Why The U.S. Electoral System Will Keep Giving Us Unpopular Presidents

Fast Company Mar 1, 2018

Harvard law professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig briefly ran for president in 2015, but his campaign was more of an effort to spread a message than win a job. He called it “a referendum” on campaign finance reform and electoral reform. More than two years later, Lessig is still working on those big issues. But instead of using a presidential run as a vehicle for them, he’s going directly to the courts.

The goal of Lessig’s current project, Equal Votes, is to stop states from awarding presidential candidates all of their electoral votes, even when the candidate wins the state only by the narrowest of margins. Lessig says this winner-take-all system is producing president-elects like our current president and George W. Bush before him who came to power after winning the most electoral votes but losing the popular vote in 2000.

Lessig and his legal team have filed suit against the states of California, Texas, Massachusetts, and South Carolina to do away with winner-take-all and distribute electoral votes proportionally with the popular vote. The federal district court suits are the first step in a process Lessig hopes will bring his cause to the Supreme Court.


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