Editorial: Electoral panel must stay true to electorate

The Detroit News

On Monday, Electoral College voters will gather in Lansing and other state capitols across the country to deliver the final word on the 2016 presidential race. Those electors, selected by partisan balloting, will almost certainly confirm that the 45th president will be Donald J. Trump.

There has been much grumbling about the unfairness of the Electoral College since Trump won a majority of its electors in the Nov. 8 election.

While he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the contest for electoral votes, Trump lost the popular vote by roughly 2.5 million ballots.

It marked the fifth time in U.S. history that the popular vote did not conform with the electoral vote.

And while many voters may find that objectionable, these are the rules of the game, and everyone knew them before the campaigning commenced.

Still, some die-hards are lobbying Republican electors to break faith with their state’s voters and cast a ballot for another GOP politician as a last-ditch attempt to deny Trump the White House.

Harvard professor Larry Lessig claims to have 20 Republican Electoral College converts, more than halfway to the 37 needed to prevent Trump from securing a majority of electors and throw the outcome to the House of Representatives. (The Republican Party believes only one elector, from the Texas delegation, has defected.)

The Republican-controlled House would assuredly make Trump the president anyway, so this would-be coup is as futile as it is destructive.

Americans must have certainty that the will they express at the ballot box will be carried out, and not supplanted by elitists who are unhappy with the results.

That confidence would be eroded if significant numbers of electors can be persuaded to go rogue. Many, but not all, states have laws binding the electors to the popular vote. That’s the law in Michigan.

America will never again have a presidential election in which the Election Day results can be certain to hold, if electors act on the own accord.

Those who find the Electoral College a quaint institution that’s no longer relevant can certainly change it.

While getting rid of the college altogether would require a constitutional amendment, there is another, faster avenue.

The National Popular Vote movement is lobbying state governments to pass laws requiring their electoral college votes be awarded based on the national vote total.

It would guarantee that the popular vote and the electoral vote always align.

So far, 11 states with 165 electoral votes have signed on. Once states with a total of 270 electoral votes join, it’s a done deal. (Michigan is not one of them, though the measure did pass the state House in 2008.)

Democrats, stung by their loss this year, are rallying to the popular vote, making it possible the proposal could clear that threshold before 2020.

Changing the rules prior to the next election is a far more productive endeavor than striving to change them after the last one.