Bill Petrocelli

in conversation with Joel Richard Paul

Recorded Saturday, September 12, 2020

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Bill Petrocelli in conversation with Joel Richard Paul

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Bill Petrocelli’s newest book, Electoral Bait & Switch  argues that the Electoral College has devolved from the institution that the founders created for the purpose of choosing a President and that it has now become a mere caricature of itself. The Electoral College now has only one function: to distort the result of the popular vote for President.

Bill is an author, attorney, and co-owner of Book Passage, the fiercely independent bookstore in Corte Madera, California, and at the San Francisco Ferry Building. In addition to several years in private practice, Bill has also served as a California Deputy Attorney General, the head of a poverty law office in Oakland, a member of the Board of the American Booksellers Association and an attorney for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. He is a frequent advocate on women’s issues and on the problems of local businesses.

Bill is also the author of Low Profile: How to Avoid the Privacy Invaders and Sexual Harassment on the Job: What it is and How to Stop It, the first book published on the subject of stopping workplace harassment and sexual violence. He has also written two novels: The Circle of Thirteen and Through the Bookstore Window, which Foreword Magazine calls “an unusual, rewarding take on the nature of memory: how it haunts and heals, how single moments set the future in motion, and how it binds survivors together in ways they seldom expect.”

Joel Richard Paul is a Professor of Constitutional Law at U.C. Hastings Law School in San Francisco. He has lectured and published throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He is the author of Unlikely Allies: How a Merchant, a Playwright, and a Spy Saved the American Revolution and the biography of Chief Justice John Marshall, Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times.

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  • 9

    votes

    What’s the one thing ordinary citizens can do to get this damn electoral college done away with once and for all? Who do I call!!!

  • 7

    votes

    Honestly, how do we allow a national “popular vote” system to not overwhelm smaller states and make them relatively meaningless? How EXACTLY would you write the constitutional Amendment? Would you mandate instead that States still get “Electoral College” votes, but that they must be allocated in proportion to the popular vote WITHIN each state?

  • 5

    votes

    The Electoral College is specified in the Constitution, but its current “winner take all” implementation is not. Have the courts ever ruled on whether allocating electors on a proportional basis is fairer than the “winner take all” rule.

  • 4

    votes

    When and why did you decide to write “Electoral Bait & Switch”?

  • 4

    votes

    As a practical matter – not a procedural or legal one – what would it take to eliminate the Electoral College and switch to a one-person/one-vote system? Given the crises the country is currently facing – the pandemic, the economy, unemployment and racism to name a few – and the attention and resources focused on those issues why is it even feasible to be talking now about a change to the way we vote? Thanks!

  • 4

    votes

    Getting rid of the EC seems improbable. I suggest we convince all states to use proportional division of electoral votes. 1) What effect would a 100% proportional division have had in 2016? and 2) How do we accomplish this change?

  • 3

    votes

    What is the last thing you read that moved you? What book is a pandemic must read?

  • 3

    votes

    Do you prefer writing historical nonfiction or fiction? What is your research process like for both?

  • 3

    votes

    Assuming all of us work very hard on this election so that the Democrats win the presidency, the Senate, and the House, how could Congress get rid of the Electoral College?

  • 2

    votes

    How long before we can do away with the Electoral College for good?

  • 2

    votes

    What inspired you and you wife to put on these online events? Thank you so much!

  • 2

    votes

    While usually debated today in the context of large Vs small state balance of power, was the EC not also created to satisfy the demands of southern slave-holding states, where slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person? How has the EC continued to foster institutional racism since the abolition of slavery?

  • 2

    votes

    How are the Electoral College voters chosen in each state and who chooses them? It is important because each state is required (?) to adhere to the popular vote. These people can destroy the vote if they don’t respect the popular vote.

  • 2

    votes

    When did you start writing?

  • 2

    votes

    Will Book Passage offer more classes like the one which Professor Paul taught last year, about the Constitution? How about a class on the origins and impact of the Electoral College? Or on on the Supreme Court?

  • 1

    votes

    You’re a writer and a bookstore owner! What’s it like running one of America’s best independent book stores in the time of COVID?

  • 1

    votes

    What do you consider more difficult to write? Fiction or non-fiction?

  • 1

    votes

    Although not functioning as the founders envisioned, I feel the electoral college functions relatively well forcing national support to be wide as well as deep. Would assigning electors by congressional district as Nebraska and Maine do be an improvement?

  • 1

    votes

    If the electoral college uses the popular vote as a guideline only, doesn’t it make those positions especially susceptible to bribery? Has the electoral college ever been investigated for bribery?

  • 1

    votes

    What would be the best alternative to the electoral college in your opinion?

  • 0

    votes

    will you continue to offer Author Talks as long as more authors are willing to participate?

  • 0

    votes

    We want to eliminate the EC because it gives the power of deciding presidential election outcomes to a handful of “battleground” states. So in essence a voter in, say , Ohio has several times more voting power that I in California. This is certainly not the intent of our constitution. Our “votes” are the dollars we give to the candidates in those $13 requests that come everyday. The candidate with the most dollars wins! This is what is truly wrong. We need to take money out of elections. This seems quite easily done by mandate and a simple structural process & procedure of elections. High school students could write this. Seriously, when will stop the insanity of nonstop endless campaigning?

  • 0

    votes

    I have heard it said that one reason the founders wated the EC was that it “protects minority rights.” First, is that true? Second, why should “minority rights” (whatever that means) be protected in an election of any kind, where we have a tradition that 50% + 1 vote wins?

  • 0

    votes

    I am proud to be one of 9 Democratic Electors in this red state and I sure hope to have to drive to Indianapolis in December. Not for me (God forbid!) but could you talk a little about faithless electors?

  • 0

    votes

    Are you aware of an organization called National Popular Vote that was started several years ago by Bay Area attorney Barry Fadem? They have been working on creating a compact to ensure that the Presidency goes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes.