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Merkley champions bill pushing for abolition of Electoral College

The bill, if passed, would amend the constitution to elect the President through popular vote instead of through the Electoral College.

Posted: Mar 29, 2019 11:30 AM
Updated: Mar 29, 2019 11:54 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A flurry of bills introduced by U.S. Senator from Oregon Jeff Merkley aim to radically reform voting in the United States, including the abolition of the Electoral College.

“The idea of democracy is simple and obvious even to young kids on a playground – whoever gets the most votes should win. But way too often, that’s not how our system of government is working. And we see the results all around us – the privileged and powerful taking care of themselves while most people work longer hours for the same pay at best, while costs keep going up,” Merkley said.

The Electoral College

According to the U.S. government archives, the Electoral College was originally established as a compromise of sorts between electing the President through a vote in Congress (more typical of a republic) and electing the President through a popular vote (typical of a traditional democracy).

Rather than voting directly for a presidential candidate, voters actually cast their votes to decide the disposition of 538 "electors" across the country, with 270 required for a candidate to win. These numbers are derived from the number of members in each state's Congressional delegation — one for each member of the House and one for each of the state's two U.S. Senators.

The allotment of U.S. Representatives per state are based on the latest Census numbers.

Different states have differing numbers of electors — with some states even differing in the method used for allotting votes. While most states follow a "winner-take-all" system, a few use "proportional representation," which doesn't fully discount dissenting votes in a given district.

Currently, Maine and Nebraska are the only states without the winner-take-all system.

In legislation introduced today, Merkley called for an amendment to the constitution that would "abolish the Electoral College and elect the President of the United States by direct popular vote."

"The Electoral College does not fit our 'We the People' model of government; it is profoundly unfair. In just two decades, we have now seen two elections where the majority of voters supported a candidate who did not become the President, due to the Electoral College. Now is the time to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to elect the President of the United States by direct popular vote," Merkley's office said in a statement.

Electoral vote outcome in 2016 Election

Another bill proposed by Merkley include giving proportional representation to American citizens in Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands — together representing about four million Americans, according to Merkley's office.

Subsequent bills include one that would prevent states from removing voters from voting rolls except in cases of ineligibility, establishing universal early voting, eliminating "dark money" by requiring greater transparency in political donations, and requiring that states develop plans to eliminate "unreasonable wait times" at polling places.

All of these bills introduced by Merkley on Friday represent parts of a larger plan to overhaul and shore up the American voting system — one the lawmaker is calling "A Blueprint for Our 'We the People' Democracy."

“We need real, equal representation if we want a government that responds to the big issues impacting working families’ lives, like health care, housing, education, living-wage jobs, and climate chaos. It’s time to end the undemocratic electoral college, and to ensure a pathway to full voting representation for all American citizens, regardless of whether they live in Portland or Puerto Rico,” Merkley said.

Having just been introduced to a Senate that remains in Republican control, it's unclear how Merkley's bills will fare in the days ahead.

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