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Making Our Voices Heard Making Our Votes Count
733 15th Street, N.W., Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005
202/347-3020, fax: 202/347-2522
Website: http://www.dcwatch.com/lwvdc, E-mail: LWVDC@aol.com
Brown Bag Dialogue
Health Forum to Seek Healthier Lives for DC Residents
National Program Planning
Nominating Committee Report: Your Talents Are Needed!
Congressional Representation: DC Voting Rights Committee
DC Voting Rights Petition Published in the Congressional Record
Voter Services: Planning for League Activities for the Remaining 2004 Election
Results of the First Presidential Primary
Gathering All the Votes
Good News from LWVUS
LWVUS Sponsors New On-Line Discussion List
|Children at Risk
Committee: Juvenile Justice
International Relations Committee
NCA News & Notes
Citizen Summit III: Neighborhood Follow-Up Meetings Scheduled
Community Forum Presents: Council of Great City Schools Report
Welcome New Members
Save the Date
The Electoral College and Its Alternatives: Excerpts from a Dialogue between John Fortner and John Anderson on January 15, 2004
The first Presidential Primary in the nation took place on January 13, with more than 16% of our registered voters turning out to vote for Democratic and Statehood Green Party candidates. This turnout does not break records, perhaps because it was nonbinding for the Democratic Party, but the timing as the FIRST in the nation was a change from the practice of holding it in May. For a review of the results of that election, see the report in this Voter.
On January 15, Chairman of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, joined us to moderate our highly anticipated League Dialogue on The Electoral College and Its Alternatives, which took place at the Sumner School with John Anderson and John Fortier leading the discussion. Upon request, Chairman Wilson filled us in as to what happened from the point of view of the elections workers the night before. In reply to the criticism by media as to the late hour when results were finally announced, he said he would have liked to be able to announce the results early, but he'd rather they were correct than early.
My personal great delight in that election was the chance to use the new touch-screen machine, which is intended to aid handicapped persons vote. Clearly explained by the poll-workers, it worked like a dream, and promptly verified my vote. Having read many background papers provided by the LWVUS on electronic security and back-ups, I felt no need for a piece of paper to add to my clutter, although a paper record was available for those who requested it. By the way, we D.C. Leaguers are very appreciative of the quality and integrity of the work of our Board of Elections and Ethics, so we send particular appreciation to Chairman Wilson for his part in making our Dialogue a success.
We also thank John Anderson and John Fortier, who provided a wide-ranging professional review of our country's experiences with electoral systems. If you want to express special thanks to Sheila Keeny and her committee for planning and organizing this event, do so by attending Units the third week of February to discuss and reach agreement about the proposed new LWVUS position on Presidential Selection. Frances Gemmill President
Bring your own lunch.
A presentation by the DC Primary Care Association. See related article on this page. For more information contact Anna Marsh (554-7719), Brown Bag Coordinator
HEALTH FORUM TO SEEK HEALTHIER LIVES FOR DC RESIDENTS
On Wednesday January 28, the DC Primary Care Association conducted a "Community Forum: Medical Homes DC". The following DC officials spoke: Mr. Robert Bobb, DC City Administrator, Councilmembers Fenty, Evans, Chavous and Catania, and Mr. Stanley Jackson, Dept of Housing and Community Development. In addition, Donna Christianson, Chairman of the Health Brain Trust for the Congressional Black Caucus, will add to the discussion of how Medical Homes DC will make life healthier for DC residents, and how we can help make it happen. League members will have the opportunity to learn more about Medical Homes DC at the February 23 `d Brown Bag Dialogue (See above for announcement of time and location.) Frances Gemmill
February Units to Examine Proposed Position Update: Election of the President/Presidential Selection
The following statement of position, now entitled Selection of the President, has been proposed by the LWVUS Task Force charged with reviewing our present position on Election of the President. Note that the original position remains as adopted in 1970 and amended in 1982, while two new sentences, shown here in italics, have been added:
Members are urged to come to their Unit Meetings in February to review and act on the proposed update. Bring to the Unit Meeting your January-February issue of the National Voter, which will contain the concurrence form - we will fill them out at that time. If the LWVUS Board determines that the update fails to receive adequate concurrence from the members, the existing position will remain "intact". The Board will then decide what to recommend to Convention 2004 on how to handle the position.
