After coming out on the losing end of the system in 2016, most of the two dozen Democratic candidates running for president in 2020 say they’re open to abolishing the Electoral College.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to get rid of it entirely, saying the current system is set up so that solidly red states such as Mississippi or blue states like Massachusetts get short shrift once it comes time for candidates to campaign in the general election.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has said the Electoral College “needs to go,” which would require a constitutional amendment.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke has talked about switching to a system in which more states would award their Electoral College votes proportionally, rather than winner-take-all — though he, too, has called for an outright abolition of the current system.
“If we got rid of the Electoral College, [we’d] get a little bit closer to one person, one vote in the United States of America,” Mr. O’Rourke said at a progressive forum last month.
Meanwhile, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, another 2020 contender, has talked up the National Popular Vote movement, which would involve an interstate compact committing states’ electoral votes to whomever is deemed to have won the overall national vote.
Sens. Bernard Sanders and Kamala Harris have said the Electoral College is at least worth taking a look at, with Ms. Harris saying she’s “open to the discussion.”
“I mean, there’s no question that the popular vote has been diminished in terms of making the final decision about who’s the president of the United States, and we need to deal with that,” Ms. Harris told ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.
But there are naysayers, too.
Asked about the issue Tuesday while campaigning in Iowa, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said it’s troubling that the candidate who lost the popular vote ended up getting elected president in two of the five elections since 2000.
“But rather than upending something that’s been around since the start of our country, I’d rather turn around and say, why is it that we’re not winning in certain places?” said Mr. Bullock, who entered the presidential race this month. “I would much rather say, why aren’t we winning in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa?”
Other White House contenders have urged caution as well, with candidates such as former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland saying that abolishing the Electoral College outright is unrealistic.
The Electoral College is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and was intended partly as a compromise to ensure that less-populated states had a say in choosing the president.
State “electors” technically elect the president every four years and are generally supposed to follow the wishes of the voters in their respective states, most of which have a “winner-take-all” system.
A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that most Americans support a move to the popular vote. But the breakdown fell sharply along party lines, with eight in 10 Democrats backing a change and three-quarters of Republicans favoring the status quo.
More than a dozen states, which tally up close to 200 Electoral College votes, have voted to join a national popular vote “compact” that would kick in when the threshold hits 270, which is what it takes to secure the presidency.
Those states are primarily Democratic-leaning in national elections.
But Ray Haynes, a former Republican state senator from California who is backing the popular vote movement, said people in both parties understand that the presidential election is truly waged in a comparatively small number of battleground states.
“I’m a California Republican — we are probably the least important voter in the entire country when it comes to presidential candidates,” he said. “On the Republican side, to make it bipartisan you say all we’re trying to do is make everybody equal … and the truth is, most Republicans get it — particularly in non-battleground states.”
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, though, said there’s not much chance of action, and Democratic candidates are merely playing to an outraged base, “selling their voters fool’s gold.”
“And they’re doing it because they hate Trump literally that much,” he said. “And voters don’t realize it will take a constitutional amendment to change that, which is literally impossible given the electoral environment.”