Dumb Idea of the Day Courtesy of Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein, the founder of journolist, proves yet again why whatever the Washington Post is paying him is much too much:

Here’s your out-of-the-box policy idea for the day:

America should implement weighted voting to make voting more objective and fair, and give the young more power, because the consequences of political decisions will affect them the longest. Weighted voting would restore power to twenty and thirty year olds, where it resided before the advent of medical science. With the aid of computers, it would be easy to give everyone a Voting Score, just like we all have a credit score.

Go here to read the rest.  Klein contends that he was attempting to make a Swiftian point against the Electoral College and the Senate.  Alas, Swiftian observations such as this should normally be left to Jonathan Swift.  Treating states as equal entities in the Senate, or the Electoral College electing presidents, whatever their merits or demerits, have little to do with a proposal to make some citizens “more equal than others” in all elections.  That smacks of George Orwell much more than Mr. Swift.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Under this scheme it wouldn’t be long before the young atheists, full of Obamania, would be able to vote euthanasia for anyone 60 years of age or older. Wasn’t there a science fiction film somewhat along such lines where those too old to live any longer had to commit suicide? Blade Runner, perhaps? I forget. I’m too old. 😉

  2. I actually agree though I would use different criteria. Those who pay the most taxes would actually get more of a vote. This because they have more skin in the game and should have more say what is done with the money.

    Add to this that young people should not be able to vote until they have paid off any student loans and start paying taxes.

    This I think is fine. 🙂

  3. Criteria for voting:

    Your govt loans are paid off.
    You’re not on govt assistance (e.g., welfare)
    You’re a tax payer.
    You have served your country (Military, Police, Fire Figher, Peace Corps, etc.)

    Perhaps those criteria are too harsh. But implementing them would eliminate the rise of a whole class of people enslaved to the teat of the public treasury who then vote for the continuation of bread and circuses.

  4. Imagine the hue and cry were a conservative to suggest that useless, unproductive wastrels who live off taxes not be permitted to vote themselves pay raises . . .

    Seems “they” want the “preferential option” for the poor, undocmented migrants, et al but not old people who worked all their lives, raised families, paid taxes, . . .

    This maroon will get a pass on hate speech against old people.

    Will his next hare-brained/liberal/eugenics “solution” include old, useless people put down on ice floes?

  5. If young people were more likely to vote Republican, the article would be making the opposite argument. I don’t buy that Klein really believes this on principle. It’s the same reason liberals support amnesty for illegal immigrants. Just politics.

  6. I do have to give Mr. Klein a minor one hand clap for intellectual consistency. Before the “advent of medical science” a fairly large percentage of twenty and thirty year olds would not have made it out of infancy in any case. I assume perhaps this might be one reason why Mr. Klein is an advocate of abortion, to help redress this artificial swelling of the ranks of young voters! 🙂

  7. Paul;

    I think the age was either 30 or 40 in Logan’s Run. I am sure the government will choose a rational way to decide who gets to live or die like in the show. The old people got a chance to continue living if they could get to a glowing orb before being killed by a lazer. That is fair – if they were healthy enough to fight their way to the orb it can be surmised they wouldn’t be too much of a drain on society. We all know how decreped and useless the 30-40 and older crowd is. Good riddance. Now if we could just get rid of the genetically inferior, mentally challenged, poor, racially challenged, sexually perverted, etc – maybe some type of breeding program for the people with good genes like Lebensborn. Oh for the golden age of eugenics and Margaret Sanger. Could someone please make a “modest proposal” to take care of this crisis?

    T. Shaw
    As I understand it, liberals/Democrats/progressives want “preferential” treatment for a select few groups because they have been opressed, disenfranchised, etc. It does not suprise me that he would make this kind of proposal. Undermine/destroy the system for short term political gain -the bread and butter of liberals/Democrats/progressives.

    Mr. George Orwell works are more prophetic than most realize and provide true insight into the liberal/Democrat/progressives mind and tactics.

  8. (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy): Robert Heinlein’s SF novel “Starship Troopers” limited the voting franchise to veterans (although that book didn’t include the additional restrictions that Paul Primavera suggests).

