BOSTON (WWLP) – This year’s presidential election has put a renewed focus on the Electoral College; the state-based system that is used to select the president. Republican Donald Trump has been acclaimed the winner of the election after securing more than the 270 electoral votes needed for election, though Democrat Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote overall. There have been proposals in Congress and in state legislatures across the country to get rid of this system, which dates back to the writing of the Constitution, and one local lawmaker is making such a proposal.
State Sen. Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) is filing a bill calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to replace the Electoral College with direct election of the president. Lesser’s resolution says that the “voters of Massachusetts have been disenfranchised and left to feel like their vote does not count” by the current system.
While the winner of the popular vote usually wins the electoral vote as well, that is not always the case. In addition to this past election, this has happened in 1876, 1888, and 2000. In 1824, the winner of both the popular vote and a plurality of the electoral vote did not win the election- John Quincy Adams was elected president by the House of Representatives because Andrew Jackson did not secure a majority of the electoral vote.
Because the Electoral College is outlined in the Constitution itself, it cannot be overturned by a simple congressional resolution, executive act, or ruling of the Supreme Court; it can only be overturned by a constitutional amendment. Such an amendment would have to be passed by a two-thirds majority in Congress and ratified by three-quarters of the states. Making ratification even more difficult, Congress has usually limited the amount of time that that states have to ratify an amendment.
Lesser’s resolution, if passed, simply serves as a suggestion by the state for Congress to act on such an amendment. Some states have gone further on the issue. In 2007, Maryland voted to yield their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote– regardless of which candidate carried the state. The Maryland law stipulates, however, that this would only go into effect if states with more than half of the country’s electoral votes did so as well. A few other states have adopted similar laws, but not nearly enough for the Maryland law to go into effect.
Senator Lesser’s resolution reads as follows:
Resolutions calling on Congress to abolish the Electoral College and allow for the direct
election of the President and Vice President by the popular vote of all citizens of the United
WHEREAS, the Electoral College was established by Article II, Section One of the United States Constitution whereby states are directed to appoint electors who then meet and cast votes for president and vice president of the United States; and
WHEREAS, voters who cast ballots in the presidential election every four years delegate their votes to one of 538 electors, rather than voting directly for their preferred candidate; and
WHEREAS, on five different occasions throughout history, including twice in the last sixteen years, the president and vice president of the United States lost the national popular vote but were elected by winning a majority of the Electoral College; and
WHEREAS, the method of electing the president and vice president of the United States contradicts the principle of “one person, one vote,” which the United State Supreme Court established in Reynolds v. Sims under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause; and
WHEREAS, the method of electing United States Senators and Representatives, state governors and legislators, and local officials are selected by popular vote of the people within the corresponding state or district; and
WHEREAS, the voters of Massachusetts have been disenfranchised and left to feel like their vote does not count; and
WHEREAS, abolishing the Electoral College requires a Constitutional amendment, governed by Article V of the Constitution, which calls for both houses of the United States Congress to pass by a two-thirds vote a proposal that is subsequently sent to the states for ratification, either by state legislatures or conventions within the states, by a three-fourths vote of the states; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the Massachusetts Legislature calls on the United States Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution of the United States abolishing the Electoral College and allowing for the direct election of the President and Vice President by the popular vote of all citizens of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the Clerk of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Clerk of the Massachusetts Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate, and to each Senator and Representative from Massachusetts in the United States