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‘Dangerous’: Rep. Jamie Raskin Says Jan. 6 Should Have Ended the Electoral College at HKS Event

United States Representative Jamie B. Raskin '83 at a Harvard Institute of Politics forum in April, 2022. Raskin argued against the Electoral College at a Harvard Kennedy School talk on Thursday.
United States Representative Jamie B. Raskin '83 at a Harvard Institute of Politics forum in April, 2022. Raskin argued against the Electoral College at a Harvard Kennedy School talk on Thursday. By Miles J. Herszenhorn
By Meghna Mitra and Leslie P. Nevarez, Contributing Writers

U.S. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin ’83 (D-Md.) said the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol should have spelled the end of the Electoral College during a talk at the Harvard Kennedy School Thursday afternoon.

The event — which was co-hosted by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and the Harvard Institute of Politics — was moderated by Alexander Keyssar ’77, a professor of History and Social Policy at HKS.

At the start of the conversation, Raskin laid out four “interlocking arguments” against the Electoral College, which he described as “anti-democratic, anti-majoritarian.”

Raskin questioned why the process for voting in U.S. presidential races is different from almost every other election to public office, where the candidate with the most votes wins.

“It's not that complicated of an idea,” he said.

The Electoral College has come under intense scrutiny since the 2000 presidential election, when Al Gore, the Democratic candidate, lost to George W. Bush by 537 votes in Florida. The decision ultimately handed the presidency to Bush, despite losing the popular vote to Gore.

In 2016, former President Donald J. Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton by winning the Electoral College, despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.

Raskin also took aim at Trump for past comments denouncing the Electoral College only to suddenly approve of the process after his victory over Clinton in 2016.

While Raskin said he believes everyone should be opposed to the “convoluted, antiquated, obsolete” Electoral College, he acknowledged that it “has become a partisan split.”

While serving as a member of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, Raskin recalled debating the Electoral College with former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who believed that the process benefited smaller states like Wyoming, which she represented at the time.

Raskin said that Cheney “completely swallowed hook, line, and sinker the myth that the Electoral College helps the small states.”

But Raskin said he believes that while small states might get “some minuscule” advantage from the process, it mostly benefits swing states.

“You can be small, you can be big. It doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “The only states that get attention under our system are swing states.”

In particular, Raskin pointed to the statistic that the turnout level in swing states is eight to 10 points higher than in other states during presidential elections.

“I think the whole country would benefit from us having an election where everybody votes, every vote counts equally, and every vote is counted,” he added.

Raskin also expressed concern that the Electoral College could be the cause of more violence following this November’s presidential election.

“It is dangerous,” Raskin added. “It can kill, as we saw on January 6.”

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