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Author Topic: National Popular Vote: Good or Bad Idea?  (Read 561 times)
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CeeKay
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« on: January 08, 2012, 03:14:09 PM »

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/curtis-gans/national-popular-vote_b_1189390.html?ref=politics

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As the National Popular Vote (NPV) movement steps up its effort to impose a direct election for president, attempting to enlist states with a sufficient number of electors to constitute a majority (268) and to bind them to the winner of the national popular vote, those states considering the proposal might first reflect on the nightmare aftermath of the 2000 presidential election.

Because there was a difference of less than 1,000 tabulated votes between George W. Bush and Al Gore in one state, Florida, the nation watched as 6 million votes were recounted by machine, several hundred thousand were recounted by hand in counties with differing recount standards, partisan litigators fought each other in state and federal courts, the secretary of state backed by the majority of state legislators (all Republicans) warred with the state's majority Democratic judiciary -- until 37 days after the election the U.S. Supreme Court, in a bitterly controversial 5-4 decision effectively declared Bush the winner.

That nightmare may seem like a pleasant dream if NPV has its way. For under its plan, the next time the U.S. has very close national vote, a recount would not be of six million votes in one state but of more than 130 million votes in all states and the District of Columbia, all with their own rules for conducting a recount.

I've always thought the popular vote being the one that counted was a good thing, but the article does raise some good examples why it may be bad.  I don't buy the 'we'd have to recount 130 million votes' excuse, but the thought that someone could win by a smaller percentage of votes is troubling.
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2012, 04:51:30 PM »

The main advantage (apart from simply being more democratic) would be removing the emphasis on the handful of swing states whose electoral votes are in play. Candidates would have a reason to campaign in the solidly red or blue states that are functionally echo chambers. Republicans stay away from MA while Democrats use us as a piggybank. Consequently our votes don't count for anything in presidential races -- who cares if the R candidate polls 35% or 40% or even 45% here? Our electors go to the Ds every time. A similar situation pertains in most states, so elections are decided by six or eight contested states.

Ending the electoral college could obsolete the very concept of red, blue, and purple states.
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2012, 05:20:43 PM »

i know i personally have always thought the EC was a decent idea (though im biased as im from a small state slywink) - and it encourages more "national" presidential figures as opposed to regional ones (lets face it, because of population distribution, wed have the president of california or the president of new york new england).  ironrod you do have a good point about the EC leading to entrenched red / blue states - though if more states proportionally distributed their EC votes it could help with this too
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« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 07:02:49 PM »

Quote from: Doopri on January 08, 2012, 05:20:43 PM

if more states proportionally distributed their EC votes it could help with this too

Agreed: Ending winner-take-all elections would achieve the same goal -- putting all 50 states into play and eliminating the focus on a dozen battleground states -- without requiring a highly unlikely Constitutional amendment to abolish the EC...if that didn't happen after the Bush-Gore debacle, it's sure not going to happen now. From the linked article:

Quote
There are alternatives to winner-take-all that do not involve abandoning the positive aspects of the Electoral College. All states could adopt the system that now exists in Maine and Nebraska, where all but two electors are chosen by congressional district, and the other two go to the statewide winner. Or states might explore what was recently proposed in Colorado -- that electors be allocated in proportion to each candidate's share of the popular vote above a certain threshold. Either would provide a reason for both parties to compete in most states because there would be electors to win. Either would likely produce an electoral vote count closer to the popular vote. And unlike direct elections, either would provide an incentive for grass-roots activity, coalition building and enhanced citizen participation.

Now, it was my understanding that the NPV movement binds the states to apportion their electoral votes proportionate to the popular vote if enough states sign on (which MA has done). I had further understood that the proportion is to be determined by each state's vote totals (since the EC is not being bypassed), but this blogger says it's the national vote total that determines the split. I'll agree that's a bad idea.
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« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2012, 08:58:01 PM »

Quote from: Ironrod on January 08, 2012, 04:51:30 PM

The main advantage (apart from simply being more democratic) would be removing the emphasis on the handful of swing states whose electoral votes are in play. Candidates would have a reason to campaign in the solidly red or blue states that are functionally echo chambers. Republicans stay away from MA while Democrats use us as a piggybank. Consequently our votes don't count for anything in presidential races -- who cares if the R candidate polls 35% or 40% or even 45% here? Our electors go to the Ds every time. A similar situation pertains in most states, so elections are decided by six or eight contested states.

