Popular Vote, or Electoral Vote?

Eugenio Magdalena
9 min readMay 14, 2020

A Change Might be Needed in the U.S. electoral procedures.

Though the change is so complex that it might not be implemented quickly enough, so we can see it before the end of our life.

U.S. elections — Voting station. Photo: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcRL1cCUsWNIAYQSDlev_9g5SykHYhnxLfxA9TGJ8eRc6ki0epej&usqp=CAU

You see, the pass of time makes important things to be forgotten; important facts or characteristics of decisions taken by previous generations.

That is, until a new generation — usually a single individual belonging to that new generation — dives into a given decision taken by her or his predecessors, and exceptionally decides to alter the work done by them, thus creating a “new normality”.

Contributing to that different way of doing things, common sense (the less common of all senses, said someone) is, in fact, a very subjective matter, varying considerably from one individual to the next.

Also, the prevailing environment at a given time may also recommend “common sense” solutions, which lose their adequacy with the pass of time.

Finally, we human beings are a bit lazy, or are bombarded at present with so much information, that we have little time available — or so we say — to dive into and review the past.

As a result, the truth is that things stay unchanged, sometimes for long periods of time.

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When I was at Cranfield School of Management, part of Cranfield University, at Cranfield, England, the U.K., studying to get my M.B.A., I came across a book by Charles Handy: ”Understanding Organizations” (Penguin Books, 1981).

In his book, the author describes the case of an American consultant who, during the mid-’60s, was under contract with the British Army, to help them modernize its operations.

While looking at a Mobile Artillery group, the Consultant could not find out, at first glance, what the job was of a soldier, part of a group in charge of light, mobile cannons, who stood there, at the back of the artillery piece, apparently doing nothing, during the complete process of loading the ammunition, aiming the gun, firing the cannon, and gathering of the ejected shells and putting them out of the way, before reloading the gun repeating the process, to fire the piece once again.

Each cannon squad was composed of 4 soldiers: One to gather, and load the light cannon with ammo, another one to aim the piece and fire it, a third one to pick the ejected cartridge shells up from the ground and pile them out of the way, and finally, the fourth squad’s member, a soldier who, apparently as we said, had no job whatsoever.

Further research into the subject by the Consultant, found out that the fourth member of the squad was in fact, the one taking care of the horses, for instance, during WWI, when Mobile Artillery pieces were towed around by horses, which needed to be taken care of during the cannon’s noisy firings.

With the pass of time, the Mobile Artillery was motorized, and the horses disappeared.

But not the position of the soldier who, at that time, was in charge of taking care of them!

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Also, as part of my duties, when I was hired by Pan American Life Insurance Company, Palic, as Executive V.P. International Business, I frequently visited the LATAM’s country-operations the company had at the time (2008–2011).

During my visits, I found out that the company had a Customer Service department, both, at the Head Office in New Orleans, USA, and at all field operations (6 operations in LATAM at the time), employing approximately a total of 40 people, completely dedicated to attending telephone calls from insurance brokers.

By talking with the employees involved, I also found out that most (95% they said) of the telephone calls they attended were related to Claim’s issues. But, since Customer Service employees did not have any Claims authority, they had no system access to Claims information either so, whenever they attended a call, after listening to the broker’s inquiry, they placed the call in ‘waiting’ mode, ran to the Claims department to obtain the relevant information, and then ran back to their own department to transmit the information they have obtained to the waiting broker in the phone line.

Old-timers in the company said that many years ago, an obscure Model Office team had designed the process, which was put into practice and followed ever since then in all sites.

Evidently, a cumbersome, costly process, and a bad Customer Service on top of that!

The described process, possibly made sense when implemented, as the portfolio of business then may have been completely different, probably composed of Life policies in its vast majority.

But nowadays, it did not make any sense, given the present composition of the firm’s portfolio, with an important part of it represented by Healthcare policies, characterized by relatively frequent, albeit smaller claims, which generate more inquiries and more calls by the brokers.

So, in proportion to the number of calls received on each location, we transferred all key Customer Service employees of that location to the Claims department, trained them on Claim issues, and from then on, phone calls from brokers were directly taken care of by the expanded Claims department, and the Customer Service department disappeared. Calls that involved other departments as well, if any, would be duly transferred by Claims.

Country Managers, Claim Managers, and Commercial teams would inform brokers of the changes.

As a result of the changes, we not only ensured better attention to the phone-queries of our clients the insurance brokers, but also achieved a company-wide headcount reduction of about 15 people, and an annual reduction of overall company-expenses of about $350,000.

Well, you see, sometimes looking at processes “inherited” from the past, really pays off!

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I brought this into question because I find extremely difficult to understand how in a democracy like the USA, a worldwide paradigm of freedom and democracy, it is possible for a candidate (in the late case, Hillary Clinton) to obtain almost a 3 million votes advantage in the popular vote, and yet be declared a loser (to Donald Trump) in the U.S. 2016 Presidential election.