  9. The big screen remake of the book was a disappointment. I believe only veterans could be “citizens” and only citizens had the right to vote. A short but fun/interesting read. Contrast it against the 1974 book The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Very different ideas on government and the military. Good reference Mrs. McClarey.

  10. Except for the atheism rampant in his books “Time Enough for Love”, “Stranger in a Strange Land”, etc., I loved Robert Heinlein’s works. He is my all-time favorite sic-fi writer. In his protagonists he assumed that intelligent people would want to be responsible and accountable for their actions. His views on sex relations were always quite amoral, however. And his character Lazarus Long had great disdain for religious people.

  11. Heinlein had a very unhealthy obsession with incest as demonstrated through the actions of Lazarus Long. The older Heinlein got, the nuttier he got, or, perhaps, the freer he felt to voice sentiments that in a morally saner time would have got him horse whipped.

  12. While we’re on the franchise, how about an upper age limit?

    Given demographic trends all 1st world countries will soon become gentrotocracies.
    For a fanciful look at the future see Christopher Buckley’s “Boomsday”.

  13. (Don’s wife Cathy again:) RE: Heinlein’s books, I first read his juveniles (what the librarians call YA books now) when I was about 11 or so — and I continue to think his juveniles are better-written (largely because the restrictions of writing for a younger audience forced him to leave out most of the amoral sex).

  14. I am continually unimpressed by Young Master Klein and am amazed at his prominence at the WaPo, given his lack of expertise in economics, the constitution or much of anything else. What on earth are his qualifications that make him a “required” read or any sort of “authority,” by any one on the left or right?

  15. Having a close relative who voted Democrat in 2000 & 2004 for no other reason than “Bush’s eyes are too close, thats why I don’t trust the man.”, is one reason I wish there were some kind of intelligence test for voters. But we’ve been down that road already haven’t we, with the Jim Crow laws of earlier times?

    So I guess the system remains imperfect, so much so that Winston Churchill once opined that democracy was like a raft, you knew it wouldn’t sink but your feet were always getting wet!

    As for Klein, he should do comedy with the talent he has for it.

  16. Our society has supported through its laws and taxpayer support the killing of 50 million innocent babies for the offense of being “unwanted” or inconvenient. Our children have watched slack-jawed as their parents chose to kill their brothers and sisters as being unaffordable or too much trouble.

    Now, we are shocked that these same children might think that we too are “unwanted”, inconvenient, unaffordable or too much trouble?

    Remember the old adage about Charity beginning in the home?

  17. Logan’s run: 30 was the cut-off. The whole concept of “Renewal” was that the lucky ones would get to live again, not continue to live. It was a way to limit the population of the domed city with limited resources.

    Starship Troopers: In order to become a citizen, one had to go through Federal Service. Only citizens could vote, hold elected office, and be given preference for having children. Federal Service was not restricted to military service; there were other areas where a young person could qualify such as the sciences and exploration. One of the constants of Federal Service, though, was that you risked your life.

  18. In case some readers here understand Mr. Klein’s critique of the current system of electing the president . . .

    The National Popular Vote bill would make every vote, everywhere be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. States have the responsibility to make their voters relevant in every presidential election.

    The bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states. In the 2012 election, pundits and campaign operatives already agree that, at most, only 14 states and their voters will matter under the current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states. Candidates will not care about at least 72% of the voters- voters-in 19 of the 22 lowest population and medium-small states, and big states like CA, GA, NY, and TX. 2012 campaigning would be even more obscenely exclusive than 2008 and 2004. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. Policies important to the citizens of ‘flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    Since World War II, a shift of a handful of votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections. 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 Million votes.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

    The Electoral College that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support is strong among Republican voters, Democratic voters, and independent voters, as well as every demographic group surveyed in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%,, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and border states: AR – 80%,, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR, CT, DE, DC, ME, MI, NV, NM, NY, NC, and OR, and both houses in CA, CO, HI, IL, NJ, MD, MA, RI, VT, and WA. The bill has been enacted by DC (3), HI (4), IL (19), NJ (14), MD (11), MA (10), VT (3), and WA (13). These 8 jurisdictions possess 77 electoral votes — 29% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


  19. IXLR8 has made a most astute observation. We have sown the whirlwind.

    “Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap.”