Doubtful, little would change. If I campaign in only 7 states (CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA, OH), I've covered over 1/2 the US population. Right now, that's a pretty heavy list of "swing" states and it would continue to be. If anything, it increases the incentive to go to CA and TX which are typically considered 'safe' states in the EC. Doubling the number of states by population to 14 increases it to 2/3rd of the US population and your state (MA) would just barely squeak in. It would allow some additional efficiency in campaigning as you could concentrate efforts into urban centers. The odds are your vote really wouldn't count any more than it already does, potentially less so depending on what state you live in.

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Ending the electoral college could obsolete the very concept of red, blue, and purple states.

This is something more intrinsic with how our country views the world than anything else. Americans as a whole tend to see things as strongly good and evil as opposed to shades of grey. Our elections tend to reflect this about us (two opponents: one good, one bad). Third parties have never really gotten much, if any, traction even on a local level which are direct elections.
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2012, 05:10:47 AM »

Quote from: Ironrod on January 08, 2012, 07:02:49 PM

Quote from: Doopri on January 08, 2012, 05:20:43 PM

if more states proportionally distributed their EC votes it could help with this too

Agreed: Ending winner-take-all elections would achieve the same goal -- putting all 50 states into play and eliminating the focus on a dozen battleground states -- without requiring a highly unlikely Constitutional amendment to abolish the EC...if that didn't happen after the Bush-Gore debacle, it's sure not going to happen now. From the linked article:

Quote
There are alternatives to winner-take-all that do not involve abandoning the positive aspects of the Electoral College. All states could adopt the system that now exists in Maine and Nebraska, where all but two electors are chosen by congressional district, and the other two go to the statewide winner. Or states might explore what was recently proposed in Colorado -- that electors be allocated in proportion to each candidate's share of the popular vote above a certain threshold. Either would provide a reason for both parties to compete in most states because there would be electors to win. Either would likely produce an electoral vote count closer to the popular vote. And unlike direct elections, either would provide an incentive for grass-roots activity, coalition building and enhanced citizen participation.

Now, it was my understanding that the NPV movement binds the states to apportion their electoral votes proportionate to the popular vote if enough states sign on (which MA has done). I had further understood that the proportion is to be determined by each state's vote totals (since the EC is not being bypassed), but this blogger says it's the national vote total that determines the split. I'll agree that's a bad idea.

Actually, the National Popular Vote Compact requires the signatory states to give *all* their Electoral College votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. The Compact becomes active when enough states have signed on to secure 270+ Electoral Votes as participants in the compact, thus ensuring that whomever wins the popular vote would be guaranteed an Electoral College victory.
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2012, 05:12:42 AM »

Quote from: Calavera on January 08, 2012, 08:58:01 PM

This is something more intrinsic with how our country views the world than anything else. Americans as a whole tend to see things as strongly good and evil as opposed to shades of grey. Our elections tend to reflect this about us (two opponents: one good, one bad). Third parties have never really gotten much, if any, traction even on a local level which are direct elections.

That's mostly because American elections are first-past-the-post elections. That sort of voting system creates immense pressure to compress political options down to two, and dramatically increases the difficulty of a third party gaining traction. American jurisdictions that have experimented with instant runoff voting or proportional voting have seen a broader set of interest groups emerge (sometimes not parties, as these are often non-partisan races).
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2012, 08:13:53 AM »

I believe the best thing that could happen for the US, politically, would be for every vote to count individually, regardless of state (I guess that's what national popular vote means?) and to get rid of the winner-takes-all mentality. I say this as someone who lives in a country where both these things are in effect already, and it works very well. It's rare for a single party to get a majority vote, so they have to cooperate with other parties. These could even be some of the smallest parties as long as it gets them the majority, which means that even fringe opinions could end up having a certain degree of power. Norway typically ends up with three parties sharing the power and trying to appease each other, and any one of them could topple the leadership if they feel slighted.

