Joshua Douglas: I backed Hillary Clinton and I'm appalled at the policy positions and rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump
Douglas: Yet I still support what the Electoral College did, ratifying votes of millions of Americans in their respective states
Editor’s Note: Joshua A. Douglas is a law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law who specializes in election law and voting rights. He is the co-editor of “Election Law Stories.” Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaADouglas. The opinions expressed are his own.
Today we should all celebrate American democracy, even if some of us are unhappy with the Electoral College result.
I say that as someone who supported Hillary Clinton and who is appalled at the policy positions, temperament and rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump.
Yet I still support what the Electoral College did Monday, ratifying the votes of millions of Americans in their respective states. Here’s why: The process worked as we all expected.
Before Election Day, we all agreed, through our Constitution and laws, to conduct the election according to certain procedures. We administered the election under those procedures.
We all knew that to win the presidency, a candidate would need to earn at least 270 Electoral College votes, not the popular vote. Trump did that. The electors cast their ballots consistent with that result. In terms of the process, no one should be upset that this feature of our system worked as it should.
But what about the Russians influencing the campaign? What about FBI Director James Comey affecting the election by announcing a continued investigation of Clinton’s emails? What about a thousand other issues that seemed to make the campaign unfair for the first female major party candidate?
All these things surely changed the tenor of the campaign and potentially affected who won. But they did not prevent people from voting. People still voted their conscience based on whatever they believed.
Monday’s Electoral College vote reflects the will of the people in each of the states, wise or unwise as they may have been. Prior to Election Day this year, it would have been unfathomable to suggest the electors should vote contrary to the majority’s will in their state. That should not change just because some of us do not like the result.
It is also counterproductive to fight the inevitable: On January 20, Donald Trump will take the oath of office. Better to channel our energies where we can actually make a difference.
We still have more to do to protect and defend the right to vote for many Americans. Millions of people did not vote because they were not registered or faced onerous voting restrictions such as strict voter ID requirements.
Millions of Americans could not vote because of unfair felon disenfranchisement laws, a particular concern for minority communities given the disparate effect of these laws. Others were simply too complacent to take the time to head to the polls. The fact that only about 59% of Americans participated is the real travesty of this election, regardless of who won. These are the real problems that should concern all Americans, no matter their political viewpoints.
Over the next four years, and beyond, we must work tirelessly to remove barriers to voting and encourage civic participation, especially among our younger generations that have abysmal turnout rates. We must protect the fundamental right to vote against undue barriers. These are significant problems that require meaningful solutions.
We should also abolish the Electoral College. The system is anti-democratic, especially given that the winning candidate received almost 3 million fewer votes than the runner-up. It has outlived its purpose. But it is currently the system we have. And it represents a reasoned judgment that we want the president to enjoy the support of wide geographic areas of our country.
None of this takes away from Trump’s victory under the rules of 2016. Today’s vote represents the next step in the peaceful transition of power that demonstrates the beauty of our democracy.
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Fight to fix the voting process; fight to abolish the Electoral College; fight Trump’s conflicts of interest, potential ties to Russia, and discriminatory policy positions. Protest as loudly as possible if he does anything anti-democratic. But fighting the clear results of the November 8 election is unproductive when the Electoral College vote went exactly as it was supposed to: ratifying the decision of over 60 million people from a wide range of states.
Instead, let’s focus on something that should be a universal truth for everyone in our democracy: We should all have a voice by exercising our fundamental right to vote. That’s the real battle that can save our democracy.