    This is otherwise know as Newton’s Third Law of Motion, albeit applied on a sociological scale.

    Buckle up, folks. Times are going to get interesting.

  20. Andrew;

    Thank you for the clarifications/corrections re Logan’s Run and Starship Trooper. I was going from my faulty over 30 +/- yr old memory.

    Rhetorical questions: Is not Earth doomed because of its limited resources and over population? Does not the left say we have to control the growth of the population to protect our planet? If people will not voluntarily control the growth of the population, what alternatives are there?

  21. I looked at the charts in the accompanying article.

    Not an exact correlation, the groups with the most political knowledge and the groups with highest particapltion are both around the 50%-70% range. Basically he wants to disenfranchise the most knowledgeable voters.

    I think th real question should be why does he think his favored programs have the best chance of passing if the least knowledgeable voters are give extra weight.

  22. oldgulph:

    I would suggest you ponder the 2000 election.

    And extremely close election on the National level. But only one state was considered for recount. I think the confusion and worse that would go with a nationwide recount would have been a disaster with everyone acting with good intentions.

    A point about the electoral collage is that it segments the vote so that when there is a problem it is relatively local.

    There may be better ways of doing that but an unsegmented national election is an invitation for a nation wide Florida 2000 every presidential election.

  23. The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

    The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system so frequently creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

    A nationwide recount would not happen. We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and recount. The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.

    * Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years under the National Popular Vote approach. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

    ? The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

    ? Only about a quarter of all recounts change the outcome.

    ? No recount would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 56 previous presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

  24. oldgulph,

    Given how unusual it is for one candidate to win the nationwide popular vote and another to win the electoral vote, it’s not easy to see why it would necessarily make things all that different.

    If we had a situation where one candidate won the electoral and another the popular often, that would be one thing. But instead, we find that is pretty unusual. It happened exactly once in the last 100 years.

  25. The movement toward a national popular vote stubbornly ignores the constitution and the “confederation” of states that form the US of A. We are a union of states. Each state has a say in the presidential election, not each individual. In fact, if one looks at much federal case law, one would see that the SCOTUS has historically considered that individuals have rights with the federal government only through their state governments. That’s at issue in the challenges to healthcare law. The states have a right to determine whether individuals must buy insurance; the fed does not. [That is Romney’s correct federalism argument, but it doesn’t defend the poor economics of it all.] The People are represented before/in the federal government through the Congress, elected by the People of each State. Electoral votes and House members per state are proportionate to State population. There is no inappropriate weighting of votes here.

    We are not a direct democracy as far as the federal government is concerned. I would think it unjust, if my state went for Candidate A, but Candidate B obtained the most votes nationwide, and my state’s electoral votes went to Candidate B. My vote and those of my fellow State residents were disregarded. We vote for president as a State, not as individuals.

    We are a union of states. Period. Learn it, live it, love it….That’s for you too Young Mr. Klein.

  26. Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) in 48 states, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation’s 56 (1 in 14) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a handful of votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 6 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

  27. Most voters don’t care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans consider the idea of the candidate with the most popular votes being declared a loser detestable. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    In the 3 state examples of polling 800 voters each with a second question that specifically emphasized that their state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states, not necessarily their state’s winner, there was only a 4-8% decrease of support.

    Question 1: “How do you think we should elect the President: Should it be the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states, or the current Electoral College system?”

    Question 2: “Do you think it more important that a state’s electoral votes be cast for the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in that state, or is it more important to guarantee that the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states becomes president?”

    Support for a National Popular Vote

    South Dakota — 75% for Question 1, 67% for Question 2.
    see http://nationalpopularvote.com/pages…php#SD_2009MAY

    Connecticut — 74% for Question 1, 68% for Question 2.
    see http://nationalpopularvote.com/pages…php#CT_2009MAY

    Utah — 70% for Question 1, 66% for Question 2.
    see http://nationalpopularvote.com/pages…php#UT_2009MAY

  28. Given how unusual it is for one candidate to win the nationwide popular vote and another to win the electoral vote,

    This happened in 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. I may be mistaken on this point, but I believe it has been the convention to add the ballots cast for ‘uncommitted’ Democratic slates of electors in 1960 to John Kennedy’s totals; the ‘uncommitted’ slates split their electoral votes between Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Harry Byrd, Sr. That would be five occasions in a set of 44 federal elections which included popular voting for presidential electors. Not that unusual.

