Why America should do away with the Electoral College


By San Jose (California) Mercury News

Donald Trump had it right in 2012 when he said that the Electoral College was “a disaster for democracy.”

Under our odd system, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote can still lose the presidency. It has happened five times in U.S. history: Andrew Jackson in 1824 (to John Quincy Adams); Samuel Tilden in 1876 (to Rutherford B. Hayes); Grover Cleveland in 1888 (to Benjamin Harrison); Al Gore in 2000 (to George W. Bush); and Hillary Clinton in 2016 (to Trump).

Only in the United States do voters choose a body of electors whose only purpose is to select the national leader. Other nations that pick their top leader indirectly generally give the task to a parliament. Alternatively, in a majority of the world’s democracies, the head of state is directly selected by the voters.

That’s what we should be doing. The current Electoral College system — under which each state is assigned a number of electors equal to the total of their Senate and House representation — should be abolished. Denying the result of the popular vote fails to reflect the national will and skews our national politics and policies.

The Founding Fathers created the system to placate Southern, slave-holding states, which were allowed to count three-fifths of their slaves in computing their share of the overall representation. Still today, the Electoral College system allows states with smaller populations a disproportionate say in the outcome.

That’s why Trump and Joe Biden both visited states like Nevada and Maine multiple times during the final three months leading up to the election, while ignoring more than half the nation, including states like California and New York.

All told, according to nationalpoliticalvote.com, neither Trump nor Biden made campaign stops in the last three months of the general election in any of 33 states that make up 55% of the nation’s Electoral College votes. The issues important to voters in those states — representing 70% of the nation’s population — were largely ignored.

Some states are working on a fairer system that would not require an act of Congress or a constitutional amendment. Sixteen states, including Colorado after Tuesday’s vote, and Washington, D.C., have agreed to assign their Electoral College votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote for president. The compact would take effect when enacted by states with a total of 270 electoral votes. With Colorado, the states agreeing to participate now account for 196 electoral votes.

California passed legislation in 2011 supporting the compact. The other states that have signed on to the agreement are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The remaining states should join.

The Electoral College is an anachronism that gives too much power to a handful of small and swing states. It’s time to end it.

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