The electoral college is an important system that ensures the will of the larger, more populous areas of the country aren’t the only focus of nationwide elections. It’s also enshrined in the Constitution.
Constant calls to change the electoral college after a popular vote win/electoral college loss can seem like sour grapes, and the attempt to abolish it would require a constitutional amendment that could be stopped by 13 states.
Attempts to change the electoral college through the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact are also unlikely to be successful. The 189 electoral votes currently pledged to the compact (70%) can seem close to the necessary 270 to effectively get rid of the electoral college, but looking at the remaining states leaves one wondering which are likely to sign on. Even the states that have already signed are precarious – the next election could see new elected officials who withdraw from the compact.
There are, without a doubt, problems with the electoral college. Candidates can win the presidency while losing the popular vote, theoretically by quite a bit. It causes a few “swing” states to be the focus of presidential elections. It depresses voter turnout in states that are securely blue or red.
If we’re going to attempt to reform the electoral college, it would be better to focus on making electors determined on a proportional basis. The method of determining electors isn’t prescribed in the Constitution, and several states already use a different method. While a constitutional amendment might be required to force states to determine their electors proportionally, any individual state could determine to use a proportional method immediately, and have the electors better reflect the will of the people of their state. This would make it so that campaigning in every state could make sense because you can swing votes and electors even in red or blue states.
That said, the electoral college is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.
The framers of our Constitution were very wise and they set up the Electoral College for many reasons, including balancing the voice of different regions. While I understand the appeal of the popular vote, the reality is that it would require a constitutional amendment that would never pass and it would systematically advantage densely populated areas with big media markets. Also, for Democrats, trying to abolish the Electoral College could be interpreted as, “We can’t win national elections by the rules of our Constitution so let’s change the rules” which is a terrible message. Let’s win elections. Then we can talk.
Problems to be Solved
- The electoral college is skewing presidential races while also increasing polarization and reducing presidential campaigns to a handful of swing states.
- There’s too much of a focus on getting rid of the electoral college, which would require a constitutional amendment that almost certainly doesn’t have enough support.
- Get the electoral college to better reflect the will of the majority of the population
As President, I will…
- Promote constitutional amendments that would shift the electoral college to a proportional selection system.
- Not spend too much time on something that is almost certain to be impossible to pass as against the interests of many states.
- Win reelection using the current rules of the system.