Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) announced a new proposal that would reform the Electoral College by awarding 29 bonus votes to the winner of the popular vote. Israel introduced a constitutional amendment, which would only take effect one year after ratification and would have no effect on the 2012 election. Some have speculated about the possibility of a tie in the coming election, which would result in the Congress breaking the tie for president and vice-president.
Steve Israel said, "The election for president should be an election for the whole country, not just the swing states. Obviously I have no intention of changing the rules for the campaign that's underway now, but believe that we would be better served in the future if presidential candidates had an incentive to campaign in places like New York and Texas as well as swing states like New Hampshire and Iowa. By giving a bonus vote of 29 electoral votes, swing states would remain important, but states like New York would have a meaningful voice too."
Others have called for similar reforms in the past, including the 20th Century Fund Task Force on Reform of the Presidential Election Process in 1978. Rep. Israel's legislation differs from the Task Force's proposal in the number of bonus votes allotted. The Task Force awarded 102 votes, with the stated purpose "making virtually certain that the candidate who receives the largest number of popular votes would be elected president." Rep. Israel's bonus votes allotted would only be 29--enough to break a tie or a very close election, but not enough to undermine the influence of small swing states in the Electoral College.
Historically, the winner of the popular vote has lost election only four times, John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George Bush in 2000. Israel's proposal would only have changed the outcome of two of those elections: the elections of 2000 and 1876 were both decided by less than 29 electoral votes. The constitutional amendment would require passage by two-thirds of the House and Senate along with ratification by three-fourths of the states. The resolution would take effect one year following the ratification of the amendment, allowing time for presidential campaigns to adapt to new election rules.