The Futility of Trying to Use Article V to Reform Article V or the Senate

The closest the Electoral College ever came to being abolished was in 1970. An amendment proposal known as the Bayh-Celler Amendment passed the House in 1970 by a vote of 339-70. It narrowly failed to pass cloture votes in the Senate, by votes of 54-36 and 53-34. According to The New York Times, the first vote of 36 in opposition consisted of 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans, and was “almost entirely a coalition of Southerners and conservatives from small states who had protested that abolishing the Electoral College would reduce their states’ political influence.” Because roughly two-thirds of all members of the House come from large states, and one-third of all members of the Senate come from large states, that means that as many as 60 representatives and 20 senators from small states must have voted for the amendment. These votes constitute perhaps the high-water mark in all U.S. history of elected officials from small states volunteering to relinquish disproportionate constitutional voting power over the law.

The good news is that not everyone votes to preserve their disproportionate voting power. The bad news is that 61% of the Senate (53-34) is the best vote to reduce the disproportionate power of small-state citizens in over 200 years. That means that a strategy that relies on getting to 67% (2/3 of the Senate for amendment proposal, or 2/3 of the states to call an amendment convention), or to 75% (3/4 of state legislatures or conventions for ratification) is, well, not a strategy at all. It is an appeal to magic. It amounts to acquiescence in inequality.

I should acknowledge and endorse another plan for equality over the law that avoids Article V: National Popular Vote. It would ensure that the presidential candidate who gets the most votes will win. Maybe it will work.