Abolishing the Electoral College? Steamboat debate to discuss American elections
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two political experts will face off in Steamboat Springs on Monday during a debate over how Americans should elect their president, hosted by the Steamboat Institute.
Trent England, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, will defend the current system, known as the Electoral College. Arguing against him will be Ted Trimpa, a Democratic strategist, lobbyist and political consultant based in Denver. He favors switching to a national popular vote, a movement that has gained traction ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
The Electoral College has long faced scrutiny that it does not lead to a truly democratic election. According to the system, each state gets as many electoral votes as it has members of Congress. The District of Columbia gets three. In order to win a presidential election, a candidate must get at least half the total plus one — or 270 votes.
Five times, most recently in the 2016 presidential race that elected Donald Trump, the electoral system delivered a split verdict in which a candidate wins the popular but loses the presidency.
Viewpoints on the system tend to follow partisan lines, with Republicans favoring the Electoral College and Democrats wanting to abolish it.
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Since 2007, 15 states and the District of Columbia have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Company. In February, Gov. Polis, a Democrat, signed a bill under which Colorado joined the coalition.
The pact would not take effect until enough states sign on to give a collective 270 electoral votes — the number needed to win the presidency. It currently has 196.
After the bill signing, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold released a statement supporting the law, arguing it upholds the promise of equal, balanced elections.
“As Secretary of State, I’m guided and inspired by the principle of ‘One Person, One Vote,’” she said in the statement. “The National Popular Vote upholds this principal and ensures that every citizen’s vote matters equally regardless of geography, race, income, religion, or gender.”
Supporters of the Electoral College worry a switch to a national popular vote would allow larger states and urban areas, which tend to be liberal hubs, to disproportionately control future elections.
“One of the original reasons for creating the Electoral College was to make sure a few high-population areas did not control the whole country,” England said prior to the debate.
A Federalist, England has made a career out of defending the current election system, which he believes gives voters a more equal voice.
Jennifer Schubert-Akin, chairman and CEO of the Steamboat Institute, hopes the event draws people from both sides of the issue. In searching for two people to represent both opinions, she looked for experts with extensive experience in national elections.
“You get a broader spectrum of people to attend if you present it as a fair and balanced debate,” she said.
The institute, a conservative think tank, saw the value of organizing debates during its Campus Liberty Tour last year, which hosted similar discussions on contentious issues around the nation’s colleges.
“It was fascinating,” Schubert-Akin said. “Not just because there were such good debaters, but because it attracted people on both the left and right.”
Monday’s debate will include a Q & A session during which audience members can bring up their own questions or concerns. Attendees will also be able to write their own questions on index cards prior to the event.
The debate begins at 4 p.m. Monday at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. It is the first stop in a three-city tour, followed by a debate in Aspen on Tuesday and in Grand Junction on Wednesday.
The events are free, but those wanting to attend need to register online to guarantee a seat.
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