Jacques: A makeover for presidential elections?

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Hillary Clinton is still in shock she’s not president. And bitter.

At a recent speech in India, she described the election in which she lost to Donald Trump this way: “If you look at the map of the United States, there is all that red in the middle, places where Trump won. So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, Make America Great Again, was looking backwards. You know, you didn’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women, you know, getting jobs ...”

I guess she really meant that “basket of deplorables” phrase she used to describe half of Trump’s supporters during the campaign.

Clinton did receive nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, yet our Electoral College system doesn’t care about the popular vote. It cares about electoral votes.

After the 2016 election, plenty of Democrats have complained about our presidential election system that denied Clinton the White House and have discussed changing it. Somewhat surprisingly, there is a fairly large contingent of Republicans who want the same thing.

A movement that you may not have heard of, but should know about, is called the National Popular Vote. It’s got support on the right and left, notably for different reasons, and it’s gaining momentum throughout the country.

Here’s how it would work. It would award the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. But enough states must first pass laws signing on to an interstate compact binding them together. As soon as states that make up 270 electoral votes (the number needed to win an election) get on board, then the National Popular Vote would take effect.

Quite a few already have. Ten states and D.C., have joined the compact, adding up to 165 electoral votes — meaning just 105 more are needed. And several other states are in the process of debating it. Michigan is poised to join in that conversation, too.

Advocates say the interstate compact would preserve the Electoral College and state control of elections, while ensuring that every vote in every state would matter. And it would likely shift the focus from the dozen or so battleground states that get all the attention during a campaign.

“A voter in Michigan would be as relevant as a voter in Ohio or Florida,” says Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and proponent of the National Popular Vote.

I grew up in Oregon so that idea appeals to me. It’s rare for any candidate to visit the state, which has gone Democratic every election since 1988. Yet when I asked my dad, who is a conservative and still lives there, whether he’d like the idea of his vote actually counting, he cringed. Any change to the Electoral College rubbed him the wrong way.

My dad’s not alone.

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an elections expert, calls the compact a “dangerous cartel” and urges against it. He believes under a popular vote model candidates would turn their focus to large urban areas, ignoring everywhere else — a reason the Founders settled on the Electoral College.

“Both constitutionally and from a public policy standpoint, I think it’s a very bad idea,” he says.

The two sides of this debate raise valid points, and expect to hear a lot more about the National Popular Vote going forward.

Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques