Politics

Jamie Raskin: electoral college is a ‘danger to the American people’


Recent reforms to the laws governing the counting of electoral college votes for presidential races are “not remotely sufficient” to prevent another attack like the one carried out by Donald Trump supporters at the Capitol on January 6, a member of the congressional committee which investigated the uprising has warned.

In an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, the Maryland House representative Jamie Raskin on Sunday renewed calls echoed by others – especially in the Democratic party to which he belongs – to let a popular vote determine the holder of the Oval Office.

“We should elect the president the way we elect governors, senators, mayors, representatives, everybody else – whoever gets the most votes wins,” Raskin said. “We spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year exporting American democracy to other countries, and the one thing they never come back to us with is the idea that, ‘Oh, that electoral college that you have, that’s so great, we think we will adopt that too’.”

After Trump served one term and lost the Oval Office to Joe Biden in 2020, he pressured his vice-president Mike Pence to use his ceremonial role as president of the session where both the Senate and House of Representatives met to certify the outcome of the race and interfere with the counting of the electoral college votes.

Pence refused, as supporters of the defeated Trump stormed the Capitol and threatened to hang the vice-president on the day of that joint congressional session in early 2021. The unsuccessful attack was linked to nine deaths, including the suicides of traumatized law enforcement officers who ultimately restored order.

Raskin was one of nine House representatives – including seven Democrats – who served on a panel investigating the January 6 uprising.

The committee recently released an 845-page report drawing from more than 1,000 interviews and 10 public hearings that, among other findings, concluded Trump provoked the Capitol attack by purposely disseminating false allegations of fraud pertaining to his defeat as part of a plot to overturn his loss. Committee members also recommended that federal prosecutors file criminal charges against Trump and certain associates of his.

Hundreds of Trump’s supporters who participated in the Capitol attack have been charged, with many already convicted.

Raskin said the US insistence on determining presidential winners through the electoral college facilitated the attempt by Trump supporters to keep him in power.

“There are so many curving byways and nooks and crannies in the electoral college that there are opportunities for a lot of strategic mischief,” Raskin told Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan, adding that the institutions which prevented the Trump-fueled Capitol attack “just barely” did so.

As part of a government spending package passed Friday, Congress updated existing federal election laws to clarify that the vice-president’s role in the proceedings to certify the results of a race is just ceremonial and merely to count electoral votes. It also introduced a requirement for 20% of the members of both the House and Senate to object to a state’s electoral college vote outcome when it had previously taken just one legislator from each congressional chamber to do so.

Raskin on Sunday said those corrective measures are “necessary” yet “not remotely sufficient” because they don’t solve “the fundamental problem” of the electoral college vote, which in 2000 and 2016 allowed both George W Bush and Trump to win the presidency despite clear defeats in the popular vote.

Another House Democrat – Dan Goldman of New York – went on MSNBC’s the Sunday show and made a similar point, saying that US lawmakers “need to be thinking about ways that we can preserve and protect our democracy that lasts generations”.

Many Americans are taught in their high school civics classes that the electoral college prevents the handful of most populated areas in the US from determining the presidential winner because more voters live there than in the rest of the country combined.

States generally determine their presidential electoral vote winner by the popular vote.

But most give 100% of their electoral vote allotment to the winner of the popular vote even if the outcome is razor-thin. Critics say that, as a result, votes for the losing candidate end up not counting in any meaningful way, allowing for situations where the president is supported only by a minority of the populace.

Meanwhile, such scenarios are preceded by a convoluted process that most people don’t understand and whose integrity can be assailed in the court of public opinion by partisans with agendas. That happened ahead of the Capitol attack even though Trump lost both the popular and electoral college votes to Biden handily.

“I think,” Raskin said, “that the electoral college … has become a danger not just to democracy, but to the American people.”



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