Presidential Campaign

We can elect the next president by popular vote — without amending the Constitution

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It is fundamental to democracy: the candidate with the most votes wins. Yet twice now since 2000, the candidate with the most votes for president has lost the Electoral College. Before then, the last time the president was elected while losing the popular vote was in 1888—when systematic discrimination prevented women and minorities from voting.

In modern day America, we should not tolerate a system where the president has lost the popular vote.

The Electoral College must go.

{mosads}When the Electoral College result does not reflect the people’s choice, it creates a crisis for democracy. It fails to honor the promise of “We the People” embedded in our country’s principles. The Founders designed a system of checks and balances to protect the minority from tyranny of the majority. Now, however, we face the real risk of tyranny of the minority against the majority.

In a presidential election, every vote should count equally. Under the Electoral College, however, some votes count more than others. Donald Trump received more votes in California than in any other state except Florida and Texas.

Hillary Clinton won more votes in Texas than every other state except California, New York, and Florida. Those votes count for nothing. A vote for Trump in New Hampshire should count the same as a vote for Trump in Massachusetts. 

A vote for Hillary in Colorado should count the same as a vote for Hillary in Wyoming.

The time has come to elect the president through a popular vote. But how? In the long term, the only surefire way is a Constitutional Amendment. 

Indeed, early in American history we passed the 12th Amendment. That Amendment fixed a flaw in the Electoral College that almost allowed Aaron Burr to become president in 1800 even though, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, the “known will of the people” favored Jefferson.

Just like we amended the Constitution to allow direct election of Senators with the 17th Amendment, we should amend the Constitution to allow the people to directly elect the president. The people—not the states—should pick our president.

In the short term, however, we do not need to wait for a Constitutional Amendment, because states have the power to allocate their electoral votes how they see fit. 

The National Popular Vote Compact is an agreement among the states that they will cast their electoral votes for the national popular vote winner once states with the necessary 270 electoral votes have signed on – thus working within the existing Electoral College to effectively create a popular vote. 

Through the National Popular Vote Compact, the United States can elect a president by popular vote as early as 2020. Currently, 11 states worth a total of 165 electoral votes have signed on. Once states with a combined 105 more electoral votes agree, we can hold a truly national election.

One Nation One Vote will work across the country to try to convince enough states—both through legislation and through the ballot initiative process where possible—to agree to the Compact and ultimately to abolish the Electoral College.

A presidency that does not reflect the will of the people cannot sustain itself over the long term. We could tolerate an Electoral College so long as it reflected popular will. But we can no longer run the risk that the Electoral College will once again subvert the will of the people. If so, “We the People” will cease to have real meaning.

For this reason, Republicans and Independents just as much as Democrats should embrace reforming how we elect our president. Indeed, Newt Gingrich has endorsed the National Popular Vote Compact. Donald Trump not only called the Electoral College a “disaster” for democracy in 2012, he recently reaffirmed that he would prefer a popular vote in future elections.

This is a cause that should unite all Americans, regardless of party. In a democracy, the people should decide. For every other elected office in the country, the candidate with the most votes wins. In today’s America, we should demand nothing less for the presidential election. The president should reflect, in Jefferson’s words, “the known will of the people.” So let’s work for a national popular vote in 2020 – or we will have less of a democracy to save.

 Justin A. Nelson is the Founder and President of One Nation One Vote, a non-profit working to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.









Tags amendments campaign Constitution Courts Donald Trump Electoral College Hillary Clinton presidential campaign

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