As the 2012 presidential election approaches, the foibles of the United States' Electoral College -- and its role in subverting the closely-contested 2000 election -- is on the minds of American citizens.
In a new Gallup poll of more than 1,000 adults, 62 percent said they would support a measure to amend the U.S. Constitution to replace the Electoral College process for electing presidents with a popular vote system. The preference for a popular vote system went across age and partisan lines -- 71 percent of Democrats are in favor of amending the constitution, according to Gallup, in addition to 53 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Independent voters.
The Electoral College consists of a group of electors appointed by each state who formally vote for the president and vice president of the United States. Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that each state may appoint a number of electors equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress, while each state's legislature can determined how its electors are selected.
The candidate who wins a majority of a state's Electoral College votes wins the entire state, an allowance that many see as unfair since it means electors can technically ignore the results of the popular direct vote. According to the U.S. Electoral College Home Web site, there is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. While several states are not legally bound to vote according to the results of the direct vote, the U.S. Electoral College site reports that it is rare for a state's electors to disregard the popular vote when they are making their decision.
However, those who support abolishing the Electoral College argue the system has produced a highly state-based approach to presidential campaigning and gives a small number of swing states an inordinate amount of power.
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In the past 200 years, there have been 700 proposals introduced in the U.S. Congress to reform or eliminate the Electoral College, according to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. There have been more proposals for Constitutional amendments to change the Electoral College than on any other issue.
Between 1967 and 1980, Americans typically favored overturning the Electoral College with a popular vote system. The source reports that in 1980, 67 percent of Americans favored a constitutional amendment to change the electoral system, with almost no partisan disagreement. Gallup reports the partisan divide in this issue has grown since that time, suggesting the political dynamic of the 2000 election -- which resulted in Republican George W. Bush benefiting immensely from the Electoral System at the expense of Democrat Al Gore, who narrowly won the popular vote -- may have influenced some respondents' opinions.
In the days after the 2000 election, Gallup reports that 56 percent of Republicans favored keeping the Electoral College, while only 41 percent believed it should replaced with a popular vote system, a 12 point difference from the most recent poll.