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EDITORIAL

The system worked — this time

Biden’s Electoral College win in the wake of bogus lawsuits, aided and abetted by Republican officials, still points to the need for a national popular vote.

Electors in Georgia turn in their official ballots on Monday, in Atlanta.
Electors in Georgia turn in their official ballots on Monday, in Atlanta.Damon Winter/NYT

The Electoral College — antiquated and arcane institution that it is — did its job this week in ceremonies large and small, mostly dignified, and occasionally (at least in the case of Michigan) fraught.

The 50-state ritual was at long last enough to convince Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell that indeed there would be a new occupant of the White House next year, even if the current occupant continues to live in his own state of denial.

“Many of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, six weeks after Joe Biden had been declared the winner. “But our system of government has the processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken.”

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Indeed it has. But even as Americans may be relieved that this Trump-generated nightmare is almost over, they should also remember that the Electoral College system itself is deeply flawed. A relative handful of votes difference in a relative handful of states could once again have denied the White House to the candidate who had won the popular vote — in this case by 7.1 million votes. (Dave Wasserman, of the respected Cook Political Report, puts that magic number of votes at 65,009.)

As if to prove the point that the ancient relic of the Electoral College looms large for what has become the Party of Trump, Republicans in six states won by Biden (Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin) staged make-believe counter-votes even as legitimate electors were meeting.

“We took this procedural vote to preserve any legal claims that may be presented going forward,” Bernie Comfort, Trump’s Pennsylvania campaign chairman, told The Washington Post.

It was as pointless an exercise as it was bizarre.

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That Biden won by 74 electoral votes (and those 7.1 million popular votes) seems not to matter to those still in thrall to Donald Trump. That, of course, includes 126 congressional Republicans — including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy — who signed an amicus brief last week along with 17 Republican attorneys general in support of a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of Texas to throw out the election results in four states won by Biden.

The US Supreme Court quickly dismissed the matter, disappointing the president, who thought because he appointed three of its members that somehow that mattered more than the law of the land.

No, this is neither a banana republic nor the boardroom of “The Apprentice.”

But it’s those attorneys general (sworn members of the bar, after all) and sitting members of Congress who have shown a level of contempt for the democratic process and for their own voters that is beyond belief.

“This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost,” Biden said in his speech to the nation Monday night. “It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before — a position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.”

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There is no magic cure for that kind of blind loyalty to one politician — especially loyalty to a former reality TV star who has shown no respect for this nation’s institutions. There is only the activism and commitment of voters who will remember two years from now this affront to democracy by those who should be shamed for their participation in this hoax. The only way democracy works is if voters express their views at the ballot box — and then political leaders respect the results.

The Electoral College vote this time around brought a measure of closure at a moment when most Americans simply want to move on. But this is also no time to forget the mathematical scenarios that those bogus lawsuits played on — the ones designed to switch enough Electoral College votes to change the outcome of the election, to thwart the will of the voters of this nation.

So the ultimate cure is to remove that temptation, remove the need to play legal games to solve the math puzzle that is the Electoral College, and just get rid of it. That can be done through the lengthy process of amending the Constitution or by using the work-around of the National Popular Vote Compact, which Massachusetts, plus 14 other states and the District of Columbia have already joined. The latter effort — which requires states whose electoral votes total 270 in order to go into effect — is now 74 electoral votes shy.

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This is the year for other states — such as New Hampshire and Maine, the only two New England states that aren’t part of the compact — to make it happen.


Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.