Time to dump the Electoral College; 11 states are already on board

The time has come for our nation to graduate from the Electoral College. The state of Washington has earned its diploma. Idaho and other red states need to follow suit.

Seventy percent of the folks surveyed across the country agree we should change the way we count the votes when electing a president. They agree that conforming with the nation's popular vote is the only small-d democratic way.

Our Founding Fathers gave us a fickle pickle when they handed down the Electoral College. Understandably, they could not anticipate the remarkable changes that would take place over time — the number of states, the increase in population, the technological revolution in communication and transportation.

Our Founding Fathers could not foresee the shrinking of the globe, the expansion of the nation or the population explosion. They certainly couldn't imagine "one woman, one vote."

A year ago, the editorial board of the New York Times wrote that 136 million Americans voted and chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by almost 3 million votes, "only to be thwarted by a 200-year-old anachronism designed in part to appease slaveholders and ratified when no one but white male landowners could vote."

In 1788, when our Constitution was ratified, the definition of "democracy" didn't include women and people of color. Since then, the Supreme Court handed down the standard "one person equals one vote." Yet, somehow, this standard does not apply in one conspicuous place. This standard must apply to the presidency, the most important office in our country and perhaps the world.

Back when the Constitution was new, most families lived on farms. Since then, pioneers crossed the plains and added stars to the flag.

California came into the Union in 1852 with a recorded 92,597 population. At that time, it took weeks for a wagonload of settlers to cross the continent. In 1852, the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express reduced the time for a letter to get to California to 10 days.

California now has a population of 409 million and is the most highly populated state in the country. A flight from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco takes five hours, more or less, which my son and hundreds of others take routinely. Amazon delivers many packages overnight.

Television reports the news 24 hours a day, as does social media with chatter and opinion. We are so connected that it's hard to escape knowing what's going on everywhere in the globe.

Our country has outgrown the tired and sloppy Electoral College system. There is definitely something wrong when twice in the very recent past, the presidential candidate who won the popular vote did not win the presidency.

There is certainly something wrong with a system that concentrates the campaigning itself into a few key swing states. In 2016, two-thirds of all public presidential campaign events were held in six states, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina — all east of the Mississippi.

Rarely do presidential candidates visit Idaho. I have voted in 16 presidential elections in Idaho and in only one did my vote matter. That was 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, won. With winner-take-all rules, the minority votes don't congregate, they evaporate. So much for one person, one vote.

Not only do minority votes not matter when winner takes all, in states with solid one-party dominance, be that Democrat or Republican, voters do not get enough campaign attention.

I do not bring this up to continue the tired argument that Hillary Clinton was robbed — I only want to emphasize that change is needed to make sure the popular vote elects the next president. It's also important to recognize that we are now a nation of cities with a very different economy and population than existed in 1789. Need I mention that the mix of voters now includes women and people of color?

Help is on the way in the form of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which is an agreement among states to give all electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. States who sign on commit to give their electoral votes to whomever wins the nation's popular vote, regardless of who wins the state.

So far 11 states and the District of Columbia have officially embraced the agreement: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. They constitute more than 30 percent of the electoral votes needed to reach the magic 270 electoral votes.

Trying to amend the Constitution to bring the Electoral College up to date would be difficult and dangerous. The Interstate Contract is an efficient answer to this complicated problem.

Although the Idaho Legislature cannot be considered nimble — for six years now it has ignored the dollars Congress has offered states for Medicaid expansion — it should take another think. Idaho receives almost no attention from either party in a presidential election. And Republicans should admit to the possibility of ending up on the losing end of an Electoral College race.

The Interstate Compact, when fully adopted, will close the Electoral College barn door. ♦

Americans and the Holocaust @ Gonzaga University

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