The Instigator
daem0n
Con (against)
Winning
7 Points
The Contender
Geographia
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

Electoral college

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
daem0n
Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 5/30/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 828 times Debate No: 75685
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (8)
Votes (2)

 

daem0n

Con

Sides

If the voter of this debate were to choose whether the US president were determined by electors apportioned to states according to the US constitution, article 1 section 2 (electoral college) or by eligible citizen voters (national popular vote):

Pro wins by persuading the voter to choose the electoral college.

Con wins by persuading the voter to choose the national popular vote.

This debate is not about whether to choose the plurality method, single transferrable vote, or a different voting method given a set of ballots. It is about whose ballots should be counted.

Format

R1
Con defines the sides and format.
Pro accepts.

R2
Con makes new arguments.
Pro makes new arguments and/or responses.

R3
Con makes new arguments and/or responses.
Pro makes new arguments and/or responses.

R4
Con responds to previous posts.
Pro responds to previous posts.

R5
Con waives this round except to address misconduct in Pro's R4 post, e.g. new arguments in the rebuttal.
Pro waives this round except to defend against Con's R5 post.
Geographia

Pro

I accept. I believe this debate would be about if the Elector College System is better then the national voting. Which is odd, because America has both. American voters basically elect the Electors, and they vote for Joe Schmoe at their political get-togethers.

"The United States Electoral College is the institution that elects the President and Vice President of the United States every four years. The President and Vice President are not elected directly by the voters. Instead, they are elected by "electors" who are chosen by popular vote on a state-by-state basis."

Source: Wikipedia.

I believe there is no misunderstandings, so I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
daem0n

Con

In a nutshell

When the electoral college (EC) and the national popular vote (NPV) produce the same outcome, EC is an unnecessary complication in the process. When outcomes differ, NPV's outcome is right and EC's outcome is wrong. Either way, you have a reason to choose NPV and none to choose EC.

How to choose one system over another

You are choosing between policies. This calls for a well-reasoned justification that follows from the purpose of having a policy in the first place. Ruthlessly filter each of our arguments through the question: "does this persuade me that one policy fulfills its purpose better than the other policy?"

You will find that NPV is justified by an uncontroversial principle and a coherent, mathematically valid argument, whereas EC is an unnecessary political compromise justified only by points that are fallacious individually and do not form a coherent argument collectively. And there is no way to derive EC from a solid theoretical foundation without doing incredible mental gymnastics.

The purpose of the election is to ...

... represent the will ...

The purpose of any kind of election is to make a decision that represents the will of the voters. (To aggregate preferences, in more formal terms.) There is simply no other reason to have an election, except to deceive people by creating the illusion of democracy.

The fairest, most obvious, and least arbitrary way to formalize "the will of the voters" is the criterion of majority rule: if over half the voters prefer option A over option B, then A should defeat B.

Therefore, if NPV satisfies the criterion of majority rule when EC fails (over half of voters prefer A over B; NPV selects A over B; EC selects B over A), then you should choose NPV.

... of the citizens.

The difference between EC and NPV is:

EC: voter = person ("elector") hired by state government to vote.
NPV: voter = citizen.

A system should count citizens, not hired electors, as voters.

Citizens surrender their liberty to the government. In exchange, the government serves them. Why ask the citizens what they want, if not to legitimize the government's actions and to help it effectively fulfill its end of the social contract?

On the other hand, there is no justification to represent the will of a few hundred state employees who were hired simply to vote. Pro might say "EC represents the will of the states themselves." If so, then why should states have electors proportional to their citizens? Because big states matter more than small states? Because issues are more important if they matter to more citizens? That is actually the intuitive idea that is formalized as majority rule. Therefore, by the same logic that justifies the design of EC, NPV is right and EC is wrong.

When NPV and EC produce different results...

In US history alone, it has happened 4 times, most recently in 2000 when Bush beat Gore.

Simple example of how this can happen:

States are X, Y, and Z; each state has 5 citizens and 1 elector; candidates are A and B.