The LWVDC Committee responsible for the update in our League decided to focus on one major question: Does League opposition to the Electoral College still have strong member support? Do we still call for direct election of the President? As an introduction to the issues raised by the position, LWVDC sponsored a General Meeting on January 15, attended by some sixty League members and guests. John Anderson of the Center for Voting and Democracy and John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute discussed The Electoral College and Its Alternatives. A summary of their presentations is enclosed with this DC Voter.
The Unit meetings will provide an opportunity to go over the complex issues raised, to discuss the two new sentences, and to fill out the concurrence forms with a simple vote up or down.. Members who cannot attend should fill out the concurrence form and send it back to LWVUS, by March 1 if by mail, by March 4 if on line (see article for instructions). All members will want to consult the background material published in the January-February 2004 issue of the National Voter, as well as the May-June and SeptemberOctober 2003 National Voter. (See the LWVUS website Iwv.org for the position update material). Monthly articles in recent the DC Voters have suggested other reading while the January issue enclosed a fact sheet on the Electoral College based upon the recent LWVUS publication, Choosing the President, 2004. This you may wish to consult and bring with you to the meeting.
National Program Planning - Look for the results of our January Unit Meetings in the March DC Voter. Sheila Keeny (966-1692), 3rd Vice President - National Program
NOMINATING COMMITTEE REPORT: Your talents are needed!
Your talents are needed! Please feel free to nominate yourself or others to a DC League board position, or just make an informal suggestion. Contact the committee: Chris Matthews (ChrisMatt@igc.org 269-3890), Mary Rodgers (244-1933), Joan Domike (email@example.com 966-3865), Sheila Willet (firstname.lastname@example.org 588-1734) or Grace Malakoff (email@example.com 387-7540). The nomination slate for member approval at the April 22nd LWVDC Annual Meeting will be included in the March DC Voter. Chris Matthews, Chair
CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATION: DC Voting Rights Committee
Ray Browne, Shadow Representative for DC, Spoke At January Meeting
The meeting was called to order at 6:30 PM in the Cleveland Park Public Library. After announcements the chair introduced Ray Browne, Shadow Representative for DC in his second term, who is a native of Washington, a former ANC member, and a Democratic party activist, spoke before the DC Voting Rights Committee on January 6th. Sixteen members attended.
Representative Browne described the Statehood Commission funding bill, which has been introduced in City Council by Councilman Mendelson. Because funding for the three shadow positions has been denied by the City Council, they have had to raise funds to support their offices and work. Opinions differ as to the actual prohibition by Congress of using locally raised tax revenue to work for voting representation for DC. The current, 2.004, appropriation bill in the Senate specifically would allow use of local but not federal tax dollars. Mendelson's bill will permit the Mayor to appoint five and the City Council four members to a non-profit commission, which will distribute funds equally to the three shadow officials. The funds cannot be used for salaries for the shadow reps but for supplies, postage, travel, and even staff salaries to advocate for our voting rights. The Commission will be regulated by the Office of Campaign Finance.
Shadow Representative Browne's main remarks were about the bill purportedly to be introduced during the new session of the 108th Congress by Representative Tom Davis. To date no one has acknowledged seeing the bill. Mr. Davis said on a radio show that he would hold hearings this spring. Mr. Browne believes that DC will be granted a voting representative in the House of Representatives. To balance that probable Democratic vote Utah will be given an additional representative, probably Republican. After the 2010 census DC would retain a seat, but the total number of Representatives would revert to 435: two current spots would be lost. The bill would be simple legislation, not a Constitutional amendment: court challenges would be almost certain.
Mr. Browne believes the chances of passage are very good: Mr. Davis is chair of the committee; he is very powerful in the Republican party; many members are in his debt from the 2002 election, when he was chair of Congressional reelection committee. He would probably not introduce a bill until he thought he had the votes to pass it and assurance that the administration would sign it. Even were it not to pass, Mr. Browne is pleased since it puts DC in the best position in 25 years. Since the specifics of the bill are not known, whether the DC representative would be restricted to the District or whether it might be part of a 9th Congressional district for Maryland is not clear.
