Dyker Heights

Electoral College candidate defends system

Kassar sees no need to change way presidents are chosen

December 9, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Jerry Kassar (right) and Mike Long have both been members of the Electoral College over the past 30 years. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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The historic 2016 election, which resulted in a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College, has led many disgruntled Democrats to call for a drastic change in presidential elections. But one candidate for the college from Brooklyn is defending the centuries-old system for picking presidents.

Jerry Kassar, who ran as an elector pledged to Republican Donald Trump, said the system works well and should not be tampered with.

“We have been doing it this way since the founding of the republic,” Kassar told the Brooklyn Eagle. Kassar, a Dyker Heights resident who is the chief of staff to state Sen. Marry Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn), is also chairman of the Brooklyn Conservative Party. Kassar ran in the Nov. 8 election, but did not win, since Hillary Clinton won New York State and will receive all of the state’s 29 electoral votes when members meet in Albany to vote on Dec. 19.

The Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won New York State in the Nov. 8 election, will get all 29 of the state’s Electoral College votes when members meet in Albany to vote on Dec. 19.

Nationwide, Trump earned the lion’s share of Electoral College votes, 306, to his rival’s 232. But Clinton, the first woman to be a major party candidate for president, outpaced Trump in the popular vote by a wide margin, more than 2.5 million votes at last count.

The split between the Electoral College and the popular vote has led many Democrats to push hard for the nation to dump the Electoral College system in favor of having the popular vote decide who wins the White House.

In a forum in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 6, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan-Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, spoke out in favor of making the popular vote the determining factor.

“I believe we must move away from the Electoral College as it currently operates and toward a system that guarantees that the winner of the popular vote actually becomes the President of the United States. That shouldn’t really be considered a radical idea,” said Nadler, who spoke at a forum titled “The Electoral College and the Future of American Democracy.”

Nadler offered a review of previous elections in which the Electoral College results differed from the popular vote.

“As you know, the popular vote winner differed from the Electoral College vote winner just three times in the 19th century. The last time was in 1888. Then it didn’t happen again until 2000, and so we, as a nation, got complacent,” Nadler said.

Now with Clinton’s loss, “there is an even greater disconnect between the popular vote and the Electoral College, and it is time we got rid of the distorting influence of the Electoral College on the popular will,” Nadler said.

Kassar disagrees.

“The country was established as a republic as opposed to a direct democracy. We have 50 sovereign states. This is also reflected in the structure of the U.S. Senate, where you have two senators from each state, regardless of the populations of the states,” he said.

Like the Senate, the Electoral College preserves the balance of power in the states, according to Kassar. “To me, it’s a no-brainer. It works best for the people and for the country as a whole,” he told the Eagle.

Kassar isn’t the only elector from Brooklyn. New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, who lives in Bay Ridge, cast an Electoral College vote for Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Other Electoral College proponents have argued that doing away with the system would have a negative effect on presidential campaigns. Candidates would likely concentrate on voters in heavily populated states like California, Texas and New York, and ignore states like Iowa, Arkansas and Arizona, proponents said.

While advocates for keeping the current system in place argue that the Electoral College helps smaller states attain equal footing with larger states, Nadler said such protections are already in place. “The small states are already protected by the two votes in the Senate, and they don’t need extra protection in the Electoral College as well,” he said.

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