The Daily
The Daily
Oct 22, 2020
A Peculiar Way to Pick a President
Play • 32 min

The winner-take-all system used by the Electoral College in the United States appears nowhere in the Constitution. It awards all of a state’s electors to the candidate with the most votes, no matter how small the margin of victory. Critics say that means millions of votes are effectively ignored.

The fairness of the Electoral College was seriously questioned in the 1960s. Amid the civil rights push, changes to the system were framed as the last step of democratization. But a constitutional amendment to introduce a national popular vote for president was eventually killed by segregationist senators in 1970.

Desire for an overhaul dwindled until the elections of 2000 and 2016, when the system’s flaws again came to the fore. In both instances, the men who became president had lost the popular vote.

Jesse Wegman, a member of The Times’s editorial board, describes how the winner-take-all system came about and how the Electoral College could be modified.

Guest: Jesse Wegman, a member of The New York Times’s editorial board.

For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily

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