The USFG should abolish the Electoral College
Debate Rounds (4)
The United States federal government should abolish the Electoral College.
I'll provide the necessary definitions this round.
United States federal government: This is relatively obvious, but to be clear, this involves the legislature drafting and passing a bill, and the President signing off on that bill.
Should: This simply designates that we are engaged in a policy debate, and therefore what should happen. This is distinguished from "could," as what we are discussing is whether abolition should or should not happen, rather than whether it could given current impediments in Congress and elsewhere. This also implies a net benefits framework, where we'll be debating the merits of our respective cases.
Abolish: To abolish means to formally put an end to something, in this case an end to the Electoral College. This does not preclude my usage of a different system in its place.
The Electoral College: It's a process, established by the Constitution, that consists of a selection of electors by popular vote for each state, a meeting of those electors where they purportedly represent our votes through theirs, and through those votes elect a given President and Vice President. [http://www.archives.gov...] Note that what we're debating here is not an idealized Electoral College, but the Electoral College that exists in its present form.
If my opponent has any disagreement with any of these definitions, they should be expressed via PM or comment, and the definitions altered to make them more amenable.
Usual rules apply:
1) First round is for acceptance and clarification only. My opponent may not present arguments until R2.
2) No new arguments in the last round. Any arguments given in this round should be disregarded by all voters.
Apart from that, I'm just looking forward to an interesting debate. I formally welcome Lady4Liberty to the site, and await her acceptance.
Even though I made first contact to have such a debate, whiteflame was kind enough to start everything as I'm new to the forum and this is my first official debate. It should be noted that, even though I'm new here, I have lots of wonderful information to share and I don't want any special treatment.
I hope everyone enjoys what should be a wonderful debate. I accept this debate and will be Con to "The USFG should abolish the Electoral College"
Now, to start, let's examine what the Electoral College is.
The definition I provided for the Electoral College seems so simple and straightforward, doesn't it? Broken down, it means that two things are happening: there's a popular vote, and there's a vote by the Electoral College. These are meant to uphold the basic ideals of a representative democracy, wherein every vote counts. Representatives are present as go-betweens, merely translating the votes of individuals in their states into a smaller but proportional number of votes for the candidate of their choice.
Seems great, right?
Any system that deals with voting should take on the implement the ideals of a representative democracy. Why? Because the US is a representative democracy, or at least purports to be. A representative democracy "is a variety of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy." It's chiefly meant to deal with the realities of really big societies where votes cannot be held among every person every single time there's a new bill up for discussion. Since what we're discussing is what happens every 4 years where a popular vote is taken anyway, this reality isn't a concern here. The voting system in presidential elections is in place not as a side-show, but as a way for citizens to be involved in the electoral process. In order to ensure that people feel that their votes count, we have to ensure the following:
a) every citizen can vote and gets adequate representation,
b) every vote counts the same,
c) any representatives that translate those votes are actually acting in a representative capacity, and
d) the result of elections generally matches the popular vote.
Any system that fails to implement any of these aspects is fundamentally detrimental to representative democracy.
In order to assess these things, I'll begin by exploring the sordid history of the Electoral College. How did it get its start?
First off, let's be clear that, while the Founding Fathers established it, they did not have the goals of representative democracy that I stated above in mind. The founders clearly did not want everyone to vote, negating that possibility for anyone who didn't own land, let alone anyone of a different skin color or gender. In total, they awarded just 6% of the population with the ability to vote, something that took many decades to change at all.
However, I'm not requiring Con to defend its history, only where it's at currently. So, why spend all of this time on background? Because denying representation and even the vote hasn't stopped. For the former, 650,000 people in DC have no representation in Congress. Still, at least they have electoral votes " Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands aren't so lucky, lacking even that basic impact on elections. As for the latter, we can look to multiple examples, but the most flagrant is disenfranchisement of felons, which entirely bars anyone who was convicted of a felony from ever voting in a U.S. election. This is used regularly to disenfranchise African Americans and other minority groups, basically continuing the long-held tradition of Jim Crow laws that denied so many their basic voting rights.[7, 8]
Frankly, all of this is reason enough to abolish the electoral college by itself, but we can go further. Much further. The Electoral College itself IS voter disenfranchisement, at its very core.
