Author Topic: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)  (Read 1689 times)

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Offline ariich

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Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« on: May 30, 2017, 05:13:34 AM »
Whenever there's an election going on in the UK, this issue surfaces again. I wondered what DTFers thoughts on it are, though in P&R I think most people are American which has possibly the worst electoral system.

Anyway, so in the UK we have a First Past the Post system, where the whole UK is divided up into 650 constituencies of roughly equal size, and each elects a single Member of Parliament (MP) to theoretically represent them. No majority is required, it's just whichever candidate gets the most votes. Then any party that gets a majority of MPs can form a government, and its leader becomes Prime Minister. If no party gets a majority, then the largest can either form a minority government or a coalition with a smaller party, though that rarely happens. In theory, we don't vote for the leader, or for the national party, but for our local representative. That's the whole justification for this electoral system. Except that the vast majority of people vote for a local candidate based purely on the party (and in many cases the leader) they support, regardless of who the local candidate actually is.

It means that dominant parties (nationally or regionally) are over-represented in parliament, while smaller ones are massively under-represented. The Conservatives have around 90 MPs more than their vote share would give, the Scottish National Party has double the MPs it should and Labour is also over-represented by 35MPs. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have around 15% of the MPs they should, and UKIP and the Greens only had 1 MP each at the last election when vote share would have given them around 80 and 25 respectively.

This website sets out the problem quite well: https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/liam-anderson/voters-per-mp-why-first-past-post-failed



I've never been too fussed by it, but this current election is being categorised by the two biggest parties both putting out manifestos that can't be delivered and with leaders who are as incompetent as each other. And yet the system props them up because any vote for a smaller party is seen as a "wasted vote". Most constituencies see many voters choosing Labour as the best bet to stop the Conservatives winning that seat, or vice versa, instead of voting for the party or candidate that best represents them. Despite neither of the two biggest parties being credible, between them they're getting the biggest share of voting intention for decades.

The movement to encourage the UK to move towards some form of Proportional Representation (PR) seems to be growing, but ultimately it will never be in the interest of the two parties in power to support it. But I know it works quite well in a number of countries, particularly in Europe. Not pure PR like the vote share stats above, but a more proportional system where Parliament more accurately reflects votes.

I'm aware that most P&R posters are American, which has the electoral college system which is even worse and less fair than the UK's system.

Anyway, interested to get people's views, especially from anyone who is from or lives in a country which has PR.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2017, 01:23:58 PM by ariich »

Offline El Barto

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever the f*** America has)
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2017, 08:21:21 AM »
Except that the vast majority of people vote for the party (and in many cases the leader) they support, regardless of local candidate.
I don't get it. Don't they have to vote for the local rep? Are you saying they vote for whoever the candidate from their preferred party is regardless of whether or not he's a pillock?
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Offline ariich

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever the f*** America has)
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2017, 08:29:53 AM »
Except that the vast majority of people vote for the party (and in many cases the leader) they support, regardless of local candidate.
I don't get it. Don't they have to vote for the local rep? Are you saying they vote for whoever the candidate from their preferred party is regardless of whether or not he's a pillock?
Precisely. The vast majority of people pay no attention to who the local candidates are. I'll edit my post to clarify that.

(EDIT: To add some personal perspective, my local MP has been absolutely useless and even most of her party's voters seem to think that. But they'll vote for her anyway because they support the national party)

It's especially the case this time around with the Tories even branding themselves as "Theresa May's Team" instead of the Conservatives. Though they've toned that down since her poor performance recently has meant she's not as popular as she was.

I suppose the difference in America is that (as I understand it) you vote separately for your local representative and the President.

Offline Stadler

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2017, 09:00:03 AM »

I'm aware that most P&R posters are American, which has the electoral college system which is even worse and less fair than the UK's system.


Why do you keep saying that?   If your main criticism of your system is that "dominant parties (nationally or regionally) are over-represented in parliament, while smaller ones are massively under-represented", then you would think that the Electoral College is a MORE fair system, since that's precisely one of the things it's intended to counter.   The ONLY reason that people think the Electoral College sucks is when they see an alternative mechanism that would have gotten their guy in.   

There's an adage in the legal field that "good cases make bad law", and that is what I believe we're seeing here in terms of the electoral system.   It's popular and convenient to introduce Hillary these says as "The winner of the popular vote, Hillary Clinton!".    But much like we don't crown a World Series winner based on the total runs scored over the seven games, or a World Cup winner on the total goals scored over the course of the tournament, you have to win the individual contests that you are in.  That Hillary crushed it in California (her margin of victory there was significantly over the expected outcome, whereas the majority of states she won/lost were within a margin of error of that predicted) shouldn't have bearing on the rights of the other 49 states to have their voices heard.   (That concept is perhaps the least understood but most important of the premises for the electoral college; it actually acknowledges the fact that STATES have a say in our Presidential elections.   The Presidential election is the ONLY election in this country - other than Dancing With The Stars and American Idol - that is truly national; every other elected official is done on a state-by-state basis). 

There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college. 

Offline XeRocks81

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2017, 09:04:34 AM »
Canada has a basically the same system as the UK, for elections and forming government


It's also being stretched to its breaking point  as the votes are  divided between multiple parties.  We're in dire need of electoral reform (a component of proportionality would be nice)

Offline El Barto

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever the f*** America has)
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2017, 09:20:21 AM »
I suppose the difference in America is that (as I understand it) you vote separately for your local representative and the President.
Yes, but it works the same way. Local reps are elected based on party affiliation largely to check or support the president.

