In her first CNN Town Hall event since announcing her run for president, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she supports abolishing the Electoral College.
In response to a question about expanding voter rights, Warren said she believes “we need a constitutional amendment that protects the right to vote for every citizen and to make sure that vote gets counted.”
“We need to put some federal muscle behind that, and we need to repeal every one of the voter suppression laws that is out there right now,” she added.
She then moved on to the Electoral College.
“My view is that every vote matters,” Warren said. “The way that we can make that happen is that we can have national voting. And that means get rid of the Electoral College.”
The audience erupted in cheers.
From the beginning, the Electoral College was about limiting democracy, according to Smithsonian Magazine. It was first put in place in 1787, during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, in order to give citizens a way to vote directly for president while putting in place electors who would be able to step in if the masses got out of hand. It also allowed the South—where 40 percent of the population was enslaved at that time—more representation.
“[Southerners] wanted slaves to count the same as anyone else, and some northerners thought slaves shouldn’t be counted at all because they were treated as property rather than as people,” Harvard Law professor Michael Klarman told the Smithsonian.
This is where the detestable three-fifths compromise, which you most likely remember learning about in American history class, came in. Slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person when the convention drew up Congressional districts. And the number of Electoral College electors, in turn, was based on the number of Congressional delegates from each state—two senators, plus the number of Representatives.
Over the last 200 years, the Electoral College has remained unpopular, facing 700 proposed Constitutional amendments to either reform it or get rid of it altogether. Warren’s proposed amendment would just be the latest in this long history.
Warren is the second 2020 Democratic candidate to advocate abolishing the Electoral College. South Bend, IN mayor Pete Buttigieg also called to end the institution back in January.
“We’ve got to repair our democracy. The Electoral College needs to go, because it’s made our society less and less democratic,” Buttigieg said on CBS This Morning.
In 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders called for a “reassessment” of the Electoral College, but has not supported abolishing it.
States have also begun pushing to circumvent the College on their own. A dozen states have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would bypass the Electoral College by awarding their electoral points to whichever candidate wins the popular vote. The total electoral points of these states is 181, not quite the 270 needed to secure the presidency.