Editorials: How Has the Electoral College Survived for This Long? | Alexander Keyssar/The New York Times

As our revived national conversation on race has made clear, the legacies of slavery and white supremacy run wide and deep in American society and political life. One such legacy — which is particularly noteworthy in a presidential election season — has been the survival and preservation of the Electoral College, an institution that has been under fire for more than 200 years. Our complicated method of electing presidents has been the target of recurrent reform attempts since the early 19th century, and the politics of race and region have figured prominently in their defeat. It is, of course, no secret that slavery played a role in the original design of our presidential election system — although historians disagree about the centrality of that role. The notorious formula that gave states representation in Congress for three-fifths of their slaves was carried over into the allocation of electoral votes; the number of electoral votes granted to each state was (and remains) equivalent to that state’s representation in both branches of Congress. This constitutional design gave white Southerners disproportionate influence in the choice of presidents, an edge that could and did affect the outcome of elections. Not surprisingly, the slave states strenuously opposed any changes to the system that would diminish their advantage. In 1816, when a resolution calling for a national popular vote was introduced in Congress for the first time, it was derailed by the protestations of Southern senators. The slaveholding states “would lose the privilege the Constitution now allows them, of votes upon three-fifths of their population other than freemen,” objected William Wyatt Bibb of Georgia on the floor of the Senate. “It would be deeply injurious to them.”

National: Supreme Court says states may require presidential electors to support popular-vote winner | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that states may require presidential electors to support the winner of the popular vote and punish or replace those who don’t, settling a disputed issue in advance of this fall’s election. Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court, and settled the disputed “faithless elector” issue before it affected the coming presidential contest. The Washington state law at issue “reflects a tradition more than two centuries old,” she wrote. “In that practice, electors are not free agents; they are to vote for the candidate whom the state’s voters have chosen.” Lower courts had split on the issue, with one saying the Constitution forbids dictating how such officials cast their ballots. Both red and blue states urged the justices to settle the matter in advance of the “white hot” glare of the 2020 election. They said they feared a handful of independent-minded members of the electoral college deciding the next president. The court considered cases from the state of Washington and Colorado. Washington moved to fine Peter Bret Chiafalo and two others $1,000 after they voted for Colin Powell when the electoral college convened after the 2016 election. They had pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote.

Editorials: What Happens If the 2020 Election Is a Tie? | Norm Ornstein/The Atlantic

What happens if the 2020 presidential election is very close? Polls suggest that’s a real possibility. And it’s a question that should shape the strategy of the Democratic Party, not just at the top of the ticket, but in the down-ballot races that could ultimately determine who sits in the White House. If Donald Trump wins battleground states such as Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida, he can lose Pennsylvania and Michigan, and lose the popular vote by 5 million or more, but still win the Electoral College by a single vote, as David Wasserman of “The Cook Political Report” has noted. If a congressional district in Nebraska or Maine were to vote for a Democrat, there could be a tie. Even if the result is not that close, it is possible to imagine a nightmare scenario in multiple states like what we saw in Florida in 2000—in this case, contests about electoral votes that might have a state legislature endorsing a different set of electors than the popular-vote count mandates, or contests about popular votes and provisional ballots stretching beyond the deadline for an official electoral count. With the stakes so high, with tribal identities overcoming norms of behavior, with many legislatures in states such as Wisconsin and North Carolina having already taken extraordinary, antidemocratic steps to cling to power, it is not fanciful to imagine such situations.

Colorado: Democrats push changes to presidential electors | Associated Press

Following Donald Trump’s 2016 victory over an opponent who won 3 million more votes, Colorado’s Democrat-controlled Legislature is fast-tracking legislation to join other states in picking the president based on the national popular vote. The House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee sent the bill to the full House on a 6-3 party line vote late Tuesday. Republicans fiercely oppose the bill , which has cleared Colorado’s Senate. They argue it subverts an Electoral College that the Founding Fathers created to ensure smaller states don’t get trampled when it comes to choosing the president. Colorado would join 11 states and the District of Columbia in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The campaign was launched after Democrat Al Gore lost the 2000 election to Republican George W. Bush despite winning more votes.

Massachusetts: Judge rejects challenge to winner-take-all election system | Associated Press

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the winner-take-all system Massachusetts uses to assign its Electoral College presidential votes, rejecting the argument that it violates the principle of “one person, one vote.” The case is one of several spearheaded by the onetime lawyer for former Vice President Al Gore that is targeting the winner-take-all system used in 48 states, which critics ultimately hope to get before the U.S. Supreme Court. They argue the practice of assigning all of a state’s Electoral College votes to the winner of a state’s popular vote disenfranchises those who voted for the losing candidate and puts too much weight in the votes of those who live in a few key battleground states. But Chief U.S. District Judge Patti Saris said the system is constitutional because it doesn’t treat any set of voters differently from another.

