By Katauna Loeuy
The “Is There a Better Way to Elect the President?” forum is an educational event that covers topics regarding the current system of electing political candidates, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the process.
The event was hosted at Whatcom Community College and ran by the League of Women Voters organization in Bellingham with help from Whatcom’s Impact Club.
Karen Funston, the co-president of the League of Women Voters, described how the forum, “was designed to give people the basics and background information about how the Electoral College works, the pros and cons and give information about one option circulating around all 50 states to choose the president using the Electoral College, while also mandating the popular vote.”
Sage Rogers, an active member of the Impact Club, explains how the club got involved with this event because, “we’re encouraging volunteering and inclusivity. We hoped that the youth would understand that they have more power than they’re aware of.”
The event ran for two hours and began with a brief video regarding an explanation of the Electoral College. The individuals speaking within the video discussed how many people do not understand that when citizens vote, we are not voting directly for the president, however for chosen electors who represent their vote.
It goes on to present information on how each state is given a set amount of votes due to it’s population, but the speakers in the video explain how the difficulty with this system is that it gives smaller states more power over large states.
The video goes on to say how many people nowadays are favoring the popular vote directly towards presidents rather than the current system in which the popular vote elects electors, not the president. This causes a situation in which a candidate can win the greater popular vote, but still lose the Electoral College which is exactly what occurred in the most recent election.
After the video, the first speaker, Douglas Robertson, presented the issue of evolution towards a more direct democracy.
Robertson shared his lecture with another speaker, Adam Golob, and he explained how one candidate won the greater popular vote, but lost the Electoral College, five times in history.
One happened in the last presidential election, another in the 2000 election between George Bush and Al Gore, as well as in 1888 between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, in 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden, and in 1824 between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He elaborated on how if the Electoral College was proportionate with the popular vote, then nobody would’ve won in the last election.
The presenters continued to explain how this election caused much conversation surrounding the topics of the voting system in the United States.
Cindy Madigan, the chair of the League of Women Voters Committee, said how, “there’s been so much on the news about the National Popular Voting Interstate Compact”. The most recent elections have caused all of this widely discussed conversation throughout the public.
One of the slides displayed a visual of the country by county and it presented a majority color of purple throughout the nation which represents independents/moderates or swing decisions, while the other majority in the middle of the country displayed the color of red for conservative and on the majority of the coasts, blue represented liberal.
He related the Electoral College to a study he performed with his political science class in which he created his own election and had 10 states, while asking a collection of varied questions, such as hamburgers vs. tacos.
Then, this professor calculated the popular vote to present hamburgers winning with a 51% and tacos with a 49%, however when he calculated the electoral vote for this election, tacos won by just a hair. This presents a simple example of what happens during our election, however this experiment in class may have been fun and games, but our political officers are very real and present important issues in our society today.
The next segment of the event into the first panel which answers the audiences questions following the previous presentations. The panel included an immense amount of information about previous attempts to change the Electoral College, however it requires a 2/3 vote from both houses and it has never even gotten this far into the process. Other information provided discussed how some states favor the Electoral College due to its disproportionate power.
On the contrary, “there are a number of efforts being put forward to eliminate the Electoral College or try and find a way around it.” says Funston.
After the panel, another video introduced the National Popular Vote compact which would guarantee the elector with the majority of popular votes to win the election. A benefit of this system would be that every individual’s vote counts because with the Electoral College, 48 states currently have a winner takes all repetition at each election.
Then, Barry Maxwell, a professor at Whatcom, explained some of the issues connected to the idea of the National Popular Vote. These disadvantages include how it’s a violation of the constitution, congress may not approve the proposition, there are majoritarian concerns of founders, faithless elector/state and there may be a delay in determining the popular vote.
The forum concluded with a second panel discussion regarding the topic of the National Popular Vote which touched on the idea that in this system, no one state can dominate the election because it’s focused on each citizen rather than each boundary.
Overall the event provided profuse information to the public in a non-biased setting, “we try and produce information that does not favor one party over another.” said Funston.
“I’m hoping that they would understand more about the Electoral College and change it. We want people to feel encouraged and honored to talk about politics and understand the importance of voting.” said Madigan.
Rogers also hoped that the audience understood that, “they have the power to change the world.”
As the presentation came to a close, Funston explained how the mission of this event followed how, “in a non-partisan way, to promote democracy and get people to vote and educate them.”
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