The Electoral College – Keep It or Dump It? A Public Discussion

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Brightwood Branch Library, 359 Plainfield St., Springfield

Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election marked the second time in 16 years that the winner of the popular vote has lost the election in the Electoral College. This disconnect between winning the vote of the nation’s electors and winning the vote of the nation’s people has prompted renewed calls to abolish the Electoral College.

All 50 states and every other democracy in the world directly elects its leaders by popular vote. So, keep the Electoral College or dump it? The League of Women Voters/Springfield and the Springfield City Library bring together a panel in a free public forum to explore this important question Tuesday, Feb. 7, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Brightwood Branch Library, 359 Plainfield St., Springfield.

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Doing a deep dive into the pros and cons of our unique American institution will be State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), who has called upon the state Senate to petition Congress to abolish the Electoral College, and political scientists Amel Ahmed and Jesse Rhodes from UMass Amherst, and Adam Hilton from Mount Holyoke College.

“The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the direct-popular-vote method for electing the President and Vice-President is essential to representative government,” says panel organizer Linda Matys O’Connell, convener of the League of Women Voters/Springfield. “We also believe people need real information to make good decisions about our government, so we are eager for an in-depth airing of the issues surrounding the Electoral College with our thoughtful panelists.”

Senator Lesser also hopes to spur an exchange of ideas: “Given the importance of empowering voters to believe every vote counts in a presidential election, the repeal of the Electoral College merits a thorough discussion and examination. My hope is that this Resolution contributes to such a discussion,” he said in a statement when he filed his Senate resolution.

To kick off Tuesday’s discussion, Professor Rhodes will lay groundwork and provide context by presenting a short history of the origin and functioning of the Electoral College, and Senator Lesser will present his rationale for calling for its abolishment.

Professor Ahmed, will speak in its defense. She argued recently in the journal “The American Prospect”: “While the disconnect between the electoral and popular votes may be cause for alarm, abolishing the Electoral College poses even greater dangers, particularly for liberals. . . . Indeed, the Electoral College is one of the greatest guarantees our system delivers to ensure that minority interests are represented in the office of the presidency.”

Mount Holyoke’s Hilton notes that one of his students described the hybrid American presidential election system as a “Frankensystem.” While he acknowledges that the system is “needlessly complicated, and operates in a way now that it was not designed to do,” he will focus on the pitfalls of substituting what he calls “technical solutions” like Electoral College reform for solutions to social-political problems.

“I think the grievances of the citizens are something we have to think really carefully about—what kinds of political arrangements, compromises, and deep fundamental changes need to happen for those grievances to be addressed in a positive way,” he said in an interview with Mount Holyoke’s Keely Savoie.

About the panelists

Jesse Rhodes is an associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst. His major areas of scholarly interest are social policy, voting rights policy, economic inequality and political behavior.

Amel Ahmed is an associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst. Her main area of specialization is democratic studies particularly the politics of institutional choice in the process of democratization.

Adam Hilton is a visiting instructor of political science at Mount Holyoke College. He focuses on electoral history and practice.

State Sen. Eric Lesser is co-chair of the Senate’s Millennial Engagement Initiative. He represents parts of Springfield and Chicopee, and East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Wilbraham, Belchertown and Granby.

About the LWV/Springfield
The League of Women Voters is a political organization that encourages informed and active citizen participation in government with the goal of helping the people access their power to shape better communities. It does not support candidates or parties. The LWV/Springfield is a unit of the Northampton Area LWV.

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