Tennessee Representative introduces bill to end electoral college

Abigail McArthur-Self, Editor-in-Chief

On Jan. 3, 2019, Tennessee Democratic Representative Steve Cohen proposed a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would eliminate the Electoral College.

Under current United States law, citizens in each state cast votes for the presidential candidates they wish to see elected. Kelli Tufo, a Neuqua AP Government teacher, explains that those votes chose electors — people from the state who cast electoral votes. It is the electoral votes that actually decide who becomes president. Whether the electors are allowed to choose how to vote or required to vote as their state did depends on the rules of the specific state. Electors in Illinois, for example, are not bound to vote as the state did. Almost all electors do, however, so this has rarely been an issue.

Tufo notes that this system often “confuses voters,” who do not always understand what their vote actually decides in presidential elections.

The Electoral College was originally established in the Constitution by the United States’ founding fathers to balance out the risk of the common population being uneducated. Over time, the individual states have shifted towards a “more democratic,” interpretation of the Electoral College, Tufo says. The number of electors a state is entitled to is determined by the number of Congress members the state has. Because each state has at least two Senators and one Representative, no state can have fewer than three electoral votes, regardless of population.

Those in favor of maintaining the Electoral College believe that it helps ensure that small states and rural areas have a say in the presidency and prevents elections from being decided solely by large cities. It also requires that a president must win a majority of electoral votes to be elected.

The “popular vote” refers to the votes cast directly by the citizens of the country and does not directly decide presidential elections. Because a candidate can win the popular vote but not the presidency, opponents of the current Electoral College system believe that it does not always represent the will of the voters and, thus, is undemocratic.

Cohen’s proposed bill would eliminate the Electoral College and have presidents elected by the popular vote. Because it would have to pass as a Constitutional amendment, it would need three-fourths of states and two-thirds of Congress to vote in favor.

There have been other bills that have tried to accomplish the same thing in the past, and although none have passed so far, Tufo explains that if this one does, there would need to be a new standard for the number or percent of votes a candidate would need to win an election, but the process of voting would remain much the same for citizens. The bill is currently in committee.