For the Promotion and Advancement of Republican Democracy

Why we need a new system for presidential elections.

I’m an Oregonian, so a claim that Oregonians are not as important or special as residents of Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, seems offensive and demeaning. Most Oregonians would object to and challenge such a pronouncement. But every four years that is the message sent during the presidential election. Due to the Electoral College, states like Oregon, and many others, are ignored during presidential campaigns and our votes mean almost nothing. As Scott Walker, a candidate in the republican primary race said in an interview with CNBC in 2015, “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are.” However, it doesn’t have to be this way. A simple solution would be to enact the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. It’s a mouthful, but the idea is a simple one. Before we get into that, however, let’s look at where we are now and how we got here.

The Electoral College was established by the framers of the Constitution as a compromise while deciding how to elect a president. At the time, we were creating a whole new system with no historical examples to follow, and we were a nation devoid of the technologies and communication capabilities we now enjoy. What was settled on was a system by which each state was allotted a number of electors equal to their number of senators (always 2) plus their number of congressmen (based on population). These electors were meant to be the voters for president, and base their decisions on their own judgement and deliberations. When citizens were voting, it was for electors, not their choice of president.

The College removes the agency of individual voters. In all other elections in this country, the voters directly elect their representatives. Our presidential elections, however, are different. When you cast a vote for a presidential candidate you are not directly voting for that person. You are registering your preference for a candidate, which is then tallied along with all the other ballots in your state. Those votes are then assigned to the candidate who gets the plurality of votes in the state and all your states’ electors vote for that person. In 48 out of 50 states, the electoral votes are all cast for just one candidate. There is no proportional allocation of citizen’s votes.  For example, if there were two candidates and one got 1000 votes, the other got 999 votes, and your state is allotted ten electors, all ten electors would vote for the candidate with the 1000 votes. One candidate would not get six electors while the other gets four (except for Maine and Nebraska, which do proportionally distribute their electors). This system creates swing states (aka battleground states) and it means we can, and have had, presidents elected even though they did not receive the most votes nationwide.

This is one of the main faults in our system. A candidate can be elected to the highest office in our country, with the slimmest margin in just a few states, despite a large national popular vote loss. This is the exact situation encountered in 2016. According to the FEC’s 2016 Official General Election Results, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by 2,868,691 votes, out of 128,838,341. That’s a 2.09% margin of victory for Clinton. Trump became president, nonetheless, because 77,744 voters, out of 13,233,376, between the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin cast their votes for him. That was his margin of victory in those three states; less than .6%. Those states combined carry 46 electors, giving Trump the advantage he needed to win in the Electoral College.

This leads to the question of: what are our votes worth? In places like Oregon, California, Texas, Kentucky, or New York, the answer is that they have a nominal effect on the election outcome. These states are reliably red or blue. Therefore, not only do candidates tend to ignore the state, if you are a member of the opposition party in one of these places, say a republican in Oregon or a democrat in Texas, your vote carries nearly zero weight. It alone (or in combination with the small majority who are with you) cannot alter the balance of the total votes in your state. All your states electors will go to the candidate with the most votes, essentially negating your ballot.

Additionally, candidates don’t visit many places. They concentrate in battleground or swing states, the areas where electors are up for grabs. has compiled some surprising statistics about where the candidates spent their time in 2016. The two major party tickets made 399 official, public campaign appearances after the conventions. Of those, 375 were spent in just twelve states. Fourteen states only received between one and three visits each, and a whopping twenty-five states (including Oregon) received zero visits! The statistics indicate that 76% of the country is not on the radar of presidential candidates.

So, what can we do about this situation? The only way to abolish the Electoral College and move to a direct vote system is with a Constitutional amendment. It is an extremely difficult and long process to get an amendment passed and is very unlikely to be successful. Luckily, a much simpler and doable solution has come along. It’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The idea is simple: States that join (by passing a bill in their legislatures) agree to commit all their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. The compact would go into effect once enough states sign-on to reach 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the election. This would ensure a national popular vote winner could never lose in the electoral college. No constitutional amendment would be necessary, and it’s legal because states are autonomous in making decisions about the allotment of their electors. The compact has been proposed in all fifty states and been enacted into law in eleven, totaling 165 electoral votes so far. It has also seen momentum in several other states.

