Former congressmen press changes in presidential elections
Chicago Tribune - Feb. 22, 2006
A coalition of former congressmen is launching a campaign to change how Americans select their president by reforming the Electoral College system, saying campaigns for the White House should be reliant on the nationwide popular vote rather than simply the outcome in a handful of swing states.
The bipartisan group plans to announce its proposal Thursday and begin a state-by-state effort to amend the Electoral College so the winner reflects the view of the country instead of an individual state or two with a close vote on Election Day. The plan would seek to eliminate the possibility of a candidate winning the popular vote but losing the election, as happened to former Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
"The time is long past to not play Electoral College roulette every four years," former Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., said in an interview. "It is a throwback to 1887."
The plan, called the Campaign for the National Popular Vote, will be unveiled in Washington by Bayh; former Rep. John Anderson, R-Ill.; and other former members of Congress. The effort begins in Illinois, where legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly, followed by California and other states.
Even supporters, however, concede it's an uphill battle. Democrats may stand to gain more from enacting such reforms, considering candidates could increase their margins in heavily populated urban areas that typically favor their party. The reforms also could lend an advantage to independent candidates.
"The presidency becomes an irrelevant thing to two-thirds of the union," said Anderson, who was a congressman for 20 years and ran for president in 1980 as an independent. "All the people ought to decide, but now most states are tossed on the scrap heap and ignored" because Democratic or Republican candidates consistently win electoral votes in some states, thus effectively disenfranchising voters on the losing side in those states.
Previous attempts to change the Electoral College by amending the Constitution have failed in Congress, so proponents of reform are seeking to change laws through individual state legislatures. The initiative does not seek to abolish the Electoral College, but rather award the electors from each state to the candidate who wins the country's popular vote.
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