A Missouri based constitutional law professor thinks Democrats will have a tough time eliminating the Electoral College. The party’s retiring U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a bill to do just that Tuesday.
Greg Magarian of Washington University in St. Louis notes the Electoral College is part of the Constitution, and only an amendment could remove it. He says accomplishing such a feat has been rare since the early 20th century. “The Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s was, sort of, the break point” said Magarian. “(It’s) where you saw what seemed to be a pretty well run and highly motivated push to amend the Constitution fail. Since then, constitutional amendments have tended to go nowhere.” Magarian says since the Electoral College has only hurt Democrats, Republicans will fight to keep it in place.
Democrats have now lost two election under the college since 2000, even though they won the popular vote both times.
Further, Magarian contends scrapping the Electoral College would be messy for the states – while some would benefit, others would be negatively impacted. “The Democratic candidates would spend all their time trying to run up their numbers in New York and California. Republicans would spend all their time trying to run up their numbers in Texas and other southern states. A lot of states would be neglected. And I think that’s a serious thing to take into account. But I also think that under our current system, if you’re not a so-called swing state, then you’re not getting any attention.”
Magarian also thinks an existing effort to sidestep the Electoral College, the National Popular Vote, is a longshot. “Number one, again, there’s a problem of the Democrats seeming to benefit from this at this point in history, the Republican not. Number two, it involves a bunch of states, sort of trusting each other, which is kind of a dicey proposition.”
Ten states and the District of Columbia have signed onto the National Popular Vote Compact which awards electoral votes to whoever wins the popular vote. The compact will need greater participation to be effective. The current ten states and D.C. account for 165 electoral votes, well short of the required 270 to win the election.