On Tuesday, outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to abolish the Electoral College.
The bill calls for an amendment to the Constitution that eliminates the Electoral College system. In the unlikely event that this legislation successfully makes it through Congress — by passing in both chambers with supermajority approval — the states would still need to ratify it. Each governor would need to submit the proposed amendment to the individual state legislatures for a vote. Alternatively, Congress could specify that each state convene a convention to decide the matter. Regardless, within seven years, three-fourths of the states would need to ratify the amendment. Only then would it become part of the Constitution.
Boxer previously co-sponsored similar legislation, but the moves never gained traction. In light of the recent election, she hopes this effort yields different results. Although, during a lame duck session of Congress, with Republicans controlling both chambers, it’s unlikely she’ll find much support.
“The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts,” said the senator.
Citing both the 2000 and 2016 elections, in which the Democratic candidates, former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote, but lost the presidency, Boxer called for an end to the current system of electing the president.
“This is the only office in the land where you can get more votes and still lose the presidency,” she said. She went on to add that in 2012 Donald Trump tweeted that “the electoral college is a disaster for a democracy, and that she “couldn’t agree more.”
Presently, Clinton leads Trump in the popular vote by more than 1 million votes. With outstanding votes still to count in California, Michigan, Utah and Washington, that number may end up doubling. However, she lost the election by 58 electoral votes. (Michigan has not yet awarded its 16 votes.)
In addition to the possibility of a candidate winning the popular vote, but losing the Electoral College vote, some say there are other concerns about the current system. Critics of the Electoral College say it allows for a tie. It also encourages candidates to focus on swing states, while ignoring large swaths of the country. President-elect Trump seems to agree with at least part of that assessment.
“If the election were based on total popular vote I would have campaigned in N.Y., Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily,” the future president tweeted on Tuesday.
“The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!” he added.
In the wake of such a contentious race, there are many decrying the usefulness of the sometimes confusing system. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 63 percent of Americans favor moving to abolish the Electoral College.
In addition to Boxer’s proposed legislation, there are multiple online petitions circulating, calling on the government to abolish the Electoral College. Critics are also advocating for The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This agreement would see states awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. If enough states agree, altering the Constitution would become a moot point. So far, according to the polling aggregation website FiveThirtyEight, 10 states plus D.C. already signed the agreement. However, all the signatories are solidly Democratic which doesn’t help their cause much.
Besides the Gore–Bush election in 2000, there have been three other times in U.S. history when a candidate won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College vote. In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, but lost to John Quincy Adams. Then in 1876, Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes by a single electoral vote. And in 1888, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote, but had fewer electoral votes than Benjamin Harrison.
President-elect Trump can’t afford to get too comfortable though, especially if he’s looking toward re-election, which he hinted at in his victory speech. Four years after their respective losses, both Jackson and Cleveland won the popular vote — and the electoral vote.