Florida.

    There was a recount, a court case, and reversal of the original outcome in Hawaii in 1960. Kennedy ended up with a 115-vote margin in Hawaii in an election in which his nationwide margin was 118,574.

    Samuel Tilden’s 3% lead in 1876 was a solid victory in terms of the national popular vote (equal to Bush’s solid percentage lead in the 2004 election). However, an artificial crisis was created because of the razor-thin margins of 889 votes in South Carolina, 922 in Florida, and 4,807 in Louisiana. No one would have cared who received more votes in these closely divided states if the President had been elected by a nationwide popular vote.

    Critics of a national popular vote have argued that there could be an extremely close nationwide count in the future (and historical data show that there would be one such election in every 1,328 years). However, even in that rare situation, there would also almost inevitably be one or more states with razor-thin popular vote margins. Thus, both systems would also have to grapple with the closeness of that kind of election.
    It is important to note that the question of recounts only comes to mind in connection with presidential elections because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors and other officials should not be elected by a popular vote.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/msitarzewski msitarzewski

    How's this (pulling it from my @ss)? Instead of the presidential candidates picking the vice president they'd like to run with, the vice president is the person in second place. So in this race's case, if Obama wins the presidency, McCain becomes VP. If we're going to have a two party system, let's embrace it. ;-)

    This should cut down on the negativity since there is a really good chance that they'll be living with their opposition for 4 years. Anyway, everything else works the same, primaries, electoral college, etc. Oh, and can we get some term limits for congress too while we're at it? kthxbai.

  • Head
  • reinkefj

    Respectfully, stick to tech. The Electoral College ensures that big states don't overwhelm little states. Our problem has been mucking with the Dead Old White Guy's creation without reflection. For example, Direct Election of Senators disenfranchised State Governments and permitted Federal Unfunded Mandates. Prohibition was really repealed by Jury Nullification. The Federal Reserve. The War on Drugs; totally unconstitutional. The phoney "two party" system — welfare 'n' tax versus warfare 'n' debt — two sides of the same coin. Like they are going to give up power without a fight. And, what makes you want to change? Much better the devil we know than the one we don't. Especially when a huge percent of the voters are 'employees' of government and have been dumbed down by socialist government education. No thanks. It may be a mess. But, the fix will be worse. I GUARANTEE it.

  • Ben

    With such long lines at polling stations, why isnt Election day a national holiday in the U.S.?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_irel49311 steve_irel49311

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the "strategic" voting aspect i.e. delegates who lose are often opposed to voting for the top dog so they form a coalition to bring him down. That's exactly what happened in Alberta in 2006. Watch the progress of Stelmach (a virtual unknown) who started with 15% of the vote and ended up winning the campaign with 58% (in one day) http://is.gd/39mA

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_irel49311 steve_irel49311

    @Rick Actually here in Canada the results are often unexpected because of the "strategic" voting aspect i.e. the ones that lose don't throw their support behind the person that just beat them. That's exactly what happened in 2006 in Alberta when Stelmach (a virtual unknown even by the media) with only 15% of the vote ended up winning with 58% – three rounds – one day http://is.gd/39mA

  • Jeffrey McManus

    The multi-day process is not necessary. Countries like Australia have what they call instant runoffs where you express a preference for more than one candidate. It only takes one day (one round of voting). If the first candidate doesn't receive a majority then they eliminate whoever gets the fewest votes and tally the votes again and so on until there is a winner with 50%+ of the votes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_runoff

Build something great with me