The Electoral College… a view from 17 year old me.

My husband and I were talking about the electoral college and our shared frustrations about it.  I’ve felt this way for a very very long time.  The following is a letter I sent to Senator Grassley in the spring of 1999… and I still had a copy of it saved on my computer!  That summer I would gain the right to vote.  That fall, I would cast my vote for George W. Bush, who won the election not because he won the popular vote, but because he won the electoral college.  Even having had my candidate succeed, I still disagreed with how it came to happen.  And I felt that way as a resident of a “sparsely populated state.”  I’m in a different place today than I was then and support different political perspectives… and can’t help but call back to this letter when, yet again, a candidate has lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college. 

March 21, 1999


Dear Senator Grassley,

In the fall of 2000, millions of Americans across the nation will be going to the polls to cast their vote for the next President. I am lucky enough to be one of those individuals who will be voting for the first time. Nothing excites me more than the opportunity to participate in one of the most essential elements in a democracy… the right to vote. I have already begun looking at candidates and deciding which one I think best represents my opinions and moral views. Just when I was getting into it, I realized I was wrong. I will not be voting for a President on November 7, 2000. Rather, I will be voting for a list of citizens who have ‘dedicated’ themselves to a particular candidate or party.  I will be voting for electors in the Electoral College.

I had always believed that living in a democracy we should all have the right to vote, and that we should all be represented equally. I was extremely disappointed when I realized that this is not so. “The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence, to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address… can only mean one thing- one person, one vote” (Braun and Longley 15). This statement, made in the Gray vs. Sanders case, was what I had always envisioned democracy to be. One person, one vote. After all, we are a government of, by, and for the people. Why is it then that we must have this intermediate stage of the Electoral College? Not only is this process outdated but the small states actually have an advantage in many situations. Another aspect, called the unit system, is unrepresentative of the people’s vote. The current way that we elect our Presidents needs to be reformed or abolished.

The Electoral College was “merely a jerry-rigged improvisation…” says John P. Roche (qt. in Braun and Longley 22). It was the second choice to many from its creation. Some believed that Congress should elect the President and some thought that the direct vote of the people was the right way (Peirce 41). Nevertheless, at that time, the people of the United States were spread out and did not have means of communication. In fact, the candidates could not campaign because it would have taken years to inform the country about their stance, therefore, citizens were incompetent to elect a President. This was the reason that in that time, the elector system seemed to be the best plan. In today’s technological world, information travels around the world instantaneously and we are competent to make our own decisions. “What really moved the delegates to accept [it]… were certain practical considerations dictated not by political ideals but by the social realities of the time- realities that no longer exist” (Braun 25).

One of the biggest compromises in the Electoral College was over the populated states vs. sparse states controversy. The following are three ways in which the sparse states have gained not only equal footing, but also an advantage over populated states. In the original plan, formed by members of a special committee, the states would receive electors according to the number of representatives from both the House and the Senate. This benefited the sparse states because whereas Vermont would have had a 1:4 ratio vote with West Virginia based on population alone, the addition of the two votes made the ratio 3:6, or 1:2. Also, the national average for people per electoral vote is 333,314; however, some less populated states like Alaska and South Dakota have 75,389 and 170,129 respectively. Meanwhile, Kentucky and California are getting the short end of the stick because they have 337,573 and 392,930 respectively (Peirce 263).

Another aspect that the committee decided on was what to do if there was not a majority of votes for any given candidate. They concluded that the House of Representatives would decide the President. To protect the sparse states, each state only had one vote, regardless of population. Then they were on equal footing with the populated states and could not be outvoted.

One of the major concerns of sparse states is that if the Electoral College is changed, they will lose some of their edge and will not have any say in who gets to be President. The twelve largest states could indeed vote and take the election, but all of those states would have to agree unanimously with each other for that to happen. In the history of the United States, there has never been an instance where all of the sparse states were overruled by the populated states. No clear set of different interests has been shown in relation to size. Most of the disagreements are over ideas, economics, and regional issues. One politician has called it the “Great Irrelevancy” (Peirce 262). The truth of the matter is that if we did not have the Electoral College system, we would not even have to worry about what state a person was from. It would be one person, one vote.

