A ‘popular’ idea to elect presidents has merit

We’re on the eve of one of the biggest elections in recent memory. We’re also nearing the end of a long, nightmarish year where we, the American people, have been bombarded by the most negative political campaigns for the presidency that anyone can remember.

We’ve got two main candidates that most voters wish they could trade in for different choices, not to mention third-party candidates who are relatively unknown or who know little about the world around them (Case in point: Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson having no clue about Aleppo). As a result, we’re going to end up with a president that few people will be happy with.

The race has become so close, it’s anybody’s guess who will be leading us for the next four years. In fact, the latest concern is whether or not the candidate with the majority of popular vote will get the most votes from the electoral college. There have been four instances where this hasn’t happened, the most recent being the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Many are concerned that the same thing could happen with this election and have voiced recommendations that the electoral college should be abolished.

That doesn’t seem likely, however, since the process is outlined in the United States Constitution. It’s not even an amendment like freedom of speech or the right to bear arms. It’s part of Article II, which establishes the executive branch of our government. To get rid of the electoral college would require a revamp of the constitution itself, something few seem eager to pursue.

However, I saw a PBS report the other night about a concept that would keep the electoral college in existence but still render it toothless. A compact currently adopted by nine states would allocate the elector votes for those states to whomever wins the popular vote.

The report noted that 90 percent of the campaign stops by Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and their supporters have been in 11 states deemed to be battleground states—states that could tip the balance of the election in favor of one candidate or the other. The other states are feeling alienated as a result, like their votes aren’t worth fighting for.

Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, the New York Assemblyman who championed the legislation in 2014, had this to say about creating a direct national popular vote system to elect the president:

 

“We want every state to count, we want every individual vote to count, and we want the issues of our state and our communities to count as much as the issues in other states like Florida.”

 

However, it’s not just liberals turned on by the idea of having the popular vote drive the electoral college vote. Mike Long, who leads the New York Conservative Party, had this to say about the compact:

 

“I think there’s an awful lot of people feel they’re disenfranchised, that their vote doesn’t make any difference. If you live in Chicago and you happen to be, if you happen to be a conservative Republican, you feel that, in Illinois, I don’t have a chance to turn this around. If you’re a Democrat in Oklahoma, you probably don’t come out to vote because you don’t have a shot to carry the state for your favorite candidate, whoever that may be.”

The nine states currently in the compact, along with Washington, D.C., make up 165 of the 538 electoral votes, according to PBS, but it’s only going to be effective when enough states join to make up at least 270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to win the election.

While there might have been some wisdom in having an electoral college more than two centuries ago, the system is out of step when you consider that a popular vote is how we elected all other officials—senators, Congressmen, governors, city council members. Having one system to elect a president and another one to elect everyone else makes no sense.

With voter disenfranchisement at an all-time high, developing a popular vote system is a necessity to save our democracy. Regardless of who wins Tuesday, this movement should find a new source of supporters. It’s definitely time for a change.

For more information about the popular vote compact, check out http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/proposal-calls-popular-vote-determine-winner/

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