I'm honestly not sure what could be done about the two party stranglehold. America wasn't always like that, but it seems a natural evolution in politics to reduce things down to the LCD. I had always thought that parliamentary systems were above that, but I suppose not. Out of curiosity, do y'all have the same problem with political machines spending billions to maintain their control?
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Offline Stadler

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2017, 09:27:38 AM »
I think the two-system isn't the problem as much as it is the two parties.   You will, at some point, see evolution to this, if and only if the people demand that change.   I don't have a ton of faith in the people at this point, but once a critical mass of Democrats realize that advocating for gay rights (by way of example only) - a good thing - doesn't mean that you support cockamamie economic policies, or a critical mass of Republicans realize that advocating for global commerce with minimal arbitrary country-specific restrictions (by way of example only) - a good thing - doesn't mean that you are a bigot or racist. 

It WILL happen.

Offline ariich

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2017, 09:39:11 AM »

I'm aware that most P&R posters are American, which has the electoral college system which is even worse and less fair than the UK's system.


Why do you keep saying that?   If your main criticism of your system is that "dominant parties (nationally or regionally) are over-represented in parliament, while smaller ones are massively under-represented", then you would think that the Electoral College is a MORE fair system, since that's precisely one of the things it's intended to counter.  The ONLY reason that people think the Electoral College sucks is when they see an alternative mechanism that would have gotten their guy in.
If that's what it's intended to counter, then it's horribly designed. I have no "guy". To explain why I see the electoral college system as even worse than what we have in the UK (at least in how it is actually used):

In the UK's First Past the Post, each constituency covers roughly the same size electorate (something like 80-100,000 people). So for all its flaws in terms of representation (and in biasing people to vote for the biggest parties), local variances mean some level of evening out - parties that get support in certain local areas can at least get SOME representation in parliament, and rural/urban differences get somewhat reflected.

But the electoral college aggregates it all to I believe state level (I'm very much not an expert so correct me if I'm wrong)? So a state has x million people, which gives y electoral college votes. But rather than those votes representing the breakdown of votes or local preferences within that state, whichever party gets the majority - no matter how small - gets ALL of the electoral votes. This skews towards the biggest parties even more than in the UK (and is also why the winner can lose the popular vote by millions of votes).

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But much like we don't crown a World Series winner based on the total runs scored over the seven games, or a World Cup winner on the total goals scored over the course of the tournament, you have to win the individual contests that you are in.
Er, why do you "have to"? The only reason you have to is that that's how the system is set up. But it's a unrepresentative and unfair system (as ours is in the UK) that disenfranchises millions of voters.

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(That concept is perhaps the least understood but most important of the premises for the electoral college; it actually acknowledges the fact that STATES have a say in our Presidential elections.   The Presidential election is the ONLY election in this country - other than Dancing With The Stars and American Idol - that is truly national; every other elected official is done on a state-by-state basis).
Again, the electoral college would work absolutely fine if it was broadly proportional, so that each state's electoral votes BROADLY corresponded to how votes break down within the state, or perhaps with a minimum threshold like in many countries that use PR. I would very much support something like that on a regional basis in the UK.

Quote
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college. 
Completely agree with your general point. But the way the electoral college is implemented is precisely what continues to prop up this two-party system. And again, same in the UK.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2017, 09:47:08 AM by ariich »

Offline ariich

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2017, 09:46:20 AM »
Out of curiosity, do y'all have the same problem with political machines spending billions to maintain their control?
To an extent, though there are rules on how much parties are allowed to spend on national and local campaigning. Certainly the Tories get donations from wealthy businessmen, and Labour get financially propped up by trade unions (or at least they did - I think it may be funded by individual membership now).

To some extent I think the "deal" in the UK is less of a financial one. The big parties pander to powerful groups (wealthy people & business, or trade unions) with certain policies and in return those group continue to support the parties and campaign on their behalf (i.e. at no cost). A lot of it is in the press as well. Theresa May is unashamedly pandering to the Daily Mail right now, which has always hated the EU, by peddling a strong brexit line that she herself campaigned against in last year's referendum, and in return the Mail pledges its undying devotion to her and does everything it can to discredit other parties.

EDIT: This also relates to Stadler's point about two-party politics inadequately encompassing a range of complex issues. Many people in the UK don't like the Tories narrative on Brexit or further cuts to public services, and for example support Labour's stance on increasing public funding to certain key services such as health and education. But they also see the Labour leader as useless and promising the world when it's not possible to deliver everything they promise, such as nationalising services that do not need to be nationalised and massively increasing national debt to do so.

These people should have other options to vote for, and technically they do. In a proper electoral system, if both the main parties/candidates look crap, we should say screw it and vote for a smaller party. But our electoral system has, if anything, pushed it the other way because people are voting for a party that they don't really want in the hope of stopping one that they DEFINITELY don't want. Similar parallels to the US election last year I think.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2017, 09:53:35 AM by ariich »

Offline Stadler

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2017, 10:27:35 AM »
If that's what it's intended to counter, then it's horribly designed. I have no "guy". To explain why I see the electoral college system as even worse than what we have in the UK (at least in how it is actually used):

In the UK's First Past the Post, each constituency covers roughly the same size electorate (something like 80-100,000 people). So for all its flaws in terms of representation (and in biasing people to vote for the biggest parties), local variances mean some level of evening out - parties that get support in certain local areas can at least get SOME representation in parliament, and rural/urban differences get somewhat reflected.

But the electoral college aggregates it all to I believe state level (I'm very much not an expert so correct me if I'm wrong)? So a state has x million people, which gives y electoral college votes. But rather than those votes representing the breakdown of votes or local preferences within that state, whichever party gets the majority - no matter how small - gets ALL of the electoral votes. This skews towards the biggest parties even more than in the UK (and is also why the winner can lose the popular vote by millions of votes).