In Oregon, the bill has passed the House four times. In three of those cases it never even received a hearing in the senate, and during this last legislative session (2017) a version of the bill made it to a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee, but never made it out of committee. According to The Oregonian, the bill was not advanced because the version proposed in the senate calls for the issue to be taken up by voters in a ballot initiative. The House version did not. The two bills would need to be reconciled and the Senate Rules Chair did not believe it made sense at that time to try such a task. The advocates for the bill do not have the funds and resources available to run the financially and labor-intensive campaign needed for a ballot measure vote. It’s been noted that the previous three House bills passed were all “blocked by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who opposes abandoning the traditional Electoral College process.” This year, however, he said he “would support the change if Oregon voters—not their representatives in Salem—made the call.”

This brings us to opposition to changing our current system. There are, of course, going to be many people who oppose any change to the status quo, and their reasons will vary. One popular argument is that the electoral college prevents “mob” rule; that it protects the minority from being overpowered by the majority. I think this argument is unconvincing due to the nature of how our system has ultimately come to operate. Under its original intentions, the College would have acted as a deliberative body. The electors would be chosen by the citizens, and would decide the presidential elections on their behalf. The Framers believed this compromise solved many problems they were facing, one being a concern about mob rule. The Founding Fathers did not want the common folk to hold too much power over the process. They felt the electors were better equipped to make such monumental decisions, and their will could prevent the “mob” of citizenry from choosing a less-than-desirable candidate. However, the Framers did not anticipate the rise of political parties (or “factions”), but factions took hold soon after the ratification of the Constitution. The electors were voting along “party lines” almost from the beginning. According to the political scientists Edwards and Wattenberg in their book Government in America, “the idea of electors exercising independent judgments is a constitutional anachronism.” It doesn’t seem plausible, therefore, that the College prevents mob rule. Every Vote Equal has this to say about the concern:

 The American people currently cast votes for President in 100% of the states…In case anyone thinks it is appropriate to characterize the American electorate as a “mob” it is long-settled that the “mob” already rules in American presidential elections…[It’s] not whether the “mob” will vote for President, but whether the “mobs” in battleground states  should be more important than the “mobs” in the remaining states.

Additionally, almost all other presidential countries in the world elect their presidents directly; this is not a new, untested concept.

Another concern that comes up a lot is the notion that the electoral college is protecting smaller or more rural states from being ignored by the candidates and drown out by bigger states. It seems the current system is doing little to bring candidates to smaller or more rural states. What it does do, however, is makes a few select states more important than all others, simply because of their undecided status. Those states come in various sizes and have diversified demographics, as do the many states currently ignored. If battleground states didn’t exist, we would likely see changes in how candidates conduct their campaigns. Although we can’t know exactly what that would look like, even Trump has claimed that if the winner were based on popular votes he would have “campaigned differently.” Perhaps we Oregonians would have the same chance to interact with the candidates that Floridians do.

If the National Popular Vote were to go into effect, all citizens could be secure in the knowledge that their vote counts. Whether you’re a republican or a democrat, whether you live in Oregon or Ohio, your vote would have just as much power as everybody else’s. People could have faith in our democratic institutions, and that might boost voter participation. In fact, Silberstein claims that “turnout is about 11% higher in battleground states.” Evidence exists that corroborates this assertion, and although correlation doesn’t guarantee causation, it is promising.

The Electoral College is undermining democracy in America and adversely affecting voters. The National Popular Vote is a great solution to this issue. It is straight-forward, Constitutional, and fair. Civic participation can be rewarding and satisfying, but we need to ensure that each vote counts. Supporting this legislation is an easy way to bolster democratic ideals and equality. To find out more, you can visit If you’d like to express your support for the legislation, please look up your state rep and senator (if you don’t already know them) (at if you’re an Oregonian), and give their office a call to encourage them to vote for this measure.

One person, one vote.









The Importance Of Involvement

Why participation in local party politics is crucial to the Resistance.

Being involved in local politics and your local Democratic Party can be personally rewarding as well as politically effective. As  E.J. Dionne Jr.  points out “power in a democratic nation comes from winning elections…a two-party system…requires picking sides.” Partisanship and polarization are a real problem right now but that does not mean you have to eschew participation with your party. What I believe it means is that we have to be more engaged because part of our engagement can focus on breaking the polarization cycle.


