Americans support scrapping the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote by a wide margin. A Gallup poll shows that 62 percent of U.S. adults would support amending the U.S. Constitution to replace the current system, which has allowed popular vote losers to move into the White House. Only 35 percent support keeping the current system.
The Founding Fathers designed it to limit the influence that a majority of voters could have on an election and ensure that smaller states would have larger voice. The number of electors to the Electoral College is determined based on a state’s number of House members plus their two members of the Senate. Small states like Wyoming are greatly over-represented in the Electoral College, where there are 187,875 voters in the state for every electoral vote. Large states like California are disadvantaged, where there are over 675,000 voters per electoral vote.
The closest that America came to abolishing the Electoral College came in 1969 after Richard Nixon received 301 electoral votes to Hubert Humphrey’s 191 in the 1968 presidential election, despite only winning the popular vote by 511,944. The House of Representatives voted 339 to 70 in favor of a constitutional amendment. President Nixon voiced support for the amendment, but it ultimately failed in the Senate where senators from smaller states opposed the amendment. At the time, 80 percent of Americans supported scrapping the Electoral College and was not based on partisan allegiance. Today, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to oppose replacing the Electoral College – likely due to the 2000 election – although even a majority of Republicans support the amendment.
The most recent electoral college controversy came in the 2000 presidential election when Vice President Al Gore defeated Texas Governor George W. Bush by 543,000 votes, but failed to win the Electoral College when Florida went to Bush after the U.S. Supreme Court halted a statewide recount. This was the third time in American history that the popular vote winner failed to win the Electoral College.
Due to the difficulty of passing a constitutional amendment, states that support a popular vote system have sought a work-around within the current Electoral College. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would award each states’ electoral votes to the national popular vote winner. The state compact would only take effect once enough states pass the law to reach 270 electoral votes, the minimum number required to be elected president.
So far only traditionally Democratic-leaning states have adopted the compact. However, there is a good possibility that a Democrat could benefit from the Electoral College in the future. Senator John Kerry came within roughly 100,000 votes in Ohio from becoming president, despite losing the popular vote by 3 million votes. If the 2012 presidential election is close, as expected, President Obama could win the Electoral College without winning the popular vote. He would only need to win the states that Kerry won in 2004, plus only a handful of the nine states that he successfully turned Democratic in 2008: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. Undoubtedly Republican support would be more forthcoming if such a scenario comes to fruition.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Kyle W. Bell is the author of numerous non-fiction books on politics and video games which can be found at Amazon and Smashwords. Bell holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Indiana University South Bend. He is the owner of the video game website Game Freaks 365 and a political blog.