In the work he has done advocating for DC voting rights over the past few years Mr. Browne has proclamations from Baltimore and Prince Georges County along with over a dozen other municipalities. He has approached the two Maryland governments and received their support for a DC only requirement for the representative.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 10th at 6:30 pm at the Cleveland Park Library, corner of McComb St & Connecticut Ave., NW. We hope to hear from Tim Cooper about the work he has done for 10 years at international bodies to argue for Congressional voting rights. Call the office to confirm who the speaker will be. The meetings are open to one and all. For additional information call Kathy Schmidt. Kathy Schmidt (237-5550) Chair
DC Voting Rights Petition Published in the Congressional Record
Thanks to Congresswomen Eleanor Holmes Norton, the "District of Columbia Voting Rights Petition to Congress" and the names of nearly 1000 District Residents who signed it was published in the Congressional Record. Delegate Norton stated: "Full democracy and voting rights for the District of Columbia residents have been my chief goals since I was first elected to Congress." DC League member Joseph Grano has furthered the goal through this petition. Credit is also due to DC League members Nelson Rimensnyder and Lisa Nickerson who assisted in the petition drive.
VOTER SERVICES: Planning for League Activities for the Remaining 2004 Election
League members met at the Wilson Building on a very cold Saturday, January 17, to define the areas of election activity the League will concentrate its efforts for the September primary and November General Election. These activities are divided into three areas:
1. Voter Registration
2. Voter Education
League members are encouraged to select one or more of the above activities to participate in. Contact the Voter Services Co-chairs to volunteer or for additional information. Elinor Hart (387-2966) & Judy Smith (882-3021), Co-chairs
RESULTS OF THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY
Following are the (unofficial) results of the January 13 Primary in the District of Columbia, the first Presidential Preference Primary in the nation this year, as reported by the Board of Elections and Ethics. This election was non-binding for Democratic Party Delegates, and no candidates for the Republican Party participated. Final results will be rendered after the count of special ballots and made available on the DC Board of Elections and Ethics web site ( www.dcboee.org).
RESULTS OF BALLOTS CAST
More than 43,000 votes were cast in the nation's first Presidential Primary election. 122 of those votes came from the DC Jail. This is thanks to the hard work of CURE, Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants. Pre-trial detainees and those serving misdemeanors are eligible to vote. CURE worked with the DC Board of Elections and Ethics and the staff of the DC Jail to get voter registration forms and absentee ballots to the eligible inmates. CURE volunteers, accompanied by cellblock staff, distributed a "Fair Way to Vote in Jail" fact sheet. Volunteers registered the inmates, distributed the absentee ballots; then returned immediately before the election to collect them.
"The entire process to get BOEE backing, permission to carry it out, and the actual visits took over a year," stated Pauline Sullivan, CURE Co-Director. She continued, "...After the recent smuggling of a gun into the jail, the Department of Corrections initially denied access. Other obstacles included determining which of the inmates qualified, verifying their DC residence, age, competency, and correct completion of the registration forms."
Of the 600,000 inmates in jails throughout the country, 350,000 are there as pre-trial detainees. Of the remaining 250,000, a substantial number are serving misdemeanors, and could thus actually vote in the general election in November." We commend CURE for its dedication! Chris Matthews
LEAGUE SPONSORS TELEVISED CANDIDATE DEBATE: LWVUS has announced that it will sponsor a televised live debate among the leading Democratic candidates for President of the United States, on Sunday, February 22, 2004, in Los Angeles. The program will broadcast on KNBC and be provided .to NBC stations across the country, and it will be made available to other media, including broadcast and cable networks. KNBC News-Los Angeles Anchor Paul Moyer will moderate the debate. All major Democratic candidates will be invited to participate, subject to their meeting criteria established by LWVUS. This is the first Presidential primary debate the League of Women Voters has sponsored since 1992.
