Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Columbian. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Thanks to a “faithless elector” in Washington state, Native American activist Faith Spotted Eagle received an Electoral College vote for president following the 2016 presidential election. Retired general Colin Powell also received three of the state’s 12 electoral votes despite not appearing on the ballot.
The votes were nothing more than symbolic — part of a truncated effort to prevent Donald Trump from winning the presidency. And while the actions of faithless electors — there were seven of them across the country — provided little more than a historical footnote, a recent court decision points out the need for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the issue prior to the 2020 election.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld the rights of faithless electors to break with tradition and vote for the candidate of their choice. Article II of the U.S. Constitution states that “each state shall appoint” electors “in such a manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” So when a Colorado elector chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote there, the secretary of state removed that elector. The elector sued, and that led to last week’s ruling in the circuit court.
In Washington, the four faithless electors were fined $1,000 each for not following protocol, and the state Supreme Court in May ruled that the fines were legal.
All of this is separate from arguments about all of a state’s electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote in that state — a system that gives inordinate weight to small states. In Wyoming, for example, there is one electoral vote for every 190,000 residents; in California, there is one for every 700,000 residents. Twice in the past five presidential elections, the candidate who won the popular vote has not won the election; Clinton received about 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, and Al Gore had more votes than George W. Bush in 2000.
Inslee changed climate of presidential campaign
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Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign was relatively short. Hopefully, however, it will have a long legacy.
The Washington governor announced last week that he was ending his bid for the White House. While Inslee was unable to garner widespread support, he proved to be an effective spokesman for the need to address climate change. The remaining candidates for the Democratic Party nomination must continue to recognize that reducing carbon emissions is an essential mission for the federal government.
President Donald Trump also should recognize that, but he has repeatedly dismissed concerns about climate change while taking actions that will increase carbon emissions. Although it is unlikely the president will have an epiphany on the issue before the 2020 election — or during a second term if he is re-elected — Republican candidates next year for Congress and the Legislature should make climate change a priority.
In an effort to attract attention in an overcrowded Democratic field, Inslee staked his presidential hopes largely upon that single issue. His low polling numbers — typically less than 1 percent — demonstrate the difficulty of getting voters to focus on climate change.
But even if it is not No. 1 on their list of concerns, American voters are placing increased attention on the topic; a survey released last week through Yale and George Mason universities found that about 60 percent are either “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change.
Inslee has played an important role in raising awareness on a national stage, even telling Joe Biden during a debate, “Our house is on fire.” Now, both CNN and MSNBC have planned climate-change town halls with Democratic candidates.