The right to vote for our president is one of the most fundamental rights cherished by Americans. But when the will of the voters is overturned by an electoral system that undermines the principle of “one person, one vote” — a system with origins in a centuries-old deal to preserve the power of slaveholding states — it undermines the legitimacy of the president and our system of government.
It is past time for us to abolish this arcane institution and ensure that the person who occupies the Oval Office is the same one the majority of Americans voted for. The most obvious way to do this would be to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing the electoral college. I have introduced such an amendment in the Senate. But given the high bar for enacting constitutional amendments, the odds of this happening — as The Post noted — are slim. But the good news is that a constitutional amendment is not the only way to ensure our next president is chosen by popular vote. An alternative path is called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The idea is that states would commit through legislation to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, in an agreement that would go into effect if and only when enough states agree to the compact that, together, their electoral votes would add up to the required 270-vote majority.
This is an idea that has a real chance of success. Fifteen states and D.C. have already agreed to join this pact and give their 196 electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. If state legislatures representing 74 more electoral votes join in, the United States would join the republics of the world with the gold standard for electing a president: the popular vote. This outcome would change presidential elections overnight. Every citizen’s vote across our great land would count equally. In addition, the popular vote would create a powerful force working to break down the chasm separating our U.S. political parties. Republican presidential candidates would seek votes in every part of the country, including blue states, and Democratic candidates would do the same in red states. Candidates’ platforms would adjust to address the interests of all regions of our nation, not just the swing states. Over time, voters in “safe” states would have more exposure to different ideas and opportunities to hear from voices outside the comfort of our normal echo-chamber bubbles. In this era, when so many citizens and so many states feel left out of the process, this could be a powerful factor in helping to bring America together.
Jeff Merkley, Washington
The writer, a Democrat, represents Oregon in the U.S. Senate.