Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Merkley Senate Bill Would Abolish 'Undemocratic' Electoral College

"The idea of democracy is simple and obvious even to young kids on a playground—whoever gets the most votes should win."

Julia Conley

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced legislation on Friday to abolish the electoral college. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Denouncing what we called the nation's "profoundly unfair" system of electing presidents, Sen. Jeff Merkley on Friday introduced legislation that, along with a number of pro-democracy reforms, would abolish the electoral college.

The proposal, Merkley said, includes a constitutional amendment establishing that the president beelected according to the popular vote.

"We need real, equal representation if we want a government that responds to the big issues impacting working families' lives, like health care, housing, education, living-wage jobs, and climate chaos." —Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)

"The idea of democracy is simple and obvious even to young kids on a playground—whoever gets the most votes should win," the Oregon Democrat said. "But way too often, that’s not how our system of government is working. And we see the results all around us—the privileged and powerful taking care of themselves while most people work longer hours for the same pay at best, while costs keep going up."

The proposal is part of the Blueprint for Democracy that Merkley introduced in January as the Democratic Party turned its attention, through its For the People Act (H.R. 1)., to confronting a political system stacked against the common good and in favor of corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

The package of bills also calls for a commission to give full representation to Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and several U.S. territories; expand early voting; and end purges of voter rolls.

Merkley is the latest lawmaker to call for an end to the electoral system that was put in place in the 18th century, critics say, to allow states that permitted slavery to sway elections and has been retained in part to ensure that states in the middle of the country are considered equal to those on the coasts, despite population differences.

Opponents of the system have pointed out that two presidential elections in the past two decades have elected presidents who fell far short of winning popular support from American voters. President Donald Trump won just 46.4 percent of the popular vote and 74 more electoral votes than Hillary Clinton, while former President George W. Bush won 500,000 fewer votes than Al Gore but captured 271 electoral votes.

"We need real, equal representation if we want a government that responds to the big issues impacting working families' lives, like health care, housing, education, living-wage jobs, and climate chaos," said Merkley in a statement. "It's time to end the undemocratic electoral college."

In recent weeks a number of Democratic presidential candidates have voiced support for doing away with the electoral college. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on supporters to sign a petition demanding an end to the system at a CNN town hall meeting earlier this month, while South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg told "CBS This Morning" on January that the electoral college "needs to go."

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Delaware became the 21st state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would allocate the participating states' electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Currently, states representing 184 electoral votes have signed on to the compact. The states need to represent at least 270 electoral votes in order to swing an election.

Republicans have strongly opposed the anti-electoral college movement as well as other aspects of H.R. 1, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggesting on the Senate floor that pro-democracy, anti-corruption legislation would harm the GOP—confirming the widespread belief among critics that the party relies on mass disenfranchisement to stay in power.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Border Patrol Accused of 'Unfathomable Cruelty' for Wielding Whips Against Haitians

"It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brett Wilkins ·


As Gov. Tim Walz Proclaims 'Minnesota Climate Week,' Ilhan Omar Says 'Stop Line 3'

"The state of Minnesota simply cannot meet our carbon reduction targets if this pipeline goes through," said the Democratic congresswoman. "Our future is on the line."

Kenny Stancil ·


Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line."

Julia Conley ·


Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins ·


Sanders Denounces a Pentagon Budget System Found 'Inherently Susceptible to Fraud'

"They don't seem to want to get serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively," said the Vermont senator, declaring it "absolutely unacceptable."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo