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Reasonable but wrong: The Washington Post’s call for abolishing the Electoral College

Sean Parnell - Nov 17, 2020

A recent Washington Post editorial is wrongheaded, but at least its authors were responsible enough to recognize that it’s no simple and easy task to radically upend the way our nation elects its president.

Normally I would come to bury, not praise, an editorial that calls for abolishing the Electoral College. But as I read Monday’s Washington Post editorial I couldn’t help but notice that, while generally wrongheaded, it was wrongheaded in a way that suggests its authors aren’t simply latching on to a handful of empty slogans while giving short shrift to serious dangers and complications.

Consider the following paragraph:

We write this with full awareness of the challenges of adopting a new system, with respect for many of the people who continue to argue against a switch, and with awareness that any change may have unintended consequences. Right now, our presidential elections are conducted by 51 separate authorities, each with its own rules on registration, mail-in balloting and more. Each state counts its own ballots, and each decides when recounts are needed. All of that would have to change if the president were chosen based on the national vote count.

This is a remarkably honest assessment, and a welcome break from those who assert that there would be no unintended consequences and that no fundamental changes would be necessary to accomplish the aim of direct election of the president (in case that’s too subtle, I am talking here about advocates for the National Popular Vote interstate compact).

The piece also recognizes that “direct election might encourage regionalism or third parties at the extremes of political discourse” and notes that “the constitutional amendment that would be required isn’t about to happen.” True.

One of the most interesting things about the editorial is what is left out – the National Popular Vote interstate compact doesn’t merit even a mention. I won’t try to read the authors’ minds, but wonder if they also see what we at Save Our States do: that the compact is, among other things, sloppy and poorly crafted because it ignores the very real risks and serious problems created by abolishing the Electoral College?

As I noted at the beginning, the Washington Post editorial is wrongheaded, but at least its authors were responsible enough to recognize that it’s no simple and easy task to radically upend the way our nation elects its president. For that, the authors well deserve this faint praise.