U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III is ramping up his push to abolish the Electoral College — aligning himself with the most progressive Democrats in a move political watchers say could help him win over liberal voters in his U.S. Senate run.
“The idea is that we have a system that promises one person, one vote — yet the Electoral College doesn’t live up to that promise,” Kennedy told the Herald. “What you see as a result of it is millions of people every year, both conservative and progressive, have their votes taken for granted — not fought over, not earned.”
In a campaign email, Kennedy said the Constitution’s framers intended the Electoral College to “boost the voting power of slave states, and to insulate the powerful elite from the will of the people,” both of which he called “unjust.”
Kennedy argued changing the system would force candidates to “campaign in places at the moment they might write off.” Democrats could target like-minded voters in the cities of red-state Texas, and Republicans could go after conservative voters in the Central Valley of traditionally blue California or the rural upstate of liberal-leaning New York, he said.
But Gary Gregg, director of the nonpartisan McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, said the consequences of eliminating the Electoral College “could be profound.”
“The Electoral College gives us competitive elections and it ensures that we have a diversity of the electorate that actually counts,” Gregg said.
Abolishing it “would centralize too much power in the cities,” creating an unbalanced system that gives Democratic candidates the incentive to hunker down in liberal metropolises and “ignore voters in rural America,” Gregg continued.
Democratic strategist Tony Cignoli said ending the Electoral College is a “safe issue” for Kennedy in liberal Massachusetts, and a way to keep him in front of voters in a primary driven largely by name recognition.
It could also help Kennedy siphon away some of the state’s progressive activists drawn to Markey’s co-sponsorship of the Green New Deal, said John Cluverius, a UMass Lowell political science professor.
He added: “This is trying to pour some liberal activist gas in the tank for Kennedy.”
What is the Electoral College?
The Electoral College was established in the U.S. Constitution. It consists of 538 electors tasked with selecting the president and the vice president of the United States, decided by a 270-vote majority.
The number of electors each state has is based on the number of members in its congressional delegation. The District of Columbia has three electors.
In all but two states — Maine and Nebraska — all of the electors go to the candidate who wins the popular vote for that state. After voters cast ballots in November, electors meet in December and Congress counts each state’s votes on Jan. 6.
There are just five times when a candidate has won the popular vote but lost the election:
Andrew Jackson to John Quincy Adams in 1824
Samuel Tilden to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876
Grover Cleveland to Benjamin Harrison in 1888
Al Gore to George W. Bush in 2000
Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump in 2016