Category Archives: Politics

Abolish The Electoral College

I have a lot of things I want to write about in the wake of Trump’s election, but I’m going to start with the fact that we need to abolish the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is an elitist institution, created on the theory that individual citizens could not be trusted with voting for the president directly.  Hamilton: “A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations” as who should be presidents. So he wanted (and got) an indirect election, through the electoral college. Then some states gamed the system by forcing all their electors to vote in unison, and so other states felt compelled to follow suit.

And we still have that, two hundred years later. [1]Maine and Nebraska partially excepted, since they allow splitting their votes.

A constitutional amendment is difficult. The closest thing currently would be an interstate compact to have electors towards the winner of the popular vote of the nation, not the particular state.[2] It’s been ratified by 160 electoral college votes, but wouldn’t take effect until 270 votes worth of states approve.

The last time there was an attempt at an amendment, in 1970, it was killed by the Senate. “The lead objectors to the proposal were mostly Southern senators and conservatives from small states, both Democrats and Republicans, who argued abolishing the Electoral College would reduce their states’ political influence.”[3]

What, what? Small states have more influence? Indeed they do. Here’s a graph. This is citizens per electoral college vote.


So my vote in California was worth about 1/680,000 of an elector, whereas a person in Wyoming’s vote was about 1/190,000 of an elector. Their vote for president was worth about 3.5 times more than mine. Flipping that, my presidential vote is worth 27% of theirs. This is obviously the wrong result.

The reason for this is Article 2 clause 2 of the Constitution.[4] It says that states get one elector per senator and per representative. Every state has two senators, and a minimum of one representative. The theory was that majority states might oppress less populated states; I think that the framers may not have contemplated what a wide range of populations we have, 220 years later. If you live in a high-population state, you are effectively being disenfranchised. The problem is — as it often is — that only the people with power have the ability to change how the power is allocated, and they are reluctant to give it up. This is so blatantly a misallocation of power, though, that it is worth fighting for.

References   [ + ]

1. Maine and Nebraska partially excepted, since they allow splitting their votes.

I’m Done With Not Talking About Politics

Somewhere along the line I incorporated a sense of “You shouldn’t talk about religion or politics.” I think the logic is that you might upset someone or make a fuss. I’m done with that.

Obviously whatever I’ve been doing is not enough. What we’ve all been doing is not enough. This is a critical period in human history: there are so many of us, and we have so much more technological power to rearrange the Earth. In January, Noam Chomsky described the GOP a “serious danger to human survival”, and that sounds about right. One of the main reasons I was hoping the Senate would flip would be so that Jim Inhofe, the author of “The Great Climate Hoax”, would not continue to be the Senate Environment Committee chair. But he will be, for at least two more years.

The GOP is now also (overtly) the party of misogyny and racism, and as always adheres to the basic principle of corporations and profits over individuals. I’m not the hugest fan of the current incarnation of the Democratic Party, which seems too well connected to big banks and out of touch with workers. But if it is a good enough political for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Robert Reich, I’ll take it for now and continue to try to push it to the left. I donated to Democratic candidates and GOTV operations this year, much more than past years, and spent maybe an hour on the phone for DFA in NC and NV doing GOTV today.

Had known it was going to be like this, though, I would have given more time and money, and been all over Facebook pushing everyone I know to do the same. Sometimes it feels pretty hopeless, like you’re too small to have any control or make a difference, but we have to be doing something more, something different. *I* have to be do something different. I have a nine-month old daughter and I’d like her to grow up in a world where people govern themselves, and the planet, with dignity, grace, and science. Right now this isn’t looking like it.

How I Voted

I’m going through my Alameda County vote-by-mail ballot and decided to share what I’m thinking and links to useful resources.

If you haven’t already also consider registering to vote by mail — link to form for Alameda County residents (pdf).  Easier to think about it that way; you can still drop it off at your local polling station on Election Day.

UPDATED 3pm 10/31 to include Berkeley rent board, school directors, and AC Transit/BART directors.  I still have to do Berkeley ballot measures at some point, hopefully tomorrow.

UPDATED 5pm 11/4 to include Berkeley bond measures.

State Ballot Initiatives

This is by far the most work to think about each of these initiatives.  I exclusively used Ballotpedia to get information, which has a  list of the ballot initiatives here. My links below jump directly to the “Supporters” section of the respective Ballotpedia entry (and the “Opponents” section below it) for each measure.  I found those sections very useful to “follow the money” and generally gave me a pretty quick idea of which side I’m on.

  • Prop 30. Yes. Tax increase to spend on education.  League of Women Voters (“LWV”) and California Democratic Party support.
  • Prop 31. No. Two year state budget rule, with various constraints on how the budget can be structured.  While I’m really sure that California really needs a total restructuring of its budget process, this didn’t seem fully through through enough to warrant a vote for it. Continue reading How I Voted

Friedman on Race To The Top Programs

Nice piece by Friedman on Obama’s “race to the top” fuel efficiency and school reforms.

“So Romney wants to throw away our cheapest, cleanest oil — the stuff we make in Detroit through greater mileage efficiency — and replace it with the world’s most expensive and dirty oil from the Canadian tar sands . . . . That’s a swap only the Koch brothers could dream up.”