Tag Archives: Electoral College

To Get to a More Perfect Union, Reform Electoral College, Promote Access to Ballot Box

Electoral College reform and a greater federal role in setting minimum national standards for access to the ballot box are necessary to insure that Americans get the president who reflects the will of the majority in a free and fair democratic election © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Electoral College reform and a greater federal role in setting minimum national standards for access to the ballot box are necessary to insure that Americans get the president who reflects the will of the majority in a free and fair democratic election © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

There is no question that the will of the majority was thwarted in the presidential Election of 2016 – but if ever there was a time when the Electoral College should have proved its purpose, it was this election.

Instead, the Electoral College demonstrated the worst of all anti-democratic worlds: denying the popular will while also enabling the exact sort of candidate that Alexander Hamilton described in justifying the Electoral College: so “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” and to prevent a “desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils”. Trump fails on all accounts.

And here, you have not only Hillary Clinton receiving nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump – the most in history for any candidate who did not go on to win the presidency – but you have clear evidence of foreign manipulation (the Russian hacking, very possibly with collusion by the Trump campaign), fake news, not to mention voter suppression (interesting that every battleground state where Clinton lost was also where Republican legislators had imposed measures designed to suppress the vote of groups inclined to vote Democratic; in Wisconsin, 300,000 registered voters lacked the photo ID necessary to cast their ballots. Indeed, two weeks after the election, a federal court struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map as illegally partisan. And,  “on Election Day, there were 868 fewer polling places in states with a long history of voting discrimination, like Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina,” (www.thenation.com/…)

The result was that Democratic-leaning voters had hours-long waits which many could not afford. And then there was the call-out by Donald Trump for vigilantes to police “you know which” neighborhoods. Turnout was affected. Indeed, despite historic levels of engagement in Election 2016, the number of votes cast in Ohio was down 1.1% and down 4.0% in Wisconsin – more than the margin of victory for Trump. That’s the art and the science of voter suppression, which was the primary strategy for the Trump campaign.

But instead of serving properly as a check-and-balance, everything that is undemocratic and archaic about the Electoral College (devised to give disproportionate power to slave-holding states and small rural states) was in play. As a result, a single voter in Wyoming is worth 200 times a voter in California, rendering this country’s notion of “one person, one vote” and “equal justice” a fraud.

(Why is it that only rural, white Middle Americans are considered “Real Americans,” but coastal, urbanites, professionals, college-educated people are considered “elites” not deserving of a say in their governance?)

Its malfeasance justifies the rising calls to abolish the Electoral College altogether – which would require amending the Constitution which is unlikely. Instead, there are calls to dramatically reform it to more properly address 21st century America, through changes that the states can make to the regulations that bind their Electoral Voters, now termed “faithless” if they vote against their state’s popular vote.

The predominant reform is for states to join the National Popular Vote (NPV) compact would require participating states to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote. It wouldn’t take effect until enough states joined in to add up to the 270 electoral votes required to elect the president– ten states and the District of Columbia have already signed on, totaling 165 electoral votes.

If the compact were in place, Hillary Clinton, who received nearly 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump, who only won the Electoral College by winning the slimmest of margins (less than 1%) in a few battleground states (amounting to about 70,000 votes altogether, the result of concerted voter suppression actions by Republicans), would have been President.

But this election also demonstrated how easily even a 21st century populace can be manipulated by fake news, social media and a populist snake-oil salesman, not to mention the possibility of hacking the election architecture. Indeed, it would seem that the Electoral College does have a purpose as envisioned by the founders of the Republic, as a check on populism.

Still, there are ways to make the Electoral College more democratically representative, while still functioning as a “check and balance.”

First, there needs to be an end to “winner take all” which basically erases the votes of millions of voters. Instead, states should apportion their electoral votes based on the popular vote in the state. That would be a much more representative method and more efficiently make each state and each person’s vote count.

During this election, we kept hearing how discouraged and disaffected those who would vote for third-party candidates, and their complaint that the two-party system is what is so detrimental to a true democracy. But multiple candidates virtually guarantee that the winner does not represent the majority, as is clear in 2016, where the scant votes for Jill Stein in Michigan gave the state to Trump, putting him over the Electoral top despite winning only 46% of the national popular vote.

So the second element is to allow the lowest vote-getting candidates to give their Electoral Votes to one of the top two candidates.

Another idea which would be very possible in the age of sophisticated electronic voting, is for “second choice” weighting, and if no candidate gets 50.1%, then a run off of the two top vote getters (as is the case in some primaries).