One of the most undemocratic aspects of the entire Electoral College is the unit voting system. All of the states except for Maine are currently running under a system that gives all of the state’s electoral votes to the candidate with the state’s majority and none to any of the other candidates. In the 1960 election, Kennedy and Nixon won the two states of New York (45 votes) and California (32 votes) respectively. Although both of these individuals had nearly the same percentage in each state, Kennedy had a larger lead with seven votes, simply because he won the larger state (Peirce 138).

Candidates can easily gain votes by trying to look appealing to a certain group of people: a minority, special interest, or lobbyist group. These organized groups have immense bargaining power, especially in those large states with so many electoral votes at risk. They can dominate presidential campaigns, and invite fraud, corruption, illegal fundraising and such tactics to come into our governmental system (Peirce 152).

Another thing that the Electoral College unit system does is discourage voters from going to the polls. In “safe states” or states where there is an overwhelming majority of a party, either democratic or republican, why would someone want to vote? All of the votes of his state are going to the candidate anyway, so why vote? Furthermore, the party that is in the minority may not feel the need to vote because their votes will not count in the Electoral College. They will end up adding votes to the candidate they were voting against (Politics 94). In fact, from 1908-1945, 372 million votes were cast for presidential candidates. Forty-four percent of those votes, or 163 million, were minority votes that did not count (Peirce 138).

The unit system was added to the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, but 13 states asked the Supreme Court to look over this system again and require the states to split their electoral votes to reflect the population (Peirce 190). According to this plan, the votes would be divided in each state according to the popular vote (Braun 49). It is an easily comprehendible solution, and at least two parties are encouraged in each state because the votes for minor parties are reflected. In addition, there would be less fraud because you would limit the power of organized minorities or interest groups (Braun 54). However, if we are going to change it this much, why not change it all the way?

The current way that we elect our Presidents needs to be reformed or abolished. Some will say, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” What they do not see is the imminent danger that occurs when there is a close election, like in 1992 where there were three major candidates (Carey). In the elections where a candidate had a 3% or less advantage on the opponent, 30% of the time, he was not elected. According to some experts, there is no better than a 50/50 chance that the President will be the candidate who won the popular vote (Goldstein 34). This is all due to the Electoral College. It was created as a compromise, but is now outdated. The sparse states are given too much power, when we should all be equal. The way that the electoral votes are given to the candidate is unrepresentative of the people in each state. Is this a system that you are willing to allow continue? Am I supposed to just sit back and let others decide for me, or will I actually be able to choose who the next President is? I urge you to bring this to the attention of others. It’s time for a change. It’s time to let the people vote.



Katie Ziskovsky

Remembering Our Place #growrule

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This Lent, I have been using a tool called “Growing a Rule of Life.”  Each day there is a video and a prompt question to engage with.  And of course, I’m behind already.


Friday’s video reminded me that we need structure, we need planning, we need the framework in place before we start these kinds of disciplines, and the very fact that I didn’t schedule time for my days off and for Sunday (which is always a hectic day in my world) proves the point.

The question we were left with that day is simple: when you connect with nature, what is meaningful about it?

When I truly connect with nature, I find that I, myself, my ego, is diminished.  So much of my life is spent working and relating and living my life and everything revolves around myself and my calling and what I’m supposed to do or not do.

Yet when I truly connect with nature, all of that ceases.

I still my soul.

I stop.

And I am humbled by the reminder that there is so much else going on in the world that is not me.

The falling of snow flakes. The robins in the trees. The buds already forming. The hawk gliding overhead. The slow decomposition of the leaves that are life and death all wrapped into one.

And all of it continues without me.

In fact, all of this life probably would do a lot better without our human interference and selfish use and abuse of the world.

When I truly connect with nature, I am overcome with how small I am, and how beautiful the world is.

My soul cannot help but be awed by our Creator.


So much of the time, I’m rushing here and there, from meeting to project, to home and back.

Without creating space to stop and pause and connect with the world around us, I will forget who I am.  I will forget how insignificant these tasks are in the grand scheme of things.  I will forget that it is not about me… but my Creator.

