ACTION ALERT: Beyond the Electoral College -- A Path to Democracy
December 3, 2016 Robert Weissman / Public Citizen & Robert Reich & Ed Pilkington, The Guardian & The Hamilton Electors
In 2012, Donald Trump proclaimed: "The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy" and "a total sham and a travesty." The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes. It will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes.
It's Time for the US to Become a Democracy
Flunking Out of Electoral College Robert Weissman / Public Citizen
(December 2, 2016) -- Here's something Donald Trump said in 2012: "The Electoral College is a disaster for a democracy" and "a total sham and a travesty."
Five out of our 45 presidents have come into office without receiving the most popular votes nationwide.
State winner-take-all laws are the reason why a candidate can win the presidency without winning the national popular vote. Under these state laws, all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state.
We are in an era of close presidential elections (the average margin in the national popular vote being only 5% since 1988). If these state laws are not changed, there will likely be more presidential elections in which this undemocratic outcome recurs.
These state winner-take-all laws create another problem in every election. The vast majority of voters get ignored because candidates campaign only in a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. Candidates write off states where they are hopelessly behind. They take for granted states where they are safely ahead.
* There were 399 campaign events in the 2016 general election.
* Over half (57%) of the events were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio).
* Virtually all (94%) of the events were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country's population).
Fortunately, the US Constitution empowers state legislatures to change the method of awarding electoral votes without amending the US Constitution. Article II says: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the
Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . . ."
Existing state winner-take-all laws may be repealed in the same way they were originally enacted -- namely by passage of a new state law by the state legislature. The US Supreme Court has ruled that the states have "exclusive" and "plenary" power to choose the method of awarding their electoral votes.
The "winner-take-all" method of awarding electoral votes is not in the US Constitution. It was not debated by the Constitutional Convention. It was never mentioned in the Federalist Papers. Only three states used winner-take-all in our nation's first presidential election in 1789 (and all three repealed it by 1800).
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC
It would make every vote equal throughout the United States. It would ensure that every voter, in every state, is politically relevant in every presidential election.
A national popular vote for president is an achievable political goal that can be in place in time for the 2020 election. The bill already has been enacted into law in 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes. It will take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes -- that is, enough to elect a president (270 of 538).
Thus, it will take effect when enacted by additional states having 105 electoral votes. The bill has previously passed one chamber in 12 additional states with 96 electoral votes. It was approved earlier this year by unanimous bipartisan committee votes in two states with an additional 26 electoral votes. A total of 2,794 state legislators have endorsed it.
Recently, the National Popular Vote bill received bipartisan support in a: * 40-16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House * 28-18 vote in the Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate * 57-4 vote in the Republican-controlled New York Senate * 37-21 vote in the Democratic-controlled Oregon House
Under the National Popular Vote bill, the winner will be the candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner will receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states.
The national popular vote winner will become president because the enacting states represent at least 270 electoral votes. The Electoral College will thus represent the will of the voters in all 50 states and DC
Please tell your state legislators to pass the National Popular Vote bill.
ACTION:Please use our convenient email system to tell your state legislators to pass the National Popular Vote bill guaranteeing that the candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and Washington, DC, will become president.
Thank you for taking action today!
Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen
Copyright 2016 Public Citizen • 1600 20th Street, NW / Washington, DC 20009
(December 2, 2016) -- It looks like Hillary Clinton is going to win the popular vote by a sizable margin. She now has a 2.4 million-vote lead. That's a margin of 1.8 percent. I suspect the final tally will be 2.5 million, giving her a margin of 2 percent.
Clinton lost the Electoral College due to incredibly tiny losses in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. We don't know the results of a recount but at this point the cumulative difference in those states is just 107,330 votes. Think about that. 107,330 votes out of 135 million votes cast. 107,330 is about the capacity of a football stadium.
Now think about the damage Trump and his band are about to wreak on the nation.
Besides stopping all we can of this onslaught, we must also prevent anything like this from happening again. No more Electoral College outcomes different from the popular vote.
We can accomplish this without a constitutional amendment. Just get states to pass laws committing their electors to vote for the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in the nation as a whole. (See here.)
What do you think? Teen Becomes Seventh 'Faithless Elector'
To Protest Trump as President-Elect Electoral college member Levi Guerra from Washington state pledges to break ranks with party affiliation to join renegade group's attempt to unseat Trump Ed Pilkington, The Guardian UK
(December 1, 2016) -- A teenager from Washington state has become the seventh person to indicate that she will break ranks with party affiliation and become a "faithless elector" in an attempt to prevent Donald Trump being formally enshrined as president-elect when the electoral college meets on 19 December.
Levi Guerra, 19, from Vancouver, Washington, is set to announce that she is joining the ranks of the so-called "Hamilton electors" at a press conference at the state capitol in Olympia on Wednesday.
The renegade group believes it is the responsibility of the 538 electors who make up the electoral college to show moral courage in preventing demagogues and other threats to the nation from gaining the keys to the White House, as the founding fathers intended.