It does aggregate it to the state level, but one, it's not directly proportional to population (California has something like seven times the population of Wisconsin, but only 5.5 times the electoral votes). Each state can decide how to allocate their electoral votes - Maine and Nebraska do it by congressional district, so it's not at all a winner take all exercise.   But two, since the actual elections themselves are winner-take-all - meaning, there aren't more than two (at the MOST three) parties represented in Congress - it means that no "minor" party is disadvantaged.   

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But much like we don't crown a World Series winner based on the total runs scored over the seven games, or a World Cup winner on the total goals scored over the course of the tournament, you have to win the individual contests that you are in.
Er, why do you "have to"? The only reason you have to is that that's how the system is set up. But it's a unrepresentative and unfair system (as ours is in the UK) that disenfranchises millions of voters.

Well, it doesn't, though.  It only disenfranchises you if your guy doesn't get in.   "Having your vote count" and "your guy winning" is not the same thing, and shouldn't be confused as such.  "Disenfranchised" is when your position is bull-dozed by a majority rule tidal wave.  This election shows that that is not the case.    The people in Wisconsin and Michigan voted the way they did precisely BECAUSE they felt disenfranchised.     New York City has more people than 39 STATES (it would be 12 if it was a state).   Los Angeles has more people than 21 states.   If you agree - and the Civil War will tell you this - that "political affiliation" is not geographically uniform, how do you counter this?  First you break it down by State, and second - because States themselves get to set economic policy - you give the States a voice in the election.

The Electoral College does exactly this.

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Again, the electoral college would work absolutely fine if it was broadly proportional, so that each state's electoral votes BROADLY corresponded to how votes break down within the state, or perhaps with a minimum threshold like in many countries that use PR. I would very much support something like that on a regional basis in the UK.

But nothing about our system is "proportional".  "Proportional" wouldn't eliminate inequality, it would just change the inequality to something different.  This is why I say that critics are just about "not my guy", even though I know full well you don't "have a guy".   What would be the different outcome under your system?   California would still be "blue", i.e. Democrat.   That vote of the last (Democrat) person counted is and will still be unable to change the outcome.

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Completely agree with your general point. But the way the electoral college is implemented is precisely what continues to prop up this two-party system. And again, same in the UK.

I legit have to think about that for a second.  I don't know that it is true.   I think there are too many factors to boil it down that fine, but I can give that some consideration.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2017, 11:05:00 AM by Stadler »

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2017, 10:46:56 AM »
But the electoral college aggregates it all to I believe state level (I'm very much not an expert so correct me if I'm wrong)? So a state has x million people, which gives y electoral college votes. But rather than those votes representing the breakdown of votes or local preferences within that state, whichever party gets the majority - no matter how small - gets ALL of the electoral votes. This skews towards the biggest parties even more than in the UK (and is also why the winner can lose the popular vote by millions of votes).

And it will never go away, because politicians can't gerrymander the popular vote to suit their needs.  As long as there's ANY way they can have their hands in the process, they will never allow a way that takes their hands out.

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2017, 10:58:18 AM »
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college.

Totally agree.  Especially as the general left and right go further away from the center, I got to think at some point someone truly in the middle emerges to break the 3 party system.  I thought Trump was closer to this person being that both sides hate him and his politics are closer to the middle than either sides candidates were, maybe he still is, but he seems more like a nobody at this point.

Offline Stadler

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2017, 11:09:37 AM »
But the electoral college aggregates it all to I believe state level (I'm very much not an expert so correct me if I'm wrong)? So a state has x million people, which gives y electoral college votes. But rather than those votes representing the breakdown of votes or local preferences within that state, whichever party gets the majority - no matter how small - gets ALL of the electoral votes. This skews towards the biggest parties even more than in the UK (and is also why the winner can lose the popular vote by millions of votes).

And it will never go away, because politicians can't gerrymander the popular vote to suit their needs.  As long as there's ANY way they can have their hands in the process, they will never allow a way that takes their hands out.

The State-by-State Electoral College IS "gerrymandering proof".  What, you're going to change the borders of Michigan?    It's far harder to jury-rig the electoral process than it would be the popular vote (that's another reason why the Founding Fathers put it in, though it was from a different time and from different concerns, i.e. write in ballots from far flung colonies getting lost).   Popular vote:  you stuff the ballot box.   When your states turn out anywhere from 50 to 60% turnout, that means you have anywhere from 75 to 100 million votes to play with.  With the Electoral College, you have no way of knowing in advance (except by guesswork) what will be the jurisdiction in play.  With Al Gore it was Florida.  Florida was not in issue in 2016.   Some years it's Pennsylvania, others it's Ohio.  This year it was Michigan and Wisconsin.   Hard to game the system when you don't know where the gaming will be needed.     

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2017, 11:11:08 AM »
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college.

Totally agree.  Especially as the general left and right go further away from the center, I got to think at some point someone truly in the middle emerges to break the 3 party system.  I thought Trump was closer to this person being that both sides hate him and his politics are closer to the middle than either sides candidates were, maybe he still is, but he seems more like a nobody at this point.

Honestly, before she threw the token "free college" bone to the Bern-sters to assuage the fact that they gamed the convention (thanks to Debbie Wasserman Skullfuck) her politics and Trumps are a WHOLE lot closer than hers and Bernies.  Or Trump's and Rand Paul's. 

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2017, 11:13:47 AM »
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college.

