Former vice president Al Gore is calling for an end to the Electoral College — the system that cost him the presidency in 2000.
Gore said that many voters who live outside the dozen or so battleground states are cheated by the system that allocates delegates from the state level on a winner-take-all basis. He called for presidential elections to be determined by the popular vote.
“I’ve seen how these states are written off and ignored, and people are effectively disenfranchised in the presidential race. And I really do now think it is time to change that,” Gore said on Current TV, an independent cable network that he co-founded.
A dozen states are generally considered electoral battlegrounds where the 2012 election will be decided. They include Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The Republican platform approved this week specifically opposes any change to the Electoral College process, constitutional or otherwise.
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“We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College,” the platform reads. “We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose “national popular vote” would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”
Gore said he supported the Electoral College even after the 2000 election, in which he won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote by 271-266 to George W. Bush. He has since had a change of heart.
“The logic is it knits the country together and prevents regional conflicts and goes back through our history with some legitimate concerns,” he said.
One proposal to change the system is through a constitutional amendment, which has been suggested numerous times but never gained traction. In the House, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) sponsored legislation that would provide for direct election of the president. It has attracted 29 Democratic co-sponsors but hasn’t made it out of committee.
Gore, on the other hand, said there is another route to take.
“It is always tough to amend the Constitution and risky to do so, but there is a very interesting movement under way that takes it state by state that may really have a chance of succeeding,” he said.
He appeared to be alluding to a system in which multiple states with a majority of electors could individually decide to allocate their votes to the winner of the popular vote, essentially bypassing the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors. A majority, or 270, of those electors are needed to become president.
Nine states have already enacted laws to allocate their electors to the winner of the popular vote, according to National Popular Vote, an organization that promotes the cause. They would only take effect after the bill passed enough states to hit the 270 threshold.
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who also appeared on the Current TV program, said he considered the proposal when he was governor. He said even if states took individual action, the compact could require a vote from Congress.
“The constitutional issue is would this be a interstate compact that would require congressional approval,” he said.