Not Every Vote For President Counts The Same. Should That Change?

The Electoral College is a messy system. Now, talk of reform is sweeping across the campaign trail. Our "Off The Trail" series takes an in-depth look.
Posted at 9:42 PM, Jul 10, 2019

Video editing by Michelle Aguilar, animation by Jennifer Smart and videography by Kyle Pyatt and Luke Piotrowski are included in this video.

The Electoral College is an American institution — one that goes back to the founding of the nation. But now it’s also become a voting rights issue among Democrats running for president. 

In this episode of "Off The Trail," Newsy shows how different votes are weighed differently in the Electoral College. It's an issue on the minds of many voters. Recent polls have found widespread support for a popular vote system replacing the Electoral College. And our own Newsy-Ipsos survey finds Electoral College reform scores high among the issues most important to Democrats and independents. 

We asked registered voters: When deciding which Democratic candidate to support, which policy proposals are the most important to you? 

The response:

1) Medicare For All (378 votes)

2) Universal background checks for gun purchases (340 votes)

3) Reforming the Electoral College (188 votes) 

4) Raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour (178 votes)

5) Student debt forgiveness (149 votes)

6) Federal carbon tax (130 votes)

7) Federal legalization of marijuana (94 votes)

8) Universal basic income (89 votes)

9) Abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (73 votes)

10) National paid family leave (49 votes)

The poll was conducted May 8-13, 2019 with a sample of 2,008 adults.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) was one of the first candidates to call for reform on the campaign trail. We spoke to him about the Electoral College as he campaigned in Iowa. 

"A majority of Americans realize that the Electoral College is not fair," O'Rourke tells Newsy. "It diminishes instead of increasing voter participation when you've got to explain to your fellow voters that the person who got 3 million more votes in 2016 was actually the loser in the presidential election because of the way that the Electoral College awards those votes. So we have to do better if we want to bring more people into our democracy, and I think that significant reforms to the Electoral College or replacing it with the popular vote are the ways to go."

But the Electoral College is a long-standing American tradition laid out in the U.S. Constitution, meaning it would take a Constitutional amendment — or state-level efforts across the nation — to change it.