Keep the College, dump the Electors
Good morning everyone, including federal employees in line for the lame-duck express.
I’ll get to my main point in a bit, but first some good news to put you in the Christmas spirit.
President Trump has made Christmas Eve a federal holiday. He gave every federal employee a whole paid day off next week. Presidents Scrooge McClinton and Grinch Obama also had Friday Christmases during their terms, but only gave a half day.
No matter, the USPS will be working Christmas Eve, with lots of overtime. The harrowed Postal Service admitted they have more than 14,000 workers out due to COVID-19, along with 33 percent more volume than 2019.
The uptick in cases—USPS has seen positive tests skyrocket by 43% in the last month—comes at a difficult time for the mailing agency, which always sees mail and package volume soar in December. Due to restrictions and fears related to the pandemic, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he expects record volume this season and increases of more than one-third compared to 2019. The Postal Service’s private sector competitors are overrun, DeJoy added, meaning USPS will get additional overflow.
This means, folks, that your last-minute package to grandma and grandpa may take a few extra days, and not make it there by Christmas. It also means that some “checks in the mail” might be a little longer in the mail. But, be kind, okay? The elves at the post office are going to try their hardest, so make sure you give them credit, and maybe give your carrier a box of candy or a gift card.
Check out David Thornton’s Christmas carol countdown, from now until the Day Itself.
I have a piece over at The First about Mitch McConnell is now the boss of Donald Trump.
Now to my main point, and I promise I’ll keep it short.
There used to be a job called a “scrivener.” That was a person who could read and write, and wrote letters to courts and penned legal documents. The job is the predecessor for notaries, but is really no longer necessary as people have many other ways to get legal documents completed.
Other jobs we no longer need include the town crier, the military drummer (and bugler), and the job my dad did for 40 years, the tool and die maker. The fact that there are still drummers, buglers and tool and die makers in the world doesn’t make those professions any less anachronistic.
The job of an Elector in the Electoral College is to put one’s name forth to vote for a specific candidate who is running for President of the United States. Then when you, the Elector are voted for by a majority of a state’s voters, or are selected by that state’s legislators, or certified by the state’s secretary of state and governor, depending on which state and laws we’re talking about, you show up on the day for Electors to vote, and do the thing you were elected to do.
In the days when news traveled at the speed of horse, this might make sense, as people needed to know that the results they received were the actual outcome of the election. Someone had to go to the state capitol and ensure all documents were correctly completed and the votes were right, etc. But today, the job of Elector is nothing more than a poobah.
Imagine that there was a job for someone whose only duty was to deliver a traffic ticket that a police officer wrote. You’d get stopped, the officer would write the ticket, and you’d both sit in your cars until the ticket-deliverer showed up to hand it to you and certify that you received it. That would be pretty stupid, and that’s what Electors, in essence, do.
The Electoral College is an excellent idea. Our republic is founded on the idea that democracy, in pure form, is like sitting in a pressurized 100% oxygen vessel. It’s great until there’s a spark, and then everything, including things that should not burn, burns. As Mrs. Banks sung in “Mary Poppins,”
We're clearly soldiers in petticoats
And dauntless crusaders for women's votes
Though we adore men individually
We agree that as a group they're rather stupid
This point applies more generally to everyone. In groups, we’re rather stupid. American democracy is very limited and tempered. Our Bill of Rights clips the wings of pure democracy in very serious ways by laying out things the government can’t do without a massive super super-majority. Even then, we do things like Prohibition, because we are stupid and feel that moral superiority must be imposed by the majority upon the heathen unbelieving minority.
The whole purpose of the Electoral College is to put a massive thumb on the scale of democracy to shield us from our own stupidity. But the point of the Elector is to be a scrivener, and that job is long dead.
Many Democrats love the Electoral College when the thumb is on their side of the scale. Republicans love it when Democrats want to abolish it. That means it’s doing its job.
However, in this case, where there are people involved, who can be rather stupid in groups, we should eliminate the middleman, let the results speak for themselves, and tabulate based on results.
I’d be in favor of a Constitutional amendment to reform our national voting process. We should have a national voting system, with equal and uniform early voting, mail-in voting, and state tabulations. We should not deal with this mess from 2020 again. We should dump the Electors and all the scrivener work of certifications at the state level. Let the states run state elections but let the federal government run the national one.
However, we need to keep the Electoral College and the way states have power to elect a president. Keep the votes, lose the Electors. If we don’t do this, we’re going to see the Electoral College itself dumped at some point in favor of stupidity. Or we’re going to see states enter a pact to declare their Electors based on the national popular vote, which will kill the Electoral College without a Constitutional amendment.
Let’s not do stupid things like sit in pure oxygen with a book of matches. It’s better to just reform the voting system and keep the Electoral College, and dump the Electors than to burn everything down.
Elizabeth Warren and I’m done.