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Should every vote count? Yes.
Should every vote be counted? Yes, in an ideal world.
Should the winner be the one who gets more votes than the other(s)? Not necessarily.
There’s a Tom Woods Show podcast, from November 18, 2016, just after President Trump was elected, in which Woods was talking about the Electoral College with Kevin Gutzman[i] and Brion McClanahan[ii]. Woods shares a baseball metaphor that might help here. Suppose you’ve got two teams in the baseball World Series. Team A wins three games 8-1, 8-1, 8-1, and Team B wins three games 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, and then in the final game Team B wins again 2-1. Team B wins the series.
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If Team A starts complaining, “Hey, but we earned a bigger total number of absolute points: a total of 28 points. And those guys only earned a total of 11 points. We’re the real winners”—everybody rolls their eyes and calls them sore losers. Total points don’t matter. The thing that matters is games won.
The strategy would be completely different if a team were playing for most runs scored over several games. For example, as Kevin Gutzman adds,
If you think about the strategy involved in managing the World Series, your analogy is illuminating. For example, in game 1 the team that’s down 6-1 in the 8th inning isn’t going to put in it’s best relief pitcher, because it doesn’t care what the final margin is at that point. They know they’ve lost. They want to save their best pitchers for the remaining games, and so they don’t throw their number 1 guy out there in the 9th inning.
On the other hand, if it mattered what the margin was in game 1, if that had anything to do with who was eventually going to win the series, then you might see the ace closer come on in the 9th inning with the score 7-1, to try to ensure that there weren’t anymore runs scored….
So that’s like Trump not spending much time campaigning in California. There’s just no reason for him to go waste money and his own time, or Pence’s time, or some Trump offspring’s time, or anyone’s time trying to get more votes in California when they know they’ve lost. So, again, you get to the 9th inning of game 1, you’re down 6-1, you’re going to put the scrub middle reliever out there to get batted around a little bit, because you really don’t care. You just want to get the game over with, and let’s move on to game 2.
Strategy would change in a presidential campaign, because, similarly, total votes is not the way the American presidential vote is won.
Think about this. What is united in the United States? The states. We’re not the “United Individuals of America.” Our states are not provinces, or districts, or boroughs segmenting a singular larger entity, as is common in other nations. According to the online dictionary, a state is:
a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government
While we have democratic (rule by the majority of the people) aspects, we are not simply ruled by the changing whims of the majority of Americans. We safeguard against that kind of tyranny by having a republic—a representative form of government. We have representatives at the state level, and at the congressional district level. And within states we have similar levels down to very local.
The way the election of our president was set up, the states—which are independently governed entities—hold elections to decide on electors, who will represent that state’s choice for president.
Anyone who wins the presidency has to win not only a preponderance of states, but a wide variety of little societies that have their own interests and needs. Gulf states have different needs from Eastern Seaboard states. Southwestern states have different needs from Midwest states. Mountainous areas have different needs from coasts or deserts or plains. Big urban centers have different needs from smaller cities, suburbs, and rural areas.
The rules of the game are to make belonging to the United States valuable to people in all these different littler societies. This is on purpose, and by design. It was never about getting the highest number of voters, any more than winning the World Series is about getting the most total points. In fact, the first several elections didn’t even record the total number of votes.
On that Woods podcast they point out that no one tries to determine the Senate majority by seeing which party got the highest vote total. The “game” isn’t played that way.
So the strategy is different.
The biggest difference is that we don’t have candidates simply go to the biggest urban centers, where they can accumulate the most votes, and ignore the rest of the country. Every location has at least some small strategic significance. And a candidate decides where to spend time and resources based on the effort to win the most electoral college votes.
That idea that the total votes is irrelevant is important. It’s especially something to look at as there’s greater pressure to do an end-run (switching sports metaphors) around the Constitution and its amendment process by states doing a National Popular Vote (NPV) compact, in which these participating states determine their respective electors based on—not their individual state’s voters, but on the national vote total.
There are plenty of reasons this is a bad idea. And you can tell they’re not serious if you picture what they will do if/when Trump or any other Republican wins the popular vote. Will they declare their electors for that Republican winner? Or will they demur and say, “Well, the courts haven’t decided on whether we can actually do this yet”? It’s a one-way strategy only. They’re not about fairness; they’re corrupt.
One of the main reasons this is a bad idea is that we can’t get an accurate vote total. In theory it ought to be possible, but in reality it isn’t.
In Part II we'll cover some of the details of why an accurate national vote count isn't even attainable.