As I See It: The corona virus, elections, daily life

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By Elpidio R. Estioko

The corona virus is getting worse and affecting our daily life: classrooms are closed, offices sent their employees home for a week or so until further notice, and we can only go to banks, pharmacy, hospitals, and related facilities.  The instruction is to stay home, unless extremely necessary!

And… the scheduled primaries and causes were either rescheduled or held with extreme rules aligned with corona advisories.

So, with the Senate impeachment trial now over and transitioning towards the November elections as the next battle ground, the issue continues. The issue, despite the corona pandemic is now very much at the top of the national political landscape gently pushing the electorate to make their decisions through the ballots by exercising their inherent rights to vote.

Okay, voters need to learn from the past that in the end, it’s the electoral votes that matters, not the popular votes although delegates/electors that compose the Electoral College are determined by popular votes. Two of the nation’s last three presidents won the presidency in the Electoral College, even though they lost the popular vote nationwide. In 2000, Al Gore outpolled George W. Bush by more than 540,000 votes but lost in the Electoral College, 271–266. Sixteen years later, Hillary Clinton garnered almost 3 million more votes than Donald Trump but lost decisively in the Electoral College, 306–232. And, as a recent New York Times poll suggested, the 2020 election could very well again deliver the presidency to the loser of the popular vote.

Take note that it’s the same Trump who won over Clinton who tallied more popular votes than he had, who is running for re-election this election year, so the Democrats need to learn from the past. They need to make sure that during their campaign for popular votes, they have enough delegates/ electoral votes to win the presidency. It’s the Electoral College that will catapult them to the presidency. Trump capitalized on this in 2016 and he had the experience to duplicate it in 2020.

Let us remember that the Electoral College is a process established in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers. It consists of the selection of the electors who will vote for President and Vice President and counting of the electoral votes is done by Congress. At that time, there were a few voting precincts in remote areas, no vote by mail, the internet was not there yet, and people had a hard time traveling to polling places situated in the town/city proper. That being the case, the Founding Fathers thought of electing delegates to the Electoral College to represent the people.

As per the US Constitution, the Electoral College consists of 538 electors and a majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. States have the same number of electors as it does members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two Senators.

Technically, the Electoral College is a thing in the past, meaning it may not apply any more to the present times as envisioned by the Founding Fathers because of the emergence of the internet, institution of the vote by mail, and the voting precincts are now available in remote places.  But, for as long as it is still not amended and ratified by the states, it is still a matter the politicians can’t ignore. It needs two thirds of supermajority in Congress and three fourths to be ratified by the states, so we are stocked with the Electoral College this coming November.

Let’s face it, the Electoral College is the ultimate factor in electing our president and vice president… for now! This is the naked truth for the politicians and the American people to understand and contend with.

There is a national referendum, I learned it lately, being circulated by Actionnetwork.org reaching out to people urging their lawmakers to join the National Popular Vote compact to fix the broken Electoral College. This is great but don’t you think this is rather too late?

Under this plan, whoever wins the most votes nationwide should be elected President of the United States. States must pass the National Popular Vote compact to reform the outdated, anti-democratic Electoral College.

For the second time in five elections, many Americans are outraged that the presidential candidate who won the most popular votes lost the election. The winner-take-all Electoral College system must be changed so that voters in all 50 states have a say in choosing our president.The winner-take-all concept otherwise known as unit rule tells us that the party that wins the most votes in that state appoints all of the electors for that state. This became the norm across the nation by the 1830’s. Currently, the only exceptions to the unit rule are in Maine and Nebraska that allocate their electors by congressional district, plus two at-large electors awarded to the candidate who wins the state’s’ popular votes.

To correct this, according to the online action group, states can decide how they award their electoral votes, so if enough require their electors to vote for the winner of the nationwide popular vote (instead of who won in that state), it would fix the problems of the Electoral College without needing to amend the Constitution.

Until enough states join in, this National Popular Vote compact wouldn’t take effect but… we’re closer to that by now– 15 states and the District of Columbia have already signed on, totaling 196 electoral votes of the needed 270.

Activating the National Popular Vote compact would reshape our democracy for the better because not only would it ensure that the person who actually got more votes win the presidency, but it would also force candidates to spend time with voters in all 50 states, instead of just a few swing states.

While the corona virus is the current problem, we should not forget that the American people are still supreme when it comes to the election… whether it be through popular votes or through electoral votes!

 

 

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.)

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