This kind of system also means that the leadership usually isn't so polarized. Even if, say, a far-left party gets voted into power, it'll still have to cooperate with other parties to get anywhere, which means it'll have to pander to the middle most of the time. This is a good thing IMO.
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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2012, 01:32:16 PM »

Quote from: TiLT on January 09, 2012, 08:13:53 AM

I believe the best thing that could happen for the US, politically, would be for every vote to count individually, regardless of state (I guess that's what national popular vote means?) and to get rid of the winner-takes-all mentality. I say this as someone who lives in a country where both these things are in effect already, and it works very well. It's rare for a single party to get a majority vote, so they have to cooperate with other parties. These could even be some of the smallest parties as long as it gets them the majority, which means that even fringe opinions could end up having a certain degree of power. Norway typically ends up with three parties sharing the power and trying to appease each other, and any one of them could topple the leadership if they feel slighted.

This kind of system also means that the leadership usually isn't so polarized. Even if, say, a far-left party gets voted into power, it'll still have to cooperate with other parties to get anywhere, which means it'll have to pander to the middle most of the time. This is a good thing IMO.

I'd rather not have the Presidential votes be decided by the top 5 biggest cities in the US (or however many it would take to get majority votes). At least in our electoral system the less populated states still matter. What I would agree on is to have the electoral results from each state be proportional to the vote in that state. Thus, if the voters in a state are split 3 to 1 for Candidates X and Y then the electoral votes from that state should also be split by that amount.
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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2012, 01:50:51 PM »

Quote from: Fireball1244 on January 09, 2012, 05:12:42 AM

Quote from: Calavera on January 08, 2012, 08:58:01 PM

This is something more intrinsic with how our country views the world than anything else. Americans as a whole tend to see things as strongly good and evil as opposed to shades of grey. Our elections tend to reflect this about us (two opponents: one good, one bad). Third parties have never really gotten much, if any, traction even on a local level which are direct elections.

That's mostly because American elections are first-past-the-post elections. That sort of voting system creates immense pressure to compress political options down to two, and dramatically increases the difficulty of a third party gaining traction. American jurisdictions that have experimented with instant runoff voting or proportional voting have seen a broader set of interest groups emerge (sometimes not parties, as these are often non-partisan races).

Most of the school boards and city council positions run this way. They have a candidate pool of around 6-8 and the top 2-3 regardless of party are elected. You can select a number of candidates equal to the number of positions open and the top vote winners are elected. Third-parties are still relatively rare and it still boils down to "Republicans" and "Democrats" with each party placing several people on the ballot. Referring to the process, though, it comes down to money. The established parties have significantly better access to and systems for campaign funding than a third party. Eliminating the EC won't solve this arguably larger problem. Additionally, there is no incentive for the people currently in Washington to truly fix campaign financing as the benefit greatly from the current system.

Quote from: TiLT on January 09, 2012, 08:13:53 AM

I believe the best thing that could happen for the US, politically, would be for every vote to count individually, regardless of state (I guess that's what national popular vote means?) and to get rid of the winner-takes-all mentality. I say this as someone who lives in a country where both these things are in effect already, and it works very well. It's rare for a single party to get a majority vote, so they have to cooperate with other parties. These could even be some of the smallest parties as long as it gets them the majority, which means that even fringe opinions could end up having a certain degree of power. Norway typically ends up with three parties sharing the power and trying to appease each other, and any one of them could topple the leadership if they feel slighted.

This kind of system also means that the leadership usually isn't so polarized. Even if, say, a far-left party gets voted into power, it'll still have to cooperate with other parties to get anywhere, which means it'll have to pander to the middle most of the time. This is a good thing IMO.

Each vote does count individually. I go and vote, the results for my state are calculated then those results are passed to the Electoral College. It's a function of our system of government. The US is a federal republic, a collection of states, and is not a direct democracy. The US and the EU have more in common structurally than the US and Norway. Individual states have a very-high level of autonomy, but all federal decision trump any state ones. Ironically, we're having another argument in this country about states-rights vs. federal. There are some states passing laws the directly contradict federal law (see any of the 'we don't have to participate in the Affordable Care Act' laws passed in the last election cycle).