National: Group Files Lawsuit to Challenge Electoral College | Roll Call

A group is suing two red states and two blue states to change the Electoral College system. Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig and David Boies, who served as former Vice President Al Gore’s lawyer in Bush v. Gore, make up the group according to the Boston Globe. The group is suing two predominantly Democratic states (California and Massachusetts) and two predominantly Republican states (Texas and South Carolina.) They argue the winner-take-all format of the Electoral College disenfranchises numerous voters and that it violates the principle of “one person, one vote.” Boies said the Electoral College system leads to candidates only campaigning to certain groups of voters and ignoring others.

National: Trump pushes to swap Electoral College for popular vote | Politico

President Donald Trump on Thursday voiced support for doing away with the Electoral College for presidential elections in favor of a popular vote because the latter would be “much easier to win.” The president’s support for a popular-vote presidential election came as an aside during a freewheeling Thursday morning interview with “Fox & Friends,” the Fox News morning show he is known to watch and from which he receives almost unflinchingly positive coverage. Trump made the remark amid a larger point about public figures who publicly support him in turn benefiting from a boost of popularity from Trump supporters.

Colorado: A federal judge dismissed the ‘Hamilton Elector’ lawsuit in Colorado. But that’s what they wanted. | The Colorado Independent

A federal judge in Colorado on Tuesday dismissed a case its plaintiffs hope will eventually bring more clarity to how members of the Electoral College should vote in presidential elections. And a dismissal is actually just what the plaintiffs wanted. They expect an appeal could bring their case before the nation’s highest court. At issue is a lawsuit by three members of the 2016 class of Colorado’s Electoral College who argued that Colorado GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to officially cast their national electoral ballots for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. District Court Senior Judge Wiley Daniel dismissed the case— and in doing so, helped get the legal question potentially further up the legal chain on an appeal and perhaps, eventually, before the United States Supreme Court, which is what the plaintiffs ultimately want. 

Colorado: Federal judge tosses “faithless” presidential elector lawsuit against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams | The Denver Post

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from three Democratic presidential electors against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams alleging that Williams violated their constitutional rights during the highly contentious 2016 Electoral College vote. The trio contended that Williams acted unlawfully by not allowing them to vote their conscience instead of on behalf of Colorado voters when casting their presidential votes. But U.S. District Court Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel rejected that premise, saying they were requesting he “strike down Colorado’s elector statute that codifies the historical understanding and long-standing practice of binding electors to the people’s vote, and to sanction a new system that would render the people’s vote merely advisory.”

National: Winner-Take-All Electoral Practice Faces Voter-Rights Challenge | Bloomberg

Civil rights activists are challenging the legality of four states’ winner-take-all method of allocating U.S. presidential electoral college votes, claiming the practice magnifies some votes at the expense of others and violates voters’ constitutional rights. The lawsuits were filed Wednesday in Texas and South Carolina, two states seen as “solidly red,” or Republican, and Massachusetts and California, two states seen as “solidly blue,” or Democratic, according to a statement from the activists’ lawyers. Veteran U.S. Supreme Court litigator David Boies, of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, are spearheading the “non-partisan” challenges.

Texas: In lawsuit, activists say Texas’ winner-take-all approach to the Electoral College is discriminatory | The Texas Tribune

Saying Texas’ current practice is discriminatory, a group of Hispanic activists and lawyers has sued the state in hopes of blocking it from awarding all of its Electoral College votes to one candidate during presidential elections. The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday calls on Texas to treat voters “in an equal manner” by abolishing that “winner-take-all” approach, which all but two states use. The suit, filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and a coalition of Texas lawyers, says that approach violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It’s just one of many pending voting rights lawsuits arguing that Texas, which regularly votes Republican, has illegally discriminated against voters of color. 

Editorials: Let the People Pick the President | The New York Times

The winners of Tuesday’s elections — Republican or Democrat, for governor, mayor or dogcatcher — all have one thing in common: They received more votes than their opponent. That seems like a pretty fair way to run an electoral race, which is why every election in America uses it — except the most important one of all. Was it just a year ago that more than 136 million Americans cast their ballots for president, choosing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by nearly three million votes, only to be thwarted by a 200-year-old constitutional anachronism designed in part to appease slaveholders and ratified when no one but white male landowners could vote? It feels more like, oh, 17 years — the last time, incidentally, that the American people chose one candidate for president and the Electoral College imposed the other.

