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Election Chaos Adds Fuel to Campaign for a National Popular Vote to Elect U.S. President

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President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris officially won the Electoral College Monday, as electors met in their respective state capitols to formalize their victory. President Trump continued to claim without evidence he was the victim of a massive conspiracy to rig the election. Republicans across the country attempted to undermine the election results, and right-wing supporters threatened violence. John Koza, chair of National Popular Vote, says the chaos of the 2020 election is further proof that the United States should abandon the Electoral College system as it is currently constituted and elect presidents by popular vote instead. “The flaws of the current system have become more and more apparent to people,” he says.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris officially won the Electoral College Monday, as electors met in their state capitals to formalize the victory. This step comes even as President Trump continues to claim without evidence he’s the victim of a massive conspiracy to rig the election. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams presided over Georgia’s body of electors, who marked for the first time in nearly three decades Georgia elected a Democrat.

STACEY ABRAMS: The ballots have been reviewed and transmitted. As I call your name, please state the name of the person for whom you cast for your vote for president. I will start by stating that I cast my vote for President Joe Biden. Gloria Butler?

GLORIA BUTLER: I cast my vote for President Joe Biden.

STACEY ABRAMS: Wendy Davis?

WENDY DAVIS: I cast my vote for President Joe Biden.

STACEY ABRAMS: Bobby Fuse?

BOBBY FUSE: I cast my vote for President Joe Biden. …

STACEY ABRAMS: I am pleased to announce that Joseph R. Biden has received 16 votes for president of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: As Stacey Abrams spoke Monday in Georgia, Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee tweeted, quote, “Meanwhile, in another part of the GA State Capitol, 16 GOP electors cast ballots for Trump, declaring that 'the contest of the election is ongoing.'” She posted a photo taken by freelance journalist Haisten Willis of the unofficial electors.

Elsewhere, in Arizona, a group of fake electors sent the National Archive notarized documents falsely claiming Arizona’s 11 electoral votes went to Trump. The 11 real electors, who were actually chosen by Arizona voters, cast their votes for Biden and Harris.

In Michigan, electors also formally cast their votes for Biden and Harris. The vote came after the Trump administration filed lawsuits that were dismissed by state and federal judges, and despite Trump’s attempts to pressure Republican lawmakers to replace Democratic electors. Republican Michigan state Representative Gary Eisen was reprimanded and stripped of his committee assignments after he told a radio host Monday morning he planned to join a protest to obstruct the state’s Electoral College vote, that could turn violent. This is Eisen speaking to Port Huron-area radio station WPHM-AM on Monday morning.

PAUL MILLER: What event are you referring to?

REP. GARY EISEN: It’ll be all over the news later on.

PAUL MILLER: This sounds dangerous, Gary. And I’m not kidding around.

REP. GARY EISEN: It is dangerous. And I will be there. I was the one — there’s going to be violence, going to be protests. You know, and they’re asking me if I would assist today. And I said, “You know what? How can I not?”

AMY GOODMAN: As the official electors in all 50 states met Monday despite right-wing threats of violence, senior White House adviser Stephen Miller appeared on Fox News Monday and claimed Trump and his allies plan to pursue a so-called alternate elector strategy.

STEPHEN MILLER: The only date in the Constitution is January 20th, so we have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election. As we speak, today, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote, and we’re going to send those results up to Congress. This will ensure that all of our legal remedies remain open. That means that if we win these cases in the courts, that we can direct that the alternate slate of electors be certified. The state legislatures in Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania can do the same. And likewise, Congress has that opportunity, as well, to do the right thing. If you just cured three simple constitutional defects, Donald Trump is the winner of this election.

AMY GOODMAN: Despite this, President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation in a nationally televised speech Monday night, just hours after winning the state-by-state Electoral College vote that officially determines the U.S. presidency.

PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: Together, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes, well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory. Three hundred and six electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes that Donald Trump and Vice President Pence received when they won in 2016. Excuse me. At the time, President Trump calls the Electoral College tally a landslide. By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then. And I respectfully suggest they do so now.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to look at a growing movement to have the president be popularly elected, with or without the Electoral College. To date, 15 states have passed a law that says its electors will go to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote in the country as a whole, regardless of what candidate wins in that particular state. This is known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The compact will not take effect until enough states adopt it so that the aggregate of the electoral votes equals 270 or more, enough to guarantee the presidency to the most popular candidate.

We’re joined now by John Koza, chair of National Popular Vote.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Explain what this —

JOHN KOZA: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to see you. Can you explain what this movement is? But first, respond to what happened yesterday in this country. In most other years, the Electoral College vote, people didn’t pay much attention to it. But this year, they sure did.

