Presidential Victory Without Majority Could Mean Calls for Reform


Share This Story

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) — You don’t have to go too far into fantasy land to envision a scenario in which President Obama loses the popular vote, but wins the electoral vote. Mitt Romney has gained ground in some national preference polls, but Obama still leads in many battleground state polls.

ABC’s Matthew Dowd has been making this argument for months and he’s gotten company in recent weeks.

Others, nestled on editorial boards, and in think tanks and ivy covered colleges, have been discussing the pros and cons of our current Electoral College system for years.

Suppose for a moment that it comes to pass: Obama gets fewer votes than Romney, but is reelected. (Check out ABC’s race ratings and play with the electoral map.)

The handwringing would be endless. Republicans would be outraged. Democrats, some of whom still daydream about what might have been if 2000 popular vote winner Al Gore had taken the White House, might see poetic justice.

But not so fast. There’s the matter of the U.S. Constitution and the 12th Amendment, which would have to be changed. Amending the Constitution is notoriously hard, requiring that an amendment pass by a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives, a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate and by three fourths of the 50 state legislatures.

ABC’s political analyst George Will has argued that the current system lends stability to the political process. As often as it creates a split decision, it can magnify a slim victory. John F. Kennedy, for instance, narrowly won the popular vote 49.7 to Richard Nixon’s 49.5 percent in 1960. But Kennedy had a more commanding win in the electoral college.

But supporters of a popular vote system say it is more important to achieve a more democratic ideal than one in which swing states are so key.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Respond to this story