Who Needs the Electoral College? Not Massachusetts

Is momentum for a popular vote on the rise?

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The Massachusetts State Legislature has approved a law that would award the state's electoral college votes to the winner of the national popular vote. Is this the beginning of the end of indirect election in America?

  • Not So Fast  Connecticut Compromise fans shouldn't worry just yet, writes Martin Finucane in the Boston Globe. The Massachusetts law takes effect  "only if enough states adopted the legislation to combine for at least 270 electoral votes, the amount needed to win the presidency." The only other states to pass similar legislation are New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, Illinois, and Washington.

  • Tradition Discarded? A dubious Tara Ross of the National Review points out the founding fathers established the Electoral College for a reason. She explains:

The Massachusetts legislature has forgotten (or never knew) the lessons of history that caused the founding generation to create institutions such as the Electoral College. The Founders had an interesting challenge in front of them: How could they encourage successful self-governance in a country as big and diverse as America? They faced two challenges: First, they knew that, as a matter of history, pure democracies fail. John Adams once noted, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” In such a system, it is simply too easy for bare or emotional majorities to tyrannize minority groups. The Founders’ second challenge came from the vastness of America’s territory: Some wondered how the alternative to democracy, republicanism, would operate in such a large nation.

  • New Political Math A move to a popular vote has drawn support "from both Democrats and Republicans across the country," writes Stephanie Condon of CBS News. Dismantling the Electoral College, Condon argues, would  "compel candidates to stop ignoring states like California or Texas, which are predictably Democratic and Republican, respectively"

  • 270: a Tall Order RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende says that given the current political climate in statehouses across America, getting the necessary 270 votes remains unlikely. "Maybe some of the progressive states in the Upper Midwest would sign onto this as a good government measure," Trende concedes, "but realistically this law runs into increasingly strong headwinds with every state that passes it."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.