For a 20-year-old in America, most of their life the occupant of the White House did not get the most votes. It’s happened five times in history and twice in modern history. For the last 15 years, the push to transition from the Electoral College to a national popular vote to elect a president has been growing stronger and stronger.
Before the insurrection at the Capitol, there were false claims of a rigged election. Both making this an unprecedented election, but will there be enough steam from them to make the United States use a national popular vote in 2024?
There are two main ways this happens:
- A constitutional amendment
- Through state legislation
“It takes a two-thirds vote in each branch of Congress. So it’s unlikely to happen unless the Republican Party splits in some interesting way,” said Alexander Keyssar, a professor of history and social policy at Harvard Kennedy School.
“A number of Republican Congresspeople in the last couple of weeks have basically said we have to keep the Electoral College because we’ve lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections.”
Keyssar said option one is unlikely; so what about option two?
“He lost by 7 million votes but he’s not making claims about the popular vote outcome, he’s making a claim about an eleven-vote margin in Arizona or a similar tiny margin in Wisconsin or Georgia,” said Chris Pearson, National Popular Vote board member & Vermont Senator. “That current system exacerbates those margins. If some 23,000 Americans had changed their mind and they happen to live in one of those states. He would have become the president.”
About one-third of the United States, Massachusetts included, has signed The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to change that system. They add up to 196 electoral votes.
“It only takes a handful more states to pass our bill because the bill has a trigger in it where it goes into effect once states with the majority of the electors 270 have passed,” Pearson said.
The compact only needs 74 more electoral votes to get to 270. But it has already passed at least one legislative chamber in nine additional states that total 88 more electoral votes. It’s more than enough. But how likely is it to happen before 2024?
Keyssar said lawsuits would emerge almost immediately, stalling the process.
“There is a significant question about whether a compact of this sort requires Congressional approval. Lawyers disagree about that,” Keyssar said.
When asked how the riots at the Capitol last week impacted the cause, Pearson responded with the following:
“People are starting to pay attention to the mechanics of the way the Electoral College works, the fact that states have the power to change the way the Electoral College Works within the Constitution. This is all good for us,” he said.
A map from the National Popular Vote disproportionately highlights the states where campaigning has mattered in recent elections. Massachusetts is not on there; it’s simply battleground states like New Hampshire, Ohio and Florida. The group said Republicans and Democrats in all of the other states are disenfranchised voters who don’t really matter because of the Electoral College.
Pearson said it has a damaging impact on the very conversations we’ve been having over the last year. Do I bother voting? Does it matter? Do I have faith in the system? With the Electoral College, he said it’s easier for presidents, their challengers and anyone else to make false claims, and for people to believe them.
© 2021 Cox Media Group