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The politics of getting a proper, equal presidential election done


Practical Politics 

This week, in Colorado, the first trial aimed at removing Donald Trump from the presidential ballot in states across the country based on the claim that he violated Section 3 of the 14th amendment, began in earnest. The case, brought by public interest group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and six regular voters in Colorado – argues that Trump “incited a violent mob” to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6 “to stop the peaceful transfer of power under the U.S. Constitution.” Those and other associated actions, according to the plaintiffs, constitute a direct violation of the relevant section of the 14th amendment (Section 3, commonly called the “Insurrection Clause.”)

This, then., begins a process that if successful in Colorado, will be repeated in a rash of other states. Already, cases are pending in Minnesota and Michigan, and many more will follow if the case is successful in Colorado. This state-by-state approach was chosen instead of the immediate application to the Supreme Court (which is where it is expected to eventually end up), since this legal gambit was based on citizen actions rather than those of competing state officials. It’ll be “Katy, bar the door,” if Colorado is successful, unlike the citizen actions by Trump loyalists who sued in state courts to invalidate the 2020 election because of fantasized voter machine irregularities. None of those latter were successful.

This column is betting that this current citizen litigation will eventually be successful (before the 2024 election), and that Donald Trump will be removed from the ballot in enough states to render his candidacy null and void. What’s more, this column believes that this series of lawsuits will lead to the eventual end of the Electoral College, which is and has been a less than useful part of the voting process for POTUS for quite a long time. Such a change will eliminate so-called battleground states and render presidential voting into a regular popular vote contest—he or she who gets the most votes, wins the presidency. Currently, one contestant can come in second in the popular vote count, and through the electoral college, still win the presidential election (remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016, but she lost the presidency to Trump due to differential weights of states’ votes in the Electoral College).

This Electoral College process, according to Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, was a Constitutional Convention compromise in Philadelphia between large and small states. The small states were concerned then and for the future that large states like Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia would dominate voting for the presidency. The solution was the Electoral College plan, whereby each state would have Electoral College votes in proportion to the number of its senators and House members. The former helped small states since each state had two senators regardless of the state’s size, while the latter aided large states because the number of House members was based on the state’s population. That arrangement in modern days has been a real problem, and has decreased in value the idea of “one man (woman), one vote.”

A movement begun in 2005, and introduced by Congressman Gene Green, has annually sought to change that process back to the more direct relationship to “one man (woman), one vote.” Called The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) this is an agreement among a group of U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential ticket wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. According to this amendment, every subsequent presidential election would be determined by a plurality of the national vote, as it should be. 

That movement is not dead. Currently, as of August 2023 the idea has been adopted by sixteen states and the District of Columbia. These jurisdictions account for 205 electoral votes, which is 38% of the Electoral College. It is also 76% of the 270 votes needed to give the compact legal force.

So, while it may seem to many that our current electoral system is moving backwards and becoming less equal, that die is not yet cast, in spite of what some MAGA people proclaim.

This column is betting on a Trump-free 2024 election, and eventually a real balancing being done to restore one man(woman), one vote as part of the American democracy we would like to bequeath to our children.

Clearly, they will not keep and defend what does not work to give equality to every voice.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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