Re: [pcp-discuss:] Probleming through Florida

From: John J Kineman (
Date: Tue Dec 05 2000 - 18:56:23 GMT

  • Next message: Norman K. McPhail: "Re: [pcp-discuss:] Probleming through Florida"

    Hi Norm,

    Please recognize that I am not supporting either candidate in this
    disucssion, nor even espousing values that either has differentially
    identified. I'm commenting on the nature of a complex system and the
    appropriateness of our mathematical model. I am not saying what Gore
    thinks, or anyone else, nor presuming to agree or disagree with the
    candidates. Of course they are merely actors in a play. I'm talking
    about the plot scenario and the stage. Let's agree on that level of
    detachment, or drop the discussion, otherwise we're merely arguing
    political views. I want to focus on the modeling question about how to
    best represent voter opinion in a decisive manner. Just to clarify by
    answering your questions:

    1. I say apportioning electors doesn't increase Federal power at the
    expense of the State's power in elections because: (a) the deciding body
    (EC) is not Federal, and (b) the "power" is incorrectly calculated at
    present because it is based on gaming semantics rather than survey
    semantics. They maximize opposite values in a close vote.

    2. I am not suggesting the courts have any role in implementing a change
    other than interpreting existing law. Only legislatures can change the
    law, as was confirmed this weekend. so, yes, the change would have to go
    through the normal legislative process(es).

    3. I think you misunderstand my argument about changing the rules. Its
    for the future. I'm not talking about the present election, except as a
    case study of what needs to be fixed. The basic principle I would
    suggest is this: that the "value" of any election result is proportional
    to its "representativeness," not to the decisive "power" of any
    individual in the process. If it ends up representing a single
    individual who exercises control over the result (Bush, Gore, Harris,
    the judges, etc.), then its value is very small in terms of representing
    the public. So the issue I'm identifying is that the value of the
    election result diminishes as the gap narrows, unless, beyond a certain
    threshold where "representativeness" has gotten too small, there is
    another way to re-introduce representativeness. Having the legislatures
    make the decision in close races is one way to do that. Creating a fully
    functional EC that can make decisions is another. Implementing "Instant
    Runoff Voting" nationwide is another alternative that has been proposed.
    The main point is to address the problem of representativeness by some
    method that reintroduces it in tight situations. The present system
    maximizes individual influence in those situations, which I argue is the
    wrong value and something to be strenuously avoided.

    4. Yes, indeed, a constitutional amendment may be necessary to correct
    the semantic and statistical error in our current system. You may be
    correct that a law will not be able to do this because, if I heard
    correctly this weekend, there already is a constitutional power granted
    to the State legislators that they and they alone must determine the
    method of assigning electors. Even the State constitution cannot
    intervene on that power according to Article II. However, again being no
    expert, I believe there are other Federal statutes, such as sufferage,
    which DO in fact dictate some limits on what the States can or can't do
    in exercising that authority. A State cannot enact legislation to
    exclude a minority group from the poles, for example. It would take a
    constitutional lawyer to determine if proportional representation can be
    enacted in a similar manner (as a separate provision that in effect
    limits what can be done under Article II), or if it would have to first
    change those existing powers. I don't have that answer.


    6. On the reference to the "zeno thing" which you didn't understand,
    please see the article I referenced. Its about the semantics assumed in
    our current system and a stistical paradox it catches us in.