The end to “winner-takes-all” and allocation by popular vote in a state could not happen until virtually all the states (and not just Blue states or Red states which have voted for a Democratic president) have approved the policy.

Federal Government Needs to Guarantee Minimum Standards for Voting

It may surprise people to realize the federal government has no authority over elections, which are controlled by states – even within states, counties may have different rules (so much for Equal Protection). Indeed, the Constitution does not actually provide a right to vote at all, and the Roberts right wing Majority on the Supreme Court did its damage to remove what oversight the federal government had when it eviscerated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

There needs to be a new Voting Rights Act that protects the essential principle of one-person, one vote and the federal government, under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, should have the ability to establish minimum standards for access to the ballot box. It should protect more than racial discrimination, but should acknowledge partisan discrimination as a threat to the spirit and essence of democracy.

What else is needed to reform a weakened election system in these days of technological sophistication, a sprawling and diverse voter population, and the huge stakes to controlling the political reins of power? Here are more ideas:

  • An end to partisan-control of drawing district lines; standards that affirm – as the Voting Rights Act did – that districts have to be contiguous and make sense
  • And end to partisan control of state elections (like Katherine Harris, Secretary of State in Florida 2000 and also the chair of George W Bush’s campaign who purged voting rolls of 20,000 people and did all she could to insure Gore never got a fair count)
  • Requiring notification to every voter before an election confirming their registration, voting place and hours, and if a voter has been removed or purged or changed for any reason, timely notification with a process to challenge
  • A standard to allow voters to vote where they were last registered
  • To address the very real possibility of hacked black-boxes, require a paper trail and mandatory audits of a certain number of voting places to confirm the veracity
  • Minimum national standards for where polling places can be designated, how many voting machines per voting-age population, minimal number of hours open, early voting days, including spreading voting to the weekend before Election Day, and making Election Day a national holiday
  • A requirement that if a voter moves and re-registers, that notice be sent back to the prior voting place to be removed
  • Clearer, more uniform regulations about where people can vote if they are in college or have moved (for example, allowing people to vote by absentee at the last previous registered place)
  • Automatic sending of voter registration materials upon 18th birthday
  • Establish criminal penalties for interfering with voting, whether fraudulently telling people the wrong date, time or place to vote, ripping up voter registrations or interfering with voter registration; penalties for states that impede voter registration such as failing to process registrations in a timely way
  • Restore reasonable controls on spending – by wealthy donors and corporations – eliminate SuperPacs, pass the DISCLOSE Act, overturn Citizens United
  • A new Voting Rights Act that goes beyond racial discrimination but includes any type of systematic discrimination to dilute “one-person, one-vote”
  • Constitutional amendment that affirms the right to vote (the Constitution doesn’t actually provide it now)

None of this will happen because the Republicans have realized they can keep power without ever having to worry about the demographic shifts and pesky things like needing a majority. Putting a gate at the ballot box has worked very well.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Appeal to Electoral College Voters: You Can (Should) (Must) Save US and Elect Winner of Popular Vote, Hillary Clinton

The Electoral College voters need to have courage and show they are true patriots and elect Hillary Clinton, winner of the popular vote, the next president © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Electoral College voters need to have courage and show they are true patriots and elect Hillary Clinton, winner of the popular vote, the next president © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Petitions are circulating such as this one from Credo:

“Donald Trump is unfit to serve as president and did not win the support of the majority of the American people. Hillary Clinton is set to win the majority of the vote by more than 2 million votes despite widespread voter suppression and the FBI’s interference in the election. Honor the majority vote and elect Hillary Clinton on Dec. 19.”

I’m wondering how many of the electoral voters are actually Never-Trumpers, and now, since they have seen how Trump would govern, who he intends to appoint to run the country (a climate denier to run the EPA; an anti-public education billionaire to run Education; an unhinged fired General to run national security), might be having a twinge of remorse, especially given the fact that Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes (most ever for a candidate who didn’t actually win the presidency), and new revelations about Trump’s conflicts of interest, his lack of transparency and his pay-to-play approach to foreign relations (an echo of Richard Nixon’s, “If the president does it, that means it’s not illegal”).

Nor did Trump “win” the key swing states that put him over 270 electoral votes fairly.

Reports of Russian interference that turned the tide of the election should be a grave concern to Electoral College voters, if they consider themselves patriots. Throughout the campaign, it was clear the Russian government was actively working to influence the outcome in Trump’s favor. State-sponsored Russian hackers provided troves of damaging emails and documents to WikiLeaks and other websites. Paid Russian trolls disseminated fake news across US social media sites to spread misinformation favorable to Trump. And though Trump lied about it, his campaign was in direct contact with the Russian government throughout the election, including his strategist Roger Stone (who cut his teeth on the Richard Nixon campaign).  Trump has well established connections to Russia through many business dealings, and he spent considerable time during the campaign praising Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Now that Trump has access to classified intelligence and the nuclear codes, we can’t trust what he will do with them. His presidency is a clear threat to American democracy and our national security,” writes Josh Nelson, Deputy Political Director for CREDO Action from Working Assets.