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS TURNS 84: On February 14th, the League will celebrate its 84th birthday. On Sunday, February 15th HBO will premier the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" which recounts for a modern audience a key chapter in U.S. history: the story of suffragists who fought for the right to vote. The movie focuses on two young women, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, and their fight to build on the previous work of the National American Women's Suffrage Association (led by Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters). Although the film focuses on only a short piece of women's suffrage history, it does an excellent job of portraying the struggle of the women and men involved in the movement. Lyndsey M. Farrington, LWVUS Communications Coordinator
LWVUS SPONSORS NEW ON-LINE DISCUSSION LIST: Iwv-dcvotingrights@Iists.Iwv.org
On January 1, 2004, several DC League Board members received an e-mail from Olivia Thorne of the LWVUS Board, ListManager@lists.lwv.org, as follows: "Welcome to the LWV 'Voting Rights for the citizens of the District of Columbia' discussion list'.
We in DC know all too well that since 1801, citizens who live in Washington DC have been denied voting representation in the U.S. Congress. The United States of America stands alone among the world's democracies in denying equal rights to the people who live in its capital. Polling data indicate that the overwhelming majority of Americans are unaware that citizens in Washington, D.C. do not share in the same rights enjoyed by other Americans. This 'Discussion List' gives League members the opportunity to discuss this issue with other League members through the country.
We (LWVDC) will be the moderators of this discussion list, but it is your list, to discuss full voting representation in the Congress of the United States for citizens of the District of Columbia. This list has been set up to provide a forum for League members to share information on the issue, which the League of Women Voters of the United States has supported since 1982. [See Impact on Issues, Representative Government Full Voting Representation; D.C. Government Full Voting Representation.]
This list is the place for all League members to:
Rules and Norms (in part): List participants must be League members, must identify themselves by name and League on all postings, and messages must be nonpartisan, non-derogatory, noninflammatory, and nondiscriminatory; messages must be related to the subject of the list and must be consistent with the mission and goals of LWVUS/LWVEF.
A full statement of guidelines for LWV listserves will be distributed to all Board members and made available to members. Meanwhile, LWVDC members are encouraged to subscribe to this new discussion list on DC Voting Rights, and to encourage friends to subscribe. Here's how to subscribe by email:
Questions? Call Sheila Willet. List Administrator (347-3020 or 588-1734), Frances Gemmill, CoModerator (347-3020 or 362-6784) or Kathy Schmidt, Co-Moderator (237-5550). Frances Gemmill
CHILDREN AT RISK COMMITTEE: JUVENILE JUSTICE
On January 14, DC League Testimony on proposed legislation regarding juvenile justice was presented to the public hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Councilmember Kathy Patterson, in the Council Chambers at the Wilson Building. The League addressed three bills: Bill 15-537, "Omnibus Juvenile Justice, Victim's Rights and Parental Participation Act of 2003"; Bill 15-574, Juvenile Justice Act of 2003; Bill 15-460, Juvenile Justice and Parental Accountability Amendment Act of 2003"; and Bill 15-573, the "Juvenile Justice Task Force Establishment Act of 2003". The League Testimony stated, in part,
"A long-standing commitment of the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia is to support programs that promote the well-being, development, and safety of all children. It is therefore our belief that these juvenile justice bills should be firmly opposed because their focus is on punishment, not rehabilitation. Their proposal to permit transfer of fifteen year olds to adult courts and to impose crippling fines and restrictions on parents of juveniles flies in the face of research and the experience of jurisdictions with 'best practices'.
We urge the Committee to reject the punitive bills under consideration today and to lead the City Council and the Mayor to accept the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee (appointed by the Mayor) as the city's guide for the overdue reform of the juvenile justice system. The Mayor should not support lowering the age for the transfer of juveniles for prosecution as adults under any circumstances." Joan Wilson (237-6264), Chair
The IR Committee will hold its Feb. meeting on Sunday, Feb. 15th from 2-4 pm at the home of Anne Porowski, 4200 Cathedral Ave., NW #1008 (3640557). The topic will be India, with particular emphasis on women's issues. Anne and IR co-chair Susan Rao and her husband Firoze Rao have recently traveled to India. They will report on their trips and share photos. All are invited to attend.
