Herald-Whig View

Electoral College is going to be around for the foreseeable future

Posted: May. 17, 2017 9:35 am

A FEW very committed activists have been telling anyone who will listen that the Electoral College is likely to be abandoned soon.

The facts, and the legislative landscape, prove the would-be reformers wrong.

When he was a U.S. senator from Indiana, Birch Bayh tried and failed six times to get an Electoral College-banning constitutional amendment through Congress. Then Bayh, along with former independent presidential candidate John Anderson, turned to an idea for circumventing the college with something called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. By signing, states agree to pledge their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote -- but only if an Electoral College majority makes the same commitment.

So far, 10 states and the District of Columbia have passed the compact, accounting for 165 electoral votes, almost two-thirds of the 270 needed for a majority.

And that's what has proponents celebrating what they portray as a near-victory.

Of the remaining 105 required, writes Maegan Carberry at Salon, 82 are seriously in play, having passed at least one legislative chamber in 10 states. "Optimistically, we're 23 new electoral votes away from ridding ourselves of the Electoral College. It's something that could be managed through strategically pressuring a handful of state representatives," Carberry said.

But that optimism is misplaced. While it is true that the measure has passed one chamber in a number of other states, explains Steven Taylor of Outside the Beltway, that doesn't make any difference.

In almost all of those cases, at least one election has taken place since passage, so the reset button in those states has been pushed.

The odds of getting this questionable compact passed in enough states to guarantee 270 electoral votes is nil. All of the states that have passed the measure are blue states, so only the easiest work has been done so far. And Republicans picked up even more clout in a majority of state legislatures last year.

The U.S. Constitution's signers established an Electoral College to protect small states from becoming irrelevant in presidential elections.

Large states, however, continue to get weighted power thanks to their populations. In theory, the Electoral College represents a majority vote of U.S. House and Senate districts.

Every president elected since 1789 has been confirmed by the Electoral College. It does not look like any of the efforts to replace that system are likely to succeed anytime soon.

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