JOHN KOZA: Well, people did pay attention, because the flaws of the current system have become more and more apparent to people. Five of our 45 presidents have come into office without having won the national popular vote. And just in the last six elections, we’ve had two wrong-winner elections and also two near-miss elections, including this current election. If 21,000 people had changed their mind in Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia, President Trump would have received enough electoral votes to be reelected, despite the fact that Joe Biden was over 7 million votes ahead in the national popular vote.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, John Koza, could you explain a little more about this compact? And I’m wondering, even if you were able to get the number, requisite number, of states to vote in favor of it, what’s to prevent Congress from passing legislation to overturn the decisions of the states?

JOHN KOZA: Well, in fact, the Constitution gives the state legislatures the exclusive and plenary power to decide how their electoral votes are awarded. What the Constitutions says is, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of [presidential] Electors.” Congress has no role in deciding how electoral votes are awarded, as a matter of law. So, it’s an exclusive state process.

The current system, the winner-take-all system that causes these wrong-winner elections, these near-miss elections, and causes the fact that presidential candidates only campaign in a dozen battleground states, those are all state laws. And they can be changed in the same way they were passed: by a vote of the state legislature.

AMY GOODMAN: So, John Koza, explain the states that have passed this compact, making their way to — well, they’re coming close to around 200 votes, need 270, before this is just adopted all over the country. It’s not exactly abolishing the Electoral College. It remains. But it really gets rid of what the Electoral College has done in the past, because it will be guided by the popular vote. What states have voted for this? How many more do you need?

JOHN KOZA: Well, the states that have voted for it include four small states — Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont — and eight medium-size states — Colorado, where, by the way, the voters just reaffirmed the action of the Colorado Legislature and governor and approved National Popular Vote — Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington — and then three bigger states — California, Illinois and New York.

We need states with 74 more electoral votes to put this into effect, hopefully in time for the 2024 presidential elections. And in terms of progress in that direction, there are nine additional states, with 88 electoral votes, where at least one house of the legislature has already passed the National Popular Vote bill. So we’re optimistic that we can succeed in putting this into effect in time for the 2024 election.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in those states where one house of the legislature has approved it but the other has not, when the second house, let’s say, approves the bill, does the — because most legislation, if it’s not approved by both houses in a term, has to be revoted on, doesn’t it? How would that work?

JOHN KOZA: Well, you’re absolutely correct. For example, our bill passed the Virginia House early in 2020. But when it comes up in 2021, we will have to go back through the House and pass the Senate. So you’re correct. The bills in state legislature, like bills in Congress, have to be restarted when a new legislature comes into being.

AMY GOODMAN: And what are the states you think are most likely?

JOHN KOZA: Well, we’re very optimistic about Virginia. The bill also passed one house in Maine in 2019. And in Michigan in 2018, 25 of the 38 state senators sponsored the bill, including a majority of both parties. And then it passed the Minnesota House in 2019, and some other states.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs says that this is a Democratic blue state effort, and it opposes your proposal. What’s your response?

JOHN KOZA: Well, it’s a effort of bipartisan proposal. It’s received bipartisan support in state after state, including, by the way, the Oklahoma Senate, where we passed the Senate a few years ago with a bipartisan vote. The Oklahoma Council on Public Relations is the leading opponent to National Popular Vote. And they have a lot of wrong opinions. They think the current system is just fine, that it’s OK to have second-place, wrong-winner elections, that it’s OK to have all these recounts and lawsuits and litigation, which comes from the winner-take-all law, and that it’s OK that presidential campaigns are focused on just a dozen battleground states and leave 38 states basically as spectators to the presidential election.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk to us a little bit about the history of the Electoral College? Why was it created in the first place? And why has it been such a durable institution in American politics?

JOHN KOZA: Well, the Electoral College itself is in the Constitution, and it allocates electoral votes among the states, but it doesn’t actually say how the members of the Electoral College are appointed. So it’s durable because it’s in the Constitution. It’s in the Constitution because at the time the Constitution was written, the Southern states wanted to have more representation than the number of people who were allowed to vote would justify — that’s a polite way of saying the slaves. So, to form the union, this compromise was arranged where the states would receive a certain number of electoral votes based on the number of people in those states. But then the states, notably the Southern states, could have only, say, rich white people allowed to vote.

AMY GOODMAN: So it is based in slavery.

JOHN KOZA: By the way, rich white men.

AMY GOODMAN: John Koza, I want to thank you so much for being with us. And we’re going to continue to look at this, of course. Chair of National Popular Vote, consulting professor at Stanford University in computer science and electrical engineering, he was. He’s also former CEO of Scientific Games.

Next up, as the U.S. COVID-19 death toll tops 300,000, cases are spiking across the prisons of this country. We’ll get an inside update from San Quentin. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “A Shoulder to Cry On” by legendary singer Charlie Pride, one of the most successful Black country artists in history. He died Saturday of complications from COVID-19 at the age of 86, not long after performing at a largely mask-free award ceremony hosted by the Country Music Association.

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