Viable Campaign Underway to Nullify America's Undemocratic Electoral College

Posted Nov. 16, 2016

MP3 Interview with Chris Pearson, Vermont state representative and board member of National Popular Vote, conducted by Scott Harris


In the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. election, millions of Americans were is a state of shock given that most public opinion polls had predicted a solid win for former first lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Although Clinton had won more votes nationwide, New York real estate billionaire Donald Trump won the presidency through his victory in the archaic system known as the Electoral College.

Trump’s racist, xenophobic and misogynist campaign rhetoric fed widespread anger and fear of the election outcome. Almost immediately, protesters filled the streets of cities and towns across the nation, where tens of thousands of people carried signs and shouted the slogan, “Trump is not my President.” Among the actions taken by anti-Trump activists was signing onto a petition demanding that electors of the Electoral College cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton when they meet on Dec. 19, asserting that Trump is “unfit to serve,” and Clinton won the popular vote. More than four million signatures had been collected on the petition as of Nov. 15.

Many historians and political observers say the effort to convince electors to defy the conventional practice of casting Electoral College ballots corresponding to winning candidates of each state has little chance of success. However, another parallel campaign to nullify the Electoral College in favor of honoring the popular vote in future elections appears to be viable. The bipartisan National Popular Vote is pursuing a strategy to pass legislation in states that would pledge their electors to the candidate who wins the most votes nationwide. The system would be activated once legislation is adopted by enough states constituting the necessary 270 electoral votes a candidate must attain. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Vermont state Rep. Chris Pearson, a board member of National Popular Vote, who explains the campaign’s goals and why he supports the effort.

CHRIS PEARSON: National Popular Vote is a state-based effort to sometimes we say, "fix" the Electoral College. And the Electoral College is part of the Constitution, so some people think, well, what role does [the] "state" have. And in fact, states have a very important role. That's because Connecticut has Electors, but the state legislature in Connecticut, as an example and in every state, dictates how those electors behave. Now you've passed the winner-take-all rule in Connecticut and that's the state laws that directs in electors in virtually every state, but not all of them. So the winner-take-all rule just simply says, "When Hillary gets more popular votes in Connecticut than Donald Trump, she gets all of your electors." And that's the law in just about the whole country and that is actually the root of our challenge where we have winners who don't necessarily get the most votes in the country. And I would argue as important as that challenge to the way we think of elections, is the fact that even if you look over the last three months, two-thirds of the whole campaign, a very rigorous and some might say, tiring election for our country, two-thirds of the whole election took place in six states. And over 90 percent of the election took place in just 12 states. That's really damaging to our democratic process.

So we have a lot of challenges with the way the Electoral College works today. National Popular Vote is taking advantage of the state power to award their own electors and when our bill passes enough states, we'll still have the Electoral College, but it will just simply ratify the candidate that gets the most popular votes in the whole country. And once we pass our bill in enough states, you have a one-person, one-vote. You'll have every voter in every state mattering in every presidential election. And, you will guarantee that the candidate that gets the most popular votes in the country goes to the White House.

All three of those are basic principles in the way that we run elections. That's how I won office. I got more votes than my opponent. And that's how we think of the Democratic process. But of course, that's not always the case in the presidential election.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Chris, review for our audience the states that have thus far passed the national popular vote legislation.

CHRIS PEARSON: Well, Maryland was first, quickly joined by New Jersey. In New England, we have Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont on board. New York state's there. Illinois, Washington, California, Hawaii, as a matter of fact, and then the District of Columbia. So those are the 11 – well it's not quite fair to say 11 states – 11 jurisdictions when you include the District of Columbia. Those states total have 165 electors. The whole agreement, our bill does not take effect until more states come on board, so that together, these states hold the majority of the electors. 270 electors is the trigger that we need to reach. So if you think of it this way - so far, there's 11 states; they're pooling their electors together. It's not a big enough pool yet to elect the president. A week ago, Vermont, even though we passed this we're using the winner-take-all rule until the National Popular Vote takes effect.

When more states come on board so that the states who've passed the bill hold 270 electors or more – that's a majority - then the whole thing goes into effect. And it doesn't matter which states pass the bill. You simply run a campaign, you add up the popular votes in all 50 states, and the candidate that gets the most popular votes in the country is going to be guaranteed this block of at least 270 electors, and therefore, they go to the White House.

BETWEEN THE LINES: How can citizens become involved in the National Popular Vote campaign – either in their own states or to support your effort nationally state by state? Because, certainly, with the results of the 2016 election, combined with the 2000 election where the presidential candidate with less votes than their opponent, nevertheless won the White House, sticks in people's craw as a real injustice – provides a real urgent sense that we have to fix our Democratic system which, certainly with the Electoral College in place in these two elections, is not democratic at all.

CHRIS PEARSON: Yeah, we need people's help. So the best way to do it is to visit and the most simple way to help is click on the write your legislator button, just put in your address and off goes a letter that you can edit and make sure feels good to you. We are increasingly building a grassroots campaign to help legislators push this across the finish line. And I want to just say again, so that listeners know, we are 60 percent of the way there. We've passed this in 11 states. We need to pass it in a handful more states and we should be able to do this in time for the 2020 election. Let's make 2016 the last election where we run a campaign effectively in six states and where we don't treat every vote equal and we leave so many states out there totally being taken for granted.

For more information, visit National Popular Vote at and

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