Congressman Nadler Statement on Needed Electoral College Reforms

Dec 6, 2016 Issues: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. --Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, joined fellow Democratic Members of Congress in a forum with bipartisan experts and noted scholars to discuss proposed reforms to the current method of presidential selection.  The forum, entitled “The Electoral College and the Future of American Democracy,” was hosted by the House Judiciary Committee Democrats in response to the recent Presidential election outcome, where Hillary Clinton earned 2.5 million more popular votes than Donald Trump, who was declared the winner due to his advantage in the Electoral College.

Below is Congressman Nadler's full statement, as prepared, as part of the House Judiciary Committee Democrats forum:

"I am pleased to join this forum on “The Electoral College and the Future of American Democracy” and to hear from our distinguished panelists.    

"This is a matter of crucial importance to our democracy and the good news is that there are practical steps we can all take in our own states that could reform the Electoral College and make a real difference in how the next president is selected.  I believe we must move away from the Electoral College as it currently operates and toward a system that guarantees that the winner of the popular vote actually becomes the President of the United States.  That shouldn’t really be considered a radical idea.

"As you know, the popular vote winner differed from the Electoral College vote winner just three times in the 19th century.  The last time was in 1888.

"Then it didn’t happen again until 2000, and so we, as a nation, got complacent.

"In the year 2000, Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote by half a million votes (about 540,000), but lost in the Electoral College after the Supreme Court stopped the recount in Florida thereby awarding Florida’s electoral votes to then-Governor George W. Bush.

"In 2016, sixteen years later, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.5 million votes, but lost in the Electoral College.  Obviously, the Electoral College is getting more dangerous and less democratic with a small “d”.  Now, there is an even greater disconnect between the popular vote and the Electoral College and it is time we got rid of the distorting influence of the Electoral College on the popular will.

"Some may argue that the Electoral College helps smaller states and that that help is somehow still necessary. However, the small states are already protected by the two votes in the Senate, and they don’t need extra protection in the Electoral College as well.  In addition, the difference between the population of the small states and the larger states is obviously much bigger now than it was when the Constitution was written – in fact, we have gotten to the point where only 22% of the population can control the Senate.  Therefore, additional benefits to smaller population states would further distort our democracy and are not needed.

"We must also remember that the Electoral College was designed to enhance the power of slave states.  The Southern States, although, they gave absolutely no rights to slaves, counted slaves as 3/5s of a person when it came to determining voting representation in the House, and, therefore, the Electoral College.  Even though the slaves had no rights and could not vote themselves, their existence help empower their masters to have even more power in the House and the Electoral College. It is time we did away with this relic from the past.

"The other reason the Electoral College was created was to protect us from democracy itself.  The founders feared direct democracy.  Today, we don’t believe we need protection from democracy any more.  Really, there is no excuse for any of this anymore, and we ought to move to electing the President by popular vote.

"I support the National Popular Vote Initiative and I played a role in ensuring that New York State joined the initiative.  I think it makes sense to continue to pursue this method to render the Electoral College moot.  I would also support an amendment to the Constitution to repeal the Electoral College and elect the president by the popular vote."