Everything but… #NaBloPoMo

Yesterday I posted about this article I read on the ENFP personality and one characteristic absolutely jumped out at me:

9. Being a HUGE, UNSTOPPABLE FORCE of creativity and productivity… an hour before the deadline.

I am such a last minute person. I always have been.  I can set aside all the time in the world to work on a project, but somehow in the moment of carefully carved time, my mind wanders.  It flits about. I get stuck.

In the past year I have probably done more professional writing than I ever have before.  I worked on two manuscripts and have re-engaged with preaching on a weekly basis.

That first manuscript experience was another one of those crazy, down to the wire, I’ve got it all in my head somewhere but haven’t actually put it into the computer yet, situation. Once I did get it roughed out, I had a couple of all nighters finalizing and editing and moving the pieces around.  It is just the way I work. And it gave everyone, including myself, a big old fat headache.

708452_62978186So when the second opportunity to write came along, I was determined to do it differently. For my own sanity, for my relationship with my husband, for the quality of the work.  I went away for a whole week to a cabin in the middle of nowhere.  I made a plan to study and write a chapter a day, every day during my time.  And you know what, I actually did.  I got all of that hard work done on that trip.  But I think for the most part it was because I treated every section of work (each chapter was in four parts) as if I only had three hours to complete it. In order to stick to the schedule, that’s how it had to be. I would have breakfast and study for three hours.  I’d take a walk and bang out the introduction.  I’d have lunch and then work on the next section.  I’d take a walk and then write some more.  I made dinner and then before I could go to sleep, the final words had to be done and I did a preliminary read-through.  I was able to merge that procrastination and last-minute productive energy with an intentional plan to get work done.

In my return to preaching, I’m working towards doing so as well.  Thursdays are carved out as sermon writing days and I’m trying so very hard to instill that same deadline for 5pm that afternoon.  I like to believe that if my sermon isn’t finished, I’m not going home.

When I actually sit down to write on Thursdays, I tend to get the worst writer’s block ever.  I rearrange books.  I listen to quiet music. I get another cup of coffee.  I read the texts again. I check out facebook.  I stare at the computer screen.  I check in with my staff.  I do everything BUT actually type out the words.

And truth be told, it’s because I’m struggling with creating the same sense of urgency that my creativity demands. I’m allowing myself to make excuses. I keep thinking I’ll find time on some morning before my husband gets up (you know, on my days off).  I tell myself that if all else fails I always have 6am on Sunday morning (a time some of my best sermons have emerged).

I think for my personality, for my style of working, what I need is to hold myself deeply accountable to that 5pm deadline.  I need to create consequences for not getting there.  I need to remind my administrative assistant that I can’t go home until it’s done (she’s good about things like that). I need to ramp up the pressure for a firm Thursday deadline. And if I’m able to do that, I think writer’s block will be a thing of the past.  At least in my life.


Written for today’s prompt from BlogHer: Have you ever had extended writer’s block? How long did it last? What did you do to break out of it, and do you have tips for other bloggers?

Maybe I'm an ENFP after all #NaBloPoMo

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Today, I stumbled across an article about the struggles of various personalitites.

25 Struggles Only ENFPs Will Understand | Thought Catalog

I feel like I have always wavered between E and I on the Meyers-Briggs scale. I’m on the border but usually lean towards the Extrovert side. So I didn’t feel like I fit in either very well based on the typical descriptions.

There is something to be said about identifying something by what it is not, however.  Seeing these struggles typed out before my eyes was like a light bulb.
Especially the pieces about need more alone time and the quality of social interaction that energizes me. I can flit from person to person and table to table at coffee hour, but I’m exhausted when I get home. If I sit down and have a much longer conversation with one group in the midst of everyone,  I feel completely different.

The piece about the constant flow of ideas is so true as well. As we switched spaces at the church this last month, the plan changed about 10 times. The final plan came to me in a dream the day before our biggest move. I’m constantly tweaking things and it isn’t right until it’s time to get up and do it. That’s why some of my best sermons were written at 6 am on Sunday morning.  It is why my husband gets so frustrated with me as we grocery shop… as I see an item, new possibilities arise and I change what I want to cook for dinner.

For the first time, I feel like I really can embrace my ENFPness

The Blue Couch #NaBloPoMo

Today’s prompt is:  Do you have a book in you? Fact or fiction? Related to your blog or totally different?

Well, the first part of the answer is that I have already worked on two books!