Totally agree.  Especially as the general left and right go further away from the center, I got to think at some point someone truly in the middle emerges to break the 3 party system.  I thought Trump was closer to this person being that both sides hate him and his politics are closer to the middle than either sides candidates were, maybe he still is, but he seems more like a nobody at this point.

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2017, 11:22:37 AM »

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2017, 11:29:35 AM »
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college.

Totally agree.  Especially as the general left and right go further away from the center, I got to think at some point someone truly in the middle emerges to break the 3 party system.  I thought Trump was closer to this person being that both sides hate him and his politics are closer to the middle than either sides candidates were, maybe he still is, but he seems more like a nobody at this point.

Honestly, before she threw the token "free college" bone to the Bern-sters to assuage the fact that they gamed the convention (thanks to Debbie Wasserman Skullfuck) her politics and Trumps are a WHOLE lot closer than hers and Bernies.  Or Trump's and Rand Paul's.

Yea, Hillary isn't so far from the middle.  I agree, but her giving into some of Bernie's fan base is also a sign that the far left are becoming more popular.  I guess I also see the US as a whole becoming more liberal, in the sense that being on the right in 15 years may actually be very center today.

As to the OP, I have very little issues with the American Electoral College.  It's not perfect, but I don't expect any system to be perfect given we don't live in a perfect society.  Also, I kind of like that I have an option to have a vote for the highest official in the country.  I was not aware of how the Brittish do it, but I'm not sure I like the idea of only having the power to vote for my local representative. 

Offline El Barto

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2017, 11:44:23 AM »
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college.

Totally agree.  Especially as the general left and right go further away from the center, I got to think at some point someone truly in the middle emerges to break the 3 party system.  I thought Trump was closer to this person being that both sides hate him and his politics are closer to the middle than either sides candidates were, maybe he still is, but he seems more like a nobody at this point.

Honestly, before she threw the token "free college" bone to the Bern-sters to assuage the fact that they gamed the convention (thanks to Debbie Wasserman Skullfuck) her politics and Trumps are a WHOLE lot closer than hers and Bernies.  Or Trump's and Rand Paul's.

Yea, Hillary isn't so far from the middle.  I agree, but her giving into some of Bernie's fan base is also a sign that the far left are becoming more popular.  I guess I also see the US as a whole becoming more liberal, in the sense that being on the right in 15 years may actually be very center today.

As to the OP, I have very little issues with the American Electoral College.  It's not perfect, but I don't expect any system to be perfect given we don't live in a perfect society.  Also, I kind of like that I have an option to have a vote for the highest official in the country. I was not aware of how the Brittish do it, but I'm not sure I like the idea of only having the power to vote for my local representative.
It does offer some advantages. For one thing it's not really the dog and pony show we have here. US presidential elections are about as serious as the vote for prom king and queen. Presumably the PM comes from within the party, so that person has some experience outside of being photogenic and smarmy. They can also be jettisoned if they turn out to be nimrods. They actually have to answer to somebody, unlike our presidents.
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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2017, 11:50:02 AM »
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college.

Totally agree.  Especially as the general left and right go further away from the center, I got to think at some point someone truly in the middle emerges to break the 3 party system.  I thought Trump was closer to this person being that both sides hate him and his politics are closer to the middle than either sides candidates were, maybe he still is, but he seems more like a nobody at this point.

Honestly, before she threw the token "free college" bone to the Bern-sters to assuage the fact that they gamed the convention (thanks to Debbie Wasserman Skullfuck) her politics and Trumps are a WHOLE lot closer than hers and Bernies.  Or Trump's and Rand Paul's.

Yea, Hillary isn't so far from the middle.  I agree, but her giving into some of Bernie's fan base is also a sign that the far left are becoming more popular.  I guess I also see the US as a whole becoming more liberal, in the sense that being on the right in 15 years may actually be very center today.

As to the OP, I have very little issues with the American Electoral College.  It's not perfect, but I don't expect any system to be perfect given we don't live in a perfect society.  Also, I kind of like that I have an option to have a vote for the highest official in the country. I was not aware of how the Brittish do it, but I'm not sure I like the idea of only having the power to vote for my local representative.
It does offer some advantages. For one thing it's not really the dog and pony show we have here. US presidential elections are about as serious as the vote for prom king and queen. Presumably the PM comes from within the party, so that person has some experience outside of being photogenic and smarmy. They can also be jettisoned if they turn out to be nimrods. They actually have to answer to somebody, unlike our presidents.

Sure, but there is something about "feeling like you make a difference".  I think that has "America" written all over it and I honestly like that aspect of our election even at the risk of electing someone who wouldn't be there if say we just let our Senators/House vote on POTUS.

Offline ariich

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2017, 04:15:31 PM »
There's a legit beef about the two-party system - I think it is ludicrous that we expect two rather arbitrary designations to encompass all the nuances of 325 million people - but that's not the same issue as the electoral college.

Totally agree.  Especially as the general left and right go further away from the center, I got to think at some point someone truly in the middle emerges to break the 3 party system.  I thought Trump was closer to this person being that both sides hate him and his politics are closer to the middle than either sides candidates were, maybe he still is, but he seems more like a nobody at this point.

Honestly, before she threw the token "free college" bone to the Bern-sters to assuage the fact that they gamed the convention (thanks to Debbie Wasserman Skullfuck) her politics and Trumps are a WHOLE lot closer than hers and Bernies.  Or Trump's and Rand Paul's.

Yea, Hillary isn't so far from the middle.  I agree, but her giving into some of Bernie's fan base is also a sign that the far left are becoming more popular.  I guess I also see the US as a whole becoming more liberal, in the sense that being on the right in 15 years may actually be very center today.