As a contrast, the US as a whole is a very polarized country in all aspects. Changing the way we do elections to eliminate the EC won't change this. We'll still polarize between two sides, currently between the far right and the middle left. It shifts over time with one party being fairly moderate and the other being more "extreme" (in the 60-80s the Republicans were much more moderate, the Democrats more liberal). Europe, generalizing, tends to treat morality, which translates to politics, as a spectrum. As a result, there are typically many political parties representing a wide variety of more specific interests. The US loves the same 'nanny state' laws as the UK, though..... Maybe it's something with the word United?
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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2012, 04:16:14 PM »

Quote from: Fireball1244 on January 09, 2012, 05:10:47 AM

Quote from: Ironrod on January 08, 2012, 07:02:49 PM

Quote from: Doopri on January 08, 2012, 05:20:43 PM

if more states proportionally distributed their EC votes it could help with this too

Agreed: Ending winner-take-all elections would achieve the same goal -- putting all 50 states into play and eliminating the focus on a dozen battleground states -- without requiring a highly unlikely Constitutional amendment to abolish the EC...if that didn't happen after the Bush-Gore debacle, it's sure not going to happen now. From the linked article:

Quote
There are alternatives to winner-take-all that do not involve abandoning the positive aspects of the Electoral College. All states could adopt the system that now exists in Maine and Nebraska, where all but two electors are chosen by congressional district, and the other two go to the statewide winner. Or states might explore what was recently proposed in Colorado -- that electors be allocated in proportion to each candidate's share of the popular vote above a certain threshold. Either would provide a reason for both parties to compete in most states because there would be electors to win. Either would likely produce an electoral vote count closer to the popular vote. And unlike direct elections, either would provide an incentive for grass-roots activity, coalition building and enhanced citizen participation.

Now, it was my understanding that the NPV movement binds the states to apportion their electoral votes proportionate to the popular vote if enough states sign on (which MA has done). I had further understood that the proportion is to be determined by each state's vote totals (since the EC is not being bypassed), but this blogger says it's the national vote total that determines the split. I'll agree that's a bad idea.

Actually, the National Popular Vote Compact requires the signatory states to give *all* their Electoral College votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. The Compact becomes active when enough states have signed on to secure 270+ Electoral Votes as participants in the compact, thus ensuring that whomever wins the popular vote would be guaranteed an Electoral College victory.

Thanks for clearing that up. I like my version better though.  icon_cool
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« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2012, 05:16:55 AM »

Quote from: Calavera on January 09, 2012, 01:50:51 PM

Quote from: Fireball1244 on January 09, 2012, 05:12:42 AM

Quote from: Calavera on January 08, 2012, 08:58:01 PM

This is something more intrinsic with how our country views the world than anything else. Americans as a whole tend to see things as strongly good and evil as opposed to shades of grey. Our elections tend to reflect this about us (two opponents: one good, one bad). Third parties have never really gotten much, if any, traction even on a local level which are direct elections.

That's mostly because American elections are first-past-the-post elections. That sort of voting system creates immense pressure to compress political options down to two, and dramatically increases the difficulty of a third party gaining traction. American jurisdictions that have experimented with instant runoff voting or proportional voting have seen a broader set of interest groups emerge (sometimes not parties, as these are often non-partisan races).

Most of the school boards and city council positions run this way. They have a candidate pool of around 6-8 and the top 2-3 regardless of party are elected. You can select a number of candidates equal to the number of positions open and the top vote winners are elected. Third-parties are still relatively rare and it still boils down to "Republicans" and "Democrats" with each party placing several people on the ballot.

That's because those races are small and not of the stature that could sustain the development of a third party. When everything above something as low level as a school board is Republican or Democrat, then you're rarely going to see anyone run who's not associated with the Republicans or the Democrats, because they're the only parties that have anything to offer candidates in terms of voter and volunteer mobilization, to say nothing about fundraising.

