The 538 members of the electoral college will cast their votes Monday, in a largely ceremonial move following an Election Day that saw Donald Trump win 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232. But Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, reviving the every-four-years criticisms — and defenses — of the electoral college system.
Some of Trump’s critics say the upcoming vote could be the last chance to keep him out of the Oval Office. But could that actually happen? Should it happen? Here are Post columnists’ and contributors’ takes on the electoral college and what the electors should — or shouldn’t — do with their votes.
Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig: The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton.
It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election — so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely — if ever — should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason.
So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason?
Harvard political theorist and Post contributing columnist Danielle Allen: Don’t blame the electoral college. Here’s how Democrats can take back politics.
The electoral college shouldn’t be abolished. It enshrines an important principle — protection of the rights of a minority — in our Constitution. A popular majority unhappy with the presidential results should make its weight felt not by taking to the streets but by taking back electoral politics — relearning what it means to win elections for state legislatures, governorships and Congress.
Post columnist Kathleen Parker: The electoral college should be unfaithful
A movement headed by a mostly Democratic group calling itself Hamilton Electors is trying to persuade Republican electors to defect — not to cede the election to Hillary Clinton but to join with Democrats in selecting a compromise candidate, such as Mitt Romney or John Kasich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.
The Cato Institute’s Michael F. Cannon: Democrats can stop Trump via the electoral college. But not how you think.
The only way Democrats stand any chance of persuading Republican electors to abandon Trump is with a dramatic gesture of true bipartisanship. If all 232 Democratic electors pledge to reach across the aisle and vote for a Republican alternative to Trump, it would take just 38 GOP electors to make that person the next president.
Former White House chief of staff and commerce secretary William M. Daley: Dump the electoral college? Bad idea, says Al Gore’s former campaign chairman.
I feel your pain. I was Al Gore’s campaign chairman in 2000, when he won a half-million more votes than George W. Bush but lost the presidency. Trump’s case is even more stark, as Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin will exceed 2 million.
But I urge my fellow Democrats to think hard before trying to undo the admittedly hard-to-explain electoral college. The cure might be worse than the disease.
Post columnist Charles Lane: Griping about the popular vote? Get over it.
As all concerned knew going in, the object of the presidential election game is to win the most electoral votes in what are essentially 51 state-level contests (the District included), just as the object of football is to score the most points. Gridiron teams would play differently under instructions to maximize yardage; candidates would campaign differently if maximizing national popular votes were the prime directive.
Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.: The electoral college should think hard before handing Trump the presidency
Memo to the electoral college that votes next Monday: Our tradition — for good reason — tells you that your job is to ratify the state-by-state outcome of the election. The question is whether Trump, Vladimir Putin and, perhaps, Clinton’s popular-vote advantage give you sufficient reason to blow up the system.
Post columnist George F. Will: The electoral college is an excellent system
Those who demand direct popular election of the president should be advised that this is what we have — in 51 jurisdictions (the states and the District). And the electoral vote system quarantines electoral disputes. Imagine the 1960 election under direct popular election: John F. Kennedy’s popular vote margin over Richard M. Nixon was just 118,574. If all 68,838,219 popular votes had been poured into a single national bucket, there would have been powerful incentives to challenge the results in many of the nation’s 170,000 precincts.
And from the archive: Five myths about the electoral college
1. The framers created the electoral college to protect small states.
Post letter writers have also weighed in on the problems and advantages of the electoral college. Excerpts of their arguments:
Times have changed since 1789. We have better ways to share information now. Individual voters’ choices should matter more than states’ votes. —Shelagh Smith, Rockville
Donald Trump was right. The election was rigged — in his favor. The electoral college, an undemocratic vestige, distorted the election by giving battleground state voters more weight and smaller states disproportionate representation. —Elliott Negin, Washington
Our Constitution clearly does compel that our votes be of unequal power. —Jeffrey Reiman, Washington