Cries of “not my president” are popular at political rallies these days for a number of reasons — not least of which is the fact that the majority of the country did not vote for Donald Trump. Yet, thanks to the workings of the electoral college, he won anyway — just as George W. Bush did in 2000 and several others did in the 1800s.
Many activists agree that we’re overdue for a change to this system, and a growing group of states is taking action.
Between presidential elections, people often forget about the electoral college. While each state holds a popular vote, that term is a little misleading.
After all, people aren’t actually voting for the president. They’re voting for the electors, officials who meet in the month after the election to vote all over again — and determine who wins the election. In most cases, electors follow the results of their states’ popular votes, though there have been a few faithless electors – their official term, not mine!
But it’s possible to win the popular vote and lose the electoral college — and, thus, the election — because of the way electors are allocated. Some states have an outsized role in this process, and it can swing the outcome.
Because the electoral college is embedded in the Constitution, it’s tough to eliminate. But some states are proposing an end-run: Instead of committing their electors to their own popular vote outcome, they want electors to vote with the national popular vote.
In other words, if John Q. Republican wins the national vote, even if voters in Connecticut went for Jane Y. Democrat, the state’s electors would cast their votes for John. I bring up Connecticut for a reason: It’s the latest state to embrace this proposal.
Ten states, along with Washington, DC, have already hopped on board this movement. Notably, they’re blue states, following the growing frustration among Democrats across the country about recent elections.
They’re collectively agreeing upon an interstate compact, recognizing that collaborating on election reform could yield meaningful results more quickly than waiting for acts of Congress and the complexities involved in amending the Constitution.
While the process of creating amendments is by design quite challenging — a good thing for people of all political parties — the difficulties can be disheartening for reformers who want faster action. There’s nothing in the Constitution that tells states they can’t ask their electors to follow the direction of the popular vote — and states are taking advantage of this.
This isn’t just about elections, though certainly the electoral college influences which states receive attention during elections, and how their residents are treated. As a California resident, for example, I don’t receive nearly the same level of active courting by political candidates as someone living in Ohio. But it turns out that so-called battleground states tend to get more federal funding and support, even when it’s not an election year.
Of course, Democrats aren’t the only ones raising concerns about the electoral college. Republican legislators have participated in this push — and one extremely high-profile Republican once spoke out quite assertively against the electoral college, calling it a “disaster for a democracy.” I speak, of course, of Donald J. Trump.
Curious to know if your state has joined the compact? You can check on the status across the US, including states that have finalized bills, those with bills in the works and states that haven’t taken any action yet. If you’re interested in advocating for electoral college reform, consider contacting your state legislators to ask them to join this movement!