    "Norman K. McPhail" wrote:
    > John:
    > Interesting arguments, but probably way off topic for this list. Then
    > again, what is politics if not a very complex adaptive system?
    > My thoughts below:
    > John J Kineman wrote:
    > > >
    > > > I like your points about trying to fit the Presidential election process
    > > > into either a zero sum game model or a survey of voter preferences
    > > > model. However, I don't think this should be viewed as an "either/or"
    > > > choice. To my way of thinking, our Electoral College system has
    > > > elements of both the models you are suggesting.
    > >
    > > Yes, as presently formed it is statistically based on the game/contest
    > > model, althought it is advertised as a survey model.
    > >
    > > >
    > > > I may be wrong, but I think that under the current set up, states do
    > > > have the option to split their Electors in proportion to the popular
    > > > vote. But I would estimate that there is practically no chance of
    > > > getting two-thirds of the states to ratify a Constitutional amendment
    > > > that would require a proportional split of a given state's Presidential
    > > > Electors as opposed to the winner-take-all method currently in use.
    > >
    > > Right. I have no idea of the feasibility of implementing the idea, just
    > > its statistical correctness. A convincing argument would have to be
    > > made. The fact that the issue itself wasn't even mentioned in the first
    > > week following the election results indicates to me that there is a huge
    > > educational hurtle to overcome.
    > >
    > > >
    > > > Keep in mind that the way the Presidential election system works now,
    > > > the states themselves have a certain amount of power. But a
    > > > proportional or popular election system would reduce the power of the
    > > > states and increase the power of the federal or central government. To
    > > > my way of thinking, this would tilt the balance of power too far towards
    > > > the central government.
    > >
    > > Well, it would indeed decrease the "power" of the State legislatures,
    > > but it doesn't increase the Federal power at all.
    > This makes no sense to me. It's a little like saying that the repeal of
    > the federal Constitutional amendment authorizing the direct federal
    > income tax increases the central government's power, but does not
    > diminish the power of the states. I just don't buy it.
    > > It could result in an
    > > increase in power of the EC as a temporary representative body, but that
    > > is not Federal, it is composed of State party members. Also, the "power"
    > > of the State legislature may be limited anyway (we'll see today!) if the
    > > courts eventually rule that the legal exercise of their authority
    > > requires their decisions to correspond with the popular vote, as best it
    > > can be determined.
    > Certainly the courts have done things like this in the past, but I think
    > it is highly unlikely that this U. S. Supreme Court will consider this
    > kind of judicial activism. Are you arguing that the Supreme Court can,
    > on its own initiative and under its own authority, make such a
    > revolutionary change in our Constitution? Don't you think that this
    > should go through the established process for amending the federal
    > Constitution?
    > > That would leave their strong influence to operate
    > > only during a very close election, such as this, where the argument can
    > > be made that the vote was ambiguous. But in that case, I think most of
    > > the public would prefer to see that ambiguity reflected in a more even
    > > split of electors, rather than a either-or switch that ultimately gets
    > > based on some factor of individual influence in the system that is
    > > completely unrelated to the vote.
    > I submit that if we use the standard of what "...most of the public
    > would prefer..." to change the whole structure of our constitutional
    > form of self governance, the social, political, economic and cultural
    > fabric of the American experiment would quickly unravel. You seem to
    > buy the Gore mantra that the supreme authority in this nation ought to
    > be making sure all the votes are counted.
    > Do you really think Mr. Gore cares that much about counting votes?
    > Can't you see that the main thing he cares about is winning the
    > presidency? To me, he seems to be willing to sacrifice anything that
    > gets in his way including the clear and unambiguous U. S. Constitutional
    > provisions for electing a president.
    > >
    > > >
    > > > Keep in mind that do not have a direct democracy. We have
    > > > representative democracy through several overlapping and yet independent
    > > > jurisdictions. These overlapping jurisdictions are self governing at
    > > > the local and state levels. Then the states and the individuals within
    > > > them combine to empower a central government. So we end up with a
    > > > federation of local self governing units organized within and by states
    > > > and a central government that has a Constitution that empowers and
    > > > protects both in a balanced system. The tension between these competing
    > > > levels of self governing entities helps ensure that our individual
    > > > rights and sovereignty are protected.
    > >
    > > Yes, I realize that. I think the model gets stretched beyond these
    > > limits when we fall within this scale problem (the Zeno thing); which I
    > > don't think anyone anticipated.
    > I have no idea what this means. But you seem to be saying that the
    > American form of constitutional self governance isn't flexible enough to
    > meet the needs of changing conditions. I respectfully differ.
    > > The States have authority to conduct and
    > > resolve internally organized elections, then to represent their vote
    > > results to the EC for a final decision. I believe (but am not certain -
    > > again todays Supreme Court discussion may shed some light) that they are
    > > legally bound to reflect their internal popular votes as accurately as
    > > possible in their electoral decision.
    > Again, I'm not sure what you're advocating here. But if you're saying