As to the OP, I have very little issues with the American Electoral College.  It's not perfect, but I don't expect any system to be perfect given we don't live in a perfect society.  Also, I kind of like that I have an option to have a vote for the highest official in the country. I was not aware of how the Brittish do it, but I'm not sure I like the idea of only having the power to vote for my local representative.
It does offer some advantages. For one thing it's not really the dog and pony show we have here. US presidential elections are about as serious as the vote for prom king and queen. Presumably the PM comes from within the party, so that person has some experience outside of being photogenic and smarmy. They can also be jettisoned if they turn out to be nimrods. They actually have to answer to somebody, unlike our presidents.
Pretty much, yeah.

The plus side, though, of a presidential system is separate votes for the president and for the representatives that form the government and opposition. In the UK plenty of people much prefer Labour over the Tories but are put off by the leader. Your system allows people to vote differently in each.

That's in theory. As I said, a lot of people just vote based on the national party and its leader anyway, so our system doesn't reflect the way people now vote.

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #20 on: May 31, 2017, 02:43:54 AM »
A couple more visual representations that are really helpful.

Firstly a simple graphic:



Secondly and with thanks to XJDenton who found it, a really good video explanation with graphics that explains why the UK's system is broken:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9rGX91rq5I

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2017, 07:28:46 AM »


I'm being serious and simply inquisitive... what is that supposed to show?  Is it more relevant to see the headings?   

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #22 on: May 31, 2017, 07:38:45 AM »
A couple more visual representations that are really helpful.

Firstly a simple graphic:



Secondly and with thanks to XJDenton who found it, a really good video explanation with graphics that explains why the UK's system is broken:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9rGX91rq5I

I can't view the video, so I haven't (I'll try to find it on my phone and watch it that way; for some reason, links in the threads don't work for me), but I'm really lost on some of the assumptions you (seem to be) making here.  You have a national makeup of 51% seats off of 37% of the votes.  You're assuming that EVERY SINGLE VOTE is valid (meaning, not for "Mickey Mouse" or "Johnny Rotten") and you're assuming a level of transfer that isn't possible.    NOT every "democracy" is "proportional" in that sense.  Most aren't.  The U.S. isn't.    At SOME point there has to be some acquiescence to compromise.   Just because someone gets a movement together and decides to call it a "party" doesn't mean it is worthy of a seat in government.   And as it should be, that level of transference gets starker as you get more local.   But your cute little pie chart doesn't cover the number of seats, or the type of government.   In my town, there is one Selectman; if I get 39% of the votes and no one else does, I get the seat. PERIOD.  There is no room - nor should there be - for Selectman by committee.

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #23 on: May 31, 2017, 08:24:57 AM »
Here's a graph of what happens in my country:



People vote in different districts, every vote gets counted and based on the voter turnout (ie, total number of votes), all the 150 seats in the house are distributed. From these 150 elected representatives, a government is formed by a collaboration between different parties. A prime minister is then chosen from within the goverment (usually rom the largest party). While there's a 'leader' in every party, he Dutch elections are based on voting for a party, not a person.

As you can see, even though VVD won in most districts (by far!), they only received 21,3% of the total votes and thus 'only' a proportional share of seats (namely 33). Compare this to my namesake's graph of the UK and you'd say this is a far more 'democratic' approach, where every vote counts for exactly the same.

Compare this to the US where voting Republican in California is a wasted vote; in the Netherlands every vote is equal - literally. These last elections there were about 30 parties you could vote for and some new ones even made it to the house.
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Offline Stadler

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #24 on: May 31, 2017, 08:51:54 AM »
But they're not the same systems.  In the States, being a "State" means something. 

My vote - in Connecticut, of the United States - has zero weight in Denmark or the United Kingdom.   It just doesn't.  THUS, let's not over-state what the meaning of the vote is in California.   In a California election, that vote is sacred and binding and meaningful.   You do not get to apply that vote however you see fit to get YOUR candidate in office.   What about the California vote for Trump?    Why is that any more or less meaningful/meaningless?    That vote was subsumed by the process, and resulted in 55 electoral votes for Clinton.   So? 

The logical error in all of this is in assuming that "having my vote heard" means "getting MY candidate in there", and that's not accurate.   Every vote counts; if you don't believe that, extrapolate out to the extreme, and have everyone stay home.  Then the ONE GUY - let's hope it's not a Mickey Mouse fan - who does vote gets to drive policy for the whole country.   The more people that vote, the more likely the will of the people will out.   THAT'S THE IDEA. 

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2017, 09:21:35 AM »
My vote - in Connecticut, of the United States - has zero weight in Denmark or the United Kingdom.   It just doesn't.  THUS, let's not over-state what the meaning of the vote is in California.   In a California election, that vote is sacred and binding and meaningful.   You do not get to apply that vote however you see fit to get YOUR candidate in office.   What about the California vote for Trump?    Why is that any more or less meaningful/meaningless?    That vote was subsumed by the process, and resulted in 55 electoral votes for Clinton.   So? 

Then don't exaggerate my example with California. I believe it does matter, and for two reasons. One: the republican voter in California knows beforehand that his vote is useless and that the Democrats will win all 55 electorates (apply this to the Democrat in Texas, whatever - it's just an example). And two: because, like you said yourself a few posts back, the number of electorates is not directly proportional to population. Even if there were no 'winner takes all' thing within a state, a vote in California simply isn't worth as much as a vote in Wisconsin.

The more people that vote, the more likely the will of the people will out.   THAT'S THE IDEA. 

