Electoral College reform is needed, but not leading up to an election

In the five presidential elections that have occurred since 2000, two have been won by a candidate who lost the popular vote. The most recent election in 2016 has reignited decades-old calls to abolish the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote.

Indeed, I understand why many people feel that way. Not only was the 2016 presidential election politically divisive, some Democrats saw President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE’s election as illegitimate given the fact that Secretary Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton trolls Trump with mock letter from JFK to Khrushchev Trump-Graham relationship tested by week of public sparring Sunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision MORE received nearly 3 million more votes nationwide.

It is true that it’s time we review the way we elect the president. However, the lead-up to an election year is not the time to have this discussion.

Following the 1968 election, there was a lot of concern about the Electoral College. Despite winning the popular vote and the Electoral College, President Richard Nixon spoke out against the Electoral College, as did failed Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey.


Both Nixon and Humphrey came out against the Electoral College for the same reason: former Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s third-party candidacy. Wallace knew he would not win the election, so his strategy was to prevent either party from gaining a majority in the Electoral College. This would force the election into the House of Representatives, where Wallace felt he could have more influence over the outcome.

Although Wallace did not succeed, his attempt to influence the outcome of the election worried many in Washington. Nixon said, in February 1969: “I believe the events of 1968 constitute the clearest proof that priority must be accorded to Electoral College reform.”

Humphrey continued this narrative in an op-ed he wrote in April 1969 in which he argued that “Congress and the states have let this situation continue for too long. The electoral reform issues raised in the recent election must be acted upon. Direct election of the president would give each American citizen an equal vote — a fundamental principle of our democratic process.”

It is clear from the workings of the 1968, 2000 and 2016 presidential elections that we as a nation must review the way we elect the President of the United States.

Despite attempts by numerous presidential candidates to do so, this review process should not be politicized. As a nation, we need this review process to be as open, and as clear, as possible.

Our elected officials must examine all options on the table to determine which is the most effective and fairest way to elect the president.

One proposal that has gained traction in the past is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. In this agreement, the winner of the national popular vote would receive all of the state’s Electoral College votes. This pact has already received support from 10 states and the District of Columbia.

Another proposal that has gained support recently is ranked choice voting. This is a process where voters would rank as many candidates as they like in a given election, and an “instant runoff” would then occur to determine the winner.

Lastly, there is the option to completely abolish the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote. This idea, identical to what Humphrey proposed in 1969, has gained the support of 2020 Democratic contenders Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Warren, Yang fight over automation divides experts Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE (D-Mass.) and Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSunday shows — Mulvaney seeks to tamp down firestorm over quid pro quo comments, Doral decision Buttigieg says he wasn't comfortable with Clinton attack on Gabbard Buttigieg: Trump undermining US credibility 'is going to cost us for years and years' MORE of South Bend, Ind. It seems simple to Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate MORE (D-Hawaii), who tweeted Friday: “We should just add up all the votes and the person with the most becomes President.”

Most paths toward reform will require a constitutional amendment, which seems unlikely in this highly polarized time. Attempting to change the system in a presidential election year is even worse. However, we must continue searching in a bipartisan effort to review our election process to make sure we elect the president in the fairest way.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for former President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is a Fox News contributor and the author of several books, including “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”