The first is an Advent study that is available here.  It weaves between the story of the magi and the book of Hebrews in order to show how the gifts brought to Jesus foreshadow the roles he plays in our lives.

The second is a lectionary based study that is available for Lent 2015 and can now be preordered! It takes a broad view of salvation and discusses a variety of atonement theories along the way.


IMG_2460There is a book that someday I would like to write, however, that is more autobiographical in nature.  As the post title suggests, it revolves around a blue couch, but more than that, it would be the story of my call and my relationship with my husband.  While in large part it is a book I would love to write, particularly for anyone who also is in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share their faith story, it is also a book that a) isn’t a complete story yet and b) might be too personal at the moment to share.

The blue couch is currently sitting in my office at home.  Together, we rescued it from being thrown away from an office building in Wisconsin.  We hadn’t been dating too long at that point, but were pretty attached to each other.  Since then, it traveled with us to college, moved with me to seminary, got destroyed by our kittens when we moved back home, but I just can’t seem to throw it away. It is a super high quality couch with real down feathers and although we have beat up on that couch, it is stick kicking!  (which might be a metaphor in and of itself for our relationship!) I’m trying to figure out how/when I might reupholster it… in blue of course!

Exercise and Practice

This thought was waiting for me in my email inbox this morning, as I finished day one of working out again:


Here is a traveler. He has launched out on a long journey. He comes to the first inn, and there he remains forever. His reason? He has been told that many travelers have come this way and have stayed at this very inn; even the master of the house once dwelt here…. Oh soul! All that is wished for you is that you press toward the end…. Only remember this: Do not stop at the first stage.

Jeanne Guyon
Source: Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ

So many times, I have started on this journey and I stop far beyond the journeys end. I give up when weather, a cold, and busyness get in my way. I settle for where I am rather than pressing on.

I think when it comes to fitness and weightloss there is a fine line between loving who you are, as you are, and pushing yourself to take another step. I can accept myself and love myself right now. I just bought a pair of jeans that fit perfectly.  I can embrace my curves and size. At the same time, I climbed a hill this weekend and found myself out of breath.  I know that while this me is okay, that I can also do better.  I need to push myself to the next place without hating myself in the process. 

I wonder if we treat our spiritual lives the same way? Where we are in our life of prayer or service or the eay we love others… it is good and fine and acceptable. And we can stay here for as long as we want. Until one day we notice that we cant find the words to pray or a difficult situation challenges our ability to love someone.  And then we realize that while we might be okay with where we are, that doesn’t mean we can’t grow more healthy and push farther in our spiritual lives. We discover that climb that challenges us and we find the incentive to push on and grow as a disciple of God.

This morning,  I started my journey with some weight lifting and tomorrow I will do some cardio. You can find a thousand ways to get physically healthy.

In our spiritual lives,  there are many exercises we can try, too:
A new form of prayer, journaling, reading the scripture,  serving once a week, worshipping intentionally with others, finding a spiritual buddy to talk with.
All of these flex our soul and strengthen us for what comes next. They challenge us to keep moving forward on the journey.  One step at a time.

Finding Faith at the Lunch Table

If I think back to the first moment when faith sunk in deep into my life, it would be sitting around a lunch table at Simpson College. 

I wasn’t actually a college student then, but a sophomore in high school participating in our Youth Annual Conference.  It was hosted there at the college every year and it was an opportunity for youth leadership to be developed, new friendships to be made, and for us to explore faith in a totally different way.

I had been floating around the periphery of church for a while.  I went to Sunday School a few times as a youngster.  We went on Christmas Eve with my grandparents.  I had been to funerals and weddings.  And I had a number of friends who were Christian and often invited me along to church.  But their experiences of faith were not my own.  I wanted to know more about Jesus, but I never quite felt like I totally fit in with their traditions.  Looking back, they were more conservative and evangelical than where I eventually ended up, so perhaps early on I was sensing that wasn’t where I belonged. 

I remember vividly in the fall of my sophomore year, however, that my mom realized I had not yet been confirmed and we started going to church as a family.  Both sides of our family had been United Methodist, so we went to the biggest church we could find nearby.  And I was instantly hooked.  I joined the youth choir and the youth bells.  I started confirmation.  I went to youth group.  Because it was a large church, my social circle instantly expanded with students from other area high schools all becoming my new best friends.  It was a really amazing time. 