Yes, BUT: the US system inherently favours some states more than others. In Alaska, there's one electorate per roughly 175000 people, in California there is one for every 320000.

The logical error in all of this is in assuming that "having my vote heard" means "getting MY candidate in there", and that's not accurate.   

No, you're right, but that's not at all what I'm suggesting. There obviously a big difference between a US presedential election and the way the Dutch parliament elections work. All I was saying was, that with the parliament elections in my country, every vote is truly equal and that can actually be seen in the election results. In your last elections, the candidate that got the most votes lost. That couldn't possibly happen when every vote is 'worth' exactly the same.

And obviously every vote counts. That's the case in any election. The question remains, for how much does it count? That's where the systems differ.
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Offline ariich

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2017, 10:25:45 AM »
I take Stadler's point that US states have a certain standing, significantly devolved powers, etc. that NL districts or UK constituencies don't. That's fine. I disagree with the notion that it should be 100% governed why whichever party/candidate gets the most votes, even if they only win by a single vote and don't even get a majority, but I don't know if that's how all states work or if each determines its own approach. Same goes for how states elect representatives in the senate, etc.

Otherwise I agree with everything t'other Rich says. The Netherlands have a fantastic system where everyone can vote genuinely for the party that represents them best, and government is almost always formed of multiple parties who then collaborate and compromise on the best way forward. Yes it means you end up with SOME representation from the whackjobs, but if they get enough support then why shouldn't they have SOME representation. But the government ends up more moderate and collaborative, and that is surely a good thing.

The only downside of the NL system as I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong Rich) is that it's so open that there's no way for people to vote for local candidates to represent them, it's just a case of voting for the party who then chooses the reps. So I can understand why people might want a balance between the two - something that's more proportionate than winner-takes-all but less so that pure PR, where it's still possible to elect local or regional representatives.

The guy who did that video I linked to above on the problems with the UK's system also did a hypothetical ones on the Single Transferrable Vote, which is somewhere between the two but much fairer than we or the US currently have: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8XOZJkozfI

Stads, weird that links don't work from DTF for you, but I do recommend checking these two vids out, they're only a few mins each. The earlier one is very critical of the UK system, but the one in this post is more informative and theoretical.

EDIT: Oh and one more point. Stads, you seem to make a few assumptions, a big one being that it's about having "our guy" in there, but it has nothing to do with that. As I've said, I have no guy and don't support any particular party. In fact, the medium-sized party I really can't stand - the UK Indendence Party - is the one that got most screwed over by our system getting only 1 MP when in a pure PR system it would have had 82. I and many others really are only coming at it from a point of fairness and representation. That said, though, for the most part the people who defend "plurality" based systems like the UK and US (only discovered that term today) tend to do so because they support a particular major party and want that party to continue to be over-represented.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2017, 10:31:34 AM by ariich »

Offline Stadler

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #27 on: May 31, 2017, 11:44:30 AM »
My vote - in Connecticut, of the United States - has zero weight in Denmark or the United Kingdom.   It just doesn't.  THUS, let's not over-state what the meaning of the vote is in California.   In a California election, that vote is sacred and binding and meaningful.   You do not get to apply that vote however you see fit to get YOUR candidate in office.   What about the California vote for Trump?    Why is that any more or less meaningful/meaningless?    That vote was subsumed by the process, and resulted in 55 electoral votes for Clinton.   So? 

Then don't exaggerate my example with California. I believe it does matter, and for two reasons. One: the republican voter in California knows beforehand that his vote is useless and that the Democrats will win all 55 electorates (apply this to the Democrat in Texas, whatever - it's just an example). And two: because, like you said yourself a few posts back, the number of electorates is not directly proportional to population. Even if there were no 'winner takes all' thing within a state, a vote in California simply isn't worth as much as a vote in Wisconsin.

Only if you presuppose the outcome.   That's the problem with this discussion; the efficacy of the process has to be independent of what the outcome is or will be.   You can't - rather, you SHOULDN'T - judge the system based on the supposition that "a Republican" (or "a Democrat") will have it's candidate win in a given election.   That's just a snapshot in time.  California has gone "red" in my lifetime, and not just the obvious "Reagan".   Neither a Democrat or Republican's vote is "wasted" in Pennsylvania, for example, and the "winner-take-all" premise makes every vote integrally important.   I lived in Philly for four years; theoretically, my vote could have been the difference in the election.  I best get out and vote then; if it's proportional, what's the chance that my vote moves the needle noticeably?   

Quote
The more people that vote, the more likely the will of the people will out.   THAT'S THE IDEA. 

Yes, BUT: the US system inherently favours some states more than others. In Alaska, there's one electorate per roughly 175000 people, in California there is one for every 320000.

No buts.   I'm right on this (sorry, I don't mean to be rude, I'm saying there is no real debate here):    The electoral college is based on the most recent census, PLUS TWO VOTES.   Meaning, of the 538 electoral votes distributed between the states, 438 are by population, then every state gets a "plus two".  This, like the Senate, is how we balance power between the "weaker" (by population) states and the more populated ones.   You think the "Dem Californian vote" is useless?  Go by majority rule and once you're done with New York, Cali, and Texas, and everyone else should just turn on "The Big Bang Theory" and wait for the results to flow in.   Given all that, the more people that vote, the more the will of the people is reflected in any given state, and therefore the less the "+2" matter. 
 
Quote
No, you're right, but that's not at all what I'm suggesting. There obviously a big difference between a US presedential election and the way the Dutch parliament elections work. All I was saying was, that with the parliament elections in my country, every vote is truly equal and that can actually be seen in the election results. In your last elections, the candidate that got the most votes lost. That couldn't possibly happen when every vote is 'worth' exactly the same.

