Al Gore's Prediction About How We'll Choose Our Next Presidents Is a Game-Changer

December 6th 2016

Mike Rothschild

Former Vice President Al Gore made a surprising prediction about the fate of the Electoral College in American politics in an interview with MSNBC Monday.

"It could take a little time but I would be surprised if we did not shift to popular vote in the next decade," the 2000 presidential election candidate told the network's Chris Hayes. Explaining his belief that a move toward direct elections in presidential contests would "bring our democracy back to life," Gore went on to detail how having the people directly decide, rather than electing a slate of electors, would make the process more equitable.

"I do think we could have a chance to really increase participation in our democracy if we went to a popular vote," Gore added.

Until the 2016 presidential election where Hillary Clinton lost despite leading her opponent with over 2 million more in the popular vote, Gore was the only living candidate to win the popular vote and lose the election. Over time there have been others such as, Grover Cleveland in 1888, Samuel Tilden in 1876 and Andrew Jackson in 1824. There was little talk of eliminating the Electoral College then, but with a huge imbalance in votes between President-elect Donald Trump and Clinton, the movement has gathered more momentum.

Eliminating the Electoral College would require a Constitutional amendment with broad support in both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the state legislatures. This is a process designed to be rare and difficult. But Gore believes there's another mechanism to reform the Electoral College - a piece of legislation known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

The Constitution mandates that the states select electors to vote on the president, but makes no mention of how those electors are chosen. The Compact would fulfill that requirement by having the states that enacted it to award its electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have already adopted it, and when states with a total of 270 electoral votes have adopted it, the Compact would become law.

However, the Compact still needs a number of other states to approve it, and it hasn't garnered the support of a single Republican-leaning state. It also has no legal precedent - it probably would need the consent of Congress and would likely see a court challenge if it went into effect.

While Gore might believe that the Electoral College has run its course, many other prominent figures in politics disagree with him - including his former campaign manager.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, former White House chief of staff and Gore campaign manager William Daley wrote that while it's not a perfect system, the Electoral College has fostered stability and removed the possibility of the massive multi-candidate elections that often force European countries to pick from dozens of candidates, with a winner only getting a small percentage of the votes.

"The electoral college is a curious institution, concocted by Founding Fathers struggling to balance the influence of big and small states," wrote Daley. "It’s not perfect. But until we have a clearly better replacement, let’s stick with it."