Should the U.S. get rid of the Electoral College?

Voters cast their ballots at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City on Nov. 3, 2020.

Voters cast their ballots at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City on Nov. 3, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults think we should ditch the Electoral College.

A Pew Research Center survey released this month found 63% believe the U.S. should change the current system so the presidential candidate who receives the most votes wins — the highest the figure has been since polling is available back to 2000 — and 35% support keeping the Electoral College.

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Among Democrats, 80% support scrapping the Electoral College compared with 42% of Republicans. Still, it’s the steady increase of support among Republicans since 2016 that’s help driving the new record high.

Republicans are split on how they feel about the Electoral College. Among those who identify as conservative, just 32% support electing the president by popular vote, compared with 60% of moderate or liberal Republicans.

Under the Electoral College, candidates that lose the popular vote can still become president if they win more electors, which are allocated according to the size of states’ congressional delegations. Four U.S. presidents have won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, including two of the last four. They are Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016.

The Electoral College is written into Article II of the Constitution, and it has been altered twice by amendments. The 12th Amendment ended the practice of runners-up being elected vice president (imagine if the Amendment hadn’t been ratified and President Joe Biden’s vice president was Donald Trump) and the 23rd Amendment gave Washington, D.C., electors.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost to Bush, previously supported the Electoral College, but in 2016, he said he believed it should be eliminated.

“I have changed my view on that, I so think that it should be eliminated. I think moving to a popular vote system is not without peril, is not without problems. It’s not a simple one choice is all good, the other is all bad. It’s a balancing act, but I think the balance has shifted, in my mind at least.”

Gore said he believed it would “stimulate public participation in the democratic process like nothing else we could possibly do.”

During the 2020 campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg both said they supported getting rid of the Electoral College.

Younger Americans are more likely than older Americans to support electing the president by popular vote. Pew found 70% of those 18-29 support the change compared with 56% for those who are 65 and older.

D. Hunter Schwarz

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