But it wasn’t all that long ago that our country—through a bipartisan effort among lawmakers—nearly ditched the Electoral College. The Bayh-Celler amendment nearly did it, beginning in 1969 before flaming out in 1971.
“This is a lost piece of history,” Alexander Keyssar, the Matthew W. Stirling, Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard, told Newsweek.
Keyssar—the author of the forthcoming book Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?—said it was “very close” to getting passed, meaning the president-vice president duo would have then been elected via national popular vote, provided that the duo earned at least 40 percent of the total vote. It would have been a remarkable shift. And it would have, no doubt, changed the course of American history.
While there was broad support for change—even President Nixon, at least in theory, signed on with the amendment—the amendment stalled out in the Senate. That was largely due to opposition from southern senators. That included anti-civil-rights South Carolina Republican Strom Thurmond, who helped lead the filibuster against the amendment.
Continue reading: The Amendment That Almost Killed the Electoral College