Monday, November 21, 2016

On the Electoral College and the National Popular Vote

You may have heard there’s a movement to urge the Electoral College to vote for anyone but Trump on December 19. I can't help but doubt its success, though of course I wish it could happen. It seems unlikely in a number of ways:

  1. Electors are loyalists, chosen to match the party of the candidate that won the state’s popular vote. If Trump won a state, there will be no Democratic electors present for that vote. How likely is it that any useful number of loyal Republicans would vote for Hillary because they fear Trump or believe that the popular vote winner should be chosen?
  2. It can only have the outcome I would want if the electors outright vote for Hillary instead of Trump. Voting for someone else (John Kasich or Mitt Romney, as has been suggested in some cases) might deny Trump the 270 votes he needs, but all that does is put the decision into the House of Representatives.
  3. Which is famously controlled by Republicans, with Paul Ryan as speaker. Under the Constitution, they have to choose between Trump, Clinton, and the third-highest electoral vote-getter. Each state gets just one vote, so that’s weighted even more toward the Republicans than the Electoral College is. Which candidate do you think they will choose? 
  4. If, somehow, neither candidate gets 26 votes from among the 50 states, then the vice president (who is elected by the Senate if there are not enough votes in the Electoral College, an outcome even more unlikely than Trump not getting enough votes) becomes the president. Voila, Mike Pence.
Despite my lack of faith that anything can be done in the Electoral College this year, the unfairness of our current system must be changed. As Sean McElwee of Demos tweeted last night, “i’ve been thinking about this a lot” and then followed with a graphic that said this:
Imagine how we would discuss the politics of another country where a party with an almost entirely white voting base and white elected representatives that campaigned on racially charged rhetoric regularly lost the popular vote but controlled all branches of government due to

1) archaic electoral systems designed to protect the institution of slavery
2) ginning up false claims of fraud to implement voter suppression targeted at voters of color
3) constructing districts designed to dilute the voting power of people of color.

Because that’s what’s happening here.
And all of that is completely true.

Everyone in this country — unless they literally align themselves with movements of white supremacy like the KKK and the “alt-right” — should be so troubled by this that they work to make sure it is no longer true by 2020 or even 2018.

The best way to do that is by supporting the National Popular Vote effort, which I wrote about four years ago and restoring the Voting Rights Act, extending it to all the states and territories.

Passing the National Popular Vote bill in your state is the best way to start. It has already been passed in 11 states that total 165 electoral votes (California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington). It has passed one house in states with 96 electoral votes (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon) — which would yield 261 total votes if their other houses pass it.

You’ll notice that Minnesota (10 electoral votes) is on neither of those lists, though it has been introduced, and last time I checked had sponsors from both parties.

This is something real that those of us in 40 states need to work on as soon as possible, urging our legislators to pass the NPV bill so our country's elections are no longer run in a way that is the shame of the world.

There is a wealth of information on the National Popular Vote website. Worth a read.


Carl said...

The Houae would choose the president from among the three candidates who received the most electoral votes, not the most popular votes. So the third choice could be anybody.

Daughter Number Three said...

Ah, right - it's electoral votes that they're looking at in the House. But how do you get to the idea that if there are only two people with electoral votes, that the House could throw in a third name? The constitutional language reads like this: "the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President." "On the list" seems to mean that the names can only be people who got at least some electoral votes, so in 2016, that would mean only Trump and Clinton.

Carl said...

There will be a third choice if neither Clinton nor Trump gets 270 votes — whoever the most faithless electors go for.