What Do the 2020 Democratic Candidates Think of the Electoral College?

The campaign season of the 2020 presidential election is in full swing, and the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination—as well as incumbent President Donald Trump, a Republican—are working hard to win the support of American voters.

However, in the United States, the voters themselves do not elect a president. That power instead belongs to the 538 electors from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. who participate in the Electoral College. That state's population, according to the most recent U.S. census, determines each state's number of electors.

On Election Day, voters in presidential elections actually vote to decide which candidate's electors from their state will participate in the Electoral College, according to information from the National Archives. The political parties in every state determine each of their candidates' electors.

In most states, the Electoral College is a "winner-take-all system" in which all of a state's electors cast their votes for the candidate who won the majority of their state's votes. However, an elector can opt to ignore the popular vote in their state and opt instead for a different candidate. Those who do so are dubbed "faithless electors."

Trump would not have won the presidency without the Electoral College. According to data compiled by The New York Times, Trump received 62,985,106 votes (45.9 percent) in the 2016 presidential election. His Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, received 65,853,625 votes (48 percent).

Although nearly three million more Americans voted for Clinton instead of Trump, Trump nevertheless emerged victorious due to the Electoral College. A majority (270) electoral votes are required to win the election. Trump won 304 votes, while Clinton accrued 227 votes in the College. The winner of the presidential election also lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote in the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.

Since a candidate can, and has, won the presidency with a minority of votes from citizens, some have called for the Electoral College to be removed or replaced with a different system.

Here are what the 2020 Democratic candidates have said about the Electoral College.

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden told the Times editorial board in a December interview that he does not support abolishing the Electoral College.

"[T]hat structural change requires constitutional amendments," Biden said, when asked why he does not support the measure. "It raises problems that are more damaging than the problem that exists."

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders performs in second-place after Biden in most national polls about Democratic candidates and has come out in favor of doing away with the Electoral College.

He stated as much in a July 2019 tweet, which was in response to an analysis from MSNBC that concluded that Trump could lose the popular vote by as many as five million votes in 2020 and still secure re-election, thanks to the Electoral College.

Abolish the Electoral College. https://t.co/eVI5QdrWbu

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 19, 2019
Twitter

As Newsweek previously reported, Sanders expanded on his opinion of the college in a town hall hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens in July 2019.

"It is hard to defend a system in which we have a president who lost the popular vote by three million votes," the Vermont senator said.

Elizabeth Warren

Like Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren has also gone on record to say that she supports the abolition of the Electoral College. Elections, in Warren's view, should be decided directly by the voters.

"So here's my goal: My goal is to get elected, and then to be the last American president elected by the Electoral College," Warren said to an audience in a clip published by her Twitter account in December. "I want the second term to be that I got elected by direct vote."

"I just think this is how a democracy should work," she continued. "Call me old-fashioned, but I think the person who gets the most votes should win."

My goal is to get elected—but I plan to be the last American president to be elected by the Electoral College. I want my second term to be elected by direct vote. pic.twitter.com/a2Lj2a9F0F

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 2, 2019
Twitter

Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and a billionaire business mogul, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in November. While he does not appear to have made many public statements about the matter, according to The Washington Post, he does not support abolishing the Electoral College in favor of electing the president via popular vote.

Pete Buttigieg

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, is straightforward about his stance on the Electoral College.

"It's simple: the candidate who gets the most votes should win," the Buttigieg campaign's website read. "States don't vote, people vote, and everyone's vote should count exactly the same. The Electoral College has to go."

US-VOTE-2020-DEMOCRATS-DEBATE-POLITICS
Democratic presidential hopefuls Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (L), former Vice President Joe Biden (C) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders participate of the seventh Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register at the Drake University campus in Des Moines, Iowa on January 14, 2020. Robyn Beck/Getty

Andrew Yang

In contrast to most other candidates, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang has argued that the Electoral College should be "improved."

"Abolishing the electoral college would be difficult and would wind up further favoring high-density high-population areas with big media markets that would be the focus of national campaigns," Yang said in an interview with The Washington Post. "It's also a bad message to send that losing elections should be responded to by changing the rules set forward in our Constitution."

Instead of nixing the College entirely, Yang has instead proposed changing the method by which its electors are chosen.

"If we're going to attempt to reform the electoral college, it would be better to focus on making electors determined on a proportional basis," Yang campaign's website read. "The method of determining electors isn't prescribed in the Constitution, and several states already use a different method. While a constitutional amendment might be required to force states to determine their electors proportionally, any individual state could determine to use a proportional method immediately, and have the electors better reflect the will of the people of their state."

Amy Klobuchar

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told the Post that, as president, she would "consider" taking steps to abolish the Electoral College.

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard has stated that she has a nuanced opinion of the Electoral College. She said that there are "reforms" that could be implemented to make the Electoral College better.

"There are reforms that need to take place to make it so that our votes are being cast and counted and represented in the outcome of our elections," Gabbard said during a March 2019 visit to Concord, New Hampshire, according to the Concord Monitor. "I think there are pros and cons to the existing Electoral College and to getting rid of it."

Gabbard, who has also broken with her fellow Democrats on certain issues like Trump's impeachment, which she has criticized as "partisan," also said she was disappointed that calls to get rid of the Electoral College so often come from "the side that has lost or suffered as a result of [it]," the Monitor reported.