HARTE: Electoral College overhaul necessary for fair representation

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HARTE: Electoral College overhaul necessary for fair representation

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Colorado is considering joining an interstate compact to overhaul the Electoral College system that currently elects the president. If the compact is successful, the presidency would be awarded to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Wisconsin should consider signing onto the compact, as the Electoral College is an undemocratic institution.

The Electoral College consists of 538 electors who cast votes to determine the election of the president and vice president. Almost every state has a winner-takes-all system, in which every elector votes for the candidate that wins the state’s popular vote. This means that if a presidential candidate wins California by only one vote, that candidate receives all of the state’s 55 electoral votes.

The necessity for a popular vote system became apparent in the most recent presidential election. Donald Trump received 304 electoral votes in 2016, despite losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes. This represented the fifth election in which the candidate who received the most votes lost the presidency, according to Pew Research Center. A system where the elected president is supported by fewer voters than their opponent undermines the voice of the people.

The Electoral College’s winner-takes-all system encourages candidates to only focus on swing states, or states where each candidate has a reasonable shot at winning. In 2016, about 92 percent of campaign events occurred in one of the 11 projected swing states, such as Wisconsin and Florida, according to FairVote. This left some states who consistently vote for candidates of the same party, including Washington and Kansas, without any campaign events from either candidate.

However, the benefit of living in a swing state doesn’t end on Election Day. Presidents also deliver more federal grant dollars to swing states during their time in office, according to research from political scientists at Boston University and Washington University in 2012. This grant targeting is at its peak during presidential reelection years.

If the U.S. instituted a popular vote system, the arbitrary advantage awarded to swing states would be eliminated. Voters across the nation would have an equal say in determining the next president. When a state joins the National Popular Vote Compact, they agree to give all their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationwide. The bill would go into effect if enacted by enough states to constitute 270 electoral votes, a majority of the 538 electors.

Currently, 172 votes are pledged to the compact, representing 11 states and Washington D.C. A bill to join the compact passed a Senate Committee vote in Colorado Jan. 25, according to The Denver Channel.

There also appears to be growing support for the abandonment of the Electoral College. About 65 percent of Americans believe that presidential elections should be decided by the national popular vote, according to a 2018 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute. Only 32 percent believe the president should be elected through the Electoral College.

Wisconsin’s voters can show support by calling their elected officials and encouraging them to join the interstate national popular vote compact. This system would ensure that all voters have an equal say in electing the president, eliminating the unfair advantage awarded to swing states.

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