Moreover, there is strong evidence of voter suppression aimed at likely Democratic voters (minorities), including making it difficult to obtain newly required voter ID materials, closing polling places and reducing early voting.  In Wisconsin, where Clinton lost by only 27,000 votes, 300,000 eligible voters lacked the strict forms of ID needed to vote, and the state saw its lowest turnout in 20 years, especially in Black communities. And across the country, Black people were forced to wait in line twice as long on average as white people.

In North Carolina, there were 158 fewer early voting polling places in Black communities, and Black turnout was down 16 percent. And by the way, how is it possible that the Democratic won the Governor’s race, but that Clinton at the top of the ticket didn’t win? – why is there no challenge to that vote, as the losing Republican Governor has waged?

“It’s entirely possible that without voter suppression, Clinton would have won the Electoral College along with the popular vote,” Nelson states (though it is harder to prove voter suppression than lie about the existence of voter fraud).

Indeed, Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.5 million – a bigger margin than many elected presidents won by, and the biggest margin of any person who did not go on to actually become president (Al Gore included). Trump has already proved he will dismiss the will of the majority. Why is it that the “Real America” disqualifies urbanites, women, minorities, professionals, college educated people, especially Ivy Leaguers?

In just the first week since seizing the election, Trump has demonstrated that he will be exactly who he showed himself to be, starting with the Team of Thugs, Reprobates, Misogynists, Corporatists, Racists, White Supremacists, not to mention those who are totally inexperienced to carry out the functions they are tasked with, he has surrounded himself with and who he is naming to cabinet and key offices. It is emerging as a “Team of Billionaires and 1-Percenters,” who built their financial empires on the backs of the very white working class people that Trump pretended to care about.

He has shown that he will protect his own business profits at the expense of the national interest – unabashedly doing business and extracting favors from foreign dignitaries, evoking Richard Nixon’s line, “If the president does it, then it isn’t illegal.” There is no doubt that he has realized he could leave office $100 billion richer. He absolutely doesn’t care about conflicts of interest. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had done anything remotely like that upon becoming the president-elect. They would have impeached her before inauguration day (Republicans mounted a special investigation into the Clintons’ Christmas card list when Bill took office).

Trump already showing he will trample transparency and a free press, preferring to continue to tweet outright lies should also have the Republican electors who claim to be the guardians of the Constitution quaking. That he will attack the press and a Hamilton actor appealing for his administration to just consider all Americans, but not condemn the Neo Nazis who are cheering his victory with a Hitler salute, that he dictates to the media how they will photograph him, and shuts out media that he feels don’t represent him well, are only the preview to the propaganda he will wage.

And now Trump declares he would take away citizenship and jail anyone who burns the flag, which the Supreme Court has already ruled is protected free speech – further evidence that he aspires to follow Vladimir Putin’s model. Trump doesn’t know and doesn’t care about civil rights or the Constitution.

And those Electoral Voters should be downright shaking about the fact Trump has declined taking the daily Presidential intelligence briefing (instead obsessing over convincing Carrier Air Conditioners not to move to Mexico), and from all accounts, dismissive of Obama’s advice to him on such critical topics as the urgency of keeping North Korea in check – an echo of George W. Bush’s dismissal of President Clinton’s intelligence advisers warning him of Osama bin Laden as a grave threat, only to stand by as four hijacked planes, circling around for hours, hit their targets on 9/11 without any defense. But Trump believes, “I know more than the generals” and yet, he was shocked to hear General Mattis tell him that torture doesn’t work. Shocked!

The Republican electors may be cheering Trump’s plan to install climate deniers to run Energy and Interior and overturn climate action, the Iran nuclear deal, cancel international agreements,  repeal Obamacare and women’s reproductive rights; that he will voucherize Medicare and privatize Social Security, create a registry for Muslims, and install one billionaire to destroy public education and another billionaire who amassed his fortune taking advantage of bankrupt companies to be Secretary of Commerce – but they who claim to be patriots should have concern that Trump will do all of this without care, awareness or interest of the larger consequences to the majority of Americans who rejected him.

