Roy Ulrich

Roy Ulrich is a lecturer at the Goldman School of Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley and a policy analyst at Demos.

Recent Articles

Dump the Electoral College!

Even though recent Democratic presidential candidates do pretty well with it.

M. E. J. Newman/University of Michigan/Creative Commons
M. E. J. Newman/University of Michigan/Creative Commons A cartogram of the 2012 U.S. presidential election scaling the sizes of states in proportion to the number of electoral votes they have. F or many years, progressives and the Democratic left have been clamoring for a constitutional amendment that would replace the antiquated Electoral College with a popular vote for president. Their argument is simple and persuasive—chiefly, that the institution is undemocratic and, as the 2000 election made clear, not necessarily a reflection of the popular vote. Ironically, Democrats are making this argument at a time when their presidential candidates have fared well in the Electoral College in recent contests. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have voted for a Democrat in the last six presidential contests. These account for 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency. In contrast, the 13 states that voted Republican in the last six presidential election cycles...

The Subversion of Direct Democracy

(Flickr/Neon Tommy)
A few months ago, I attended a large political gathering. There, a gentleman was handing out flyers which read, “Abolish the Congress and replace it with direct citizen voting by phone or television.” A few days later, a newly-arrived transplant to Southern California wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times . He said he was mystified by California’s method of writing and enacting laws by ballot initiative. He wondered what happened to the concept of laws being written by elected legislators. The flyer and the letter represent polar opposite views about direct versus representative democracy. The major complaint I hear about the initiative process is that it is dominated by those very interests it was originally designed to overcome. For one thing, proponents write initiatives as a wish list. Unlike the legislative process, which involves hearings, debates, and compromise, drafters of initiatives often write extreme measures representing their own agenda in the hopes of boosting...