Most Americans know that the Electoral College is a dangerous relic from another era, but they feel powerless to get rid of it. There is a misperception that the system is baked into the Constitution and that it can’t be changed without going through the laborious process of a constitutional amendment. That idea needs to be put to rest.
There are groups right now working to change the Elector system. One promising effort is through the use of an interstate compact. That’s being pursued by National Popular Vote (nationalpopularvote.com). Another group pushing for legal reform is the Equal Votes organization (equalvotes.us). On my own website (billpetrocelli.com) I’ll be continuing to explore the ways in which the Elector system can be challenged.
Congress has the ability under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment to protect the right of an equal vote in presidential elections, if it chooses to exercise it. And the Supreme Court’s new found interest in dealing with political gerrymandering could arguably extend to the gross inequality that now exists in presidential voting—the mother of all gerrymanders.
Most intriguing of all is the argument that the Electoral College is now being implemented in a way that is unconstitutional. In fact, it may be a “double” dose of unconstitutionality. The system was radically changed by state legislatures in the pre-Civil War days without any authority to do so. The result was to strip the Electors of all independence and turn the selection process over to the political parties. The days of independent Electors like Alexander Hamilton were unceremoniously ended.
Since the Civil War and the adoption of the 14th Amendment, the Electoral College has been subject to a new constitutional challenge that has never been resolved. Although the Supreme Court has made it clear that all elections must be conducted under a rule of “one person, one vote,” our presidential elections come nowhere close to meeting that standard.
The current version of the Electoral College is like a rogue ship that set out years ago from its original anchorage in the Constitution. It is now floundering in the middle of the sea—unable to go back to its 18th century moorings but equally unable to reach the safety of the constitutional amendments enacted since then. It’s a ship that’s ready to sink.