Donate
News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
The State of Reform
Download Unite America’s free report
Download Unite America's free report analyzing the impact of four key political reforms.
Big Picture

Democrats rally to 3 more bold, long-shot ‘reform’ ideas

House passage of a sweeping and multifaceted election and ethics package looks to be only the beginning of Democrats' "democracy reformer" positioning efforts heading into the 2020 campaign.

In recent days, the burgeoning field of presidential contenders and a clutch of congressional progressives have professed support for remaking several basic aspects of the political system — in much bigger ways than any of the provisions of their much-ballyhooed bill, dubbed HR 1.


Republicans have promised to send the bill to oblivion in the Senate, deriding it as a partisan power grab in the guise of "good government." And now they're scoffing even more derisively at the latest round of big ideas from the left: expanding the Supreme Court, abolishing the Electoral College and lowering the voting age to 16.

Even some senior Democrats are leery of promoting these ideas, saying they give off the impression the party wants to rig the system to its favor because it's still so angry at President Trump's election.

To be sure, none of the new proposals have a chance of implementation soon.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

Lowering the voting age, and presumably boosting the Democratic vote at least in the near term, would require a constitutional amendment. And that only happens with the support of two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate plus the backing of 38 states — almost always a multiyear process.

Adding seats to the Supreme Court, but not until the next (potentially Democratic) president could choose nominees to counter the conservative majority created with Trump's two justices, would be accomplished through legislation. But the president could veto such a bill, and overriding that would require large numbers of House and Senate Republicans to back the idea — not even a remote possibility.

Neutralizing the Electoral College, if not actually eliminating it, would be accomplished if enough states join what's called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. But that's a long way off, as well, so in theory Trump could win re-election with a version of his 2016 formula: winning states with 306 electoral votes (three-dozen more than the magic number) while still losing the popular vote (Hillary Clinton got 2.9 million more).

Under this compact, states commit to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the national popular vote — thereby assuring the popular vote winner becomes president. But the compact does not take effect until states with at least 270 electoral votes have signed on. And, so far, only 12 states and the District of Columbia — all of them reliably "blue" in recent national elections, and with a combined 181 electoral votes — have signed on. Only the most recent addition, Colorado, can be considered a swing state and even there voters went for the Democratic candidate in the last three elections. (Bills are pending in 15 other states, with 158 electoral votes, but few of them are given much shot at enactment before the 2020 election.)

We’re all about the issues that have broken American democracy — and efforts to make governments work again for you, your family and your friends.
Donate
MOST READ
© Issue One. All rights reserved.