fb-pixel Skip to main content

Should the electoral college go rogue? One Harvard professor thinks so

Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton.Matt Rourke/Associated press

The votes may have all been cast in the presidential election, but the electoral college isn’t set to vote until mid-December. And a Harvard professor is arguing that rather than vote for Donald Trump, the clear electoral vote winner, electors should instead buck tradition and tap Hillary Clinton as our nation’s next president.

Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and former Democratic presidential primary candidate, offered a relatively simple (if unprecedented) reason in a column for The Washington Post Thursday: Clinton won the popular vote handily, and the electors should choose a president based on that.

Advertisement



“The question [electors] must ask themselves is whether there is any good reason to veto the people’s choice. There is not. And indeed, there is an especially good reason for them not to nullify what the people have said — the fundamental principle of one person, one vote,” Lessig writes, referring to Clinton’s popular vote victory.

He acknowledges that historical precedent is very much in favor of President-elect Donald Trump: The electoral college has twice voted for the winner of the most electoral votes despite the popular vote favoring the loser.

And although Clinton won the popular vote by at least 2 million votes, Trump decisively won the electoral vote with victories in several large swing states.

But, Lessig argues both of those cases effectively violated the democratic principle of one person, one vote. Moreover, the Constitution does not require electors to vote in favor of the winner of the electoral vote.

“The Constitution says nothing about ‘winner take all.’ It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule ‘the people’ or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values,” he writes.

Advertisement



Lessig took to Medium Friday to defend his argument with readers and answer questions.

Lessig, who made campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his short-lived bid for the Democratic nomination, pledged to serve as president only until he could pass reform legislation.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.