    > that the U. S. Supreme Court may be legally bound to to rule that the
    > prime directive of the U. S. Constitution is to count every vote, I
    > would invite you to take the time to review the Constitution itself, the
    > Federalist Papers along with the history and deliberations of the
    > framers at the Constitutional Convention.
    > > A State could not, for example,
    > > assign its electors oppositely to a decisive popular vote.
    > I beg to differ. The state legislators chose every U. S. President for
    > the first 60+ years after the ratification of the Constitution. I'm not
    > certain, but would guess that they made no effort to discern what the
    > popular vote would be other than to perhaps reflect on their own popular
    > mandates and party affiliation.
    > > I think this
    > > may have a legal basis, not just a political one -- again, I'll be
    > > listening closely to the Supreme Court debate.
    > >
    > > I think two states have proportional representation now.
    > I think it's not exactly proportional representation but something
    > loosely akin to it. As I recall, one state, Vermont?, awards Electors
    > according to the popular vote in each of its two Congressional districts
    > and then awards the two remaining votes according to the candidate that
    > gets the most votes state wide.
    > > I suspect, but
    > > don't know, that a Federal law could require proportional representation
    > > of electors.
    > I don't think this would be Constitutional. Nowhere in the Constitution
    > is Congress given the power to tell the state legislatures how to
    > determine the way they select Electors. As I understand it, Congress
    > did pass a law after the 1876 election saying how they would deal with
    > counting Electors. In addition, they even went so far as to spell out
    > in detail what rules they would use in the event of a controversy
    > regarding the Electors sent by a given state. What leads you to suspect
    > that Congress could require proportional representation of Electors?
    > > Naturally it would have to be passed by Congress, and the
    > > biggest implication is that it would instantly empower 3rd parties,
    > > because in that model even someone getting 3% of the vote like Nader
    > > would end up with an influencial number of votes in the EC.
    > I agree. In fact, I think it would seriously weaken the two party
    > system that has developed as an integral part of our national political
    > processes. Many people object to the two party system and claim that a
    > multiple party system similar to most parliamentary European models. I
    > happen to like our model better and would argue that we ought not to
    > tamper with the underlying structure.
    > > I think that
    > > would be the main issue of contention, not a States ability to overturn
    > > its popular vote.
    > Today it's not likely that any state legislature would reverse the clear
    > and unambiguous results of a statewide vote for President of the U. S.
    > >
    > > >
    > > > I think the federal government already has too much power in this system
    > > > of checks and balances. If we make the mistake of swinging the balance
    > > > even further towards the central government, we run a risk of losing
    > > > more and more of our individual sovereignty and human rights. So I for
    > > > one would strongly oppose the proportional state Electoral voting you
    > > > propose or any system of direct popular voting for the United States
    > > > president.
    > > >
    > >
    > > Well, consider my argument that the EC is NOT Federal, but locally
    > > composed and temporary so it can more easily reflect the immediate
    > > issues surrounding the election.
    > The presidential election provisions of the U. S. Constitution create
    > the Electoral College. If the EC is the offspring of this supreme
    > controlling federal document, how can it be anything but a national
    > institution?
    > > In fact it would do just what you want,
    > > keep it farther away from the federal government by keeping it out of
    > > the Supreme Court, first of all, and by minimizing the chances of it
    > > being thrown into Congress secondly.
    > First of all, I think Congress, as a popularly elected political body,
    > should be involved in resolving conflicts and counting the votes of
    > Electors. I much prefer these decisions being made in the political
    > arena as opposed to the legal or judicial arena. This is what we have
    > now, and I would argue strongly that this is the way it should be.
    > > Take an extreme case like Florida
    > > (25 electors) or California (54 electors). If the State legislature,
    > > which normally just certifies a vote, inherits the power due to a close
    > > election to decide the entire outcome, then the Fed becomes very
    > > concerned.
    > First, I think that like Florida, in most cases, someone in the
    > executive branch is authorized by the state legislatures to certify the
    > Electoral College vote. So the state legislatures do not normally
    > certify the votes for president.
    > Second, the state legislatures don't inherit the power to certify a
    > presidential slate of Electors, they are specifically delegated the
    > power and authority to make this decision in their respective states.
    > They can do this in almost any way they choose so long as the citizens
    > and voters in a given state concur.
    > Third, Congress has already passed laws to help guide the certification
    > and counting of presidential electors when there is a controversy. This
    > is exactly what may happen in this case. So please tell me why you
    > think that the fed will become very concerned?
    > > That's too much influence from too small a representative
    > > base.
    > If this is your answer to my last question, then I would point out that
    > this is simply an argument why you think Article Two of the U. S.
    > Constitution must be changed. Recall that it grants the state
    > legislatures full authority, power and responsibility to determine the
    > presidential Electors for their respective jurisdictions.
    > Norm
    Posting to from "John J Kineman" <>

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