Many people think that the Electoral College was designed to help small states, and given how it functions today, it's not hard to see how some might view it that way. It's actually helped them quite a bit, to the point that voters in Wyoming have over 3 times the electoral power of voters in California. This means that each voter in Wyoming has 3 times the say of voters in California, which inherently makes the votes of individuals in each state unequal, something we should strive against for a representative democracy.
...But the Electoral College wasn't built to help small states. It was built chiefly to reach across the divide between northern and southern states, and they did this by giving southern states electoral votes equal to their total population. Seems legit, but it wasn't. Slaves made up a great deal of these populations, and slaves couldn't vote, which meant that these electoral votes were actually giving even more representation to a much smaller population on the basis of how many people they owned.
But maybe you're thinking that it's still nice that small states are being represented, even if that wasn't the initial intent. However, it really doesn't help small states at all - the winner-take-all system we have in place ensures that candidates will get all of the electoral votes from a given state, and not a proportional number based on actual votes. That means that California, as a state, still has far more say than Wyoming, but it's not the STATES that we want representation for. It's the people. And this winner-takes-all system fundamentally deprives anyone who doesn't agree with the majority political views of their state. If you live in a "blue" or "red" state, and you align with Republicans or Democrats, respectively, then your vote doesn't matter. This amounts to millions of voters across multiple states who are completely unrepresented by the Electoral College. And, if you live in one of these states that's already assumed to go "blue" or "red", you have no impact on the outcome anyway. In some cases, independent candidates will take a state, siphoning every electoral vote away from other candidates. Swing states are the only ones that end up making any difference in an election because these other states will rarely, if ever, shift. That means that 80% of the votes cast in America have no impact on the outcome of an election.
But maybe you're still satisfied with the system. This is a representative democracy, we need representatives. The Electoral College may not be solidly built, but at least the electors themselves are fine, upstanding individuals, right?
Not quite. Electors aren't elected - they're nominated by their political parties, and have little to no accountability to voters. In most states, the electors can vote for whoever they want, without any regard for how the general population of their states voted. That's happened over 80 times, and worse yet, it sometimes results in absolute nonsense votes for people like "John Ewards", who was almost John Kerry's running mate, in 2004.
But all of this only sounds terrible, right? It hasn't borne out in any elections, right? Actually, it's happened as many as 5 times, most recently in 2000. And if votes ever result in no candidate receiving a majority of the electoral vote (which, thankfully, hasn't happened yet), then the House of Representatives chooses the president. That also sounds good, except that each state receives one vote. That means that the 7 smallest states, with a population of roughly 4.9 million, can outvote the 6 largest states, with a population of 119 million.
There are so many better ways to do this than to stick with the Electoral College, though I'm going to propose one:
The USFG should implement a voting system whereby presidential candidates are elected by direct popular vote, which would be open to everyone over the age of 18. In instances where no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, runoffs will be held between the top 2 finishers.
A representative democracy should be representing the voters as well as possible, which requires that the voters have direct say in who's representing us. For this to happen, we need to completely remove the current system in order to put it behind us. We have to leave any trace of the system we have, which employs unelected and unaccountable individuals to make our decisions for us, behind to ensure that the mistakes of its history do not perpetuate themselves.
But the pursuit of representative democracy isn't just beneficial because it's something our government is supposed to support. The realities of the Electoral College system lead to apathy, mainly because people feel distanced from the impact of their votes. It's not surprising at all tht more than 60% of people don't vote in this country, and that even more young people are eschewing the practice. We're an international embarrassment for our voter turnout. It's not surprising, as I've pointed out that the vast majority of voters might as well not even show up due to the Electoral College system. If you're in a swing state, then congratulations, you're getting all of the attention during the election season. For the rest of the US, there's almost no reason to turn out. The large electorate can also feel impersonal, but at least under my system every vote actually counts towards the end result. That invests people in the process, making them more likely to research the candidates and turn out for the vote, thus furthering our democracy.
With that, I hand the debate over to Con.
The resolution is stated as "The United States federal government should abolish the Electoral College". Since the system, as it exists today, includes the Electoral College, the burden of proof is on whiteflame to prove that the system should be abolished.
