BOSTON (CBS) – You’ve heard the complaint: Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election despite winning three million votes more than Donald Trump (and don’t get us started in the 2000 election).

But will abolishing the Electoral College system that carried Trump (and Bush) to victory really be change for the better?

“We can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren to thunderous applause at a CNN forum the other night.

Massachusetts is one of 12 states to join the National Popular Vote (NPV) movement, which commits a state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national vote. And Warren says “we need to be an America where voting matters for everyone.”

But would scrapping the Electoral College really deliver on her vision?

Governor Charlie Baker argues the Electoral College system forces candidates to consider the needs of many states, not just the ones with lots of electoral votes. But the NPV folks note that “two-thirds of the (2012) general election campaign events took place in just four closely-divided states,” with the status quo giving outsized clout to a handful of states.

Their argument is fueled by the fact that three million more people voted for Clinton in 2016. But California alone accounted for that margin.

And Electoral College defenders note that despite occasional controversies, the system setup by the founders has served us well.

“For more than two centuries,” says Tara Ross, an attorney who has written and argued in defense of the Electoral College, “It has encouraged coalition building, given a voice to both big and small states and discouraged voter fraud.”

And what happens if the outcome is too close to call? Remember what a nightmare the Florida recount of 2000 was? Do we need to have multiple recounts if that happens again?

The founders were worried about too much federal control over this crucial decision, and proponents of direct election still have to contend with that concern.

Jon Keller


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