Editor’s note: We’re resharing this 2016 article in time for Thanksgiving, where political topics and discussion about our democracy are bound to come up. Here are some talking points to keep chatter informative and friendly.
If you need a break from football and Uncle Bill’s prognostications about what a Trump administration will bring, why not change the subject and talk about the state of the democratic system instead?
To get you going, here are some quotes, old and new, to pass around the table with the cranberry sauce—wisdom from folks who’ve thought a little bit about the Electoral College. (It’s not just Al Gore either!)
From John Grisham to Stephen Colbert, it’s something already being discussed more than usual, of course. Some think the Electoral College is just fine as it is. A few hold out hope that electors will diverge from the usual protocol and prevent a Trump presidency. Others want to do what Woody Harrelson suggests (see below) and kick the Electoral College system to the curb.
And to that end, a state-by-state effort is underway to commit electors to the national popular vote winner. As FairVote’s Rob Richie explains, the National Popular Vote Compact would keep the Electoral College but transform what it does, so that a national popular vote determines the presidency—without a Constitutional amendment. (Ten states and DC have already passed legislation to sign on.)
We hope your conversations are lively this Turkey Day (See all the quotes below):
Gov. Scott Walker, R, Wisconsin, September 1, 2015:
The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are.
Barbara Boxer, November 15, 2016:
In 2012, Donald Trump tweeted, “The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”I couldn’t agree more. One person, one vote! This is the only office in the land where you can get more votes and still lose the presidency. The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts.
Donald Trump, November 13, 2016:
I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win. There’s a reason for doing this because it brings all the states into play.
Note: Trump tweeted on November 15 that the “Electoral College is actually genius.”
Hillary Clinton, November 10, 2000:
We are a very different country than we were 200 years ago. I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it’s time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president. I hope no one is ever in doubt again about whether their vote counts.
John Grisham, November 17, 2016
What I’d love to do is just write, a simple law, that would ban—that would ban the Electoral College because it’s outdated and serves no useful purpose. Why not just the person with the most votes win the election? Why not let every vote count?
If you are a Republican voting in DC or Massachusetts, your vote does not count. If you’re a Democrat voting in Utah, your vote is not going to count. Whoever wins the state gets all the votes.
Bernie Sanders, November 14, 2016:
This campaign revolved around 15 states of the country, right? Battleground states. My state of Vermont is a strong Democratic state; no one paid attention. Wyoming is a Republican state; nobody paid attention to Wyoming. Is that a good way?
Eric Holder, November 12, 2016:
It’s time to abolish the Electoral College.
Newt Gingrich, January 14, 2014:
Unfortunately, the current system for electing presidents does not reflect this tremendous diversity. The winner-take-all-method of allotting electoral votes means candidates must focus their efforts on just a handful of closely divided states. This left Americans in 38 states absent from some very important debates about the future of our country.
[A national popular vote] has the potential…to make sure all Americans have a voice in their future.
America would be better served with a presidential election process that treated citizens across the country equally.
Stephen Colbert, November 9, 2016:
If your kid asks, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’ there’s finally an answer: the Electoral College.
And so most states get ignored, most of rural America gets ignored. Most small states get ignored. Most big states get ignored. Most of us get ignored.
And that really has ramifications on how they campaign, what they talk about, who they think matters, what they do as president when they’re directing federal grants.
The National Popular Vote plan keeps the Electoral College. It just transforms what it does, so a popular vote determines the presidency, the most votes in all 50 states and DC.
I’ve seen how these states are written off and ignored, and people are effectively disenfranchised in the presidential race. And I really do now think it is time to change that. I think our country would be stronger and better if it went according to the popular vote.
Woody Harrelson, November 16, 2016:
I do feel, in a true democracy, if you win the popular vote, as did Al Gore back in 2000, you should be the president. We should kick this Electoral College to the curb. An antiquated, bullsh*t system, you know?
founding fathers created the electoral college so in case the ‘rifraf’ voted in a baffoon, the electoral guys could fix it .. guess what ..doesn’t work..
I am WEARY of never having my vote count.. Im educated smart wise and totally ignored.