Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016 / Question 2 / Electoral Colleges and Social Geography

The Electoral College Meets in Their Dorm to Cast Ballots in the Nixon/Kennedy Contest
Ms Still asks, "Is the electoral college still a good idea for the US today?"  

Ah a good question - and one I've gotten before (well, essentially) - but I have a few more things to say about it - check out this older article of mine - a little piece entitled with the very classy, "What the Hell is the Electoral College?" I'll wait here for you.   Don't worry.  I'm patient.  

Right - so everything in there still seems spot on, but I would like to add a note - specifically refer to the fact that the Electoral College, emphasizing and strengthening the power of rural voters as it does, has the effect putting ethnonational, religious, and racial minorities at a voting disadvantage.   The social geography of the United States puts minorities overwhelmingly in states with relatively high populations, meaning that minorities are consistently more likely to be disadvantaged by the College system.   This is a real problem - one I didn't emphasize enough in my earlier article, and one that is really clarified in John Templon's article, "How the Electoral College Favors White Voters," which I found via an article by Carl Bialik over at the FiveThirtyEight Election Live Blog (thanks for your work, gents!).

So, between all this data, the question really remains a complicated one - rural voters would be disadvantaged by a simple popular vote, minority voters by the Electoral College.   I'm not sure that there is a simple answer to this, though radically expanding the House of Representatives, and therefor the total number of Electors, might help with the problem, since most of that expansion would favor large urban areas without throwing out the rural vote enhancing utility of the College.   No matter the rules of the game, however, there is always a shift in advantage to or from different groups anytime we change the rules of any game.