The measure serves as companion legislation to one put forward in the House by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and counts one presidential candidate -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York -- among its co-sponsors. Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California and Brian Schatz of Hawaii also sponsored the resolution.
The Electoral College has been the focus of renewed Democratic criticism in the wake of President Trump's 2016 win. While he defeated Hillary Clinton in the electoral vote, he lost the popular vote by 2.9 million ballots.
“Before the 2000 election, I introduced a bipartisan resolution to amend the Constitution and create a system of direct election for presidents,” Durbin said in a statement. “And I still believe today as I did then that the Electoral College is a relic from a shameful period in our nation’s history, and allows some votes to carry greater weight than others.”
With her support of the companion legislation on Tuesday, Gillibrand is another 2020 Democratic hopeful embracing the idea of dumping the Electoral College in favor of a popular-vote election.
“Every American should know that their vote counts equally no matter what state they live in, and that’s why we need a more democratic system that guarantees one person, one vote,” Gillibrand said. “The Electoral College has distorted the outcome of elections and disenfranchised millions of voters, and I think that’s wrong. I believe that it's time to get rid of the Electoral College, and I am ready to fight in Congress and around the country to pass this constitutional Amendment to do that.”
The legislation was unveiled a day after another 2020 candidate, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, reiterated his call on Monday to abolish the Electoral College.
Answering a question from the audience at the We The People summit in Washington, O’Rourke argued that doing away with the Electoral College would restore the trust of voters and allow for fairer elections.
“Let’s abolish the electoral college,” O’Rourke said. “If we get rid of the Electoral College, we’d get a little closer to one person, one vote.”
He added: “Our democracy…it is warped, it is corrupted right now. If we don’t fix it, it’s never going to get better.”
O’Rourke’s call echoes that of fellow Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who also has advocated abolishing the Electoral College.
“Every vote matters and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College,” Warren said.
But such calls have faced skepticism, even from other fellow Democrats.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a 2020 presidential candidate, said in a recent interview that while the issue is worth debating, “I think it’s unfortunate that too often these calls for changes come about by the side that has lost or suffered as a result of the Electoral College.”