(Remember the debate over an Equal Rights Amendment?) After a lopsided 1968 election in which Richard Nixon won 301 electoral votes but captured the popular vote by less than 1 percent), Senator Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) pushed for one.
The amendment had bipartisan support in Congress and, according to polls, from 80 percent of Americans. But Western and Southern senators like Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) argued that it “ignores the rights of little states,” and a filibuster stopped it in 1970.
Senator Bayh kept trying, even as some Black leaders joined segregationist senators in opposition: “Take away the electoral college and the importance of being Black melts away,” Vernon Jordan, president of the National Urban League, later wrote. “Blacks, instead of being crucial to victory in major states, simply become 10 percent of the electorate.”
Senator Bayh’s efforts to abolish the electoral college ended in defeat in 1979. (He also had his hand in two other constitutional amendments, as a co-sponsor of the E.R.A. and as sponsor of the 25th Amendment, which says that if a President is unable to do his job, the Vice President may assume the role.)
Today, some states are trying a new approach on the electoral college, passing laws that pledge all their electoral votes to whoever wins the national popular vote.