I do need to start by clearing up one point that is made multiple times in the opening argument by whiteflame. I welcome all to join me in singing the Pledge of Allegiance, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands....", say that part again "and to the Republic".  The United States is a Republic not a representative democracy. A democracy implies a majority rule and that is specifically what the founding fathers did not want to create.
I do believe whiteflame was being honest with the use of this term and likely meant the same thing I am addressing, but it's important to be clear for those reading that the nation is a republic, even if it has democratic components. A republic is defined as a government with representatives who are limited by a set of rules, such as the Constitution.  Listening to the recent political debates, you will hear the Democratic candidates use the term democracy often, and there are a few Republican candidates who also say that we have a democracy. This, is completely false. Whiteflame includes the term representative, unlikely the presidential candidates, but I wanted to further clear up this point before moving on with the electoral college at hand.
Article 4, Section 4 in the Constitution says "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government..." This is important for 2 reasons, 1) the use of the term republican, and 2) that the states are guaranteed this form of government. We use the term United States of America, not the United People of America. We are a nation of states who came together, thanks to a group of people representing each state, to unite. The federal government represents both the states and the people inside those states.
The Constitution forms 3 portions of the federal government. In Article 1 describes the legislative branch. There was much debate about how this branch would be formed, but eventually it was agreed that we would have a bicameral body. "The House of Representatives is comprised of members who represent population districts within each state, while members of the Senate represent the states themselves....By forcing the two bodies to work together, a bicameral system ensures more voices are heard..."
From the very beginning, the nation was founded upon representing the people and the states. The House of Representatives were elected by the people in their districts and the Senators were elected to represent the states. So it should be no surprise that the next portion of the Constitution, involving the executive branch, is formed with the same to groups in mind (the people and the states). The electoral college (a term not used in the Constitution) , is discussed before most anything else in Article 2. It was so important to the founders that it was addressed very early in their writing to frame the executive branch. I will not take time to quote the Constitution, but you can go here  to view how early the founders describe the president's election.
When whiteflame addresses his 4 points (listed a-d), he notes in point b that "every vote counts the same", but what he fails to include is that the foundation of the executive branch represents the people and the states. The small states feared that they would have no representation if it was a strict popular vote. The large states felt it unfair that the small states with less population would have the same value as their vote. Through compromise the electoral college was born.
If a presidential candidate was interested in just a majority vote, the focus of their campaign may be on very limited issues in a select group of states. For example, the total population of 9 states (of 50) would reach a number greater than 50% of the nations population. It would take 11 states (of 50) based on the electoral college to win the 270 minimum. (numbers can be found here ). Issues that are important to states like California, Texas, Florida and New York would get the bulk of the attention. The election would be more about getting their supports to show up at the polls in a majority rule system, and less need to represent the masses of the nation.
A wonderful example of this can be found in 1888 when Grover Cleveland lost his bid for reelection. His focus was on a very limited platform, most specifically tariffs. The president supported lower tariffs and focused on the southern states, in hopes of being reelected. He won some states by large majorities: 67% of Alabama, 70% of Georgia, 73% of Louisiana, nearly 74% of Missouri and almost 83% of South Carolina. The president had a narrow focus, and did a poor job at representing many issues of the different people in different states. As a result, he won the popular vote but lost the election.
My opponent made a false statement that I wanted to address. "However, it really doesn't help small states at all - the winner-take-all system we have in place ensures that candidates will get all of the electoral votes from a given state, and not a proportional number based on actual votes." says whiteflame. To start with, his link number 11 will direct you to a poplar vote count and says nothing about the winner-take-all system. I want to correct the earlier comment by whiteflame and note that not every state is winner-take-all; Maine and Nebraska do not use such a system.  Further, each state has the chance to change the rules of state's electoral college. 
The 2000 election focused on Florida, maybe for good reason and maybe not, because there were discrepancies with the number of votes in the state and which candidate would receive their electoral college votes - winning the presidency. But I ask you to just imagine what would have happened if we had a popular vote for the nation and the states did not have their own rules and laws in place, and the majority winner was just a few thousand votes more than the next person - there would be chaos in nearly every district across the nation with lawyers demanding recounts and disqualification of votes. The system would stall and that would a horrible situation for our nation.