And obviously every vote counts. That's the case in any election. The question remains, for how much does it count? That's where the systems differ.

You're still mistaking the system.   You're forgetting that STATES have a say in this.  It doesn't translate into "pure votes", because a state can't really cast a vote.  But if you were to figure out a way to convert the "+2" into a vote number, via proportion or something else, then the popular election figures are not an accurate measure.   It's like a football (soccer) game.   Man City plays Man U to a 1-0 lead after regulation time, but in the extra injury time, Man U ties it up.   Then in penalty kicks, Man U wins.    That's the Presidential election.  Man U would be President.  That Man City "outscored Man U in regulation time" (i.e. "won the popular vote") is not really relevant, and not how the winner is decided.   They have injury time for a reason, and they have given the States a stake in the Presidential election for a reason (in part, though not entirely, due to the slavery question back when the Union was formed).   Of course you can disagree with that, it's a fair point, but don't muddy the discussion without acknowledging that.

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #28 on: May 31, 2017, 11:56:00 AM »
I take Stadler's point that US states have a certain standing, significantly devolved powers, etc. that NL districts or UK constituencies don't. That's fine. I disagree with the notion that it should be 100% governed why whichever party/candidate gets the most votes, even if they only win by a single vote and don't even get a majority, but I don't know if that's how all states work or if each determines its own approach. Same goes for how states elect representatives in the senate, etc.

Otherwise I agree with everything t'other Rich says. The Netherlands have a fantastic system where everyone can vote genuinely for the party that represents them best, and government is almost always formed of multiple parties who then collaborate and compromise on the best way forward. Yes it means you end up with SOME representation from the whackjobs, but if they get enough support then why shouldn't they have SOME representation. But the government ends up more moderate and collaborative, and that is surely a good thing.

One other point that should have been made in my reply to Elite, but I forgot; we're also a LOT bigger, population wise and geography wise.  Maybe not literally, but is north Denmark that different from south Denmark?   I can't speak for anyone else, but I have been to other COUNTRIES that are more alike my State than, say, Louisiana is to my state.  I lived in California for about 8 months out of school, and it was like being in a foreign country in a lot of ways. 

Quote
Stads, weird that links don't work from DTF for you, but I do recommend checking these two vids out, they're only a few mins each. The earlier one is very critical of the UK system, but the one in this post is more informative and theoretical.

It's only YooToob.  I click on the link, get to the site, and the video screen is black (or grainy) and says "An error occurred.  Please try again later.  (Playback ID: [gibberish code]). 

Quote
EDIT: Oh and one more point. Stads, you seem to make a few assumptions, a big one being that it's about having "our guy" in there, but it has nothing to do with that. As I've said, I have no guy and don't support any particular party. In fact, the medium-sized party I really can't stand - the UK Indendence Party - is the one that got most screwed over by our system getting only 1 MP when in a pure PR system it would have had 82. I and many others really are only coming at it from a point of fairness and representation. That said, though, for the most part the people who defend "plurality" based systems like the UK and US (only discovered that term today) tend to do so because they support a particular major party and want that party to continue to be over-represented.

Well, I'll tone that down a little but here in the States, it is almost ALL about the candidate, or at least short memories.   The system shuffles Obama into the White House and it is fine.  That same system shuffles Trump in, and all of a sudden it's popular vote this, and electoral fix that, almost always ignoring that nothing new happened in 2016 that hasn't happened at least once before, and the Union survived.     I'm not at all interested in one party being over-represented because a) I'm not represented well by either party (I'm a pro-choice, pro-equal rights, vehemently pro-free speech, free market capitalist who supports single payer.  Figure that one out!), b) I've had to endure my least favorite party reaping the benefits of that over-reprentation for the bulk of my adult life, c) I'm an advocate for more parties to have a say, and d) I have an unusually high (or so it seems) faith in the system we have.   No system is perfect, and we can't make laws out of anomalies and singularities.   BOTH sides suffer equally under our current system, and we all know the rules, the pressure points, and the (possible) outcomes. 

Offline Nekov

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #29 on: June 02, 2017, 02:32:20 PM »
Our system is similar to the one the US has but no electoral college and instead of having 1 election for president and then separate election for local offices we hold 1 election where you vote both for congress and president every 4 years and then another one where you vote for congress  and local authorities every other 4 years. So we voted for president and congress 2 years ago and this year we will vote for local authorities and congress.
When it comes to congress, we have 2 chambers, the senate is composed with 72 people, 3 for each province in the country and only 1/3 of the senate is renewed during each voting which effectively makes theirs a 6 year period. Each party will present a list with 2 candidates in the provinces that are up for election, the party with the most votes will get the 2 candidates in and the second party with the most votes will get 1.
Then we have the house of representatives. This election is a nationwide one and we use a D'Hont system to determine how many representatives each party will get. Each party will present a list of candidates and based on the percentage of votes each party gets a number of those that will enter the house of representatives.
For presidential election it's easier, the candidate with the most votes will be elected president if they have more than 45% of the votes or if the have at least 40% and a difference bigger that 10% compared to the second candidate with the most votes. If that criteria is not met the the first and second candidate with the most votes will go to a second round of voting where the one with the most votes will win.

I think this is a fair system though I'd prefer one where there was a CAP as to how many representatives a single party can get into congress because as it stands one party could have more than 50% of the seats in each chamber and I don't think that's very democratic.

