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If we are to make voting changes, the time is now

If we are to make voting changes, the time is now

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Last week made history with the swearing in of Joe Biden — who became oldest person ever to serve as president of the United States — and Kamala Harris — the first woman, African American and South Asian American to become vice president. Washington bade farewell to Donald Trump — for now perhaps — after four controversial years in the White House.

Many of President Trump’s million of supporters still mourn his loss — which many refuse to accept — in November. President Biden’s supporters are eager to embrace his calls for unity

Even though the new presidential term has just begun, no doubt more than one potential presidential candidate is planning his or her — thank you, Vice President Harris — 2024 campaign for the White House.

Before looking ahead three years — and before the 2020 election moves too far behind — Americans need to review and settle several issues before they once again are caught up in election politics in 2024.

Perhaps first on the list should be the Electoral College, that all-important decider in presidential races that is understood fully by so few American voters.

In 2016, when Hillary Clinton received some 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump but lost the election in the Electoral College, a lot of the former secretary of State’s supporters demanded an end to that election determiner.

It was unfair that a person who won the popular vote should lose the election, they said — although she wasn’t the first — because the opponent won the “right” group of states.

The Electoral College was on voters’ minds in November, but this time around, Joe Biden won both the popular and the Electoral College votes.

Still there were mutterings that it is time to eliminate the Electoral College. Perhaps so, but the time to decide such a momentous change is now and not when we are in the midst of the next presidential campaign.

Unfortunately, Americans tend to forget their dissatisfaction with the Electoral College quickly — thinking of it again only when it comes to determining the winner and loser of the next presidential vote.

If we do decide to keep the Electoral College, then we should address how electors are picked. Each state is awarded a number of electors equal to the number of representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives plus one for each of the state’s two senators. Texas has 36 representatives, plus two senators, so it has 38 electors in the Electoral College.

In 48 of the 50 states, the candidate receiving the most popular votes gets all of that state’s electors.

Only Maine and Nebraska decide who gets their electoral votes differently. In those states, the candidate winning the most popular votes receives two electoral votes. The remainder are awarded by congressional district, with each district’s electoral vote going to the candidate who won that district’s popular vote,

Creation of the Electoral College in the Constitution was a compromise between those who wanted the president and vice president chosen by the “elites” in Congress, because the general population was unschooled in the ways of politics, and those who felt the selection belongs to the people as a whole.

Since voting is a state issue, it is up to the residents of each state to ensure that their elections are fair, open and honest. The presidential election last year was dogged by questions over changes in how votes were to be cast, how they were counted and when — and how — they were recounted, if necessary.

There is no doubt the November election was fair and that Joe Biden was duly elected president, but too many questions remain about the whole process.

Part of that was due to the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to make voting safer for voters.

Other changes most likely were made to keep certain voters from casting a ballot for one candidate or another.

Choosing our leaders is, perhaps, the most basic and sacred of our rights and responsibilities as Americans. We need to ensure that every eligible voter who wants to cast a ballot can do so without difficulty — and that each voter can be assured that his or her ballot is counted accurately.

Brazos County has led the way in making voting easy, with extended early voting hours — including weekends — and allowing any voter to cast a ballot at any polling place.

We must be sure that the polling places remain in locations equally accessible to every voter in the county.

Now, Texans must decide if it will continue to make vote by mail available to all voters with minimum restrictions and how those voters are to be collected and counted. We must stop erecting roadblocks that may seem reasonable but really are designed to keep some people — particularly older voters and voters of color — from voting.

Each state must thoroughly examine its own voting rules and regulations and make any changes or additions prior to 2024.

We must be sure that free and fair elections remain a hallmark of America.

The time to do so is now.

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