Richard Winger proposes a constitutional amendment abolishing Electoral College - and so does Howard Dean

by Rob Richie // Published May 22, 2008
Richard Winger, indefatigable editor of the irreplaceable Ballot Access News, posted the following proposal today to the Election Law Listserv with a creative suggestion of how to amend the Constitution to establish a direct election for president. I'm posting it belowwith his permission.

Meanwhile, Time Magazine hits the stands shortly, apparently with an interview in which Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean calls for abolishing the Electoral College. See this report, in which Dean is quoted "It's unrepresentative of where the American people are."

I should note that I strongly believe both major parties have every ability to win a national popular vote -- indeed the Republican track record is quite good in the last 40 years, including their big landslide wins in 1972 and 1984 that outstripped any Democratic vote in the national popular vote. Direct election is a voter-centered reform -- one that gives every voter an equal say, which sure makes sense to me in a representative democracy.


Since this list has journalists and people who have contact with the national major party campaigns, I hope to propagate the idea that Senator McCain and Democratic members of Congress ought to work together to propose a constitutional amendment that would rework Article Two, Section One.

The proposed amendment should delete the provision that U.S. citizens who are not "natural born" cannot be president. This should be attractive to Republicans, since it would free up John McCain to choose Arnold Schwarzenegger for vice-president, should he wish to do this. It would also remove the nagging ambiguity about McCain's place of birth.

The proposed amendment should also provide for a direct popular vote for president. I would be in fear of the country's stability if we were to have another presidential election this year in which the person who places 2nd in the popular vote should get the most electoral votes. A tie in the electoral college is also a possibility.

Congress could pass such an amendment in the next few months, if leadership of both parties wanted it. State legislatures that are not meeting could be called into special session, to consider ratifying the amendment.

The amendment could provide for a run-off if no one receives a majority of the popular vote. The amendment should be worded to allow for flexibility as to the details, and should not necessarily exclude the possibility of using IRV. The amendment should provide that Congress has the authority to write detailed election rules for the general election for president.

Even if this proposed amendment can't be implemented in time for the 2008 election, at least if we do suffer the misery of another election like 2000, the hope that it would never happen again would do much to dampen the destabilizing effect.

The Republican Party needs to decide whether it believes that it is has an inherent advantage in today's electoral college system, and whether it would rather cling to that tactical advantage or come out in favor of "one person, one vote." Huffington Post has again written about the possibility that the 2008 election will result in Obama getting more popular votes but McCain getting a majority, or a tie, in the electoral college.