For further information, please call Susan Rao (636-1688) or Anne Porowski (364-0557), Co-chairs
Upcoming events hosted by NCA Leagues include:
Saturday, February 21; 10:30 am - 12 noon
LWV Fairfax Area presents a forum entitled "Civil
Liberties and the Patriot A02" at the Westpark Hotel, 8401
Westpark Dr., in Tysons Corner, VA
Moderating the panel discussion will be William Sessions, former head of the FBI and former federal judge. Panelists will be Dan Bryant of the U. S. Department of Justice, Alice Fisher of the law firm of Lathem and Watkins, Lara Flint of the Center for Democracy and Technology and Patrice Webb of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). After the moderator's introduction, short presentations by each panelist and questions and discussion among the panelists, the forum will be open to questions from the audience.
Following the forum, attendees are invited to attend a luncheon with League members for a charge of $20. For further details concerning the event or to make reservations for the luncheon, call 703-6589150.
Thursday, March 18, 2004 7:30 pm
LWV Alexandria presents "Air Pollution and Health" with speaker, Dr. Dudley F. Rochester, M.D. (Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Past President, American Lung Association of Virginia) at The Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St., Alexandria, Virginia.
Dr. Rochester, an internationally recognized pulmonary doctor, will present a 40-minute power point presentation on the latest findings on air pollutants and their impact on our health.
Friday, June 11th -Thursday, June 15th
NCA Leagues members are needed as volunteers at the LWVUS NATIONAL CONVENTION. Volunteers will receive free admission to the performance by The Capitol Steps, political satirist musical group. Watch for more information in the March DC Voter.
The next NCA Board Meeting will be held Friday, February 6th at 10 am in the LWVUS Board Room. Andrea Gruhl & Barbara Sherrill
CITIZEN SUMMIT III: Neighborhood Follow-up Meetings Scheduled
Mayor Anthony A. Williams has scheduled Citizen Summit III follow-up meetings in each Ward to answer the following questions: What did we learn at Citizen Summit III? How are we updating the long range vision for the District? What are our priorities and initiatives for the 2005 budget?
All events begin at 7:00 p.m. [doors open at 6:00 p.m.] Questions & Answers with the Mayor will be featured. The date and location of each meeting is:
Tues., Feb. 10 - ward 5, Trinity College, 125 Michigan Avenue, NE
For more information call 202-727-2822 or visit www.neighborhoodaction.dc.gov
COMMUNITY FORUM PRESENTS: Council of Great City Schools Report
On January 22, 2004 DC VOICE and DC ACORN cosponsored a community forum on the Council of Great City Schools report, "Exploring Excellence to the District of Columbia Public Schools."
The forum was held at Webb Elementary School. All members of the Board of Education as well as the Acting Superintendent and her key staff were invited to attend. Community activists presented the report and intend to hold schools officials accountable and to demand improvement in the instruction of our students.
This newsletter was sent to the printers prior to this event; therefore, no report of the actual forum is available at this time. League members can view the actual report on the DCPS website under most requested links. The draft for high school reform put out by the Dept of Academic Services can be accessed at www.k12.dc.us/dcps/octe/hsreformhome.html. The survey forms for the High School Reform can be found at www.kl2.do.us/dcps/surveys/highschool.html. Ken Nesper
Annie M. McElrath
The February will discuss Election of the President/Presidential Selection. The Unit Council will meet Monday, February 9th at 12 noon in the LWVDC office, 733 15th St., NW. Joan Domike (966-3865)
Tuesday, February 17
9:45 am, Southwest Unit will meet in the home of Anna
Marsh (554-7719) 1253 Delaware Ave. SW
Wednesday, February 18
9:45 am Upper 16th St. Unit will meet in the home of Paula McKann (829-0656) 4709 16th St., NW
Thursday, February 19
9:45 am Chevy Chase/Ingleside and Northwest Day will meet at the Ingleside Theatre in the
Apartments, 3050 Military Rd., NW For info contact Joan Wilson
The Women's National Democratic Club is hosting a luncheon Friday, February 20 to commemorate the 90th birthday of Ruth Nadel, LWVDC member, former president of the Clearinghouse For Women's Issues and activist on behalf of many good causes. For details or reservations, contact Pat Fitzgerald at 202 232-7363 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many D.C. and National Capital Area League members will join us in sending condolences to Ellyn Swanson and her family in the loss of her husband Dr. August (Gus) Swanson, who died on December 19th 2003 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Ellyn was President of the DCLWV from 1975 to 1979, and she was active in the National Capital Area League during the 1980s.