X: A A A A A
Y: A A B B B
Z: A A B B B

In NPV, A wins 9-6. In EC, B wins 2-1 because Y and Z have their electors vote for B.

Interestingly, political science textbooks use similar examples to illustrate gerrymandering.

... NPV's result is right and EC's result is wrong.

This is self-explanatory. The right result is the one that represents the will of the citizens. There is no reason to think that throwing away hundreds of millions of citizens' data points, and electing the president based on a smaller data set that only vaguely resembles the citizens' data set, represents the will of the citizens more accurately.

Gerrymandering is a form of political corruption in which politicians creatively assign citizens to districts to win absurd victories that wildly contradict the will of the citizens. It defeats the purpose of democracy to divide citizens into groups for no purpose other than to change the outcome. What makes the electoral college any different?
Geographia

Pro



The Electoral College is a hybrid of direct democracy.

No candidate would have won without the popular vote. the EC works on a confusing mix of politics and the public vote is a key part of that. Con doesn't seem to get that voting for Electors and Joe Schmoe is basically the same thing. "Unfaithful Electors" are rare, and some states have laws to deter them. Never was there a election was sidetracked from them.

Con might say that there is a capacity of a election being sidetracked, and I would say he is correct. However, so can popular vote. So can a lot of elections can be sidetracked. A unfaithful elector can spell victory for one man and defeat for another in the same way a person could in popular vote.


The EC ensures that the winner is fit for the job.

Rarely will an Elector not vote anyone but who they are pledged to. They are diehards in their political party, and only not vote or whatever when making a point or a message. There should be no question that these electors who are voted in would vote anyone other then who they are pledged to.

That being said, they are also there to ensure that the winner has at least fit for the job, lest the American people elect a total idiot.


Now, I will lay out the frame work of what will be my rebuttals to Con. Here on out, Con will be in Bold.


When the electoral college (EC) and the national popular vote (NPV) produce the same outcome, EC is an unnecessary complication in the process. When outcomes differ, NPV's outcome is right and EC's outcome is wrong. Either way, you have a reason to choose NPV and none to choose EC.

Con asserts that EC would be wrong in their outcome, and NPV is right. Con doesn't say why this is, but I guess that comes later. Nothing much else here.

You will find that NPV is justified by an uncontroversial principle and a coherent, mathematically valid argument,

Personally, I think Con has much too trust in Democracy to the point of it being his argument. I find that silly that Con regards single issue voters or people who don't know basic facts about candidates is better then people who do. Again, Con asserts, but doesn't say why.

EC is an unnecessary political compromise justified only by points that are fallacious individually and do not form a coherent argument collectively. And there is no way to derive EC from a solid theoretical foundation without doing incredible mental gymnastics.

The EC is in no way flawless, but it is so that the next president is at least experienced in politics and I would argue it puts less focus on Urban areas and more or less other states. A smaller state would have a bigger impact under EC then in NPV.


The purpose of any kind of election is to make a decision that represents the will of the voters. (To aggregate preferences, in more formal terms.) There is simply no other reason to have an election, except to deceive people by creating the illusion of democracy.

I would think Con wouldn't agree with America electing Hitler Jr., so I would say it is to have a leader to lead. Sure, having the will of the people is heard, but that doesn't mean it is alright to elect an idiot, or Hitler Jr. Elections are there to elect someone trained enough to lead. There been quite a bit of faithless electors in the 1800s, but generally it is because they want to make a point or they made a typo



Therefore, if NPV satisfies the criterion of majority rule when EC fails (over half of voters prefer A over B; NPV selects A over B; EC selects B over A), then you should choose NPV.

Actually, there is no reason to believe that if NPV is right, then EC must be wrong. Con seems to think that NPV is infallible, which is just flat out wrong. The EC is there to ensure the right guy is elected, and Con doesn't seem to know that Electors almost never vote anyone other than Blah Blah. Voting NPV and the EC are basically the same thing, only that the EC ensure some quality.


