Friday, March 22, 2013

Meta-EE and the Constitution Part 9: Twelfth Amendment

Why are the forms of elections important?
The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. 
The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. 
The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
Why bother with all this weirdness? Why not just have direct popular elections? What's so great about the electoral college?

In a pair of words, minority protection. You may be tempted laugh off the caricature that democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner, but to do so is to reject theory and evidence of systematic voter bias. And that's okay, provided you don't find the literature convincing. But to fuss about the electoral college for the simple reason that democracy is inherently good without carefully considering criticisms of this claim is at least a little irresponsible.

Could the electoral process be better? Probably. The best way I can think of to improve it is to make it irrelevant. The mere fact that elections are important suggest that an unacceptably large chunk of civil society has migrated out of the bounds of peaceful, even euvoluntary exchange into the realm of politics, where coercion dwells.

So is the 12th Amendment meta-euvoluntary? Sure, but much more so when the scope of government activity is limited to those activities it has a comparative advantage in. Otherwise, it's just a para-legal two-step.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?