California Electors Favor Changing Electoral College
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Photo by Associated Press
They're the chosen few — the 55 California residents who will directly cast votes for president. But many of California's presidential electors don't think they or anyone else should have that right.
As the electoral college prepares to meet in state capitols around the country on Monday, many of California's electors say they'd prefer to reform or eliminate the body that formally elects U.S. presidents.
That's perhaps not surprising in a state that voted overwhelmingly — 62 percent to 32 percent — for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won 2.8 million more votes nationally than Republican Donald Trump but fell short in the electoral college.
"It just seems so undemocratic to me that people other than the voters get to choose who leads the country," said elector Shawn Terris, a 59-year-old bookkeeper from Ventura.
California's 55 Democratic electors were chosen by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and incoming Sen. Kamala Harris as well as the party's candidates in each of the 53 U.S. House districts. Most are party activists, campaign volunteers or relatives of congressional candidates.
The Associated Press attempted to contact all 55 electors and reached 28 who agreed to be interviewed.
Some, like Raymond Cordova of Garden Grove, said the institution is no longer necessary in a well-connected society with broad voting rights and the means to educate mass populations.
"During the time of Madison, I think they were right on target with it," said Cordova, a 77-year-old retired political aide who will be an elector for the fourth time. "We have the means with sophisticated communication, all these things today, we don't need the electoral college."
Others said there may be ways to reform the electoral college to make it fairer to large states like California without eliminating it. Some suggested eliminating the electors who represent senators, which would give the smallest states one electoral vote instead of three while preserving 53 for California. Others supported a movement called National Popular Vote, an attempt to get states to agree to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote.
"The residents of Wyoming have a lot more political power in electing a president than the residents of California," said Mark Olbert, a 61-year-old retired financial executive who serves on the city council in San Carlos. "That's baked into the system of federalism. I would love to see a change but I don't think that's ever going to happen."
Priscilla Richardson, a 73-year-old elector from Cathedral City, stood up for the electoral college.
"I do see the point of the people in smaller states that just having the East Coast and the West Coast always, always, always elect the president doesn't really seem to be the way we want our Democracy to work," Richardson said. "Nobody should have that much sway."
California law requires electors to vote for the statewide winner. One elector, Vinz Koller of Carmel, has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to overturn the law. It's pending in federal court in San Francisco.
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