The Case for Keeping the Electoral College

Roll Call, April 3, 2008.


Although national attention continues to focus on an especially riveting nomination contest, a consequential change to the Electoral College, the so-called National Popular Vote plan, continues to churn in the background with little fanfare or scrutiny.

I once began an article on the college by saying that “nothing fails to succeed like success.” That sentiment still rings true for me today. By “success” I meant–this was before the 2000 election in Florida–the college regularly produces a president with a clear and immediately evident claim to the office, in part because it exaggerates the margin in the popular vote. (In 1996, for example, Bill Clinton’s 49 percent of the popular vote became 70 percent of the electoral vote.)

But this has never been enough to satisfy the college’s critics, some of whom–former Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.), for example, and 1980 presidential candidate John Anderson–have made a career of proposing constitutional amendments to abolish it, usually in favor of a system of direct popular elections. Now, having learned once again that the Constitution is not readily amended, they have come up with a plan to nullify the Electoral College without having to abolish it.

American Enterprise Institute