By Erin Mansfield, VTDigger
Vermont’s three representatives to the Electoral College formally cast their votes Monday, Dec. 17, for Hillary Clinton to be president.
Scores of protesters attended the event at the Statehouse. They oppose the nation’s Electoral College and say the U.S. president should be decided by the popular vote.
The 2016 election has reignited the debate about the Electoral College because Donald Trump won the presidency by getting the most electoral votes, even though Clinton received about 2.7 million more votes on Election Day.
“It was originally set up to give the Southern, slave-holding states more votes,” said Gwendolyn Hallsmith, who led protesters at the Statehouse. She called the Electoral College a “racist, elitist and undemocratic” system.
“If it was really set up to vet presidential candidates and choose people who everybody knew were qualified, there might be a vetting process built into the Electoral College’s deliberations,” Hallsmith said.
“There’s no vetting process built into the Electoral College,” she said. “What is built into the Electoral College originally is that slaves would be counted as three-fifths human beings, which gave Virginia enormous power.”
The three-fifths compromise gave Virginia enough representation to earn 12 of the 91 electoral votes in early presidential elections, law professor Paul Finkelman told “PBS NewsHour.” The compromise also helped Thomas Jefferson of Virginia win the presidency, Finkelman said.
Vermont, which banned slavery in 1777, has three electors. This year, they were Gov. Peter Shumlin, Rep. Tim Jerman, D-Essex Junction, and Martha Allen, the president of the Vermont-NEA.
Vermont law requires those electors to support whichever candidate received the most votes in the state, in this case Clinton and Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine. That means the electoral vote ceremony is an affirmation of how the state voted.
Jerman sponsored and Shumlin signed a law in 2011 that would allow Vermont electors to vote for whichever presidential candidate had the most votes nationwide, not just in the state.
To go into effect, the national popular vote law would have to be enacted by states representing at least 270 Electoral College votes. So far, 11 states representing 165 electoral votes have passed the law.
Secretary of State Jim Condos, who presided over the electoral vote, said he is a “strong supporter” of electing presidents using the popular vote because the Electoral College does not help small states like Vermont.
“Some people say that national popular vote will reduce the role of small states, and I [say], ‘Well, what’s happening today?’” Condos said. “Our role is reduced. You don’t see presidential candidates coming to Vermont or Rhode Island.”
Jerman said the candidates ignore small states if they are not swing states. “That’s why the election took place in 12 states,” he said.