Also, a "vote for 3" system isn't Instant Runoff Voting.
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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2012, 02:14:10 PM »

Quote from: Fireball1244 on January 10, 2012, 05:16:55 AM

Quote from: Calavera on January 09, 2012, 01:50:51 PM

Quote from: Fireball1244 on January 09, 2012, 05:12:42 AM

Quote from: Calavera on January 08, 2012, 08:58:01 PM

This is something more intrinsic with how our country views the world than anything else. Americans as a whole tend to see things as strongly good and evil as opposed to shades of grey. Our elections tend to reflect this about us (two opponents: one good, one bad). Third parties have never really gotten much, if any, traction even on a local level which are direct elections.

That's mostly because American elections are first-past-the-post elections. That sort of voting system creates immense pressure to compress political options down to two, and dramatically increases the difficulty of a third party gaining traction. American jurisdictions that have experimented with instant runoff voting or proportional voting have seen a broader set of interest groups emerge (sometimes not parties, as these are often non-partisan races).

Most of the school boards and city council positions run this way. They have a candidate pool of around 6-8 and the top 2-3 regardless of party are elected. You can select a number of 2candidates equal to the number of positions open and the top vote winners are elected. Third-parties are still relatively rare and it still boils down to "Republicans" and "Democrats" with each party placing several people on the ballot.

That's because those races are small and not of the stature that could sustain the development of a third party. When everything above something as low level as a school board is Republican or Democrat, then you're rarely going to see anyone run who's not associated with the Republicans or the Democrats, because they're the only parties that have anything to offer candidates in terms of voter and volunteer mobilization, to say nothing about fundraising.

Agreed with regards to financing and mobilization, if you'd quote the rest of that paragraph. slywink More importantly, though, everything has to start small. If third-parties gain traction locally where it is much easier to help with fundraising, it will help them nationally where it is much more difficult. The underlying party infrastructure takes time to build to a national level. Though, this advocates something that is a long term fix, which Americans don't seem to like.  Tongue

As a separate note, the UK is FPP and it still has multiple parties. Arguing for a change in the system of voting we use disregarding cultural reasons we have a two-party system is silly. I mean, even our beers are split between two ideas (Great Taste or Less Filing)

Quote
Also, a "vote for 3" system isn't Instant Runoff Voting.

IRV (or more descriptive 'Ranked Voting') is still used in some municipalities. The history seems to be that it's used in an election or two, then quickly repealed by the voters. I don't think adding more candidates to the ballot that have to be ranked would help, though it could eliminate the primary process. It's certainly going to require more effort on the part of the voters. Plus, they would have to remove the 'Vote all Democrat' and 'Vote all Republican' buttons from the voting machines, no more one-click voting for you.
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« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2012, 12:04:21 AM »

Quote from: Calavera on January 10, 2012, 02:14:10 PM

Agreed with regards to financing and mobilization, if you'd quote the rest of that paragraph. slywink More importantly, though, everything has to start small. If third-parties gain traction locally where it is much easier to help with fundraising, it will help them nationally where it is much more difficult. The underlying party infrastructure takes time to build to a national level. Though, this advocates something that is a long term fix, which Americans don't seem to like.  Tongue

That still wouldn't work, in my opinion. People trying to build third parties in the United States are wasting their time, and would be better served trying to get all of the people who feel a certain way about their issue to move into one of the two major parties or the other, where they could actually have internal influence. The only "third party" to ever make anything of itself in America is the Republicans, and that's only because they killed and replaced the previous second party, the Whigs.

Quote
IRV (or more descriptive 'Ranked Voting') is still used in some municipalities. The history seems to be that it's used in an election or two, then quickly repealed by the voters. I don't think adding more candidates to the ballot that have to be ranked would help, though it could eliminate the primary process. It's certainly going to require more effort on the part of the voters.

It's harder on the voters, and more confusing. Voters don't like it. Which is a shame, because if properly implemented, it is a much better and less expensive system. Alas.

Quote
Plus, they would have to remove the 'Vote all Democrat' and 'Vote all Republican' buttons from the voting machines, no more one-click voting for you.