My vote - in Connecticut, of the United States - has zero weight in Denmark or the United Kingdom.   It just doesn't.  THUS, let's not over-state what the meaning of the vote is in California.   In a California election, that vote is sacred and binding and meaningful.   You do not get to apply that vote however you see fit to get YOUR candidate in office.   What about the California vote for Trump?    Why is that any more or less meaningful/meaningless?    That vote was subsumed by the process, and resulted in 55 electoral votes for Clinton.   So? 

Then don't exaggerate my example with California. I believe it does matter, and for two reasons. One: the republican voter in California knows beforehand that his vote is useless and that the Democrats will win all 55 electorates (apply this to the Democrat in Texas, whatever - it's just an example). And two: because, like you said yourself a few posts back, the number of electorates is not directly proportional to population. Even if there were no 'winner takes all' thing within a state, a vote in California simply isn't worth as much as a vote in Wisconsin.

Only if you presuppose the outcome.   That's the problem with this discussion; the efficacy of the process has to be independent of what the outcome is or will be.   You can't - rather, you SHOULDN'T - judge the system based on the supposition that "a Republican" (or "a Democrat") will have it's candidate win in a given election.   That's just a snapshot in time.  California has gone "red" in my lifetime, and not just the obvious "Reagan".   Neither a Democrat or Republican's vote is "wasted" in Pennsylvania, for example, and the "winner-take-all" premise makes every vote integrally important.   I lived in Philly for four years; theoretically, my vote could have been the difference in the election.  I best get out and vote then; if it's proportional, what's the chance that my vote moves the needle noticeably?   


I partially agree with your view here. People shouldn't presuppose what the result will be because as you said there are some states that have been both red and blue in the past but the reality is that if 49% of the people vote republican and the other 51% vote democrat, that 49% counts for exactly 0 when it comes to that particular election because all the electoral college votes will go to the Dems. Now, that 49% means that there's a lot of people within that state that prefer red and the republicans know that for the next election they can work a little harder to reach the 50% mark so yes, those votes are a good indicator but they still don't affect the overall result of that specific election which is why people think, me included, that the system is faulty.
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Offline ariich

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #30 on: June 02, 2017, 03:32:14 PM »
Your system sounds good, Nekov. Representatives elected by something that is at least slightly proportional, and then a presidential election (which we obviously don't have in the UK because of the monarchy) that is a simple highest votes wins.

And your post reminded me that I forgot to mention that the description in my OP was for our UK parliament. This is responsible for policy on UK-wide matters and England-only matters. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own parliaments for devolved policy areas, but England doesn't for some reason which is incredibly unfair.

Then on top of that we also have local council elections both at county and at borough/district level. There's no national element to those though, the councils and councillors only represent us at a local level.

Offline Nekov

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #31 on: June 02, 2017, 04:35:50 PM »
You're still mistaking the system.   You're forgetting that STATES have a say in this.  It doesn't translate into "pure votes", because a state can't really cast a vote.  But if you were to figure out a way to convert the "+2" into a vote number, via proportion or something else, then the popular election figures are not an accurate measure.   It's like a football (soccer) game.   Man City plays Man U to a 1-0 lead after regulation time, but in the extra injury time, Man U ties it up.   Then in penalty kicks, Man U wins.    That's the Presidential election.  Man U would be President.  That Man City "outscored Man U in regulation time" (i.e. "won the popular vote") is not really relevant, and not how the winner is decided.   They have injury time for a reason, and they have given the States a stake in the Presidential election for a reason (in part, though not entirely, due to the slavery question back when the Union was formed).   Of course you can disagree with that, it's a fair point, but don't muddy the discussion without acknowledging that.

While that analogy is not exactly accurate it got me thinking (props for using a football analogy). I will put Tottenhams performance in the last EPL as the example, they got more goals (votes) than any other team yet they came in second (Rich is loving this part) becuase they didn't score goals when it mattered most. So overall goals doesn't give you the title, but winning more matches than other teams does.
So yeah, in that context the system makes sense, but I still think choosing a president is far more important that a sports match and therefore the system should me more reflective on how people actually vote.
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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #32 on: June 03, 2017, 06:42:46 PM »
To get a temperature of the room here, I wonder how Americans (or at least those in this thread) would feel about a system similar to what France has.

Nationwide popular vote.
First round, candidate from all parties run. People vote.
The top two candidates move on.
Second round, just those two candidates, no one else, winner of the nationwide vote wins.

Like any system, there would be pros and cons. I'm interested to hear what folks here think of that kind of system.

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #33 on: June 03, 2017, 08:54:47 PM »
WA state, and others I believe, have their state elections set up that way. No immediate thoughts come to mind on the pros and cons in our state.
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Offline Stadler

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Re: Electoral systems (FPTP vs PR vs whatever America has)
« Reply #34 on: June 03, 2017, 10:11:08 PM »

I partially agree with your view here. People shouldn't presuppose what the result will be because as you said there are some states that have been both red and blue in the past but the reality is that if 49% of the people vote republican and the other 51% vote democrat, that 49% counts for exactly 0 when it comes to that particular election because all the electoral college votes will go to the Dems. Now, that 49% means that there's a lot of people within that state that prefer red and the republicans know that for the next election they can work a little harder to reach the 50% mark so yes, those votes are a good indicator but they still don't affect the overall result of that specific election which is why people think, me included, that the system is faulty.

But don't confuse the elections:  that's ONLY for President, and there is only one President, so how do you parse "49% of the vote" to one office?    Senators and Representatives are elected in a straight "majority wins" ballot in their district.   I see what you're saying in one sense; if there are ten districts, and one party wins all ten by a 51%/49% margin, then even with 49% of the vote that party will have no say, but that's not the case on a national level, and the answer there is "up your game for next time".