Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wants to do away with the electoral college permanently by amending the U.S. Constitution.
On Monday, The Daily Beast reported Schatz will soon introduce a constitutional amendment to officially abolish the Electoral College and replace it with a simple system that elects presidents based on popular vote, rather than by electoral votes. Schatz is getting support for his constitutional amendment from some of his other colleagues in the senate, including Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), according to the Beast.
In 2016, Donald Trump famously lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2,868,519 votes — more than five times larger than the popular vote margin in 2000, when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush despite getting more than 500,000 additional votes. But even though he got nearly three million fewer votes than Clinton, Trump won thanks to winning a plurality of electoral college votes since roughly 77,000 votes spread across Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The founders established the electoral college as a means of finding compromise between Congress and the public in electing presidents. While the residents of the country all vote for a president, the presidential election itself is done by 538 electors representing all the states. If a candidate wins 270 electoral votes, then they win the presidential election. So even though 2.8 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton, Trump was able to become president thanks to the votes of just 306 people whom were previously selected by their states as electors.
Schatz isn’t alone in wanting to abolish the electoral college. Already, several states have passed bills allowing their state’s electoral votes to go to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how the individual state voted. While this wouldn’t officially abolish the electoral college, it would serve as a loophole around the system. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states (plus Washington, DC) have passed such bills, amounting to a total of 172 electoral votes (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington state). However, all of those states traditionally vote for Democrats. No traditionally “red” states have passed any such bills.
Even if Sen. Schatz succeeded in his endeavor in Congress, it would still require two-thirds of all state legislatures to ratify it in order to officially amend the U.S. Constitution.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.