ACTION ALERT: How the Electoral College Could Make History by Choosing Democracy
November 20, 2016 Gar Smith / Special to Environmentalists Against War
When it comes to electing presidents, the US has never been a democracy. More than 108 countries honor direct popular election of their leaders but the US-- along with with Estonia, Pakistan and Surinam -- is one of six countries that rely on a parliamentary or an Electoral College system. With more than 4 million votes still uncounted, Hillary Clinton has a lead of 1.5 million in the popular vote. Under Electoral College rules, Clinton could still become America's first elected female president. How is that possible?
How the Electoral College Could Make History by Choosing Democracy Gar Smith / Special to EAW
(November 18, 2016) -- When it comes to electing presidents, the US has never been a democracy. More than 108 countries practice the direct popular election of their leaders but the US is not one of them.
The US is one of six countries that rely on a parliamentary or an Electoral College system -- we're right up there with Estonia, Germany, India, Pakistan and Surinam. (Countries arguably "more democratic" than the US include: Abkhazia, Chad, El Salvador, Haiti, Iran, Mongolia, Nigeria, Russia, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the Republic of Korea.)
When Donald Trump complains that "The system is rigged!" he's right. With the Electoral College, it's rigged in his favor.
If the Electoral College vote is not challenged, Trump will join Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush as candidates who lost the popular vote but were given the presidency as a consolation prize.
If America's elections were democratic, Hillary Clinton -- consistently leading in the direct popular vote -- would be our president. As of November 15, Clinton's lead in the popular election had increased to 1.16 million votes. As The Nation pointed out, that gave Clinton a larger margin than the lead racked up by John F. Kennedy in 1960. And, thanks, in part, to that growing lead, Clinton could still win the presidency. By November 18 -- with more than 4 million votes still uncounted -- Clinton had amassed a lead of 1.5 million.
Surprisingly, under US law, Clinton could still become America's first elected female president. How is that possible?
The simple fact is, that despite all the media rhetoric, Donald Trump has NOT been elected president. Yet.
The Electoral College doesn't cast its votes until December 19 -- more than a month away. And, when that time comes, the electoral delegates are free to cast their votes for whomever they wish.
Even before the November vote, members of ten state delegations already had signed a pledge to cast their ballots for the winner of the popular vote. (Details below.) More state delegations could be called on to honor the expressed "will of the people" and cast their electoral votes for Clinton.
The rebellion has already begun. On August 25, Politico reported that three members of the Texas Electoral College delegation had considered depriving Trump of their votes.
Trump is not yet president and -- depending on what happens over the next four weeks -- he may never be. There is, of course, one big downside to this unprecedented scenario: A corporate-friendly, regime-toppling, war-hawkish Clinton presidency.
How Clinton Failed to Act in 2000
In 2000, the Supreme Court intervened to "select" George W. Bush as president -- after Al Gore won the popular vote. Hillary Clinton was elected senator that same year and she vowed to get rid of the Electoral College. A few years later, as a columnist for the New York Press, author and satirist Paul Krassner sent Clinton a letter asking for a progress report. She never replied.
"Irony lives," Krassner recently wrote: "On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump -- business crook, liar extraordinaire, star pussy-grabber, make-America-white-again and Putin’s 'useful idiot' -- was elected as an insanely narcissistic dictator because of the Electoral College, even though his opponent Hillary won the national popular vote."
Hillary may have failed to act but Trump's apparent seizure of the Electoral College vote has prompted millions of shocked citizens to pick up the struggle.
4.5 Million Citizens Call on Electoral Delegates to Chose Clinton for President
In less than a week, a Change.org Electoral College reform petition posted by Elijah Berg and Daniel Brezenoff, gained millions of signatures nationwide (4.48 million signatures as of November 18).
"In most states," Berg writes, "electors can vote for Hillary Clinton if they choose and there is no legal means to stop them." Even in the 24 states where this is not officially permitted, electors can still cast their vote for Clinton (or Gary Johnson or Dr. Jill Stein) and their votes will be counted -- as long as they pay a small fine.
Can the Electoral College Save the Republic?
As Bill Weinberg points out: "It's a little ironic that the Electoral College -- the very institution that got us into this mess -- now holds the only hope of getting us out."
"The fact that Hillary won the popular vote gives the idea a moral and political credence." Weinberg writes. "A general revolt of the Electoral College is utterly unprecedented in American history -- but then, so is the election of a balls-out fascist as president."
Several times over the course of US history, disgusted Republicans have bolted their party to support a Democrat candidate. These deserters have been denigrated as "mugwumps" and electors who have "gone rogue" have been maligned as "faithless electors." But mere name-calling has never prevented these dissidents from voting their conscience.