    Of course, there are a number of qualifications one might offer regarding each of these cases.

  29. I get that it’s happened four times, but three of those four are more than a century ago. One can take that as a complete accident, but it could also be that in our modern media world it’s simply unlikely to happen.

    The near misses can be taken one of two ways: either that it’s always almost happening, or that even in pretty close races the electoral and popular votes usually end up on the same side.

    I mean, really: Is the claim seriously that somehow if we didn’t have state by state races one candidate or another would do better nationally? I don’t see it. We already have massive amounts of national coverage, even if candidates are on the ground more in certain states. I’m sure it would change dynamics a bit if the race was nationwide, but I don’t see that it would be a clearly positive change, just different.

    I tend to think the whole thing is mostly just a reflection of people’s tendency to forget the federal republic structure of our country and want to see it as a single, strong nation state. A tendency I have pretty mixed feelings about.

  30. I tend to think the whole thing is mostly just a reflection of people’s tendency to forget the federal republic structure of our country and want to see it as a single, strong nation state. A tendency I have pretty mixed feelings about.

    As long as we are speculating about people’s esoteric motors, I will offer that I suspect defenses of the electoral college are fairly reflexive, a viewing the Constitution not as a positive law with the usual run of assets and liabilities a law has, but rather as Mr. Madison’s sublime and elegant work of art. It is a piece of ornamentation that has not worked as intended since 1796.

    One difficulty you have with excising the electoral college is that it would be necessary to set national standards for suffrage as well as a erecting a federal agency to administer elections. This is America, not France; energetic and capable civil administration is not what we do here. The utility of certain constitutional conventions on apportionment and tabulation is that the stupidity is confined to smaller jurisdictions (as was the case in 2000, to our benefit).

  31. Since World War II, a shift of only a few thousand votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 13 (31%) presidential elections.

    When every vote is equal everywhere, 2/3rds of the states and people would no longer be merely spectators to the presidential elections, and policies important to a handful of battleground states would not be prioritized when it comes to governing.

    The National Popular Vote bill is a state-based approach. It preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded in the Electoral College.

    The U.S. Constitution specifically permits diversity of election laws among the states because it explicitly gives the states control over the conduct of presidential elections (article II) .

  32. It gets very annoying that one can hardly read anything on the web about elections anymore without finding the National Popular Vote trolls to have invaded, saying the same things over and over again (I mean this quite literally; you can see it if you google oldgulph’s first few paragraphs from the first comment). It’s rarely actually relevant to the discussion at hand, and it’s always the same old lies. It is blatantly incorrect to claim that every vote everywhere would count the same because states have signficant differences in laws governing who can vote, how they can vote, and how votes are to be counted; for instance, some states allow, and some deny, votes to felons, different states have different policies on mail-in ballots, and so forth. It is blatantly incorrect to claim that elections wouldn’t be about winning states, because this is not an artifact of the Electoral College but of the convenience of states as a unit for campaigning; one sees this, for instance, in federal parliamentary systems, like Canada, where campaigning is often explicitly about winning provinces (particularly swingable provinces like Ontario) even though the unit of election is the riding. And so on and so forth. Even the name is a lie — you can’t have a national popular vote unless you have a national standard of what counts as a vote which under the current Constitutional system, which leaves such standards to the state, is impossible. Claims are never presented as elements a real argument in political philosophy or constitutional theory but as a series of advertisements.

    If oldgulph really wants to have a serious discussion in political philosophy, the question that he or she should answer is simply this: What are the weaknesses and potential failings of an NPV system? It’s not even conceivably possible to have a voting system without disadvantages; and it is not rational to accept a voting system without going into it knowing what those disadvantages are. This is the line between kooks and reasonable people in political theory: reasonable people recognize that there are costs to every system, and take those into account; the kooks always present utopia as if it were a political plan of action.

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