Beto O’Rourke Reiterates Call to Abolish Electoral College

April 1, 2019 Updated: April 17, 2019

Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential contender, again called for the Electoral College to be abolished, when speaking at the We The People summit in Washington on April 1.

“This is one of those bad compromises we made on day one in this country,” O’Rourke, who is from Texas, said when answering a question from the audience at the event. “Let’s abolish the electoral college.”

The Electoral College is a process that the United States uses to elect its president and is embodied in the U.S. Constitution in the 12th Amendment.

Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, said that the Electoral College system was devised at America’s founding to balance the competing interests of large and small states, and to temper the “tyranny of the majority.”

“It prevents candidates from winning an election by focusing only on high-population urban centers (the big cities), ignoring smaller states and the more rural areas of the country—the places that progressives and media elites consider flyover country,” he said during an interview.

Beto O’Rourke, a progressive, continued saying at the event, “If we get rid of the Electoral College, we’d get a little closer to one person, one vote in the United States of America”—an argument often used by the progressive side of politics to do away with the Electoral College.

He continued, “[Our democracy,] it is warped, it is corrupted right now. If we cannot fix it, if we cannot get it right … [what] we are going to lose is this democracy itself.”

This is not the first time O’Rourke, who gained national attention in 2018 when he ran a failed campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, has pushed for the Electoral College to be abolished. At an event at the Penn State University last month, he said it wasn’t right that then-candidate Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election over rival Hillary Clinton after she won the popular vote, reported Fox News. Trump secured the electoral vote 304 to 227.

“I think there’s a lot to that. Because you had an election in 2016 where the loser got 3 million more votes than the victor,” O’Rourke, who is a former three-term congressman, said.

He added, “If we really want everyone to vote, to give them every reason to vote, we have to make sure their votes count and go to the candidate of their choosing.”

O’Rourke announced his bid for the presidency in the 2020 election on March 14 in a video posted online. The candidate declared his support for the socialist “Medicare for All” plan and the Green New Deal plan, stating climate change as his priority issue.

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks to local residents during a stop at the Central Park Coffee Company, Friday, March 15, 2019, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. O’Rourke announced that he’ll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

On March 21, during a campaign stop at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, O’Rourke criticized President Donald Trump’s plan to fortify barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We do not need any walls, $30 billion dollars, 2,000 miles long, 30 feet high,” he said, according to a video posted online.

Push to Abolish Electoral College Gains Momentum

Along with O’Rourke, another presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts has also made comments, calling for the Electoral College to be abolished.

Warren said at a town hall meeting in Mississippi on March 16, which was broadcasted on CNN, that she would support a plan to remove the electoral college and replace it with the national popular vote.

“My view is that every vote matters,” Warren said in Jackson, the state’s capital, in the middle of a three-day swing through the South. “And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College—and every vote counts.”

Similarly, the progressive Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has also pushed for the system to be revamped.

“It is well past time we eliminate the Electoral College, a shadow of slavery’s power on America today that undermines our nation as a democratic republic,” she wrote on Twitter last year.

A change in the U.S. Constitution would require the support of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures.

100 Yard Dash vs Marathon

President Trump voiced his opposition to the move to abolish the electoral vote earlier this month.

“Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College,” he tweeted. “It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win.”

But with the popular vote mandate, candidates are forced to focus on “just the large states.”

Meanwhile, cities would end up running the United States, he wrote.

“Smaller States & the entire Midwest would end up losing all power – & we can’t let that happen. I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.,” Trump tweeted on March 19.

Trump won the 2016 presidential election over rival Hillary Clinton after securing the electoral vote 304 to 227.

Other opponents of the measure said that it circumvents the U.S. Constitution.

Origins of the Electoral College

In “The Federalist Papers,” U.S. founding father James Madison wrote that a republic, such as the United States, is able to “refine and enlarge the public views by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”

He then criticized pure democracies.

They are “spectacles of turbulence and contention” and have “been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths,” Madison wrote.

Alexander Hamilton Electoral College
Alexander Hamilton (1755/1757–1804). Chief of staff of General Washington and a founding father of the United States. He was one of the most influential interpreters of the Constitution, the founder of the financial system and the first American political party. (Portrait by John Trumbull)

Alexander Hamilton, another founding father, explained in “The Federalist Papers” why they deemed it necessary to have an Electoral College rather than rely on the popular vote.

“It was equally desirable that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements that were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an investigation,” he wrote.

With additional reporting by Jack Phillips

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan
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