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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says electing the president by the popular vote is "largely a dream."

Closing Electoral College 'more theoretical than real,' RBG says

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon of progressive democracy reformers, is throwing cold water one of their most ambitious wishes: Shuttering the Electoral College and electing presidents by national popular vote.

"It's largely a dream because our Constitution is … hard to amend," she told an audience Monday at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. "I know that from experience."

An alternative approach is to upend the system by having states commit their electors to supporting the national winner, not the winner of their states, but only once states controlling a majority of electoral votes (270) have done so. Such a compact has been joined by 15 states and Washington D.C., with 196 votes.

The 86-year-old justice, who revealed this summer she's been treated for pancreatic cancer, said this when asked how she'd encouraged those fighting to better democracy: "It's very hard to do anything as a loner, but if you get together with like-minded people, you can create a force for change. And if you look at things over the long haul, we have come a long way."

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If the National Popular Vote initiative goes before the Supreme Court it will likely be blocked, writes Johnson, who lays out an alternative solution.

Making every vote count: An alternative plan for fixing our presidential election mess

Johnson is executive director of Election Reformers Network, an organization of election experts advancing nonpartisan reforms to U.S. democratic institutions.

With all eyes on the threats outsiders pose to the next presidential election, it seems we have forgotten the self-made dysfunction at the center of our democracy. Another presidential election approaches, with another victory to the popular vote loser a distinct possibility. Campaigns will again focus exclusively on a handful of states, and voting will be an inconsequential civic gesture for the vast majority. Other pitfalls lurk that we largely ignore, like another Florida-style recount or the decision getting "thrown to the House," which could give final say to the minority party.

A verdict Wednesday from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver may add another Jack-in-the-box element: electors free to vote as they choose, regardless of the results in their state. If the Supreme Court agrees that Colorado's removal of a faithless elector in 2016 was unconstitutional, a new level of uncertainty will pervade our presidential elections.

A solution to these many problems, the National Popular Vote, has made considerable progress in blue states this year, but faces a long road. NPV needs to win enactment in purple states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and then survive this Supreme Court, where the majority seems to have little concern for the needs of our democracy, as the Rucho v. Common Cause decision illustrates. In the words of scholar Edward Foley, the majority "rejects the primacy of democracy as an organizing constitutional principle."

At least with stopping partisan gerrymandering, we have a fallback after the Supreme Court decided not to act: state level independent redistricting commissions. We have no such developed, viable alternative to NPV; Rucho makes clear it is time to start working on one.

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Where the presidential candidates stand on the top issues of democracy reform

This story has been revised after additional reporting.

Steadily if still softly, anxiety about the health of American democracy has become at least a secondary theme in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Proposals for restoring the public's faith in elections, and a sense of fairness in our governing system, have now earned a place on most of the candidates' platforms. And more and more of them have been including calls for democracy reform in their stump speeches.

To be sure, the topic has not come close to the top tier of issues driving the opening stages of the campaign. In the first round of candidate debates last month, for example, the contenders collectively spent less time talking about democracy's ills than eight other issues: health care, President Trump's record, immigration, social policy, economic inequality, gun control, foreign policy and the environment.

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