Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Anderson on Illinois ignored by presidential elections

John Anderson had this piece in Sunday's Chicago Tribune explaining how Illinois voters simply are not part of picking the president and calling for a national presidential election.

Here's the link and the full column.

Presidential elections all but ignore Illinois

By John B. Anderson
Published January 1, 2006

Some of you might remember that I served Illinois as a Republican in Congress and then in 1980 I ran for president as an independent. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, traveling around the nation speaking with voters of every stripe and color--from labor unions to business owners, single mothers to local Rotaries.

Today candidates for the presidency may feel that they crisscross the nation, but a careful study of their actual schedules reveals a much smaller itinerary. In the last five weeks of the 2004 election, 33 states were left without a visit from any of the major party presidential and vice presidential candidates. Nor did they run television ads for every voter to see; more was spent on ads in Florida alone than in 45 states and the District of Columbia combined.

A recent study by the organization I chair, FairVote, quantified the presidential campaign. In terms of campaign visits by the candidates on the national ticket and dollars spent in television markets for campaign ads, Illinois tied with Texas for dead last with a zero for both measures.

This means that the 12 million people in Illinois were not important enough to warrant any significant effort from presidential candidates and the votes of Illinois were simply written off.

Safe states like Illinois are literally left off the political map as the candidates battled in only a few lucky states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Hampshire.

The system is so skewed that Matthew Dowd, a campaign strategist for President Bush, admitted they only polled in 18 states for the two years leading up to the 2004 presidential election.

The opinions and concerns of Americans in 32 states simply were not considered by the president's campaign team.

What if the upcoming gubernatorial campaign in Illinois occurred in just 10 counties--if the people in the other 92 counties, including most of the biggest, never saw a candidate, received a single piece of campaign literature in the mail or had a knock on the door from a campaign volunteer?

If the campaign worked that way, I think most of us would agree the system was broken and in need of serious improvement.

So why do we elect the president of the United States this way?

A presidential election should leave every voter with a sense of our nationhood--i.e. we are not voting as states each with its own parochial interest but expressing the fact that in electing a president we are speaking with one voice as a nation.

When I was in Congress, I was proud to be joined by Democrats and Republicans alike, including Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter, in calling for presidential elections under the golden principle of one-person, one-vote that dictates every election but one in this country. My Illinois colleagues were particularly strong in making this case for a national presidential election. I trust my home state again can lead the way on this vital reform to our republic.


John B. Anderson was a Republican representative in Congress from Rockford from 1961 to 1981. In 1980 he ran for president as an independent and currently chairs the board of FairVote--a non-partisan, non-profit election reform group based in Takoma Park, Md.

Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune


Philologee said...

An interesting analysis, but you have to help me out here. What difference does it make if none of the Presidential candidates make an appearance in Illinois anyway? How does that effect races? The concerns of Illinois voters cannot be THAT far removed from the concerns of other Midwestern states, and as far as 'localized' concerns go, isn't that why we have state governments and local elections?

The days when the appearance of national candidates actually did anything to INFORM elections is probably long past. Like all informed members of the electorate I get my news from a myriad of internet, newspaper, radio and TV sources. I have never learned a single thing about a candidate by watching him give a stump speech in Peoria, or Chicago for that matter.

Bill Baar said...

I noticed I get these arguments for getting rid of the electoral college from the same people who tell me Bush is trampling on the constitution.

They seem awfully quick to junk an institution which has served us pretty well.

Get rid of the electoral college and elections for the most powerful position in the world will be fought in just two or three large states.

That can't be a good idea.

Lazerlou said...

Not two or three large states, but major urban/suburban metropolitan areas. I see nothing wrong with that, as most of the people in our country live in such areas. Right now the moderate hicks from Ohio and Florida determine way too much, and frankly I'd rather it be skewed toward educated metro people who actually have to live with people who are different than they are, IF we don't get rid of the EC, I like Dan's idea to at least get rid of the small sate welfare and give them one elector instead of counting senators and giving them three.

Nathan Kaufman said...

Did Mr. Anderson visit Chicago years ago, and you (Dan) and others met him at Berghoff?

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

I think it matters, philogee, because Illinois voters are not part of the 'general will' or the consensus-creating process that political campaigns become. Our views are different than Iowans or Wisconsinites or Missourians. And every vote should count. I think it's a myth, Bill Baar, that presidential elections would be fought in two or three big states if we used a national election. Gubernatorial and other statewide elections are *not* fought out in Chicago only. Candidates criss-cross the entire state. So why do you accept a process that results in only a few states picking the president -- exactly what you think would be the *bad* result if we used a national election? Thanks LazerLou. And Nathan, John Anderson did visit Chicago and hold court at Berghoff's a few years ago. I think you were there, weren't you?

