Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Open Letter To My Congressional Representatives

I have just submitted the following letter to my Congressional representatives through their webpages. I suggest you contact your own representatives with similar messages.

Dear Senator Wyden/ Senator Merkley/ Congressman Schrader,

Like many Oregonians, I was deeply dismayed upon learning that Donald Trump had won the Presidency last week. This feeling only deepened when I realized that he would win despite having failed to achieve even a plurality of the national popular vote. Because he has won the electoral vote, the fact that Hillary Clinton received more votes than any candidate in history (apart from Barack Obama) is irrelevant.

I am a high school and middle school social studies teacher, and it was my responsibility to explain to my students the following day why Donald Trump would become our next President, despite having received fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. Many of my students come from families with immigrant members, or are members of the LGBT community, and so have good reason to be fearful of the next four years, and frustrated that our democratic institutions had seemingly failed to prevent this outcome.

For their sake, and the sake of every vulnerable and marginalized person in this country, I am counting on you and other Democratic members of Congress to stand up for human rights during Trump's administration. I am hopeful that Republican members of Congress will also step forward on behalf of those who may suffer devastating setbacks in the next four years.

In practical terms, there is not much that anybody can do to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President next year. However, recently Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation which would amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and elect the President by popular vote. I ask that you support this bill and, should it fail to pass during this session of Congress, that you support or sponsor similar bills in the future.

The Electoral College is an antiquated system, designed deliberately to provide a counter against the popular will; to put it plainly, it is fundamentally undemocratic. It has outlived its era, largely because it has not usually contradicted the popular vote. However, it has now done so twice in my lifetime. Demographic changes suggest future splits between the popular and electoral votes may become more common, a development which would dishearten voters and undermine our democracy.

There is precedent to a major change in our procedures for electing federal officials. The Twelfth Amendment modified the Electoral College itself, while the Seventeenth Amendment provided for the popular election of Senators. Other countries have used and subsequently abandoned systems similar to our Electoral College. It is time we abandoned a system which can only hurt, and never improve, our electoral process.

Abolishing the Electoral College may not totally prevent a future Donald Trump from eking out a narrow victory. However, it would make it considerably more difficult, and empower voters who will not have to worry that their vote will be discounted by a tragic and embarrassing glitch in the system. I ask that you will make the passage and subsequent ratification of this amendment a priority.

David Miller

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