Eastern Michigan University students offer powerful suggestions for improving the system in virtual poster session on political reform

A poster-style illustration of American government images in red, white and blue

YPSILANTI – The malapportioned U.S. Senate. Reforming The Electoral College. Questionable presidential pardons.

Students in Professor Jeffrey Bernstein’s Political Science 113 class tackled those and other crucial issues of the day in a special virtual poster session on political reform held during class on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Students designed posters that articulated the elements and arguments of their suggested reforms, which will be debated at a class Constitutional convention that starts Nov. 19. During a series of nine 10-minute sessions, students explained and defended their proposed reforms to classmates and other University guests.

Malapportioned U.S. Senate

Among the presenters was Megan Griffin, who noted that each state, regardless of population, receives two seats in the U.S. Senate.

 “The design of the Senate does not represent the people,” Griffin wrote on her poster. “Minorities residing in larger population states are not represented. Less than half of the U.S. population controls 82 percent of the Senate.”

Electoral College

Edgar Vasquez was among the students arguing that individuals don’t have equal voting power under the Electoral College system.

“It’s supposed to be proportional to population … But when you actually do the math, Wyoming voters have three times the power than a voter in California,” Vasquez said during his group’s 10-minute presentation.

Among his group’s suggested ideas for reform? A national popular vote interstate compact, where states would agree to award their electoral votes to whoever wins the national popular vote, or replacing the Electoral College with a national popular vote.

Limitations on Presidential Pardons

Kathleen Inman was among the students noting questionable pardons by recent Presidents, including Bill Clinton’s pardon of Democratic Party donor Mark Rich and Donald Trump’s granting clemency to convicted political operative Roger Stone.

Noting “the abuses we’re seen in the past four years,” Inman suggested creating checks through a 30-day submission effect, where Congress can deny any pardon during that period.

Considering how our systems works, and could work better

Vasquez said “The biggest strength of this project and of Dr. Bernstein’s class is that we are not just learning about how the government works, we’re also learning about how it doesn’t work.”

Bernstein said he loved watching his students share their research with their fellow students and other guests at the University.

“It's been a valuable exercise to both appreciate the ways that the U.S. system of government works well, but also to permit ourselves to imagine how considering amendments to the Constitution might help us to become 'a more perfect Union,'” he said.

“Our Constitutional Convention starts on November 19, and I am eager to see which amendments get serious consideration from the delegates at the Convention."

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

November 18, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom