A group of Democratic senators is proposing a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College. The proposal is part of a growing push to change the way the United States elects presidents amid concerns that the Constitution’s procedure can thwart the will of the majority of Americans.
“In an election, the person who gets the most votes should win. It’s that simple,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who proposed the amendment along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Calls for eliminating the Electoral College, in which each state sends designated electors to vote for the president, have in recent years come mainly from the political left after Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump won the Electoral College but not the popular vote. Several Democratic presidential candidates, including Gillibrand and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have recently pushed the idea.
Republicans, including Trump in the past, have also criticized the system. In 2013, after President Barack Obama won reelection, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called for changing how states divvy up their electoral votes. Most electors cast ballots for whichever candidate wins the popular vote in their state, but states have the authority to decide how they dole out their electoral votes.
Defenders of the status quo praise the Electoral College for spreading power among the states. In a series of messages on Twitter last month, Trump claimed winning the popular vote is “much easier” than winning the Electoral College and that the system gives greater voice to people across the country.
“It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win. With the Popular Vote, you go to just the large States - the Cities would end up running the Country. Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power - & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.”
The hurdles of changing the system have prompted a growing number of states to pursue an alternative to getting rid of the Electoral College. An idea called the National Popular Vote would have states award their electors to whoever received the most votes nationwide rather than in the state, effectively eliminating the possibility of a mismatch between the Electoral College and popular vote outcomes. The effort would likely face challenges in court and create difficulties by magnifying local problems on a national scale, skeptics warn. So far, 13 states and the District of Columbia have endorsed the scheme. —Anne K. Walters