I will circle back to the focus on the importance of the federal government to represent the people and the states. Congress represents the people in the House and represents the states in the Senate. The presidential election, thanks to the electoral college, melds those two groups in a way to elect a president representing both people and the states across a broad range of the nation. In a popular vote, the candidates, needing to win just 1 more vote than a competitor, would focus on the larger states and the large cities within those states. The candidates would spend their money and energy in the most productive way; concentrating on small regions with large population groups and not the larger regions with a more spread out population. Rural values would no longer be a focus of the president and that could create a more polarized nation. The President of the United States is just that, a president of the states, and to abolish the electoral college would be to abolish the representation of the states in the executive branch of government and move the nation more to a majority-rule democracy - which is in direct opposition to the founding philosophy of our great nation.
With that, I turn the debate back to whiteflame
I"ll start by noting that she basically dropped my case. She may spend some time rebutting the points I made in the next round (and I hope she will), but for now, voters should extend all my major points, particularly:
The 4 points I stated from the outset were necessary for representative democracy, and how the Electoral College (EC) fundamentally debases all of them, and
The effectiveness of my plan in fostering voter enfranchisement and an associated decrease in voter apathy.
Now, Con starts by trying to drive a wedge between the terms "republic" and "representative democracy."
What's a representative democracy? It's "a system of government in which all eligible citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them. A perfect example is the U.S., where we elect a president." 
What's a republic? It's "a country that is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader (such as a president) rather than by a king or queen."
Those aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, a representative democracy makes an effective republic possible. Con hasn't explained why we are not a representative democracy, nor has she explained how that system of government is bad or even neutral.
So, expanding on my last round, what does representative democracy do for the U.S. and its citizens?
First, it reduces bias. When voter turnout is high, it"s more representative of the general population and its views, and therefore the candidates that are elected are based on that increased representation. When participation is low, bias increases because those who are involved in the voting process are a small subset of the overall population and therefore don"t reflect the opinions of the public as a whole. This bias is clear when we look at the views of non-voters versus voters. They"re very different when it comes to unions, school funding, jobs, health insurance, taxation, and government involvement than voters, and yet this population feels disenfranchised under the EC system, which means that their views on these issues are never heard. And remember, this is some 60% of the overall population. But this only addresses increasing the number of voters under the current system, wherein presidents are solely elected by electors and therefore only accountable to them. That biases the system even further, turning almost 220 million eligible voters into 538 individuals, which introduces massive bias.[23, 24]
Second, it tells policymakers that their constituents are paying attention, making them more responsive to the interests of those constituents. This has been supported by multiple studies, including a study that showed that cities with higher levels of turnout also have more representation of minority populations,, a study that showed congressional policy is similarly responsive,, and one showing that more actively voting counties receive more federal funds. Incentivizing more voting ensures that citizens are better represented by their government, making the system more stable by increasing citizen satisfaction.
Con us right about one thing: the founding fathers didn't want a true representative democracy. In fact, that's a large part of why they probably shouldn't be revered absolutely. During a time of great upheaval, they may have been justified in their views that voting should be restricted to a select few (effectively turning those few into the "majority" and giving them rule), but that doesn"t mean their decisions should be treated as unassailable or immutable.
Before I get further into Con's case, I think a couple of things need to be made clear.
Con spends a lot of time citing the Constitution, but this point has no teeth to it. It's unclear why following the Constitution as it is written is beneficial, or why the fact that it appears so early in the Constitution is consequential. She pretty much spends the entire round assuming that since the Constitution says it's good, and since the Founding Fathers said it was good, the EC is justified. This is a basic is/ought fallacy " just because something is one way doesn't mean it ought to be.
Along similar lines, Con also says that it's important that states have representation, but she never says why. She just asserts it, saying that majority rule is bad without providing any examples. Moreover, she says that states should have representation, but individuals shouldn't, saying that we should eschew democracy in favor of having the states decide things for us. I can't fathom a world in which this makes any kind of sense. She clearly values representation, but seems to think that that representation should be decided by unelected, often unaccountable electors. Why are appointed electors the most appropriate means for deciding who the president should be? Why is their representation of our votes something to be valued? Most importantly, why is that value higher than the value of the representation of hundreds of millions of citizen voters? Con hasn't explained.
