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Four questions on the Electoral College

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Talk of abolishing the Electoral College has reached a fever pitch—and, as usual in these polarized times, it has become a fierce partisan battle. Democrats have begun to align themselves against the Electoral College. Several senators introduced a bill to abolish it, and Democratic presidential candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), have begun to come out against it. In the meantime, Republicans have rallied to the defense of the current system. President Trump, once a critic of the Electoral College, has become a vocal supporter, and right-wing news outlets have offered a litany of defenses to argue that the current system is worth preserving.

But the rules of the road for electing the president should not be so sharply partisan. So, instead of lining up on our teams and repeating talking points, to see how you really feel about the Electoral College, it’s worth answering just four simple questions. Call it an Electoral College pop quiz.

{mosads}First, ask yourself: should candidates ignore me if I live in a safe red or blue state? If you live in a safe red state, like Wyoming or Mississippi, or a safe blue state, like California or Hawaii, you are ignored come election time because the candidates already know what the outcome will be in that state. Ask yourself if it’s okay with you that presidential candidates never come to your state to campaign and instead take the outcome for granted. If you like being ignored, score a point for the current system. If you’d rather candidates campaign for your vote, score a point for reform.

Second question: is it OK with you that citizens who live in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio receive such outsize love and attention during the campaign? If you live in a key swing state, candidates actually come visit your state, they seek your vote, and they craft policies that are designed to get your attention. While this is surely flattering, do you think citizens who happen to live in Miami should have more say than those who live in Los Angeles, and those who live in a rural part of Florida should have more say than those live in rural Louisiana? If you like having a “first class” group of voters whose votes matter more than others, score a point for the current system. If you think no votes should matter more than others, then score a point for reform.

Third question: if you vote for a candidate that loses in your state, do you think it’s fair that your vote is thrown out and won’t translate into representation in the Electoral College? Here is what I mean: if, in 2016, you voted for Trump in California, or Clinton in Texas, then you got zero representation in the Electoral College, and the winner of your state got all the representation—even though the vote in your state was not actually 100 percent to 0 percent. If you think a 55/45 vote should lead to a 100/0 state delegation, then you’re a fan of the current system. If you think that a 55/45 vote should lead to a 55/45 split in your state’s electoral college delegation, or something close it, score a point for reform.

Fourth question: if the tables were turned and the parties were reversed, how would you honestly feel? Twice in the last five elections, the Democratic candidate has won the popular vote but lost in the electoral college, and that has meant that Republicans support the current system much more than Democrats do. But in 2004, the tables were very nearly turned: John Kerry lost to George W. Bush by a wide margin in the popular vote, but, if Kerry had flipped only 50,000 votes in Ohio, he would have won a narrow victory in the electoral college. So, this flip can happen to anyone. If you want to keep running the risk that the popular vote winner will lose the election regardless of party, then score a point for the status quo. If you think we should make sure that never happens again to voters of either party, then score a point for change.

Now total up your score. If you’re like me, you scored four points for reform, because you don’t want some votes to count more or less than others, you don’t want millions of votes to result in no electoral college representation, and you don’t want any voters to feel slighted when they voted for the candidate that got the most votes, regardless of party. And I don’t think I’m alone to come out in favor of reform: if you take a step back and think about principles, I believe most Americans would also score three or four points for reform. If that’s true, it’s time we put country above party and made improvements to the way we elect the president.

Jason Harrow is Chief Counsel of EqualCitizens.US.

Tags Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren John Kerry

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