Wednesday Roundup: The (Un)Popular Vote

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The push goes on to do away with the Electoral College and base presidential elections instead on the popular vote.

In five elections, the winners of the popular vote did not advance to the presidency. Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but lost the election to John Quincy Adams (1824); Samuel J. Tilden lost to Rutherford B. Hayes (1876); Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison (1888), and, folks may remember, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost to George W. Bush in 2000.

The idea of choosing the president by a national popular vote consistently raises concern among rural citizens; presumably, with popular-vote-decides-it, candidates would write off smaller communities and focus all their attention where the most voters are — in cities. The National Popular Vote organization doesn’t so much dispute that claim as point out that most of the U.S. is ALREADY ignored in presidential campaigns.

A new article on the subject from Harvard Political Review by Jay Alver and Humza Bokhari does not squarely address that potential problem:

“A National Popular Vote does bring up some concerns,” they write. “Perhaps lifting the burden of campaigning heavily in certain states will lift the need to address specific regional concerns entirely, allowing candidates to win on general platitudes and unspecified policy positions.”

Don’t we have that already?

“Furthermore, the Electoral College highlights the importance for presidential candidates by campaigning in swing states around the nation to cater to voters in very different locales and situations. With a national popular vote in place, candidates could focus on only urban voters or only rural voters, for example, while ignoring other constituencies, and thereby failing to display an appeal throughout America’s different socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Oddly the writers suggest that concentrating “only on rural voters” would be a possibility, just as likely as focusing on urban voters. How’s that, since just 20% of U.S. citizens live in non-metro areas? We’ve had some lackluster candidates, but they know what 1:4 means.

 

* A team of researchers in Alabama will be experimenting with new video-based technology for diagnosing autism in young children.

Dr. Dan Albertson, who’s leading the research, said, “Autism diagnoses in rural areas can range from 5-6 years. With this system in place, not only is there is an increased awareness of autism in the rural clinics we are working with, but, at a minimum, we consider this system a move toward removing the one-year wait-list to receive advice and expertise from the autism clinic here at The University of Alabama.” Earlier diagnosis can mean earlier and more successful treatment.

Current surveys of the incidence of autism show that it preponderantly affects urban residents, yet the Alabama study suggests those differences are likely because medical assessment has been lacking in rural areas.

*A new study in England shows that rural residents have socked away
more savings than have people in larger towns and cities. The Buxton
Advertiser
reported that the differences in savings might actually be a reflection of older
populations in rural areas of England. “These savers have had a long
working life to build up their savings pot compared to younger savers,”
said Halifax economist Martin Ellis.

We don’t know if there are differences in the savings of
rural/exurban/urban Americans. Yonder’s recent story about boosting the
economy of Howard, SD, would suggest that a community of spenders rather
than savers may benefit small towns even more.

*A rural high school in South Texas that failed to meet state standards has cancelled athletics for the remainder of the school year to save money and focus students’ energies on academic improvement.

Christopher Sherman, writing for AP, found that the move at Premont High may be backfiring. Truancy has been one of the district’s major problems and without the sports programs, some students are staying away from school.

“Cedric de la Garza, 15, said he’s been looking forward to playing on the varsity baseball team since he began working out with them in seventh grade. Staying eligible for sports is what motivates many students to pass their classes, he said.

“Nobody wants to come to school. Nobody wants to try anymore,” he said.”

*A Missouri conference on Women in Agriculture will focus on profitability. At last year’s gathering there was an unexpectedly big crowd: 300 participants. Organizers foresee an even larger turnout this year. The 2012 Women in Agriculture conference will take place March 1 in Marshall, MO. Check here for details.

 

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