SPRINGFIELD — Dick Durbin wants to scrap the Electoral College system of electing the country’s president.
Durbin, one of Illinois’ two U.S. senators, joined fellow Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in announcing the push for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College.
The amendment takes the form of a Senate Joint Resolution, which needs two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate to be sent to states, where approval from three-quarters of legislatures is required for ratification.
The amendment would scrap the Electoral College, which the senators call “undemocratic,” in favor of direct election of the U.S. president by popular vote.
“The Electoral College is a relic from a shameful period in our nation’s history,” Durbin wrote in a news release, “and allows some votes to carry greater weight than others.
“A handful of states now determine the leader for all 50 states, regardless of each candidate’s final vote tally.”
Durbin mentioned the two times in the past 20 years that a president won the popular vote but lost the election.
Both losing candidates were Democrats — Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
A federal constitutional amendment eliminating the Electoral College is but one way Illinois is looking to change the way to elect a president.
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Another plan would bypass, rather than eliminate, the Electoral College through a multi-state compact, which Illinois joined in 2008 under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration.
Each state in the compact would award all of its Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
But for the compact to take effect, enough states must join to push their cumulative Electoral College voting power over the 270-vote threshold required to win the presidency.
In March, Democratic Gov. John Carney made Delaware the 13th state along with Washington, D.C., to join the national popular vote compact, pushing the group’s total voting power to 184.
In Tuesday’s news release, Durbin referenced the compact as another method of getting rid of the Electoral College.
“A ZIP code should not silence some voters while amplifying others,” the release said. “This constitutional amendment would address this inequality by abolishing the outdated Electoral College system.”
Some Illinois lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction.
In February, state GOP Rep. Tim Butler, of Springfield, introduced legislation to change the system so that all the state’s Electoral College votes do not go to the same candidate.
That bill was sent back to committee, however, and is unlikely to receive further consideration.
A president losing the national popular vote but winning the presidency has happened only three other times in U.S. history: John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison in 1888.