In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced this resolution to amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College and require that the president be elected by popular vote:
“For the second time in recent memory, and for the fifth time in our history, the national popular vote winner – including Tennesseans Al Gore and Andrew Jackson -- will not become President of the United States because of the Electoral College. The Electoral College is an antiquated system that was established to prevent citizens from directly electing our nation’s President, yet that notion is antithetical to our understanding of democracy. In our country, ‘We the People’ are supposed to determine who represents us in elective office.
When the Founders established the electoral college it was in an era of limited nationwide communication. It was premised on a theory that citizens would have a better chance of knowing about electors from their home states than about presidential candidates from out-of-state. However, the development of mass media and the internet has made information about presidential candidates easily accessible to U.S. citizens across the country and around the world. Most people don’t even know who their electors are.
Electors were supposed to be people with good judgment who were trusted with picking a qualified President and Vice President on behalf of the people, but they have evolved into being rubber stamps. Most states legally bind their electors to vote for whomever wins the popular vote of that state, so they can no longer reflect individual judgement for a candidate. As Congress certifies the results of the Electoral College tomorrow, I urge my colleagues to consider this constitutional amendment to fix this anachronistic process for future Presidential elections. We should make our Constitution better reflect the ‘more perfect Union’ to which it aspires.”
A column authored by John Samples, the director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute, argued in defense of the Electoral College:
“First, we must keep in mind the likely effects of direct popular election of the president. We would probably see elections dominated by the most populous regions of the country or by several large metropolitan areas. In the 2000 election, for example, Vice President Gore could have put together a plurality or majority in the Northeast, parts of the Midwest, and California.
The victims in such elections would be those regions too sparsely populated to merit the attention of presidential candidates. Pure democrats would hardly regret that diminished status, but I wonder if a large and diverse nation should write off whole parts of its territory. We should keep in mind the regional conflicts that have plagued large and diverse nations like India, China, and Russia. The Electoral College is a good antidote to the poison of regionalism because it forces presidential candidates to seek support throughout the nation. By making sure no state will be left behind, it provides a measure of coherence to our nation.
Second, the Electoral College makes sure that the states count in presidential elections. As such, it is an important part of our federalist system — a system worth preserving. Historically, federalism is central to our grand constitutional effort to restrain power, but even in our own time we have found that devolving power to the states leads to important policy innovations (welfare reform).
If the Founders had wished to create a pure democracy, they would have done so. Those who now wish to do away with the Electoral College are welcome to amend the Constitution, but if they succeed, they will be taking America further away from its roots as a constitutional republic.”
This legislation has the support of five cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: jakeolimb / iStock)