Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy offers consideration of electoral reform



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Bookended by two luminaries in the legal field, a recent discussion of the voting process and in particular reform of the electoral college system offered an in-depth look at both sides of the issue.

The  University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy hosted a number of speakers and panelists offering different perspectives on the possibility of eliminating the electoral college and electing the president by direct vote.

Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer gave opening remarks. Archer was also a Michigan Supreme Court justice, president of the State Bar of Michigan (1983-1984), and the first African-American president of the American Bar Association (2003-2004), which gave him the ABA?Medal in 2016.

Archer started out praising the namesake of the public policy school. “It’s fitting that this important discussion takes place here... Gerald Ford was a fair and reasonable man who worked across the aisles for the benefit of all American citizens.” After speaking about the changing demographics in the United States, Archer did weigh in on the side of eliminating the electoral college and allowing a direct democratic vote so that every individual voter’s voice could be heard. “I’m not afraid of change, I just want fairness. If you want to let the people’s vote count, let them vote directly,” he said.

Archer pointed to the sea change represented by the Nov. 6 election, noing that not only were three of the top leadership positions in the state filled by Democrats, the leaders were also women.

One of those three, Jocelyn Benson, was the final speaker. Benson, now the Secretary-of-State-Elect, is also an elections scholar and former Dean of Wayne State University Law School.

Long a proponent of voting reform and following best practices in election procedures, Benson declined to weigh in specifically about the electoral college, but said that the recent historic wins in Michigan for citizen redistricting and voting reforms sets the stage for thoughtful discussions about other ways to make the people’s voices heard.

Between the two, two panels weighed in. The first included professors Joh Chamberlin, Margo Schlanger, Richard Friedman, and Jenna Bednar, former Congress-
man Joe Schwarz, and Nolan Finley, The Detroit News editorial page editor.

Making Every Vote Count, the event sponsor, currently has a campaign asking states to pledge that they will give their electoral college votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote. Panelists’ opinions ranged from supporting it to asking if it was truly necessary to questioning just portions of the campaign.

The final panel featured conservative Patrick Rosenstiel, who said he initially opposed abolishing the electoral college but was completely convinced by his study of it, and attorney/author Tara Ross, whose book Enlightened Democracy argues that the electoral college was a critical step ensuring that the majority would be unable to tyrannize the minority.