Subcommittee Hearing on "Proposals for Electoral College Reform: H.J. Res. 28 and H.J.
September 4, 1997
2237 Rayburn House Office Building
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for agreeing to hold these hearings. I very much appreciate your willingness to have this forum for a discussion and a dialogue on a topic that is of profound importance to the American people and to American democratic ideals: whether there is a continued need for the Electoral College.
My answer to this question is simple: I do not believe we need the Electoral College.
I believe the Electoral College is merely a relic of times past, running counter to the democratic process.
Currently, the only offices not elected by popular vote are the President and Vice-President.
The continuance of the Electoral College tradition simply makes no sense given the fact that all other elected officials (from U.S. Senator down to those holding local offices) are elected directly by the people.
I wonder how many voting citizens really realize that a vote for the President isn't really a vote for him or her at all. In fact, when a voter steps into a polling booth during a Presidential election, they are not actually electing the President, but rather a slate of electors whose job it is to actually elect the President and Vice-President.
In an effort to correct the counter-democratic problems posed by the existence of the Electoral College, I, along with Congressman Wise, introduced H.J. Res. 28 on January 9, 1997. This resolution calls for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to abolish the Electoral College.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation in 1969 that would have abolished the Electoral College, but the same legislation failed to pass in the Senate.
H.J. Res. 28 is an effort to renew this cause and return the voting power to the voters, thereby ending the Electoral College filter that has been used since the beginning of our Constitution.
Specifically, our bill proposes a direct method of electing the President and Vice President. This means that the people would directly vote for the President and Vice President, and the winner of the election would be that person who receives the most number of votes, provided they received at least 40 percent of the vote.
If no candidate receives 40 percent or more of the popular vote, then a runoff election would be held between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes.
This approach would hopefully rectify a potentially huge, looming political crisis: an election that results in a President being elected without winning the popular vote.
This situation has occurred three times in our history, resulting in the election of John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison in 1888.
I believe that it is important to act now, before this situation occurs for a fourth time. All too often, Congress is perceived as reactionary and not pro-active. Going forward with legislation aimed at dismantling the Electoral College system would help shed this perception, and help avert a potentially huge political dilemma.
While I know I am not the first Member of Congress to introduce a bill calling for the dissolution of the Electoral College, I hope, that I can be the last.
Mr. Chairman and distinguished colleagues, I hope that we can act responsibly and pro-actively by working together to end the Electoral College.
Voters deserve to know that their vote counts, not the vote of some Elector they don't even know.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.