I'm starting to run out of space, so I will address whatever next round.
Debate Round No. 2
daem0n

Con


In NPV, after you vote, your ballot is tallied with those of all other citizen voters. If over half of you prefer A over B, then A defeats B -- the definition of majority rule.


In R2, I argue this is desirable. My argument has two main parts: (1) the outcome should reflect the will of the citizen voters; (2) majority rule is the best way to define what that is.


Pro objects to #1 by saying that I trust democracy too much and that the purpose of the election is to choose the best leader -- if the citizens prefer "Hitler Jr", then the election system should prevent him from becoming president.


My responses:


a. My argument is not based on trust in democracy to put the best leader in power. Democracy is ethically right. To expand on my R1 argument: freedom is a human right; therefore, it is wrong to use governmental authority over people unless they consent somehow. Government derives legitimacy from the social contract: citizens consentingly surrender some of their freedoms in exchange for services. By voting for people to represent them, they express consent to be led by those leaders. Therefore, it is ethically wrong to design an election system for any purpose other than to make sure the people are represented by the person they consent to being represented by.


b. It is bad design practice to design the system for any other purpose. Pro does not address the core of my argument on how to choose one system over another. You are not just making an ad hoc decision by weighing pros vs. cons. You are choosing one component of the system that is the government. A system cannot sanely be designed without modularity, i.e. without limiting the scope of each component. (Imagine trying to design a house if you worry about the kitchen sink when choosing the front door.) When choosing an election system, if you expand your focus from "what do the citizens want" to "what is best for the citizens", then a reasonable government could never be designed that way.


c. Pro is afraid of "Hitler Jr" (a placeholder name for an incompetent or malevolent president), but candidates are already vetted to prevent that. If someone faked his way into politics or harbors some dark secret, then the expensive, laborious, heavily scrutinized process of political campaigning will quickly bring that to the surface. There are many gatekeepers, including political parties and the primaries. Furthermore, even if a bad president is elected, then he can be impeached. If all these measures fail to avert disaster, then there is not much EC can do*.


To conclude those 3 points, the only valid consideration in choosing an election system is "what do the citizens want".


Pro does not contradict #2. Majority rule is the best way to formalize "what do the voters want". NPV, by definition, satisfies the criterion of majority rule. Therefore, NPV's outcome is always right. Pro falsely says, several times, that this conclusion is a baseless assertion. Pro comes closest to refuting it by arguing (1) that electors are rarely unfaithful and (2) that EC gives small states a greater influence.


1. All my arguments assume electors are faithful (they vote for whom they are told to vote). Refer to my concrete example in R1. Pro's argument here undermines nothing I have said.


2. Pro presents no reasons why an individual in a low-population state deserves more influence than an individual in a high-population state. Maybe it is good if a candidate spends most time campaigning in urban areas.


In conclusion, you are choosing the system that gives the citizens what they want; NPV always gives them what they want; EC sometimes does not. Therefore, choose NPV.


* EC fails at vetting, anyway. It could only work if citizens voted for electors and gave them enough time to research and make a decision. Problem is, citizens vote for a presidential candidate in November, and then state governments hire electors. If the citizens voted for "Hitler Jr", then the EC only has about 2 months to make a different decision.
Geographia

Pro

Con's "a"

Whether it is ethical or not is not in question. If a fool is elected, then it really isn't ethical, is it? I find this fallacious because it assumes because x is ethical, then y, which is from x is right/also ethical. We could go on about if Democracy is ethical but I don't want to. All in all, it doesn't touch on the reason for elections.

"b"

I don't really get what Con is getting at,but I suppose he is saying I am taking in, so to speak, too many parts of the government at once?

A reasonable government governs. Simply put, there is no reason a group of elects cannot do what NPV can

"c"

Sorry, what I meant is that the EC curbs the single issue voter. There is also the issue of Joe Schmoe appealing to Urban issues and bring a token effort for rural areas, which would happen if NPV is applied.

Pro does not contradict #2.

I agree with this, but to the rest of that paragraph, you basically are assuming the population cannot be wrong which is an ad pop. argument. Thus why it is baseless.



