Abolition of the Electoral College

July 10, 1940

Report Outline
Possibility of Electoral Reform Next Year
Operation of Electoral College System
Proposals to Revise Electoral Machinery

Possibility of Electoral Reform Next Year

The President and Vice President to be chosen by the voters at the polls on November 5 will not be officially elected until two months later. Presidential electors “appointed” in each of the states in November will meet at the 48 state capitals on December 16 to “choose” a President and a Vice President. Their ballots will not be officially counted until January 4, 1941, the day after the 77th Congress convenes, when the President of the Senate, in the presence of the combined membership of the two houses, will canvass the ballots submitted by the states and announce the results of the election. The President and Vice President so elected will take office less than three weeks later (January 20).

Proposals for Change in Electoral System

Efforts have been made from time to time for nearly 150 years to supplant present electoral college machinery with a less complicated and more democratic system, and such efforts doubtless will be renewed next year. As recently as 1934, a proposed constitutional amendment for abolition of the electoral college failed by only two votes to win the necessary two-thirds majority in the Senate. Since that time, Senator Barkley (D., Ky.), majority leader of the upper house, has indicated his support of electoral college reform. Speaking at Bowling Green, Kentucky, in October, 1937, Barkley said: “The electoral college is useless. The American people are qualified to elect their President by a direct vote, and I hope to see the day when they will.”

Not the least compelling argument for revision of present electoral machinery is the fact that the Constitution does not now require that the President shall be elected by popular vote: it provides merely that “each state shall appoint …electors” in a manner designated by its legislature.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Electoral College
Aug. 30, 2019  The Electoral College
Dec. 08, 2000  Electoral College
Nov. 19, 1976  Electoral College Reform
Aug. 18, 1944  The Electoral College
Jul. 10, 1940  Abolition of the Electoral College
Mar. 22, 1924  Effects of a Deadlock in the Electoral College
Campaigns and Elections
Voting and Suffrage