Dr. Swanson, a neurologist and former acting medical school dean at the University of Washington, was a leading voice to reform a rigid medical education system. Ellyn and Gus have two sons, four daughters, and 18 grandchildren, and for many years they have visited Washington in mid-December when several of their grandchildren here participate in the "Christmas Revels", a dramatic presentation at the Lisner Auditorium. You may wish to write to her at 3146 H Portage Bay Place E, Seattle, WA 98102.
Recent Contributions: We gratefully thank our members for their recent contributions: Barbara Bramble, Suzanne Campagna, Judith J. Canning, Susan Catler, Frank Daspit, Joan Domike, June Duke, Margaret Feldman, Adrienne Fields, Mary Jane Fisher, Walter 0. Jacobson, Julia Johnston, Johnetta Kelly, Sharon Kissel, Barbara Luchs, Anna Marsh, Chris Matthews & Ken Nesper, Jeanette Miller, Ruth Nadel, Ellen S. Overton, lola Pigott, Judy Smith, Harriet J. Smith, Felice H. Sorret, Barbara Stout, Constance P. Tate, Elizabeth Wiener. Frances Gemmill
Questions concerning League membership can be directed to Suzanne Campagna (338-1055) or Linda Softli (667-8210), Membership Chair
Has your League Membership expired?
Print out the renewal form and mail with your check (made payable to LWVDC) to LWVDC, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005-6020.
CALENDAR: FEBRUARY 2004
Excerpts from a Dialogue between John Fortier and John Anderson on January 15, 2004
John Fortier - The League has had a stated position on the Electoral College [EC] since 1970. It is wise when one takes a position over time to reconsider it. We have had a momentous occasion since taking the position - the 2000 election, which puts me in a difficult position to represent why I think the Electoral College is generally a good thing for the country and why I am its proponent. Some defend it simply on the grounds that it is the best of many-flawed methods. While I think that there are certain positive aspects of the EC itself, I would like to discuss some of the disadvantages of the alternative systems. We can also perhaps address what is possible without a constitutional amendment. Some changes around the edges are worth considering.
Despite the 2000 election, the EC has tended to produce a clear-cut winner. Not since 1888 have we had the situation that we had in the 2000 election where the popular vote went one way and the EC vote went the other. The popular outrage, correctly placed, was more towards problems revealed in our election administration and how we vote. These would have showed up with any close election using other methods. While there was some call for change in the EC, the real reform efforts were placed on election reform rather than focusing on the EC. When we have this split between the popular vote and the electoral vote, the difference tends to be very small - it was half of a percent of the total vote between Al Gore and George Bush. Given the small margins that are likely to happen in the rare cases where the EC vote differs from the popular vote, some of that can be explained by the fact that the candidates knew the rules in advance and tailored their strategies to win.
One other reason for my support: I think the college is likely to produce a clear winner The other great problem that comes up is a third party candidate, especially of the regional sort, one who is able to gain electoral votes without gaining a large percentage of the popular vote. I am not thinking of John Anderson or Ross Perot but I am thinking of Strom Thurmond or George Wallace. Because the country has become more homogenous, we are not likely to see the EC thrown out of whack by a regional candidate with a large vote in the EC. The EC also promotes the idea that voters must make a hard choice between two candidates. To win the EC, the candidate must be able to win state-wide across the country. It is hard to win by just wrapping up a few large states. As the alternative, think of the European systems where we have extreme forms of proportional representation and many parties. You may find a candidate who represents your views very closely, but at the end of the day someone has to put together a majority. What happens is that a coalition is formed in a back room, after the votes are cast. Your direct vote for the outcome is not there.