"I stand behind Hamilton electors," Guerra said in a statement to the Guardian. "I promised those who elected me that I would do everything I could to keep Donald Trump out of office."
Guerra is one of 12 electors in Washington state who on 19 December have been mandated to vote for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, as part of the electoral college. Within the arcane structures of American democracy, the election of the president is not direct by all the people, but passes indirectly through the electors who are in turn expected to vote for the candidate that won their state.
Clinton took Washington state by 53% to Trump's 37%. Instead of following the electoral college norm of voting for Clinton, Guerra will cast what is in effect a protest vote directed at Trump -- she will write in an "alternative Republican" of a more moderate political stripe than the president-elect as a way of highlighting her deep fears about his presidency in the hope of encouraging Republican electors in red states to follow suit.
"I'm only 19 and this is my first time being involved in politics, but I hope that my willingness to put my country before my party will show that my generation cares about all Americans," Guerra said.
Guerra becomes the third electoral college member in Washington state to come out and proclaim they will break ranks with Clinton as part of a protest directed squarely at Trump. In addition, there are four electors from Colorado who have similarly pledged to vote against the Democratic grain as a statement that they see Trump as unfit for the nation's highest office.
Should these seven electors go through with their pledge to vote against their state's winning candidate when the electoral college convenes on 19 December, it would mark an outpouring of political disgust at the future president that is virtually unparalleled in electoral college history. The last time more than one elector broke ranks was in 1912, and only then because the Republican vice-presidential candidate, James Sherman, died before the vote was held.
The most recent presidential election in which a single faithless elector cropped up was 2004. Here, too, there were special circumstances as a Democratic elector from Minnesota appeared mistakenly to vote for John Edwards for both presidential and vice-presidential roles (John Kerry was the presidential candidate).
The paradox of this year's protest is that the seven faithless electors all plan to vote against Hillary Clinton, coming as they all do from blue states, despite the fact that the target of their ire is Trump. So far, the closest that any elector from a red state has come to defecting is Art Sisneros from Texas, who announced his resignation as a member of the electoral college on grounds that he is not prepared to cast his vote for the Republican nominee.
How Far Is Too Far for Donald Trump? Steven W. Thrasher / Guardian Opinion
Sisneros, an industrial salesman from Houston, 40, told the Guardian that in his opinion, and according to his religious faith, Trump was not fit to be president. "He is not someone who would rule justly or wisely. His track record shows that he is a man of coveting and self-serving -- a liar and a cheat should not hold that position."
He said that he had paid a high price for his decision. Though other electors in Texas had been supportive, seeing his stance as serious and considered, he has received numerous threats against himself and his family.
"I've shrugged the threats off as people working out their emotion -- I think it will blow over," he said.
Under the electoral college system, US presidents are not chosen directly by individual citizens but are voted into office by the 538 electoral college electors who are selected by each state. That explains why Clinton is currently 2,307,149 votes ahead of Trump on the popular vote, but lost the election by 306 to 232 electoral college votes (pending the outcome of 19 December).
In modern convention, the electoral college system has been read to mean that the electors vote as one block within each state on a winner-takes-all basis according to which presidential candidate won the popular vote within that state, (apart from Maine and Nebraska which split the vote partly by Congressional district).
But this year's protesters disagree. Sisneros said that he studied deeply the history of the electoral college and had concluded that the system allowed for each elector to bring their own moral compass to bear on deciding how to vote. "Electors weren't intended to be pledged or bound to any one candidate, they have their own conscience."
The seven Hamilton electors take a similar view, that the way the system was conceived by the founding fathers was to allow for the moral intervention by electoral college members precisely as a way of dealing with the kind of existential threat posed by a Trump figure.
They cite the statement by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers: "The process of the Electoral College affords a moral certainty, that the office of the President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."
Bret Chiafolo, 37, from Washington State was cofounder of the Hamilton electors. He told the Guardian that the "founding fathers made it very clear that electors should not elect an unfit president. That's what I and the other Hamilton electors are trying to do -- to work out what 'unfit' means and to educate our fellow electors of both main parties about that."
Along with Guerra and Robert Satiacum, who has also indicated that he intends not to vote for Clinton, Chiafolo faces a $1,000 fine from Washington state for not following party ranks in the electoral college vote. He said he was considering bringing a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the fine, following the argument that any attempt to prevent electors voting according to their conscience was unconstitutional.
Chiafolo predicted that the rebellion could go much further than the seven who are currently on board. He said that by his reckoning there were between 50 and 100 electors across the country weighing up whether to vote their own way as a protest against Trump, though he conceded that his estimate was not backed by hard evidence. The 'Hamilton Electors' Are Calling for an Electoral College Revolt The Hamilton Electors
The Founding Fathers intended the Electoral College to stop an unfit man from becoming President. The Constitution they crafted gives us this tool. Conscience demands that we use it. Together, we can stop Trump when the Electoral College votes on December 19th.
Electors are pledging to put America first and vote for a responsible Republican alternative who can unify our country. These brave Electors need our support. Join us by sharing your message with #HamiltonElectors
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