Speed Reads

Electoral College

How Texas could be the linchpin in finally dismantling the Electoral College

A little over a week from Election Day "and everyone with bated breath," columnist Peggy Noonan writes in Friday's Wall Street Journal. Whoever wins, "the changes in how we vote, from early voting to voting by mail, all hastened by the pandemic, will have been established after this election, and won’t go away. This will make things appear more democratic and may leave them more Democratic. Progressive preoccupation with the Electoral College is about to diminish, sharply."

No, Republicans should become preoccupied, too, Jesse Wegman argued on Thursday's The Daily podcast. The framers of the Constitution set up the Electoral College because they had to invent a way to "pick the leader of a self-governing republic" and were worried "most people wouldn't know national political candidates," he explained. But they never even discussed today's winner-takes-all system, "and when they saw it start to be adopted in the states in the early 1800s, they were horrified. James Madison, the man we think of as the father of the Constitution, tried to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of winner-take-all rule because he saw how corrosive it was to erase up to half of voters in the state."

Madison failed, but Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) almost got a constitutional amendment enacted in 1969 — President Richard Nixon was on board, it had broad national support, the House approved the amendment, and nearly three-quarters of states were set to approve it, Wegman said. Sadly, "three Southern segregationist senators" filibustered it to death in 1970, killing "the best effort we've ever had in American history to abolish the Electoral College."

This only became a partisan issue after George W. Bush then Donald Trump won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, but it's a double-edged sword, Wegman said. "Right now what we're seeing is some really big and important Republican-majority states are shifting demographically." Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, "is going to turn blue" as soon as 2024, he predicted, and "if Republicans can't win Texas, I think their paths to an Electoral College victory are basically eliminated."

In the next eight years, "when both parties have suffered enough in a short enough time period that they realize that it doesn't help anybody," Wegman said, "I think we have the opening to switch to a system in which everybody counts equally, and everybody's vote matters." Listen to Wegman's entire argument at The New York Times.