Sunday, August 2, 2009

Political reforms

All of a sudden the blogosphere is a-twitter with political reform ideas. Matt Yglesias started this by throwing a bunch of ideas out there, including a national popular vote and proportional representation. The only one of his ideas I feel particularly strongly about concerns the Senate: get rid of the filibuster or get rid of the upper chamber, I say. It's an antiquated, anti-majoritarian legislature. That made sense in the eighteenth century; it's a hard sell today. Plus, their staggered terms make it harder for political scientists to study.

Nicholas Beaudrot follows up on this by saying that we should triple the size of the House of Representatives. Jonathan Bernstein has some interesting critiques of Beaudrot's plan (here, here, here, and here), although he does claim that it would increase the percentage of women in the House. I'm not sure why that would be the result of shrinking districts -- it's not like our state legislatures are teeming with women.

One thing that would likely happen with a mega-House is that the tools that legislatures use to organize an unruly chamber -- notably parties, committee chairs, and the speaker -- would become stronger. I don't know that that's necessarily bad or good. I suppose the main advantage of the reform would be to improve representation. Members would have smaller, less diverse districts, and they could conceivably meet a high percentage of their voters. That's not nothing. But would it be worth the size of the reform? (Think of all the work that would have to be done to the chamber itself. Plus, if we still paid members at their current rate, we're talking about an increase of over $160 million in member salaries alone, not to mention staff.)

Oh, and nothing personal against Joe Biden, but we really don't need a vice presidency.


Anonymous said...

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

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, 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 is currently endorsed by over 1,659 state legislators (in 48 states) who have cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 29 state legislative chambers, in small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


Seth Masket said...

I'm sympathetic to this movement but would much prefer a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College. The NPV pact gets around that, of course, but I can only imagine the outrage from citizens of a state whose majority votes for one party but whose EVs go to the other due to the pact.