Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Electoral College Reform?

Immediately after the last election when it became apparent that Donald Trump had lost the popular vote there were demands that the Electoral College be abolished and the United States switch to direct popular election of the president and vice president. These demands continued through to some extent until the inauguration.

So now that Congress is theoretically getting to work, where is the push for Electoral College reform? Two constitutional amendments have been proposed, each mandating a direct presidential election. Neither amendment gives the franchise to Puerto Rico or US posessions.

They have subtle differences. One (H. J. Res. 19) includes a clause which ends "entitlement to inclusion on the ballot shall be determined by Congress." This clause is rather dangerous -- it might mean Congress determines the qualifications for getting on the ballot (today it's done by the States). In its broadest interpretation Congress alone nominates the presidential candidate(s). Looking at the proposed amendments, they subtly modify the Presidential race in ways other than changing to a system of popular vote.

However, it appears that once again Electoral College reform isn't going to go anywhere. It's been clear all along that an amendment won't make it out of Congress this term given the Republican majority, but it's more telling that I no longer see a popular demand for reform. From my reading of left wing blogs like The Daily Kos and email subscriptions to MoveOn.org and The Nation, I see few Electoral College mentions, and these aren't demands to write to Congress demanding the reform.

Instead, all I see is "popular vote loser" added to any reference to President Trump. It appears that the real value of the Electoral College to the left this term is another way to be insulting to the president rather than any real push for reform.

Next time a popular vote loser wins the Electoral College vote remember that it's happened before, but so far the outrage has only been used for temporary partisan arguments. There's no real push to change the Constitution, and those who complain in the future have only themselves to blame for not pushing harder today.

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