A campaign launched under the name #NotMyPresident (see also, #ElectoralNullification) lays out the game plan as follows:
Electoral College results are only a preliminary projection of the outcome. A candidate still needs to earn 270 electoral votes to win.
There are 21 states that do NOT restrict which candidate the electors vote for.
Out of these 21, Hillary lost 16 -- worth 166 electoral votes. In these states, it is perfectly legal for electors to switch their vote.
On December 19, electors could shift enough votes to Clinton to secure her victory in the Electoral College. And there is another scenario:
These electoral voters can also abstain, which means that they can refuse to vote for either candidate. If . . . no candidate . . . [reaches] the required 270 . . . , the vote would be taken to the House.
There are 16 key states that could switch their votes from Trump to Clinton. It would only take 38 of these 166 electoral votes (23%) to put Clinton over the top.
The critical states are Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arizona and Idaho.
Sign the Petition: End the Electoral College
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire US. It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes, and will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more.
The bill has passed one chamber in 12 additional states with 96 electoral votes. Most recently, the bill was passed by a bipartisan 40-16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House, 28-18 in Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate, 57-4 in Republican-controlled New York Senate, and 37-21 in Democratic-controlled Oregon House.
Eliminating the Electoral College does not require a Constitutional amendment. An effort known as The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among US states and the District of Columbia to award their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote. Once states totaling 270 electoral votes join the compact, the next presidential election will be determined the popular vote, not the Electoral College.
As of November 9, 2016, ten states and the District of Columbia had signed the compact. These 165 electoral votes represent more than 60% of the total needed. If Democrats do well at the state level in the 2018 midterm elections, then the winner of 2020 presidential election could be determined by popular vote.
Petersen's investigation, “Trump University and Presidential Impeachment,” focused on the activities of Trump University, where students went into debt to learn Trump's personal secrets to achieving real estate success.
Trump U folded in 2010 but a major lawsuit is now pending, charging Trump with engaging in "false statements" and "fraudulent representations." According to Peterson, "Fraud and racketeering are serious crimes that legally rise to the level of impeachable acts" and Congress would be within its rights to push for an impeachment in civil cases -- even without a criminal conviction. [On November 18, Trump announced that he would not contest the fraud claims in court and agreed to a $25 million settlement to refund the Trump U students that he had bilked.]
(Another complication: Once in office, a US president is rendered uniquely immune from prosecution for conflicts of interest.
This poses an unprecedented problem for Trump. The prospective President-elect is not a public servant but a business leader—an entrepreneur who refuses to release his income tax statements and who claims to own controlling interest in more than 500 businesses in the US, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Thailand, Argentina and many other countries.)
For the sixth time in our history, a candidate for President of the United States may have won the popular vote and lost the White House . . . .
This year’s vote has once again been stripped and flipped by GOP Jim Crow segregationist tactics that disenfranchised millions of primarily African-American and Hispanic citizens.
The Electoral College was established at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to prevent the public from voting directly on our national leader. Ostensibly, it was meant in part to protect small states from being bullied by bigger ones.
It also installed a “three-fifth bonus” that gave plantation owners a 60 percent headcount for their slaves. The ruse was counted into Congressional districting, giving the south a distinct advantage over the northern free states. That’s why every President from Jefferson to Lincoln either owned slaves or had a vice president who did.
In 1800, Jefferson beat the incumbent John Adams in an Electoral College swung by “bonus votes” that came from slaves who could not actually cast them. In 1824, John Quincy Adams made a deal with Kentucky slaveowner Henry Clay to steal the presidency from Andrew Jackson, who had beaten Adams by about 50,000 popular votes.
In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes lost to Democrat Samuel Tilden by about 250,000 votes. But the GOP used federal troops in the south to shift enough Electoral College votes to create a deadlock. Hayes then became president by agreeing to remove those troops and end Reconstruction, a catastrophe for southern blacks and a triumph for the Jim Crow segregation that has defined our national politics ever since.
In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland but became president anyway. Cleveland won back the White House in 1892.
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore beat Republican George W. Bush by a nationwide tally of about 500,000 votes. Gore was also ultimately shown to have won the popular vote in Florida. But Bush’s brother Jeb, then governor of Florida, used a computerized system to remove voters from the rolls, to steal Florida’s electoral votes and put George in the White House.
Much the same was done in Ohio 2004 to defeat John Kerry. Bush ultimately was credited with a victory in the nationwide popular vote.
This year, Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory will change history in unimaginable ways. But nationwide it appears he did not win the popular vote. Hillary Clinton did.
There is much more to this story. But one thing is clear: There is no useful function for the Electoral College, a vile 230-year-old holdover from the bad old days of the southern slaveocracy. It poisons our electoral process . . . . [I]f we are to have anything that resembles a democracy, the Electoral College must be abolished.