Hold Politicians Accountable to Voters
Electing Representatives Who Will Be Responsible to the Voters That Put Them in Office Is Fundamental to Democracy. But Reforms Are Needed to Protect Voters’ Choices from Being Over Ridden by Powerful Forces Our Founders Couldn’t Have Foreseen
Here are some specifics:
- Several archaic pieces of legislation – including the 1887 Electoral Count Act –potentially allow members of Congress to override Presidential election results. REN is working with a task force of lawyers and academics to recommend revisions to some of these obsolete but dangerous laws.
- Some state legislatures are creating laws – which REN opposes- that give state legislatures power to over ride elections results
- Large private donors and Political Action Committees (PAC’s) pour ever increasing – and secretive–dollars into campaigns for candidates, referenda and regulations to influence legislation in favor of special interests – not necessarily the general welfare. REN is pessimistic about the prospects for Constitutional amendments to overturn Citizen’s United. However, REN encourages reforms that could help by
- Increasing transparency of who’s giving what to whom
- Providing for public funding of campaigns for candidates who refuse large donations and PAC money
- Voting for candidates that don’t take PAC money
- Much of the spending noted above supports misleading information about candidates and issues – making it impossible for voters to make informed choices. REN is investigating ways to improve the growth in misinformation.
- The Electoral College system can override the results of the popular vote in Presidential elections. A number of states have signed up for the National Popular Vote Compact in which they agree to give their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. The prospects for this agreement becoming law are limited. Neither REN nor other organizations we know of have found a realistic way to get around the Electoral College – but we continue to look for solutions.
Support the Non Partisan Academic Task Force on Electoral Reform
18th Century Political Scientists provided the basis for the American Constitution. 21st Century Political Scientists and Legal Scholars can craft better quality, more durable legislation than what political hacks did during the 19th Century. We strongly support the work of a Nonpartisan Academics Task Force for Electoral Reform that was announced publicly at our June 9, 2021 Zoom event.
This task force does not begin its work with pre-conceived notions about the precise path reform should take. The goal, instead, is a full exploration of alternative ideas, grounded in the best available empirical insight, after which the task force will issue a series of recommendations.
The Non Partisan Academic Task Force on Electoral Reform intends to focus our work on the following areas, which we expand upon below:
- The electoral system for choosing members of congress and state legislators and officials;
- Primary elections;
- The presidential nomination process; the rules governing a disputed presidential election [Goal accomplished by the Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022];
- Gerrymandering of electoral districts; and
- Campaign finance.
Electoral College–Should it be Dismantled?
Many trying to reform the U.S. political system are focusing on dismantling the Electoral College and seeking the election of the President by direct popular vote. The Electoral College was written into the Constitution and modified by the 12th Amendment in order as a compromise between having Congress and the voters elect the President and the Vice President.
There are currently two issues with the Electoral College. It gives added power to smaller states, which somewhat disenfranchises voters in larger states. Its winner-take-all nature can create imbalances, because the victor receives the same number of Electoral Votes whether that candidate wins by 5,000 or 5,000,000 popular votes. In practice, this has come to mean that the Electoral College discriminates against states with major urban and minority populations. Given current demographic trends, it is likely the results in two of the past five elections, where the Democrats won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote will continue to reoccur.
There are excellent reasons for changing the Electoral College. However, we believe there is no chance of a Constitutional Amendment being passed and that the compact, proposed primarily by Democratic states, has little chance of passing and could lead to a potential constitutional crisis. We do not recommend either of these alternatives at this time. We do believe there is an opportunity for more states to follow the lead of Nebraska and Maine and adopt a system that is fairer than winner-take-all. While there is currently little impetus for states do to this, we believe it is an alternative that would solve many of the current issues and should be considered.
See Our Work and Resources for More Information
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