Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California filed legislation on Tuesday to abolish the electoral college and give the presidency to the candidate who wins the most votes.
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and was dominant in the voting in California, the biggest state in the nation. But Donald Trump won the electoral college and will be president – the fifth time in U.S. history a president has been elected despite losing the popular vote.
“This is the only office in the land where you can get more votes and still lose the presidency,” said Boxer, a Democrat who is retiring from the Senate at the end of the year. “The electoral college is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts.”
Boxer’s proposal doesn’t stand much of a chance with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and likely disinterested in a measure that highlights that Trump lost the popular vote.
It takes a constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college, which means a two-thirds vote of Congress would be needed as well as ratification by three-quarters of the states. There’s been more than 700 proposals over the years to change the electoral college.
California’s senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, agreed with Boxer, saying the electoral college is an archaic system and should be abolished.
“Our system of government is rooted in the principle of one person, one vote. Now that the loser of the popular vote has won the presidential election twice in 16 years, it’s clear that the electoral college does not adhere to that principle and should be abolished,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein said she’ll continue pushing to end the electoral college after Boxer retires.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues on this issue in the next Congress. Long odds should not dissuade us from fighting to make sure our democracy accurately reflects the will of the voters,” Feinstein said.
Q. Who are the other candidates for president who won the popular vote, but lost the election?
A. Andrew Jackson in 1824 (lost to John Quincy Adams), Samuel Tilden in 1876 (lost to Rutherford B. Hayes), Grover Cleveland in 1888 (lost to Benjamin Harrison) and Al Gore in 2000 (lost to George W. Bush.)
Q. Why does the electoral college exist?
A. The system was a compromise devised at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Some of the founding fathers wanted Congress and not the public to pick the president. Some worried that election by popular vote would give high population states too much power.
Southern states with slaves were worried about dominance by northern states, since slaves couldn’t vote and wouldn’t be counted in a direct vote.
Q. How many electoral votes does each state get?
A. The number is based the size of the state’s congressional delegation. But since every state, regardless of size, gets two senators, the system gives rural states with less population more influence over the result than they would have if the election was by popular vote.
California has 55 electoral votes, the most in the nation. But that equals an average of 545,892 potential voters for each of California’s electoral votes – compared to just 149,066 potential voters for every electoral vote in Wyoming.
Q. What does Trump think of the electoral college?
A. Depends on when you asked him. When it appeared in 2012 that Republican Mitt Romney might win the popular vote but lose the electoral college, Trump tweeted that the electoral college “is a disaster for democracy” and made the United States a laughingstock.
But a victorious Trump tweeted on Tuesday that “the Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play.” Trump also tweeted that he’d have been successful even under a popular vote system, since he would have campaigned in different places, focusing on California and New York, “and won even bigger and more easily.”