Being involved enough to participate in primaries (which is as easy as registering as a democrat) means that you have a chance to put a candidate on the ticket in a general election that will have broad appeal and may be better at bridging divides than creating them. Volunteering with your local party office might mean helping disseminate information to voters, in which case you’ll have an opportunity to close the gap by gently reassuring voters of the party’s commitment to the issues that they care about. If you’re a voting member of the county party, you will have a direct say in the platform that they support.

The ways in which direct involvement in the party process will help us win elections are numerous and varied. You are sure to find yourself some volunteer opportunities that fit your time, lifestyle, and personality. If you don’t have the time or inclination to get hands-on in the efforts, monetary donations are an important factor as well so a donation(s) would be a helpful gesture.

The localized activist groups like those created through the Indivisible Guide are doing some awesome work and have had a huge impact on civilian participation and attention. They have been instrumental in drawing attention to issues and galvanizing people toward action and participation. But we also need the structure and organization of a strong central party to start winning elections. No amount of activism will make much of a dent if we continue to lose elections both large and small. You can protest something till your voice runs out and you’re dead on your feet but if we don’t have the numbers in the legislatures and executive branches, none of it will matter much. As this article in The Nation mentions “organizations need to figure out how to persuade The Democratic Partyenough of the politically passive citizenry…to vote, and to vote democratic.”
Please help support strong candidates and get involved in voter education and turn-out efforts. I attended my first central committee meeting of the Democratic Party in my county last night and became a voting member by applying to be a PCP (Precinct Committee Person). I encourage similar actions for anybody like me who has never been vote-1319435_1280involved on that grassroots party level before and a deeper commitment for those already there. Let’s Resist by Persisting!


Am I Psychic or Do I Just Have “Common Sense”?

A note I wrote on the eve of the election.

Just kidding! Since there is no such thing (or so my husband tells me), I guess I just have what’s known as “common sense” and the “ability to think and reason”.  I’m not going to write directly about any current news stories in this post. There are so many, and so many people writing about them, I’m not sure I have anything unique to say at the moment. But I did want to post something. This is a FB post I wrote on November 7th, right before election day. I thought I’d share it here for a trip down memory lane. Back when there was still a possibility of saving this country. But, I think I was pretty prophetic in my predictions of what a Trump presidency would bring. Like I said though, it was really just common sense and I certainly was not the only one thinking it.

So, one more day till election day. I wrote one last long plea for people to do the right thing. I wrote it more for myself perhaps than for any other reason though. I just want my last thoughts about this election to be out there in the ether, on record for as long as fb or the internet are a thing. So feel free to read or not, but I’ve said my peace (my DH has pointed out that I used the wrong spelling here and that it should be “piece” but I’ve decided to keep it the way it is because I like it better. So, suck it Trebek! Haha, love you babe!).

I’m going to start with why I voted for Hillary, based on her own merits. Since so often people like to say, tell me who you’re voting for and why without talking about the other candidate, I figured I’d start with that. Hillary Clinton isn’t a figure I ever particularly cared for or even really had any opinion about. It’s not that I didn’t like her, I guess I just felt sort of neutral about her. There may have even been some distrust because even the best of us can be lured into believing, however loosely, that she’s somehow crooked. If you only pay attention to sound bites, headlines, or news crawlers and don’t dig any further, it’s easy to fall into that trap. But an interesting thing has happened to me over the course of this nasty election season. Ironically, perhaps, I’ve actually come to like and respect her more as time has gone on. I started paying closer attention, digging just a tiny bit further than those headlines lead us to believe. Sometimes, it literally only takes reading past a headline into the actual article to have a different view of the story. This deeper inquisitiveness itself changed my opinions of her. Then I started to learn a bit more about her history, the positions she’s held and work she’s done and that also further increased my positive view of her. She’s always fought for women and children, minorities, people with disabilities, and hasn’t wavered in those causes. She’s highly educated, has worked as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund, and has held several public offices. She’s generally regarded as competent, dedicated, and is viewed in a positive light by many people on both sides of the aisle whom she’s worked with (of course there are exceptions). She’s highly qualified for this position based on quantifiable criteria. Continue reading “Am I Psychic or Do I Just Have “Common Sense”?”