The framers of the Constitution wisely ensured that the act of making changes to our nation’s founding document would be difficult, time consuming, and only possible with the assent of super-majorities of both Congress, and states. Certainly, to make such an attempt would mean that the issue at hand was of astounding importance.
If there is one issue that has been brought to bear on the Constitution more than any other, surely that cause must strike at the very heart of our freedoms and our identity as a nation. What might the focus of such a consistent legislative call-to arms be? National security? Freedom of speech? Morals and values?
The answer may surprise you. According to the Congressional Research Service, over 600 attempts have been made to amend to the Constitution regarding reform of the Electoral College since 1889 - more than for any other concern! And that's even after the 12th Amendment fixed the most glaring flaws in the original Electoral College rules.*
Some recent attempts came very close to succeeding. In 1969, the House passed an amendment calling for direct election of the president by a margin of 370-70, and included such supporters as then-Congressmen George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford and presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson. A Senate filibuster ended that particular attempt, but it voted in favor of such an amendment ten years later, falling just shy of the required two-thirds majority. Despite popular support, misguided resistance from those who would hang onto this antiquarian system has proved too staunch to result in a change to the Constitution.
Now, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s electoral intentions a looming question and the lingering memory of what might have been for Ross Perot in 1992 (see FairVote’s “Perot Simulator”), the time is ripe to finally neutralize this electoral relic. It is clearer than ever that the Electoral College’s imaginary benefits are far outweighed by its severe drawbacks; popular vote losers taking office, allowing only a handful of swing states to have any relevance, and opening the system to vulnerability to independent “spoiler” candidacies (see George Wallace’s 48 electoral votes in 1968 and Strom Thurmond’s 39 in 1948) that even have the potential of throwing the election into utter chaos with the U.S. House picking the president and the Senate picking the vice-president.
Luckily, a new plan has emerged to make literally every vote for president count: the National Popular Vote interstate compact, already passed in Maryland, is an agreement between the states (enough that add up to the required electoral vote majority of 270) to allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Every American citizen has their voice heard under this plan and once- ignored states will be showered with attention by candidates - and all without the need to alter our Constitution.
To find out more about the compact, visit NationalPopularVote.com, and check out FairVote’s Presidential Election Inequality report to learn more about why the system is more broken than ever before.
* The 12th Amendment corrected the problematic “approval voting”-type system required by the Constitution until 1800. Electors cast two equally weighted votes, with the winner becoming president and the next finisher vice- president. Thomas Jefferson won the vice-presidency in 1796 over John Adams’ running mate, but then Jefferson in 1800 nearly lost the presidency to his running mate Aaron Burr.
For more information from FairVote, contact Paul Fidalgo at (301) 270-4616, or e-mail at [email protected].