But the Republican electors should be downright quaking in their proverbial boots over Trump’s irresponsible, erratic and ignorant foreign policy, already demonstrated in how he praised the Philippines President (for his extrajudicial murders), antagonized China in speaking directly to the President of Taiwan (when China could instantly crash the US economy and move more aggressively into Asia-Pacific territorial waters), dismissed the nuclear threat from North Korea, even as South Korea’s presidency is toppling, and embraced Putin, effectively giving him license to stampede through Ukraine and into the Balkans.

And the only reason Trump will be president is for the voter suppression and likely election (not voter) fraud tactics (not to mention the unprecedented intrusion by FBI Director James Comey just 11 days before the election) that managed to tilt key swing states by the 1-2% margin for him to hit the magic number of 270 Electoral Votes despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin. You only needed Russia to tamper with a few votes here and there in precincts in the swing states to swing the election – indeed, only 100,000 votes among three battleground states that were polling in Hillary’s favor just before the election: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

And so I write this as a last-ditch appeal to the Electoral College voters to do the right thing, the moral thing, and in those narrowly decided battleground states, vote for Hillary Clinton. This isn’t a violation of the Constitution; at most, they would have to pay a $1000 fine for respecting the will of the people. A chance to show courage and be a true patriot.

It is clear that along with the myth of the American Dream, the US has never actually been a democracy, even in present times – between the limits on access to the polls, gerrymandering, the ways that money influences elections, and the Electoral College. And instead of getting better – with the 15th, amendment giving black men the right to vote, and the 19th amendment giving women the vote – those who would obstruct democracy have only gotten more lethal, devious, and technological.

Face it, the Founders weren’t gods from Apollo, they were human beings, embarking on a great experiment in governance and were skeptical of actually giving power to ordinary people. In fact, the Constitution only gave the vote to white property-owning men. How did it happen in Jacksonian times that white men without property all of a sudden got to vote, without a amending the Constitution, while non-white males and women had to wait for Constitutional amendments?

Now, in a capitulation to the idea that 2016 may be a done deal, a movement is underway to democratize the election in time for the 2020 presidential contest.

It may be time to abolish the Electoral College but that would require amending the Constitution but since that is not likely (look at how miserably efforts to amend the Constitution to overturn the notion that corporations are people and cash is free speech). Or, since that is not likely given the fact that the party is power has benefited so royally, the Electoral College needs to be modified, which can happen at the state level.

This nation was founded as an imperfect union, set on a journey to become a more perfect one. We have yet to get there, but over time, there has been movement toward the ideal of one-person, one-vote democracy.

The Electoral College is yet another archaic relic of the Founders’ experiment and concession to small states and slave-holding states in order to keep a fragile union together. But while the furor over the 2016 election has people talking about a Constitutional Amendment to abolish it, that won’t happen because it has worked so effectively for the party in control, along with gerrymandering, Citizens United, Voter ID and all forms of anti-democratic, voter suppressing tactics.

The electoral votes awarded to states are not even reflective of the state’s population, once again giving small, rural (white) states (that Republicans like to call “The Real America,” effectively dismissing the citizenship of urban-dwellers, college-educated, professionals, women, non-whites, non-Christians) disproportional representation (like the US Senate) and moving this nation even further away from the mythical principal of “one person, one vote.”

Indeed, if California was apportioned electoral votes based on its population, it would have 200 votes instead of the 50.

“Today, the vote of a citizen in Wyoming is four times as powerful as the vote of a citizen in Michigan,” Lawrence Lessig writes in the Washington Post. “The vote of a citizen in Vermont is three times as powerful as a vote in Missouri. This denies Americans the fundamental value of a representative democracy — equal citizenship. Yet nothing in our Constitution compels this result.”

For this reason, Republicans, who, in their 2012 “autopsy” only feigned concern for Hispanics, women, blacks because they believed the demographics were going against them, have realized that, just like in controlling the House and Senate, they can control the White House very effectively without a popular majority. They can advance policies that go against the interests of most Americans (so much for the white working class “finally” getting their populist advocate).

“Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president,” Lessig writes, arguing that the Electoral College should vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump and not veto the people’s choice. “That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  — most important, the electors themselves.

“The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that ‘the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].’ But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, ‘a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice’ — and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about ‘winner take all.’ It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule ’the people’ or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel.”

And so I write this as a last-ditch appeal to the Electoral College voters to do the right thing, the moral thing, and in those narrowly decided battleground states, vote for Hillary Clinton. This isn’t a violation of the Constitution; at most, they would have to pay a $1000 fine for respecting the will of the people. A chance to show courage and be a true patriot.

See also:

Election Irregularities Demand Audit Before Vote is Certified

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin