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Posts Tagged ‘disenfranchisement

Follow-up: Disenfranchisement and the U.S. election(s)

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Two further items on disenfranchisement:

  1. I have repeatedly heard claims of a pact, of some sort, whereby some states want to ignore the respective state-wide popular vote in favor of the nation-wide popular vote when choosing their electors.

    This, if implemented, would be a gross disenfranchisement of the respective state’s population.

    Moreover, it would be constitutionally problematic in at least two regards: Firstly, it does away with the need to amend the constitution, thereby avoiding various checks-and-balances and violating the rights of the states and the people to have a say in how the constitution develops.* Secondly, it is contrary to the intentions of how the president should be elected. While this approach might (or might not) technically be within the considerable leeway given to the states in choosing electors, it is certainly against the spirit of the states of the federation electing who should be the “CEO” of the federation.**

    *Note the similar problem with judicial activism and the attitude that a small group of justices should be allowed to bend and alter the constitution without adhering to the prescribed manner—which was prescribed for a good reason.

    **Generally, the implementation of the U.S. as a federation appears to have grown weaker and weaker over time, with a considerable risk that it will soon be reduced to a single monolithic state and fifty ceremonial “states”.

  2. The sad truth is that elections (absent cheating …) are won by whoever manages to convince the greater part of the dumb masses. While I am not in a position to make a true quantification, I suspect that not even one-in-ten makes a truly informed and intelligent decision on how to vote, while well over half are driven mostly by emotions, egoism, and/or cheap propaganda, and while the remainder do try to vote reasonably but lack the information and intelligence to do so. The main difference between modern elections and the Roman panem et circenses is that modern politics is better at creating the impression of “serious” elections—what happens below the surface is not that different. Actually, there is one other important difference: a Roman politician, in my impression, bribed the people out of his own pocket, while the modern politician bribes with the tax-payers’ money.

    Indeed, it is striking how close to 50–50 elections tend to be, irrespective of the participants. If objective and informed choices were made, then 80–20 and 90–10 elections would be quite common; instead, 60–40 is considered a land-slide.*

    *I caution that while the rarity of 80–20 elections is an indicator of poor decisions, their presence is not a proof of good decisions; moreover, that it is important to look at aggregates, as e.g. a single 51–49 decision could result from the candidates coincidentally being almost equally good.

    The result is that the minority of voters whose votes really should count, those who understand how society, economics, and politics work, know their history, are highly intelligent, try to make rational decisions, can think critically, etc., stand a disproportionate risk that their votes do not matter. Say that (optimistically) these “good” voters cast 10 % of the overall votes, and that they go 8–2 (resp. 80–20) for candidate A over candidate B. This gives candidate A a leg up of 6 % of the overall vote, and all candidate B has to do is to win the dumb-masses 48–42 (roughly, 53.33–46.67, when scaled from 90 to 100) + one vote. Drop the optimistic 10 % to 1 % and even a near unanimous preference for one of the candidates is unlikely to matter.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 30, 2020 at 6:55 am

Disenfranchisement and the U.S. election(s)

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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