Colorado: Secretary of State makes a deal with electoral college members suing him | The Colorado Independent

Colorado’s GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams and attorneys for three members of the 2016 Electoral College class who are suing him for voter intimidation have reached a deal. They haven’t settled but instead agreed to make concessions on both sides that could grease the wheels to have their case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court more quickly. Under their agreement, the electors will not sue Williams personally and won’t ask for damages and attorney fees beyond a dollar. In exchange, the Secretary of State’s Office will waive any immunity, meaning the case won’t get bogged down in protracted litigation — and could move through the courts more quickly.

Editorials: Tyranny of the Minority | Michelle Goldberg/The New York Times

Since Donald Trump’s cataclysmic election, the unthinkable has become ordinary. We’ve grown used to naked profiteering off the presidency, an administration that calls for the firing of private citizens for political dissent and nuclear diplomacy conducted via Twitter taunts. Here, in my debut as a New York Times columnist, I want to discuss a structural problem that both underlies and transcends our current political nightmare: We have entered a period of minority rule. I don’t just mean the fact that Trump became president despite his decisive loss in the popular vote, though that shouldn’t be forgotten. Worse, the majority of voters who disapprove of Trump have little power to force Congress to curb him.

Editorials: The Electoral College Is a National Security Threat | Matthew Olsen & Benjamin Haas/Politico

In Federalist No. 68, his pseudonymous essay on “The Mode of Electing the President,” Alexander Hamilton wrote that the Electoral College could shield the United States “from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” Because of the “transient existence” and dispersed makeup of the electors, he argued, hostile countries would find it too expensive and time-consuming to inject “sinister bias” into the process of choosing a president. At the time, the new American leaders feared meddling from Great Britain, their former colonial master, or perhaps from other powers such as France, and they designed a system to minimize the prospect that Europe’s aging monarchies could seize control of their young democracy. Hamilton and his colleagues never could have envisioned a year like 2016, when an enemy state—Russia—was able to manipulate America’s election process with stunning effectiveness. But it’s clear the national security rationale for the Electoral College is outdated and therefore it should be retired. Simply put, it enables foreign powers to more easily pierce the very shield Hamilton imagined it would be.

National: Is the Electoral College Doomed? | Politico

The Electoral College is under fresh assault on the heels of Donald Trump’s victory last November—the second time in five presidential races the popularly elected candidate lost the election—but it’s not due to any groundswell in Congress for a constitutional amendment to adopt a national popular vote. Instead, the most viable campaign to change how Americans choose their leader is being waged at booze-soaked junkets in luxury hotels around the country and even abroad, as an obscure entity called the Institute for Research on Presidential Elections peddles a controversial idea: that state legislatures can put the popular-vote winner in the White House.

Colorado: Attorney General won’t prosecute the Hamilton Elector who voted for Kasich not Clinton | The Colorado Independent

Colorado Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman will not prosecute Micheal Baca, a former member of the Electoral College who was stripped of his position when he cast a vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich instead of Hillary Clinton during a chaotic day in December. Coffman, who has said she is exploring whether there is a path for her to run for governor, says she doesn’t want Baca to use Colorado’s court system as a platform to make more headlines. Colorado GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who asked Coffman to investigate Baca, said he is “disappointed” the AG won’t pursue the case. On Dec. 19, Baca became the first elector in Colorado history not to cast a ballot during a ceremony at the Capitol for the presidential candidate who won the state’s popular vote. Baca was part of a movement known as the Hamilton Electors who believe they have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to vote their conscience as national electors. They hatched a plan to try and thwart Donald Trump from the White House by trying to convince enough electors around the country to vote for a more palatable Republican.

Colorado: “Faithless electors” seek damages in new federal lawsuit | The Denver Post

Two Colorado presidential electors have filed a new federal lawsuit against Secretary of State Wayne Williams, saying that threats he made leading up to last year’s dramatic Electoral College vote violated their constitutional rights. The lawsuit was announced Tuesday by Equal Citizens, an advocacy group, on behalf of two Democratic electors, Polly Baca and Robert Nemanich, who argue that the U.S. Constitution gives presidential electors the right to vote their conscience. That right, they said, was violated when Williams adopted a new policy aimed at compelling them to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote, Hillary Clinton.

