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

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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 Trump’s election as illegitimate given the fact that Secretary Hillary Clinton 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.{mosads}

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 Warren (D-Mass.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. It seems simple to Sen. Brian Schatz (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.”

Tags Brian Schatz Donald Trump Electoral College Electoral reform in the United States Elizabeth Warren george wallace Hillary Clinton Hubert Humphrey National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Pete Buttigieg popular vote Presidency of the United States Richard Nixon

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