Personally, I've never voted the straight party option. I understand why some people do -- in Texas, our ballots were often 30 or 40 races long.
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« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2012, 02:29:04 AM »

Quote from: Fireball1244 on January 11, 2012, 12:04:21 AM

The only "third party" to ever make anything of itself in America is the Republicans, and that's only because they killed and replaced the previous second party, the Whigs.

Do you see any prospect of the Republican Party splintering? They are more divided than I've ever seen them, and Rand Paul has a highly committed base.
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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2012, 02:52:02 AM »

Quote from: Ironrod on January 11, 2012, 02:29:04 AM

Quote from: Fireball1244 on January 11, 2012, 12:04:21 AM

The only "third party" to ever make anything of itself in America is the Republicans, and that's only because they killed and replaced the previous second party, the Whigs.

Do you see any prospect of the Republican Party splintering? They are more divided than I've ever seen them, and Rand Paul has a highly committed base.

I certainly hope not. Right now they're providing hours of entertainment as they argue with and blame everyone including themselves.  icon_twisted

Wasn't the Bull Moose party of the early 1900s something similar?
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« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2012, 03:25:38 AM »

The Dems have long fancied their party as a "big tent" that includes a hodgepodge of interest groups -- the reason they so often seem divided amongst themselves. The Reps, OTOH, are a lot less comfortable with their factions, as we are seeing in this primary season. The social conservatives are feeling marginalized while the establishment is realizing that it might do fine without them (or at least without pandering to them). That's good for the party, IMO, but the "values voters" must be wondering about their future as their historical alliance weakens. Meanwhile, Paul is bringing out a third faction that upsets the two old-liners' apple carts.

We'll soon see if the evangelicals rally behind Santorum in SC and FL, and how much of a difference it makes if they do. We'll also see what happens to Paul's libertarians and constitutional constructionists when he inevitably drops out.

Very entertaining to watch, as you said. I'm especially enjoying Gingrich's Stop Romney campaign. Those two are barely keeping it civil.
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« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2012, 11:25:14 PM »

Quote from: TiLT on January 09, 2012, 08:13:53 AM

I believe the best thing that could happen for the US, politically, would be for every vote to count individually, regardless of state (I guess that's what national popular vote means?) and to get rid of the winner-takes-all mentality. I say this as someone who lives in a country where both these things are in effect already, and it works very well. It's rare for a single party to get a majority vote, so they have to cooperate with other parties. These could even be some of the smallest parties as long as it gets them the majority, which means that even fringe opinions could end up having a certain degree of power.

The problem is this could mean fringe opinions garner huge amounts of power. Party A gets almost the number required to run the show. Party J is a crazy left-wing environmental group who is the only ones willing to broker a deal with Party A, and puts them into control. Party J now holds Party A hostage frequently, getting crazy legislature passed so that Party A also gets what it wants. How is this healthy?
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« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2012, 08:35:51 AM »

If a large enough percentage of your population votes for the Crazy Party, shouldn't they be represented, no matter what you think about them? Isn't that the basis for Democracy?
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« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2012, 02:38:51 PM »

Quote from: Razgon on January 13, 2012, 08:35:51 AM

If a large enough percentage of your population votes for the Crazy Party, shouldn't they be represented, no matter what you think about them? Isn't that the basis for Democracy?

Perhaps, but it depends on what you want your government to do and what form of democracy you have. In representative democracy, maybe, maybe not. In the US, the answer to your question is that they must have a majority of support. This protects our society against the tyranny of the minority. As a result, we have to create other checks and balances to protect against the tyranny of the majority.
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« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2012, 02:47:38 PM »

Quote from: Razgon on January 13, 2012, 08:35:51 AM

If a large enough percentage of your population votes for the Crazy Party, shouldn't they be represented, no matter what you think about them? Isn't that the basis for Democracy?

Let's say that only 5% of your population does. In the situation I'm listing above, that party representing 5% of the population actually has a HUGE impact - their legislative impact can in fact significantly outweigh that of a party that wins 20 or 30% of the vote. That's the problem with political coalitions.

For the record, I despise the two-party system.
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