India: How India picks its President, explained | Hindustan Times

If you haven’t decided whom to vote for in the upcoming election for the next President of India – to be held on July 17 – don’t worry. Unless you’re an MP or an MLA, you don’t get to vote. Unlike most of India’s elected representatives, who must battle it out for citizens’ votes, the President of India is instead chosen by an electoral college. The electoral college comprises the elected members of the Parliament (MPs) and state legislative assemblies (MLAs). Nominated members are, like the rest of us, unable to vote. There are 4,986 electors in the electoral college: 4,120 MLAs and 776 MPs. In normal elections, everyone’s vote is counted equally. In a presidential election, however, electors’ votes are worth more or less depending upon their job titles. In general, MPs’ votes are worth more than MLAs’, and MLAs from bigger states count more than those from smaller ones. The total value adds to10,98,903.

Colorado: Remember the faithless electors? Colorado secretary of state wants to bolster rules banning them | Denver Post

Nearly six months after the Colorado statehouse became the unlikely stage for a dramatic attempt to deny Donald Trump the presidency, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is looking to prevent a repeat performance of last year’s Electoral College theatrics. A proposed policy change would require Colorado presidential electors to take an oath swearing to back the winner of the state’s popular vote or be replaced by someone who will. The rule parallels an emergency protocol adopted in December that was aimed at defusing a planned Electoral College revolt led in part by Colorado’s Democratic electors.

Colorado: Secretary of State on 2016 Electoral College vote: ‘They’re investigating’ | The Colorado Independent

“They’re investigating.” That’s what Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said this week about the state attorney general’s office and a probe into what happened during Colorado’s Electoral College vote last year— four months after it took place. On Dec. 19, 2016, during a traditional ceremony where the state’s nine national electors cast their official votes for president, one of them, Micheal Baca, did not cast his for Colorado’s popular vote-getter Hillary Clinton, and was stripped of his duties and replaced.

Nebraska: Bill to make Nebraska’s Electoral College votes winner-take-all is headed to Legislature floor | Omaha World-Herald

Nebraska lawmakers may soon debate a familiar effort to return the state to a winner-take-all system for awarding presidential electors. The Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee voted Tuesday to advance Legislative Bill 25 to the floor. State Sen. John Murante of Gretna, the bill’s sponsor, said he will attempt to attach the proposal to another bill so it can still be debated in the waning weeks of the legislative session. Republican members of the officially nonpartisan Legislature have tried repeatedly to end Nebraska’s system of splitting its three Electoral College votes based upon the winner in each congressional district. Votes on the issue have largely fallen along party lines, with primarily Democrats voting against.

National: Lessons from 2016: Try same-day voter registration, rethink Electoral College, report says | Philadelphia Inquirer

States with the highest voter turnout in 2016 offered same-day registration or were targeted battlegrounds in the tight presidential election, according to an analysis released Thursday by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project. The six highest-ranking states have rules that allow eligible voters to register at the polls or update their information there before casting a ballot. In order, they were: Minnesota (74.8 percent), Maine (72.8 percent), New Hampshire (72.5 percent), Colorado (72.1 percent), Wisconsin (70.5 percent), and Iowa (69 percent). All but Minnesota, the leader for the second presidential election in a row, also were targeted by the presidential candidates. This was the first report on 2016 turnout to be based on certified election returns.

New Mexico: Senate approves popular vote for presidency on 26-16 vote | Albuquerque Journal

Fresh off a divisive election season, the Senate on Monday approved legislation adding New Mexico to an interstate compact aimed at guaranteeing the president – in future elections – would be elected by national popular vote. The measure, Senate Bill 42, passed the chamber on a party-line 26-16 vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, and now moves on to the House. “By doing our part to move toward a national popular vote, we can begin the process of regaining the voters’ trust in our elections and ensure their voices are equal to every voter across the country,” said Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor. However, several Republican critics of the legislation accused Democrats of pushing the change in response to President Donald Trump’s victory. “Just because we didn’t get our way means we pout and change the entire system,” complained Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell.

National: Awarding Electoral Votes by District a Temptation for GOP | New York Magazine

You might think Republicans would be entirely satisfied with an Electoral College system that has twice in the last five elections elevated a fellow party-member to the presidency despite a loss in the national popular vote. But GOP legislators in Virginia and Minnesota are reviving pre-2016 legislation designed to emulate Maine and Nebraska in awarding Electoral College votes by congressional district rather than statewide vote totals. The ostensible rationale for these proposals is to provide representation in the Electoral College for regions that are outvoted at the state level by urban areas like Northern Virginia. But it’s really a hobbyhorse for state lawmakers who control states the other party typically carries at the presidential level. Indeed, Virginia toyed with such legislation shortly after the 2012 elections, along with Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. What these states had in common at the time was Republican “trifecta” control of state governments in states that had voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. Not coincidentally, such a system would have awarded the presidency to Romney, who won 226 House districts against Obama’s 209 (Romney also won 28 states to Obama’s 22, which under the system Republicans are pushing, would have given statewide winners two bonus EVs).

