The Electoral College: Outdated or unchanging?

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

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A UIS professor of political communication, Michael Cheney, believes that eliminating the Electoral College is “not likely,” despite a growing opposition to the current standard and the unprecedented levels of aggression across the country.

Following the election, “Anti-Trump” protests broke out across the country in major cities like Los Angeles, Portland, and Minneapolis, as well as on college campuses.

“This election has set a new level of aggression and the follow up reactions,” said Cheney. “Both protests and responses to Trump’s recent appearances have been beyond past norms.”

While President-elect Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by gaining the necessary 270 Electoral College votes first, he failed to win in the popular vote. Clinton currently possesses a 2 million vote lead in terms of the popular vote.

In late November, Green Party nominee Jill Stein raised funds to request recounts in several states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. In each traditionally blue state, Trump leads Clinton by fewer than 100,000 votes.

The Trump victory has not only caused protests, but could have state electors deviate from voting for the “winner-take-all” candidate, and leaving some voters questioning the American political system.

A petition created on, a popular site for circulating online petitions, reached 4.5 million signatures calling for electors to vote in the way of the popular vote.

“[In] 14 of the states in Trump’s column, [electors] can vote for Hillary Clinton without any legal penalty if they choose,” wrote Daniel Brezenoff in the petition. “We are calling on the 149 Electors in those states to ignore their states’ votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton.”

According to, there is no federal law that requires electors to cast their vote for the candidate their state elected; but 26 states, including the District of Columbia, have party pledges and state laws that bind electors to the winning candidate and penalties for “faithless electors,” as in those who do not vote or choose to vote for the other candidate.

Cheney said the 2000 general election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which came down to the decision of Florida, had some “rumblings” about the Electoral College, but that it “never took hold” because of the Supreme Court decision.

Other groups, like National Popular Vote, a leading non-partisan group started in the 2000s that opposes the Electoral College, have seen a recent increase in website traffic and support.

“The issue, I sense, will die down as things move forward,” said Cheney. “Smart minds have said that a movement now on the heels of this election is not likely to effect change, but rather be perceived as sour grapes.”

National Popular Vote’s goal is to get enough states equaling 270 electoral college votes to enact laws on the state level where the winner of the overall popular vote in a presidential election automatically receives the state’s electoral votes.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia, with a total of 165 electoral votes, have implemented “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” laws, with the most recent state New York in 2014. However, these states are not required to allot their electoral votes until the 270 electoral vote goal is met.

“Not likely to see much movement,” said Cheney. “There has not been a convincing argument made on the math of these proposals.”
In 2008, Illinois became the third state to enact a national popular vote law when then-Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed the act into law (HB1685).

A constitutional amendment passed through the House of Representatives in 1969 to abolish the Electoral College, but the Senate filibustered the amendment, killing the bill.

In order to get a constitutional amendment, a two-thirds vote in the U.S. House and Senate is needed to propose the amendment, and then a three-fourths majority is needed among the states.

All 27 amendments to the constitution have been initiated by Congress.

A two-thirds vote of state legislatures (33 states) can call for a Constitutional Convention, which can propose amendments, and then three-fourths vote of the states can approved the amendments. However, this has never been done in the country’s history.

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