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Jan. 6 Committee Member Suggests Ending Electoral College

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support installing a popular vote model for selecting the president.

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) (R) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, leave during a break in the third hearing on the January 6th investigation on June 16, 2022.

A member of the January 6 committee investigating the attack on Congress by a mob of loyalists to former President Donald Trump believes that more statutes are needed to prevent future attacks — and that there should be an examination of whether the Electoral College needs to be abolished.

On MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” Friday evening, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) said that lawmakers should make changes to the criminal code in order to “account for now the possibility of presidents just taking a headlong rush at seizing the presidency.”

Statutes are already in place to prosecute persons who seek to obstruct or interfere with the peaceful transition of presidential power, Raskin noted. But additional laws may be needed to deter attempts to usurp an election result.

Raskin also alluded to a need to change the presidential selection process.

“We have to look at the way that the electoral system itself is vulnerable to strategic bad faith actors like Donald Trump,” Raskin said, adding that “the Electoral College is an accident waiting to happen.”

“We have to deal with that at some point in American history,” Raskin said. “Why not now?”

The Electoral College played a role in the Trump campaign team’s scheme to disrupt the 2020 election results. Trump sought to have his then-Vice President Mike Pence accept fake electoral votes from states he lost to President Joe Biden as legitimate, or at least as equal to real electors’ votes. From there, Pence was supposed to send the matter to the House of Representatives, where Republicans, who had a majority of state delegations under their control, would award Trump another term in office.

Pence refused to go along with the scheme, noting he didn’t have the constitutional authority to accept or reject votes. As a result, Trump denounced Pence in his incendiary “Stop the Steal” speech on the day the election was set to be certified, prompting his loyalists to call for Pence to be hanged as they attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Though the January 6 committee has been in agreement on most issues, there have been differences in opinion on the Electoral College. Some members, like Raskin, believe that Trump has exposed flaws in the presidential selection process, and that the best way to fix those flaws is to do away with the archaic system and transition to a popular vote method.

Others, like Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), vice chair of the committee, are worried that such an endorsement could delegitimize the committee’s work. Cheney may also be worried that ending the Electoral College could lessen the electoral power of states with small populations, like hers.

Americans have typically been consistent in supporting an end to the Electoral College. Drops in that support have generally happened after elections in which Republicans won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, indicating that GOP voters probably changed their views based on how the system benefitted them politically. But new polling shows that support for abolishing the Electoral College is at its highest point since the start of the century.

According to a Pew Research Center poll published in August, 63 percent of voters think it’s time to select the president with a simple popular vote. Just 35 percent think the current system should remain in place.