Virginia: After Clinton wins Virginia, state Republicans try to change how votes are tallied | The Washington Post

A bill advancing in the Virginia House of Representatives would end the familiar “winner take all” system of awarding the state’s presidential electoral votes and replace it with a system to award electoral votes by congressional district, similar to what’s currently done in Maine and Nebraska. The goal is a noble one. Under the winner take all system, the votes of people who opted for a candidate other than the statewide winner are quite literally not counted when the electoral college convenes in December. If votes were allocated by congressional district, the final electoral vote tally could more closely represent the statewide popular vote mix. In 2016, for instance, Hillary Clinton won 49.8 percent of Virginia’s popular vote but 100 percent of its 13 electoral votes. Had those votes been allocated by congressional district instead, Clinton would have received only 7 while Trump got 6.

National: International observers recommend changes to U.S. electoral system | McClatchy

On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, a group of international election experts who observed the Nov. 8 election have suggested overhauling the United States’ “particularly unique” Electoral College system, which gave Trump the presidency. The changes, the group from the Organization of American States said, should be made to keep candidates from focusing just on battleground states. The group also raised concerns about the rise in polarizing and divisive rhetoric in U.S. campaigning and criticized Trump for making threats to restrict journalists’ access and for threatening legal action against them for expressing their views. The group’s report noted the claims of Russian interference in the election, but made no assessment of their accuracy or impact on the outcome. The report was similar in tone to those that U.S. observers make on elections in foreign nations and was noteworthy primarily because it was the first time OAS experts had monitored a U.S. election – something that resonated deeply in Latin America, where the United States has long advocated OAS monitoring for other nations.

Editorials: The Rules of the Game: A New Electoral System | Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen/The New York Review of Books

Americans have been using essentially the same rules to elect presidents since the beginning of the Republic. In the general election, each voter chooses one candidate; each state (with two current exceptions) awards all its Electoral College votes to the candidate chosen by the largest number of voters (not necessarily a majority) in that state; and the president-elect is the candidate with a majority of Electoral College votes. Primary elections for president have also remained largely unchanged since they replaced dealings in a “smoke-filled room” as the principal method for selecting Democratic and Republican nominees. In each state, every voter votes for one candidate. In some states, the delegates to the national convention are all pledged to support the candidate getting a plurality of votes (again, possibly less than a majority). In others, delegates are assigned in proportion to the total votes of the candidates. These rules are deeply flawed. For example, candidates A and B may each be more popular than C (in the sense that either would beat C in a head-to-head contest), but nevertheless each may lose to C if they both run. The system therefore fails to reflect voters’ preferences adequately. It also aggravates political polarization, gives citizens too few political options, and makes candidates spend most of their campaign time seeking voters in swing states rather than addressing the country at large.There a re several remedies. Perhaps in order of increasing chance of adoption, they are: (1) to elect the president by the national popular vote instead of the Electoral College; (2) to choose the winner in the general election according to the preferences of a majority of voters rather than a mere plurality, either nationally or by state; and, easiest of all, (3) to substitute majority for plurality rule in state primaries.

National: Congressman introduces plan to eliminate Electoral College | Palm Beach Post

Congressman Steve Cohen has introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would eliminate the Electoral College. “For the second time in recent memory, and for the fifth time in our history, the national popular vote winner — including Tennesseans Al Gore and Andrew Jackson — will not become President of the United States because of the Electoral College,” Cohen said Thursday. “The Electoral College is an antiquated system that was established to prevent citizens from directly electing our nation’s president, yet that notion is antithetical to our understanding of democracy. In our country, ‘We the People’ are supposed to determine who represents us in elective office.”

Washington: Four ‘faithless electors’ to be fined $1,000 each for not casting Clinton votes | The Seattle Times

Fines of $1,000 each are headed for the mailboxes of four Democratic electors who refused to honor Washington state’s popular vote for president. Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office said the citations were mailed to the so-called “faithless electors” on Thursday. The penalties stem from the Electoral College vote on Dec. 19, when Washington’s 12 electors met to officially cast the state’s vote for president and vice president of the U.S. In acts of protest, four of them refused to cast their ballots for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the state with 54 percent of the vote — breaking state law and their own written pledges.