Electing our president by popular vote

In the presidential election of 2016, Donald Trump won by garnering more than the required 270 Electoral College votes, even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote nationwide by more than two million votes.

Trump won the popular vote in states making up 290 electoral votes, and he leads in Michigan, with another 16 electoral votes, so a total of 306 electoral votes would easily exceed the needed 270 electoral votes.

But is this fair? Does this threaten our belief that every vote counts? Do people not vote because they think the system is not fair?

In 2008, I authored and passed legislation which was signed into Illinois law designed to create an interstate compact that would guarantee that the winner of the national popular vote is elected president. At the time, it made Illinois the third state to ratify the agreement. There are now 10 states and the District of Columbia that have ratified the agreement.

Known as the National Popular Vote Compact, this law would award Illinois’ Electoral College electors to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, provided that enough states equaling a majority of electoral votes also ratify the agreement.

The Electoral College is outdated and anti-democratic, and as we have seen this year and in 2000, the system makes it possible to elect a president who did not receive the most votes cast by the people. 

A lot of Americans lost faith in our electoral process after the 2000 election, and many have questions in 2016, too. This interstate agreement sends the message that the will of the people should be respected.

The U.S. Constitution specifies that the office of president is elected by an Electoral College, but it gives states the power to determine how electoral votes are awarded. If enough states representing 270 electoral votes ratify identical language to the National Popular Vote Compact, Illinois’ electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide.

This new law doesn’t eliminate the Electoral College, but it simply finds a smart way around it. As a bonus, because of its number of voters, Illinois can again become an important player in the election for president. Let’s advocate for more states to adopt the National Popular Vote Compact to make our election process fairer and to truly make every vote count.


La Shawn K. Ford
State Rep., 8th District

Way too political

It was a fairly warm evening for late October. I was at an author reading, and just finished hearing an essay about the approaching elections — a topic heavy on many minds. Most agreed that voting for the lesser of two evils was the safest choice, both literally and politically. Then again, I recently read an email that many doctors would not even bother casting a vote because neither choice would be a healthy one for the American people.

The concept of electing our first female president may have been thrilling to many, conjuring up visions of “I can do anything you can do better.” Yet, is it enough that it be any woman regardless of her history of fickle decision-making? But then again, a poorly tanned narcissist isn’t much of an alternative, either.

The guest author enthusiastically expressed his opinion of our crooked-wigged candidate, and highlighted the many toxic plans for our country. The author went on to dissect the candidate’s strong objection to those who create the mosaic that is America.        

Maybe bizarrely, I believe there is great value in highlighting the potency of racism that exists in our country, often masked but very much alive. But with the way it’s being done, tactlessly and risking the safety of millions of Americans, people are emboldened to be more openly hateful again. This is America. Great. Again.

Even still, there is something uglier, something more insidious than exposing the realities of hate in one full swoop, and that is perpetually ignoring the severity of mounting injustice. Yet, this is where some people’s minds have laid dormant for some time now, bolstered by the election of President Obama. “We have a black president. How can we possibly be a racist society?” In some people’s minds, this made everything right in their privilege-padded worlds. I suppose their assumption is that Mr. Obama’s election instantly changed the views of millions of callous people just like that, because it’s that easy.

There was a reception and book signing after the author’s talk. Because he is a connoisseur of birds, there was a spread of various nuts, crackers with small seeds, owl shaped cookies and wine, much needed wine. As another attendee and I were reaching for a spoonful of sunflowers, she stopped and turned to me.

“What did you think of tonight’s talk?” she asked.

“Pretty sobering,” I said.

“Well, I didn’t like it. It just wasn’t entertaining. It was way too political for me.”

Sad, I thought, that something that is a necessity for me happens to be an inconvenience for someone else. The advancement and protection of my rights as a woman of color mean absolutely nothing but a missed night of amusement to someone who is otherwise unscathed from the slurs and threats that were to become far more overt post-Election.

But is the harassment and violence still too political for her, I wonder? And if undeniable recognition of hate has been the one mildly positive thing that has come out of this election, how then may her understanding of advocacy change from “too political” to too detrimental to ignore?

What might she have to say now? Hopefully not, “We should wait and see what happens.” It’s already happened. Hate is being actively promoted. Accounts of simple-minded, sometimes life-threatening behavior are streaming onto news circuits at a disturbing rate. While this oblivious but otherwise seemingly decent person can afford to tell herself she’s going to wait to see what happens, the safety of my children, my community, my country depends on my being far more political than many might ever appreciate. 


Patricia Johnson