In his opinion of Jan. 24, Joseph J. Ellis invited dialog on electoral reform. There were many insightful letters in response. However, there is one approach that has not yet been seen.
The question he posed was should we honor state sovereignty inherent in the Electoral College, or should our president be elected by direct popular vote? One answer to that question is yes, we should. Let’s require our president to win both the electoral college and the popular vote.
Suppose for just a moment that the two major parties present us with two deeply flawed presidential candidates. Many voters may think they have been asked to make the distasteful choice between the worst thing that can happen to America, and the second-worst thing for our nation. Of course, which candidate is first-worst or second-worst depends upon the individual voter’s political stance at the time.
Then suppose this election ends with one candidate winning the Electoral College while the other wins the popular vote.
So now, according to the framers of the Constitution, the Electoral College winner takes the keys to the White House while the other candidate, well, doesn’t.
But what about the voters, the electorate, the We the People? How satisfied are they when there is no definitive winner? It wouldn’t be too surprising to find they are deeply divided. Under this scenario, We the People turn into Us and Them for the next four years. The consequences of a polarized nation are dismal.
Since there is no clear winner, the best outcome for an election such as this would be to toss the results and start over with two new candidates. Given the level of technology we have today, it would be possible to hold a second election during the time between early November and inauguration day, the next Jan. 20.
The framers were great advocates of checks and balances, and so far, this has served us quite well.
By requiring our president to win both the Electoral College and the popular vote, we have the checks and balances of state sovereignty and a direct popular election working for us.
Having a clear-cut winner would hopefully give us a president more of us could rally around. The framers would have likely agreed with this approach, had they known of our ability to declare a presidential election winner virtually overnight.