Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Disenfranchisement and the U.S. election(s)

with one comment

A recurring topic, argument, and/or pseudo-argument (depending on the details) is “disenfranchisement”. This ranges from legitimate concerns about legitimate voters having their votes uncounted (or, worse, switched to another candidate) for illegitimate reasons, to nonsense like “the Electoral-College system disenfranchises this-or-that group”.

While I will not go into a deeper discussion, I note that:

  1. In more-or-less any election, in any system known to me, involving a non-trivial population, a sizable proportion of the votes given will eventually not count in a meaningful manner. They have been given in vain or almost* in vain, because they were given to a candidate or party that did not win, and this fact alone is not disenfranchisement.

    *In e.g. the Swedish and German multi-party systems, a vote for a losing party might still result in a seat more in parliament, but this is nowhere near as valuable as actually being elected the governing party (or, mostly, one of the governing parties).

  2. Arguments that throwing out e.g a specific county due to poor controls, proof of voter fraud, or similar, would disenfranchise the legitimate voters in that county are partially correct and worthy of due consideration. However, they are not the entire story, and often it will be better to throw them out—if in doubt, to avoid future fraud.

    Specifically, throwing them out when the election results were altered will reduce disenfranchisement. (Assuming that correcting the results, which would be preferable, is unrealistic.) Say, for easy numbers, that the true vote was 10,000 to 9,000 and that fraud alters this to 10,000 to 9,000 + 2,000 Allowing the results to stand would disenfranchise the 10,000 legitimate voters for the legitimate winner and the “people” as a whole. Throwing the results out would disenfranchise whom? Not the 10,000 whose votes would have been in vain, anyway, had the fraudulent result stood—they were disenfranchised by the fraud. Not the 9,000 whose votes would have been in vain in a fair election and who would have been given an unfair advantage through the fraud. Certainly not the 2,000, who did not exist in the first place, or voted without having the right to do so, or whatnot. The people as a whole? No: it too was disenfranchised by the fraud and throwing the county out lessens the error of letting a result opposite of the “will of the people” stand.

  3. Replacing the Electoral College with a direct “popular vote” would not solve any problems in a magic manner.

    Firstly, campaign strategies would change and there is no guarantee that e.g. Hillary would have won the popular vote in 2016, if the popular vote had counted. What if Trump had just ignored two smaller battle-ground states, thrown a major effort into California, and shifted the vote enough to take the popular vote while losing two states more?

    Secondly, any imagined disenfranchisement (using the word loosely) problems would just move. For instance, someone somewhere reasoned that voters in this-or-that non-swing state would be disenfranchised, because no-one cared about their problems and all candidates spent their efforts on Florida et co. Change the system and what happens? Florida, California, Texas, New York will get plenty of attention, but Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, …, not so much.

    (In addition, this points to a more fundamental problem, where politics is reduced to bargaining, bribes to the voters for elections, etc. Here the Electoral College is at least a slight counter-weight—and it could be a considerable one if the College was strengthened to the degree that its members were elected as individuals who then made an independent decision about who should be POTUS.)

  4. If you want to experience true disenfranchisement, look at Germany: Here the alleged Conservatives and the Social-Democrats form coalition government after coalition government, making voting borderline pointless.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 24, 2020 at 10:21 am

One Response

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  1. […] Two further items on disenfranchisement: […]


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