I have not seen an answer to why the population is magically right, but electors are not, and why NPV is so right. Or even why there are elections in the first place. There has been plenty of lynch mobs and all that sweet stuff, so people are not magically ethic or right then. So I ask Con why the population is right and why their views matter. Do not strawman this as a support for authoritarianism.
Debate Round No. 3
daem0n

Con

We agree NPV represents the will of the people better than EC. NPV always, and EC only sometimes, gives them what they want. The only questions left for debate are:

1. whether elections exist to give the people what they want or what they need.
2. whether NPV actually gives them what they need.

I have argued at length that, ethically, elections exist to give the people what they want. Pro mistakenly thinks my argument is a fallacy.

Me:

"It is ethical to give people the leader they want. This is true whether or not their chosen leader leads ethically."

Pro:

"Con blindly trusts the people to elect the leader who will lead most ethically."

Unfortunately, this is Pro's only semblance of refutation to my argument. Pro even expressed unwillingness to debate about whether democracy is ethical. I presented two reasons why it is ethical: (1) it fulfills the government's commitment under the social contract, and (2) you are already making that assumption simply by choosing an election system over having Congress elect the president or something. Pro's refusal to contradict these ideas, which really are the heart of the debate, should be counted as agreement with me. And R4 will be too late for Pro to start addressing these issues.

That alone should persuade you to choose NPV. But even if you think the people do not inherently deserve the leader they want, EC does not actually give them a better leader.

I will do my best to paraphrase Pro's argument, but I have to do some work to fill in the blanks:

"Some citizens research options thoroughly and make careful decisions, but most only care about one issue and simply vote for the candidate who agrees with them on that issue. Electors are an elite group of the former type of people. After the citizens have elected a candidate, these electors make sure this candidate is not a complete fool. If he is, then they elect a different candidate."

I have already shown two problems with this argument:

1. A complete fool cannot get elected in the first place because of all the hoops one must go through to get his name on the ballot. Someone who has fooled the entire political system and the public will just as easily fool the few hundred people who were hired to vote.

2. There is no reason to believe the people hired to vote actually are more qualified to make a decision than the general population. When EC was conceived, the citizens were actually supposed to vote for electors, not for the president. The electors would then have plenty of time to research and make a decision. But today, electors are simply people hired to vote for a predetermined option, rather than the distinguished experts they used to be. And there is no time between November and the inauguration to make a decision. The only substantive difference is that the sample size is smaller, and I think we all know why smaller samples are less reliable than larger samples.

Plus, as Pro admits, EC punishes electors for doing what they think is right instead of what they are told to do, branding them "unfaithful electors". Therefore, EC is counterproductive.

R4 will be too late for Pro to start to support the argument that EC is a well-designed system that actually makes better decisions than the general population.

Furthermore, I ask you to hold both of us to the same standards of proof. The case I make for NPV is a valid argument with well-supported philosophical statements as premises and simple math as the logic. Pro has made a case for EC only by trying to cast doubt on my arguments and by vaguely hinting at the idea that EC can avert some kind of disaster.

In debate lingo, it is not enough to say something like "EC is net beneficial because it has a chance to prevent disaster and NPV does not." As I argue at the start of R2, you are obligated to choose a system with a solid theoretical foundation, not just the system that seems at a superficial glance to have more pros than cons. I have presented a foundation for NPV and Pro has presented none for EC.
Geographia

Pro

Con starts off with a rough summary, but I will get to that later. I want voters to notice how he is not showing why people's wants trump people's needs.

(1) it fulfills the government's commitment under the social contract, and (2) you are already making that assumption simply by choosing an election system over having Congress elect the president or something. Pro's refusal to contradict these ideas, which really are the heart of the debate, should be counted as agreement with me. And R4 will be too late for Pro to start addressing these issues.