Furthermore, a little investigation into the past, also indicated that five other candidates to the U.S Presidency in past elections, were also declared losers, despite having won the popular vote:

Five times a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the election. Andrew Jackson in 1824 (lost to John Quincy Adams); Samuel Tilden in 1876 (lost to Rutherford B. Hayes); Grover Cleveland in 1888 (lost to Benjamin Harrison); Al Gore in 2000 (lost to George W. Bush); and Hillary Clinton in 2016 (lost to Donald J. Trump).

https://history.house.gov/Institution/Electoral-College/Electoral-College/

Now, all of those candidates were… Democrats.

Look, I’m not an American, I do not live in the U.S., and I am not writing this to meddle into the U.S. Presidential elections, which is none of my business, after all.

Apart from having worked — during most of my life — in American companies, also as an admirer of the U.S., a country in which I lived in two different occasions (the first in June 1993, until July 1995, and the second one from September of 2001, to July of 2003), I just found it odd, as I said, that with such a difference in popular votes, (in a democracy) a candidate can lose an election.

I’m not using those numbers to claim that a rigged electoral system is in place, favoring the Republican party.

In fact, under that same Electoral College system, the Democrat party’s candidates have become U.S. President on 14 times, according to Wikipedia (this same source indicates that the U.S. has had a Republican President, a total of 24 times).

Given these results, I was at first surprised that the Democrats have not changed the electoral system when they could. After all, they have had majority control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives) a few times in the past and did nothing about it.

But soon, I learned that such a change could not be easily implemented by a political party, even if enjoying a majority on both chambers of Congress, as I first thought:

The change would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is much easier said than done. Not only would both the House and the Senate in Congress need to approve the change by a two-thirds majority, but three-quarters of the individual state assemblies would have to ratify it (38 out of 50 states)”

“A Constitutional amendment is out of the question,” said Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University. “There’s no way to get two-thirds of the House and the Senate to support an amendment of any kind.”

https://time.com/5579161/presidents-elected-electoral-college/

The point is that a change is needed, if anything, to stop and avoid any state’s secession attempt, and if individual voters are going to believe that their vote matters if combatting the current voting abstention is a priority.

But both sides — those in favor of the change, and those against it — have strong arguments:

California has a population of 39.25 million people and has two senators. Montana, Idaho, N Dakota, S Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Oklahoma have a combined population of 24.46 million people and have between them 22 senators. Are you starting to see the problem?

https://nyti.ms/2ztQGzK#permid=24206294

Trump defeated Clinton by 1.5 million votes in the 49 states outside of California. Should California have so much power that it outweighs a majority in the other 49 states? Trump carried 30 of 50 states. Would it be more democratic if the winner in only 20 states became President?

https://nyti.ms/2Wlz0zq#permid=24207406:

The two paragraphs above, correspond to anonymous comments of readers representing antagonistic positions on the issue. (Comments made by readers to an article published at medium.com)

But the general public seems to be in favor of a change:

About 53% of Americans are in favor of a Constitutional Amendment to require a popular vote, compared to 43% who agree with maintaining the Electoral College, according to a survey by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

https://time.com/5579161/presidents-elected-electoral-college/

I do believe also that a change is needed, although I’d be surprised if such a difficult and complex change is implemented during my lifetime.

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I was also taken aback, by the apparent facility with which Maduro and the Chavistas obtained support for their outrageous abuses of the Venezuelan population, inside the Organization of American States, the OAS, in English, or the OEA, in Spanish.

In fact, every proposal submitted for the voting of the delegates of the member-states, condemning the Venezuelan Government of Maduro for its abuses and crimes committed by it against Humanity, was rejected by the voting members, rendering the assembly powerless.

As it happened, the dead leader of the Chavistas, Hugo Chavez, with the advice of his mentor, Fidel Castro, had cultivated over the years the “friendship” of the small Caribbean states members of the OAS, with the help of the Venezuelan oil, often given to them for free, or under extremely favorable conditions (the so-called ‘oil diplomacy’).

In that manner, and favored by the insane voting policy at the OAS of “one country, one vote”, which equates the vote of the delegate of a country like Brazil, with its 200 million population, or the U.S., with a population in excess of 300 million, with the vote of the delegates of small Caribbean countries like Antigua & Barbuda, with a population of 96,000 at the end of 2019, or St. Kitts & Nevis, just to give you an example, with a total population of just 53,000, also at the end of 2019, both as reported by Wikipedia.

Unquestionably, those small states of America have a legitimate right to be listened to, but that could be achieved, for example, by giving a seat in the OAS, with an X number of voting rights to an institution like CARICOM, which groups together most Caribbean states.

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Those are, I believe, three clear examples of “inherited” schemes from the past which, if left once more intact, would cause (or would have caused, in one of the shown cases) considerable damage under the present, or at future circumstances; all of the cases representing important facts or characteristics of decisions taken by previous generations.

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Eugenio Magdalena

Eugenio is a disabled Economist (UCAB, Caracas), cursed a post-graduate Diploma in Marketing (Strathclyde University, Scotland, UK), and an MBA (England, UK).