Nathan Kaufman said...

Yeah, I think I was there. It is somewhat amazing I made the event given I spent so much time trying hard (in my mind anyways) in non-partisan, business-related jobs.

Larry Horse said...

Bill Baar,

I'm assuming that if you have no problem with the Electoral College, then you would have no problem with Affirmative Action either, as they are the exact same thing. The Electoral College gives the people of Wyoming 3 votes for President regardless of whether they deserve it or not by will of how many of them vote or even really as a proportion of their popultation (California has over 50 times the population of Wyoming but less than 20 times the electors). That is no different than a racial quota, saying that, for example, 15 of 50 positions to be filled must go to minorities regardless of whether they are the best qualified for them. So, do you support affirmative action or are you a hypocrite?

I personally support affirmative action today, but I would gladly be willing to see all such programs outlawed in exchange for the sickest quota system of them all, the Electoral College, being banned.

And people who say that getting rid of the electoral college will turn the country over to the few most populous states are nuts. The nation is fairly divided, as the past 2 close elections demonstrated, and almost every vote matters. Also, doesn't it seem fair that the areas which have the most population get the most attention from government? You also seem to forget that the Senate gives every state the same representation, so quit crying and learn to accept democracy.

Bill Baar said...

Larry, Assumptions make an ass of you and me is what an old boss used to tell me. Never make any was her order.

Yes, I favor affirmative action. Not much for quotas, but I think affirmative action has been a great success. I'm with Colin Powell on it... he's made very elequent case for it.

Also, for what ever it's worth, the University of Illinois Medical School has implemented affirmative action programs in a very effective way. They (together with the US Army) are great models of how it should be done.

Now what that has to do with the electoral college I don't know.

Diane said...

The thing about Illinois in the last election is that there was no doubt by either party who would win the state's electoral votes. So neither spent any time at all here.

Wouldn't it be far more beneficial to Illinois as far as having a voice in the presidency if they'd change the date of their primary? By the time Illinois has an election everything has been decided, By only two states, for the most part. That is the real problem. Frankly, I'd be in favor of a primary election day where all states vote the same day. This business of watching Iowa make the decision for the rest of the states is what is antiquated.

Nathan Kaufman said...


You have an interesting post on assumptions. However, inevitably managers have to make estimates about the future based on something...

Assumptions do not have a monopoly when it comes to manager posterity. In addition to assumptions, some managers make themselves look silly.

respectful said...

Forget about taking away votes from the small states. There are too many small states to permit a constitutional amendment to that effect. More modest reforms might have a chance than those requiring an amendment.

Larry Horse said...

Bill, I guess I shouldn't have assumed in the way I did. I kind of mixed up affirmative action with quotas a bit disingenously, so I am sorry for this. However, the point still stands that it is hypocritical for someone to both support the Electoral College and Oppose racial quotas (for things like employment or getting into a school) as they both philosophically rest on the same idea of setting aside a set number of votes (or jobs or school entrances) for a group of people not because they necessarily merit them, but because of what they are.

I would love it if the General Assembly passed a resolution stating its opposition to the Electoral College. It wouldn't solve the problem, but it would be a start.

Bill Baar said...

No problem Larry,,, I'm always looking for opportunities to use my assumptions story.

Assumptions and decision making with imperfect knowledge two different things as far as I'm concerned.

Always watch out with assumptions.

Anyways, I think the electoral college has served the US well and balances large and small states interests.

The Democrats have such a huge problem appealing to voteres in growing aspirational regions, that I don't think tinkering with the mechanics of elections is going to solve their problems (at that's really what this electoral college debate is about)... the party is struggling and this is not the solution.

This is a solution that doesn't get to the root of the problem or even identify it.

That's another thing one learns in decision making.

Nathan Kaufman said...

Decision making is interesting. One logical method might be a decision tree, where outcomes and associated probabilities of outcomes are used to determine an expected best course of action.

Question: how does one determine probabilities of outcomes?
-Based on historical outcomes?
-Based on assumptions about future?
-Something else?

If not a decision tree, then how should one make decisions?

So I agree decision making with imperfect knowledge is different than assumptions. However, there may be a little bit of overlap or interaction - not sure (when a mgr has imperfect knowledge, a mgr assumes probabilities of outcomes when making decisions).

What do you think?

Nathan Kaufman said...

Chicago opportunities on assumptions: