Four people spread across MetroWest and the Milford area have found themselves in the middle of one of the most contentios topics following the election of Republican Donald Trump as president: the Electoral College.
On Monday, Parwez Wahid of Framingham, Nazda Alam of Weston, Paul Yorkis of Medway, and Jason Palitsch of Shrewsbury will be among the 11 Massachusetts electors to cast their votes for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as her loss has been all but solidified.
Narrow elections in several swing states helped Trump win the Electoral vote by 38 electors, despite losing the popular vote by almost 3 million. Since Election Day, debate has swirled nationally over the usefulness of the college, as Trump's victory is the second in 16 years in which the Electoral College has been at odds with the popular vote.
Supporters of the Electoral College argue it's a check and balance on the popular vote, as it gives more weight to less populated parts of the country. Opponents argue it's an outdated system in need of reform. Each state is assigned a certain number of electors based on the size of its respresentation in Congress and the electors committ to voting for the candidate that the state's voters chose.
In the wake of Trump's victory, several prominent ideas have emerged among those who'd like to see the system changed. Some have called on Republican Electors to cast a faithless vote, which would strip Trump of electoral votes based on the sense that he is unfit to rule, or poses a threat to the democracy. Others have called for future reforms to the college, like attaching electoral votes to the popular vote or designating them to congressional districts instead of the state-wide total. Others still have called for a total abolishment of the system in favor of a true national popular vote.
The four MetroWest Electors, who were selected by the State Democratic Committee, each have a different take on the matter.
Alam, a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh active in voter registration work, said she would love to see faithless electors in Republican-won states swing the election to Clinton.
Overall, she said the college is a unique U.S. institution, and shouldn't be abolished. But, she said, it's in need of reform. She'd like to see the amount of electors allotted to each state be designated by the population of the state, instead of the size of its Congressional legislation.
“That will balance the popular vote and the electoral vote,” she said.
Palitsch, on the other hand, would like to see the college abolished, but not right away. Two things need to happen first, he said. All states need to agree on the same voting rights laws, as there's “technically 50 different elections in 50 different states.” And national legislators need to pass major campaign finance reform laws. An election won and lost over 10 swing states is expensive enough the way a presidential campaign is currently funded, he said. A true national campaign would be utterly prohibitive for all but the uber wealthy.
Parwez is in favor of reforming the Electoral College by expanding the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to every state. What the compact does is promise that the state's electors will vote with the national popular vote. Massachusetts is one of 10 states to have adopted the compact into law.
“The Insterstate Compact is probably the cleanest way,” he said. “You end up preserving the Electoral College, but it ensures the elected president is the one who got the popular vote.”
Abolishing the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment, which he said he doesn't think is feasible.
As for the faithless electors flipping the election, Parwez isn't hopeful. The same argument emerged after George W. Bush beat Al Gore, despite his winning the popular vote. Gore needed four electors to flip, and that didn't happen. So to have 38 flip seems impossible, he said.
Yorkis said he's yet to find a solution to the disparity between the electoral college and the popular vote, but said that Trump's election demonstrates a deeply divided and polarized nation.
“I don't think the writers of the constitution ever envisioned this,” he said.
On faithless electors, he said all electors, to varying degrees depending on their state's laws, have agreed to support the candidate their state's voters chose.
“But they may say, I know I agreed to vote for that person, but how can I do that when that person is, in my professional judgement, my personal judgement, my political judgement, is that person qualified to lead our nation?”
Trump's statements and recent appointments are deeply worrying to Yorkis, he said, as are the recent allegations that Russia may have intentionally meddled in the election.
Toward that end, Yorkis, along with the three MetroWest electors, recently signed a letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper pushing for an intelligence briefing ahead of the Electoral College vote Monday.
The electors who signed the letter demand a classified briefing on “ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election, the scope of those investigations, how far those investigations may have reached, and who was involved in those investigations.”
Electors, Yorkis said, have an obligation to vote for their given candidate, unless there's good reason to call into question the validity of the vote. That, he said, is precisely why the electors want a briefing on the investigation. But, with the Electoral College vote only a day away, the briefing is not likely to happen.
Bill Shaner can be reached at 508-626-3957 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Shaner.