Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has grounded her campaign so far on concrete policy proposals for her administration, and she added another explosive idea at a CNN town hall last night: eliminating the electoral college.
“Every vote matters, and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College,” Warren stated, per The New York Times.
The electoral college has become a particularly touchy subject for Democrats in the 21st century — the party has won the popular vote yet lost the electoral college vote (and with it, the presidency) in both the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections.
Critics of the electoral college system argue, as Warren pointed out, that the electoral college minimizes the impact of most Americans’ votes. Since the winner of a given state wins all its electoral votes (even if they didn’t capture all the votes in that state), most presidential candidates ignore states with solid party majorities that have little chance of flipping. The lack of competition leads to a presidential race where, at most, a dozen battleground states may decide the next president.
For her part, Warren characterized Trump’s 2016 presidential win as flying in the face of “the sign of a healthy democracy.”
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President Trump fired back on Twitter, saying that “campaigning to win the electoral college is much more difficult & sophisticated than the popular vote. Hillary focused on the wrong states!” Trump is one of five presidents to have taken office despite losing the popular vote (the others are John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush).
Since the 2016 election, the idea of a popular vote for the presidency has been gaining steam. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have now signed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would have those states automatically give their electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote.
The signatories currently have 181 electoral votes, but the compact would not take effect until passed by states representing 270 or more electoral votes (the minimum number required to win the presidency). New Mexico and Delaware also have similar legislation currently working through their state congresses.
However, more Republican-leaning states have been slower to embrace a popular vote. Many red states with smaller populations are often better represented in the electoral college than their more populous counterparts. An electoral vote in California, as The Huffington Post reports, represents over 677,000 voters, while one electoral vote in Wyoming represents just under 188,000.
The existence of the electoral college will undoubtedly be a hot-button topic throughout the 2020 election cycle. As the campaign progresses, Warren may not be the only candidate calling for its abolition.