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Curious here. What are the concrete, finite set of steps that would be required to "do away" with the Electoral College in the United States (all states/provinces/etc.), and to institute an election system based on popular votes? I'm mainly talking about the Presidential race but this could be genericized to any vote that is handled by state electors.

I know it would almost likely never happen, I get that. But anything is possible. I'm wondering how, specifically.

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This would require an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The process is specified in Article 5:

Article. V.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

The "mode of ratification" has until now always been by state legislatures rather than by conventions. That's unlikely to be different in this case.

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  • Thanks @phoog (+1) - but I'm not following you. How does Article V of the Constitution have anything to do with the Electoral College? I don't even seen the mention of the college or even electors in the blocktext you provided above. Thoughts? – smeeb Nov 11 '16 at 17:03
  • See law.stackexchange.com/a/15141/4501 for the constitutional basis of the Electoral College. – user6726 Nov 11 '16 at 17:04
  • @smeeb The electoral process is specified by article 2, section 1, and by the 12th amendment. You asked how the process could be changed; because the process is specified by the constitution, this requires changing the constitution, and the process for changing the constitution is specified in article 5. – phoog Nov 11 '16 at 17:06
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phoog is right that actually getting rid of the Electoral College would require a Constitutional amendment.

However, it is possible to effectively institute a national popular vote for president without getting rid of the Electoral College, and without a Constitutional amendment, via the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Basically, it's an agreement between states to assign their electors to be pledged to the candidate that won the national popular vote. It only takes effect when states with a majority of electoral votes have joined the compact (currently, they have 165 electoral votes, need 270), so that them voting a block guarantees the outcome, regardless of how states that have not joined the compact vote.

There are some complications with this system, e.g. how recounts work if the national popular vote is close (theoretically there should be a nationwide recount, but the compact cannot bind states that have not joined it), and what authority would decide the result if states within the compact disagree about the national popular vote winner. But in general it should be a workable system.

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