And that spring, we went to Youth Annual Conference.  We were a small group, even though it was a large church – just my mom; the youth pastor, Todd; another student and myself.  It was my first experience of holy conferencing and resolutions and voting on legistation.  It was my first experience of a praise band.  It was my first chance to really understand what it might mean to be United Methodist.

But it was a conversation around the lunch table that really got me hooked.  Others had been debating about whether or not we should listen to pop music, but Todd had just been rapping in the lunch line the whole “Fresh Prince of Bel Aire” song.  And when he finally joined in the conversation, he talked about how he had used a Judas Priest song in youth group one night.  This was many years ago, but I remember he talked about redeeming rather than rejecting culture.  He talked about asking better questions in the face of music and narratives and people we don’t on the surface agree with, finding out what makes them tick and what they are trying to say, so we can speak with them. And I knew, right then, that I could claim that kind of faith. 

In his book, Falling Upward, Richard Rohr talks about the two halves of our lives.  The time we spend creating the container for our lives (identity, security, relationships) and then the time we spend living in and discovering the life we have built for ourselves.  He writes that a type of spiritual awakening or falling apart happens in between the two of them…. when we realize we can’t just keep going on and building that container for ever, we actually have to start exploring what it means to live in this life we have created.

In the life of faith, one way this can be described is the move from law to grace.  In the first half of our lives, we need the rules of faith: don’t kill, love God, pray this way.  Rules lay the foundations… but the law itself is not the end.  Rohr quotes the Dalai Lama here: “Learn and obey the rules very well, so you will know how to break them properly.” Grace is helping the man get his oxen out of a hole on the sabbath.  Grace is releasing the adulteress and telling her to go and sin no more.  Grace is meeting people out of love rather than judgment. 

Because I came to my faith a little bit later in life, my religious experience was never steeped in law and judgment language.  That being said, I was one of those “good girls” who tried to always follow the rules.  I got straight A’s.  I never drank in high school, or smoked, or experimented in any way. I had enough formation in rule following in other aspects of my life.

In fact, I think in many ways, the church I discovered in places like that lunch table helped to break down and expand that initial container I had built for myself.  My experiences of Jesus and religion were the catalyst for some big changes in my life.  I moved from a desire to be a scientist/meterologist to a religion major.  I found myself moving towards people who were all about breaking the rules…. in both healthy and not so healthy ways.  But because my initial experiences of church were fairly traditional, I have maintained an ability to see and converse with all sorts of different faith languages. We don’t discard the containers we build in the first half, Rohr says, but they become the stuff we build from.

I am living in a very different sort of faith life than I ever imagined was possible sixteen years ago, when I sat down at that lunch table.  I have been an advocate and fundraiser for global health.  I have ministered in cities and small towns.  I’m about to become the senior pastor of a mid-sized church in the city. But as I continue to live into my relationship with God, the desire to get to know and understand someone or something where it is and start from there is what continues to drive me.

Praying… and sometimes ceasing

I have never really been able to establish a good routine when it comes to prayer.  Just like most other disciplines in my life (exercise, healthy eating), a practice like prayer has come in fits and starts.  One step forward, two steps back.

14179_9500Usually a week of exuberance and zeal is interrupted by a trip out of town or an early morning meeting or, lets be honest, sheer laziness.

The excitement fades, the old habits settle in, and I’m stuck in a rut once again.

But lately, without putting too much pressure on myself, I have been fairly regularly following a routine.

I keep on my breakfast table a copy of  the Feasting on the Word daily devotional.  More often than not, when I sit down for breakfast, I open it up, use my phone to look up the scriptures, and spend five to ten minutes doing the devotional.

But I have also added on my phone a note that keeps a list of my daily prayers.  Prayers for my husband, for my family, for the work I do, for my friends.  And so as I finish my coffee and move into the rest of the day, I work my way through that prayer list.

That regular practice… although far from consistent… is starting to sink in.  I have started noticing some of those prayers being answered.  And so my petitions are also now filled with thank-yous.

Thanks be to God for simple words, for a good cup of coffee, for patience, and for each new day.