Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren spoke at a town hall meeting in Mississippi where she called for the Electoral College—the mechanism the nation now uses to elect its presidents—to be junked.
The Massachusetts Democrat said at the March 16 meeting broadcast on CNN that she would back a plan to scrap the Electoral College and replace it with a system wherein the presidency goes to the victor in a 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.”
While Warren has criticized the Electoral College before, Monday’s comments are her most pointed call to dismantle the institution.
‘Tyranny of the Majority’
Warren’s push to dismantle the Electoral College adds to calls made by other Democrats to junk the institution.
Fellow Democratic presidential hopeful and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, said during an appearance on CBS “This Morning” earlier this year that the Electoral College has made the United States “less and less democratic.”
Socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) recently said in a tweet that it was beyond time to abolish the Electoral College, calling it “a shadow of slavery’s power on America today that undermines our nation as a democratic republic.”
Gary L. Gregg II, director of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville and editor of “Securing Democracy—Why We have an Electoral College,” argued in an editorial for the Epoch Times that the institution “was not created to protect slavery.”
“In recent years, opponents of the way we have elected presidents have turned to a new strategy to undermine it—painting our electoral system with the indelible stain of racism,” he wrote.
He said there is no evidence to support claims of racism and the overhang of slavery in criticisms of the Electoral College system.
“Those who value diversity, for instance, should remember that Clinton won her national popular vote margin on the basis of massive margins in major U.S. cities—winning more than 1.6 million more votes than Trump in Los Angeles County alone. It is only the Electoral College that gives rural voters any influence at the presidential level.”
Speaking at the town hall in Jackson on Monday, Warren said the current arrangement prevents the voices of voters in states dominated by one party from being heard.
“Come a general election, presidential candidates don’t come to places like Mississippi, they also don’t come to places like California or Massachusetts, because we’re not the battleground states,” Warren said.
But according to Hans von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, the Electoral College mechanism 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,” von Spakovsky wrote for the conservative Heritage Foundation.
He added that the Electoral College “forces candidates to seek the support of a larger cross-section of the American electorate—to win a series of regional elections.”
“One can see its importance in the fact that despite Hillary Clinton’s national popular vote total, she won only about a sixth of the counties nationwide, with her support limited mostly to urban areas on both coasts,” he said.
According to von Spakovsky, those who want to “junk” the Electoral College are “ignorant of how our federal system of elections works.”
“Our Electoral College system has provided us with orderly elections and a stable government for more than 200 years,” he said.
“The Electoral College is a democratic way of electing presidents through constitutional math,” said Gregg. “It works in producing competitive elections that both sides have a chance to win. It provides some influence to small and rural states that otherwise would be ignored because of the concentration of power and people in and around urban centers.”
Bypassing the Electoral College
The push to move to a national popular vote comes as several Democratic states in recent years have entered into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
This an agreement that would allow the Electoral College to be bypassed without going through the effort of amending the U.S. Constitution.
Constitutional amendments need two-thirds approval in each chamber of Congress, and then ratification by three-quarters of the states.
“The compact is an end run around the Constitution. It would lead to litigation,” said von Spakovsky, who also served as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, in comments for The Daily Signal. “The national popular vote backers realize they will never convince the public to amend the Constitution. But they can convince [the public] to enter a compact.”
According to a tally maintained by the group called the National Popular Vote, enabling legislation to bypass the Electoral College has been adopted in 12 states plus the District of Columbia, representing a total of 181 electoral votes.
Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The National Popular Vote Compact will go into effect if enough states sign on and bring the total Electoral College votes to 270.
President Trump won the 2016 election with 304 electoral votes compared to 227 for former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.