Democratic congressional candidates want to abolish Electoral College

The Democratic candidates for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District seat have vastly different opinions about the fairness of U.S. elections and what, if anything, should be done to improve the electoral system.

Two, including the incumbent, advocate abolishing the Electoral College that chooses the president, among other changes.

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove, challenger Mahnoor Ahmad of Oakbrook Terrace and challenger Charles Hughes of Chicago shared their thoughts on this subject and others in questionnaires for the Daily Herald.

The candidates were asked if they believe the nation's election system and those of the individual states are secure and fair, and what improvements are needed.

Ahmad, a first-time candidate and public health advocate, said she wants to do away with the Electoral College.

As required by the U.S. Constitution, the college forms every four years to select the president and vice president. There are 538 members — one for each member of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate and three from Washington, D.C. A simple majority of 270 or more decides the next occupant of the Oval Office.

Nearly all states require whichever presidential candidate received the most votes statewide to receive their electoral votes. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, factor in presidential election results in individual congressional districts.

Five presidents, most recently Donald Trump in 2016, didn’t have a national plurality of the popular vote but won the White House with majorities in the Electoral College.

Abolishing the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment.

When asked why she wants to disband the college, Ahmad said it unfairly gives more power to votes cast in states with smaller populations.

“It means not everyone's voice is heard equally,” she explained. “A lot of people want to change this and just count every vote the same, no matter where it comes from.”

Although he didn’t mention it in his questionnaire response, Casten also would support doing away with the college, a campaign spokesman said.

Short of that, Casten last year proposed a constitutional amendment that would, in part, add 12 national electors to the college. Their votes would reflect the national popular vote to better ensure that the winner also wins the Electoral College tally. The measure hasn’t progressed significantly.

As for other reforms, Ahmad supports banning members of Congress from accepting campaign donations from lobbyists and political action committees. Ahmad has condemned the influence of what she called “big money” in campaigns and has said she won’t accept such donations.

Additionally, Ahmad said she supports term limits for congressional representatives.

Casten, who is seeking a fourth term, called recent American elections “the freest, fairest elections we have ever known.” He said steps taken to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus during the pandemic introduced efforts that made it easier for Americans to vote, such as vote-by-mail programs and the installation of more drop boxes for ballots.

“All these contributed to record turnout,” Casten wrote.

Casten said he’s pushed to expand voter access and called for laws that would allow all citizens to get free federal IDs to prevent states from using ID laws to target minority populations, among other changes.

Hughes answered only “Yes” to the question about whether elections are secure and fair. An operation tech with Nicor Gas who’s making his third bid for Congress, he declined an opportunity to expand on his response.

The 6th District includes much of the West and Southwest suburbs in Cook and DuPage counties.

Illinois’ primary Election Day is March 19, and early voting has begun. The winner of the 6th District primary will face Republican Niki Conforti of Glen Ellyn in the Nov. 5 general election.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.