I would say that the Government's only obligation is to lead. I would even go as far to as that the Government has the upper hand in the social contract in that if someone doesn't like it, they can simply leave the country, but that is for a different debate. I don't understand why Con is getting on the details late into the debate. For "(2)", I don't know what Con is talking about. It would be the same in my eyes to have Congress elect the next president, with some changes in the details.

But, to Con. The fallacy lies in the fact that the population's opinion is better then the informed one. That is simply wrong and they doesn't always go together, but EC does.

That alone should persuade you to choose NPV. But even if you think the people do not inherently deserve the leader they want, EC does not actually give them a better leader.

Nor does NPV, actually. You keep saying what people want is all powerful, but you haven't said why I should care, which is why you might see me "drop" your arguments.

2. There is no reason to believe...

So you admit that electors have the ability to be competent. Thanks for agreeing with me. Nothing else matters here. Even you have to admit NPV is open to faults.


Plus, as Pro admits, EC punishes electors for doing what they think is right instead of what they are told to do, branding them "unfaithful electors". Therefore, EC is counterproductive.

So?

R4 will be too late for Pro to start to support the argument that EC is a well-designed system that actually makes better decisions than the general population.

What? I said R2 that EC puts the election in the hands of the Electors, and you yourself had said they can research themselves.


I am afraid Con had not proving something vital for the debate: He had not shown why the peoples wants, trump peoples need. For this, his argument falls apart.

Con doesn't show that EC doesn't fill the people's need, and he is appealing to emotion, riding on democracy as a proof.
Debate Round No. 4
daem0n

Con

I waive this round according to the rules in R1.

Thank you, Geographia, for the debate.
Geographia

Pro

Because there was nothing to defend against, as per the rules, I waive this round.
Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Death23 1 year ago
Death23
I can't be persuaded of something that I already agree with. How could Con win if he can't persuade me for this reason?
Posted by daem0n 1 year ago
daem0n
Debate_King1475 did not accept my challenge, so I am opening this debate to any contender who wants it.
Posted by Debate_King1475 1 year ago
Debate_King1475
I would debate you.
Posted by Varrack 1 year ago
Varrack
Ah, this topic is one of my favorites.

I used to think that the Pro position was untenable, but then I debated it (http://www.debate.org...) and realized there is some ground for the other side. Not convincing enough for me to reconsider though, since the EC is littered with flaws.
Posted by daem0n 1 year ago
daem0n
My intent is to debate the merits of counting an electorate's ballots vs counting citizens' ballots, not to debate the merit of plurality voting vs STV or other voting methods. Therefore, I was trying to keep "NPV" as generic as possible.

But I can clarify this in my R1 post.
Posted by Lexus 1 year ago
Lexus
Single transferable vote is in a lot of people's minds since CGP Grey made a video about it whenever people talk about abolishing the electoral college system. STV isn't NPV, but the distinction should be made clear for any voters
Posted by daem0n 1 year ago
daem0n
I changed the wording to clarify what I meant by "as the constitution defines it."

I will add a definition of "national popular vote" if I think I need to. Is there really more than one equally reasonable way to define it?
Posted by Lexus 1 year ago
Lexus
Please actually define the terms you are using in this debate, instead of saying "as the Constitution clearly defines it". I don't think NPV is defined by the constitution, could be wrong.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by philochristos 1 year ago
philochristos
daem0nGeographia
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Con persuaded me with these points: (1) a democracy is a contract between people and government, (2) democratic governments derive their power from the consent of the governed, and (3) NPV represents the will of the people better than EC. That last point was most crucial. Pro had two arguments I thought were worth considering: (1) EC protects the country from Hitler Jr. better than NPV, and (2) EC gives smaller states a bigger say in government. Pro responded to 1 by saying there are already adequate checks against Hitler Jr. in the election process. He responded to 2 by saying there's no reason to think the individual is less important than the state. Although I think Con's response to 1 was okay, I'm not so sure about his response to 2. But Pro didn't do much to respond to either of these arguments. So, over all, I think Con won this debate.
Vote Placed by Death23 1 year ago
Death23
daem0nGeographia
Who won the debate:--
Reasons for voting decision: .