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Voters Trying To Decide Where They Fall On Ideas Of Large Govt. Structural Changes


Democratic presidential candidates are already on the campaign trail, and as they stump, they're hitting traditional issues like health care and the economy. But they're also talking about not-so-typical issues like adding more Supreme Court justices or dumping the Electoral College. As New Hampshire Public Radio's Britta Greene reports, voters are still trying to figure out what they think about these ideas.

BRITTA GREENE, BYLINE: Senator Elizabeth Warren has been one of the most out front of the candidates on proposing some fundamental changes to the way American politics work. One key issue for her is moving to a national popular vote, ditching the Electoral College. She was at a high school in rural New Hampshire recently on stage in front of a couple hundred people.


ELIZABETH WARREN: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you.

GREENE: This event was billed as a panel discussion on the opioid crisis, but afterwards, she took questions from the audience on any subject they wanted.


WARREN: Yes, sir. It looks like you got the last one. Make it a good one.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I hope I will. I want to thank you and applaud you for your position about the Electoral College.

WARREN: Oh, you bet.


WARREN: Every vote should count.

GREENE: The man says, getting rid of the Electoral College, it's a good place to start, but has she considered a system based on citizen petitions and national referendums?


WARREN: Interesting. OK. Come to New Hampshire and you hear about democracy. I love this.

GREENE: This idea is nowhere near mainstream, but the sentiment that the political system isn't working is on the minds of many Democratic voters in New Hampshire these days. For some, that feeling started all the way back with the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision that decided the 2000 presidential election. For some, it was Merrick Garland's failed nomination to the Supreme Court. Maybe it's the inability to get anything done on gun control or climate change, or maybe it was Donald Trump's election.

Still, when it comes down to concrete ideas for how to fix the system, Democrats aren't sure where to stand. Jimmy Darden and Brian Romeo, for example, came to see Warren from just over the state line in Vermont. Recent polls show strong support among Democratic voters for scrapping the Electoral College, but these two are still wrapping their heads around it.

JIMMY DARDEN: I am curious if it's going to weaken the vote in a rural, like, small state.

BRIAN ROMEO: I think even still though, I mean, that just shows that everyone's vote's not equal.

GREENE: These issues came up at another local campaign event last month for South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. He says we should consider adding justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: In a country that changed its Constitution so that you couldn't drink and then realized that was a bad idea and changed it back, we have the mechanisms to do this responsibly but boldly.

GREENE: Not everyone thinks Democrats are ready to embrace big ideas for changing how the political system works. Before retiring, Maynard Goldman used to work in state and local politics on both sides of the aisle.

MAYNARD GOLDMAN: I think these ideas are farther down - further down the list than what seems to me to be kind of more important issues, you know, jobs and the economy, clearly - immigration.

GREENE: His neighbor, Dave Wood, agrees but also thinks addressing those issues might require political reforms.

DAVE WOOD: If we can't deal with health care and climate change and the big issues because we're so partisan, then fixing the partisan divide is the primary objective so that we can deal with the things that really matter.

GREENE: And that's a key question for Democrats in 2020. Will these big structural changes really work, not only to excite voters but ultimately to deliver results? For NPR News, I'm Britta Greene in Grantham, N.H. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.