Skeptics may understandably ask: How can a third party possibly win the presidency as long as we have the Electoral College? This is a really great question.
Most of us probably agree that the electoral college has got to go. Under our current system of voting, some votes in the United States matter way more than others and that’s just not the American way. We'll put it this way: Mathematically, a candidate could win the presidency by winning as little as 23 percent of the popular vote, which is absurd.
America is a representative democracy and, as such, all votes for the U.S. president should count equally. Some say that the electoral college shouldn’t be messed with because it was the fervent wish of the Founding Fathers. However, this is a total mischaracterization of their intent.
In truth, the electoral college was born out of a compromise that James Madison struck at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when one group wanted Congress to elect the president and another group wanted to have direct elections. < Thank God they didn’t land on having Congress elect the president! Can you imagine? >
Twenty-three decades later, it makes zero sense that the U.S. president, who is supposed to represent every single American, was ultimately chosen in 2020 by only the people who live in Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
A constitutional amendment is the cleanest way to abolish the electoral college but is by far the most difficult to achieve. Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, there are two ways this can be done:
1) Receive two-thirds approval from both the House and Senate, plus ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures (which, currently, is 38 states), or
2) If two-thirds of the state legislatures call for a Constitutional Convention.
Because neither of these will happen anytime soon, we should go with Plan B and replace statewide winner-take-all laws with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), which would essentially accomplish the same goal.
States with winner-take-all laws — which is every state except Maine and Nebraska — require the state to cast its electoral votes for the candidate with the most popular votes in the state. The NPVIC is an agreement directly between the states that commits each state to cast its electoral votes for the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. As of the 2020 election, fifteen states plus Washington, D.C. had signed on to this pact, representing a total of 196 electoral votes.
Another thing we need to do is amend the murky Electoral Count Act of 1887, the Act that currently regulates the electoral college selection process. The statute should be changed to reflect that electors can only vote for the winner of the popular vote of the presidential election in the state.
Even though most states already have this law in place, amending the Electoral Count Act will guarantee that state legislatures can never appoint an alternative slate of electors, as some were pressured to do in 2020 by the Trump campaign.
These are all clever ideas, but none of them will probably happen anytime soon. So, we need to be creative and find a workaround.