The EC recognizes that states are important - people understand there is a state-wide voting system. It causes candidates go to places they might otherwise not go. In a direct election, it is likely that the campaigns would have been run on TV in large metropolitan areas. There would be no incentive to go to West Virginia, New Mexico. Nonetheless, not small state will be affected by this - Wyoming and Hawaii are examples -the former Republican, the latter Democratic.
Finally, the disadvantages of other systems: Direct popular vote also means that we would be moving toward a system of allowing a multi-party system with lots of choices which means more ideologically-focused parties rather than two "big-tent" parties as we have now. The administration of elections under other electoral systems would be worse than under the EC. Imagine the Florida recount scenario nationwide. Take the rules that states now have for absentee ballots or recounting elections - all sorts of things that could be challenged. If you do want to change to direct election, you would face the same problem that we had in election reform - would we allow the differences that now exist in different states such as voting by mail as is done in Oregon? Now states have to come to their own conclusions under their own election laws, report the results by sending names of electors to Washington for counting - all done according to state laws.
John Anderson: Virtually every seat is occupied! This is a tribute to the vitality of the League and to the interest that does exist in this topic. I am also pleased that the League, back in 1980, had the courage to sponsor a debate that allowed an independent candidate to participate. One blot on the campaign of 2000 - one candidate was refused even entry to the hall where the debate was taking place. The League should take action to open up campaign debates under legitimate criteria.
Although direct popular election was not an issue in 1980 campaign but in the US Congress, Birch Bayh sponsored an amendment to do away with the EC. Some like John Fortier, say the EC is a great stabilizing rudder that no matter how close the popular vote the EC will declare a winner. But we know it was really the Supreme Court that made the 5-4 decision in 2000. We should have had the system adopted in 51 town meetings in Vermont - Instant Run-off Voting. Under this system, the voter receives a ballot where he/she can rank-order candidates and name a run-off choice if no one has a majority. We should not be proud of the fact that 18 of our 43 presidents have been elected with a minority of the population voting for them.
The history of the EC is intertwined with the institutions and movements of white supremacy. The southern states championed the EC because it advantaged the slave states when compared with choosing a candidate with simply a majority of the popular vote. Slave states were for the EC and got what they were seeking: regardless of the size of the state, each would have 2 additional votes, reflecting the 2 Senators. In the EC, the 2 added electoral votes gives a great advantage to smaller states. Two senators from smallest states are Princes of Pork -Senators Stevens and Byrd - have real power. History should not deter us from a constitutional amendment - we do not elect a President of the states, we elect a President of the American people. That ought to be under-girded by the principle of majority rule.
The Framers of the Constitution feared that after George Washington, each state would have its own candidate so there was a need for an EC to make a decision. Afraid of the poplar vote, they expected the EC to be a deliberative body. The EC decision was done in last ten days of Constitutional Convention. This was a desperation effort to solve a problem; the resultant compromise adopted should not endure for all times. The time has come to cease to carry the burden of history when you consider why the EC was created and the disproportionate influence of racial politics. The time has come to go to direct popular election. The President should have the mandate to say he was elected by a majority of the people. To do this, we ought to have instant run-off voting. We ought to give the voter a ballot where he could rank-order the candidates. If no one has a majority, with today's modern machinery you could easily eliminate the candidates with the fewest first place votes. We wouldn't have to wait 36 days for a Supreme Court decision. We wouldn't have the awful agony of a recount that concerns Mr. Fortier. We could have a President who represented the majority point of view.
The LWVDC thanks the Moderator, Benjamin Wilson, Esq. Chair, DC Board of Elections and Ethics and the two outstanding speakers that made this event a success:
The Honorable John Anderson, President, Center for Voting and Democracy, Independent candidate for President in 1980 and served for two decades as U.S. Congressman from Illinois, and President, World Federalist Association; and, John Fortier, Research Associate at the American Enterprise Institute where he is Executive Director of the Continuity of Government Commission.
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