Alright, now let's move into the other points Con makes.
1. Con states that the reason why the EC came into existence was to ensure that small states got representation.
First, this ignores my , which shows that the EC was implemented to reach out to southern states, giving them electoral votes for their non-voting slaves. Second, it ignores the fact that, under the EC, California will always massively outweigh Wyoming, making them unequal in any case. Since Con didn't like my previous source, she can have this one. Even without Maine and Nebraska, that's still 48 of the 50 states. Con's statement that states can change the rules of the EC doesn't invalidate the harms of the current system; its current faults aren"t lessened by the capacity for change. Third, Con provides no reason whatsoever why this still matters. Why should we care about state representation over individual representation? Con provides no reason for this.
2. Con says that the EC leads to less catering to large states.
Under my system, the total population of any state is extremely unlikely to vote for a given candidate, especially given just how mixed they are. Con doesn't give any reason why, under my plan, any candidate could plausibly garner the entirety of any given state's vote. On the other hand, under the EC, each candidate will earn the entirety of a state's electoral votes if they win that state. Under a direct voting system, the voters in those 9 states will always be split to some degree, preventing this scenario from playing out. Under the EC system, 11 states could much more easily align to vote for a single candidate.
The 1888 election is actually a point in my favor. Note that the 4 states with the most electoral votes at the time (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois) all went to Harrison, the winner. Also, note how divided the country was " neither candidate was representing a plurality of interests across northern and southern states, and if the election had proceeded without the clearly fraudulent voting in New York and Indiana, Cleveland would have won under the EC. If anything, this is a clear example of playing the EC being used to circumvent popular opinion and facilitate corruption.
The 2000 election is just as bad. Florida became the focus of the election, which is a supercharged example of the voter disenfranchisement that I cited last round. That state came down a grand total of 900 votes. That was the difference that decided the election. The difference nationally was over 550,000 votes. That kind of difference doesn"t engender chaos of any sort, nor is a broad-based recount chaotic. Under the EC, there was actual, real chaos in Florida, so much so that the USSC had to intervene to stop it, and many still believe the election was suspect as a result. That was the result of perceived bias in the recount process, a bias that is far less likely when you have multiple officials across multiple states doing the recount. Any theoretical chaos, solely asserted by Con, has no weight against the actual harms of the EC, which would not have existed if all that was at stake was a few thousand votes instead of all of Florida's electoral votes.
4. Con argues that candidates will only need to win one more vote than their opponent to win an election, and will focus more on cities without an EC.
Theoretically, a candidate only needs one more vote than their competitor, though they would still have to court tens of millions. The same is true for the EC system, except that those votes are electoral votes, which, in 24 states, aren't even required to represent the views of their state.
As for the focus on cities, two responses.
First, that doesn't make sense. If every candidate solely focused on cities, they would be missing out on almost 20% of the population. Con"s under the impression that 2 candidates would solely fight over the remaining 80% of the population, expecting to get roughly half that, and ignore the remaining 20% that could easily shift the balance in their favor.
Second, even if this is true, it's better than focusing only on swing states, which account for only 20% of the popular vote. At least in my case, presidential candidates are required to pay attention to 80% of the population. In status quo, 80% are entirely ignored in favor of a small group of states just because they're a little more purple than the rest.
Alright, back over to you, Lady4Liberty.
My sister just had her baby and i won't be able to offer a post for this round in time. I accept the loss but hope we can cut/paste and continue this again in the future.
I don't accept your concession. I say we call this a draw, and do as you suggested - pick this back up another time with the same arguments. How's that sound?
However I did not finish the debate as the rules stated and accept a rightful loss too.
Thank you for your kind words. We are happy with the new family addition
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by TheResistance 9 months ago
|Who won the debate:||-||-|
Reasons for voting decision: It was a tie, but White Flame definitely wrecked! He still had his point A, C, D standing after the smoke after the first rebuttal and con case. White flame then had very strong defense for b, thus making his whole case stand strong! I would cast my vote to white, but as it goes, they agreed to a draw, thus I must accept it. Good job @whiteflame and @Lady4Liberty-congrats on your new addition to the family and a good job for standing against a top debater! Thanks for white flame for having the heart for letting it be a draw.
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