Donald Trump has said he wants a new Supreme Court justice confirmed quickly because he expects the court to decide the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. A new study finds that the Electoral College system significantly increases the possibility of that happening — and the data suggest that such a process is far more likely to help Republicans win the White House.

“It is much more likely under the Electoral College than under the national popular vote that the election outcome will be narrow enough to be reversible by judicial or administrative processes,” concludes a new study from University of Texas researchers. “The Electoral College today is about 40 times as likely as a national popular vote to generate scenarios in which a small number of ballots in a pivotal voting unit determines the presidency.”

Analyzing elections from 1988 to 2016, the study also found that “it has been about twice as likely that a Democratic Electoral College victory in a close election would be within a disputable, 1,000 vote margin in a pivotal state than that a Republican Electoral College victory would be.”

The same researchers previously found that “if the 2020 election is within a 1 percent margin, the less popular candidate has a 45 percent chance of becoming president.”

If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, the Supreme Court will have three justices who worked for the GOP on the Bush v. Gore case that handed the 2000 presidential election to the Republicans. Trump has already been relying on federal courts to overturn lower court rulings protecting voting rights.

The Movement to Abolish The Electoral College

A recent Gallup poll found 61 percent of Americans support amending the Constitution to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote system.

To date, 15 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to the national popular vote compact, which is a separate method of effectively ending the Electoral College system without a constitutional amendment.

The compact would have signatory states award their electors to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of the vote in their particular state. States have such authority to award electors in this way: The Constitution explicitly says states may award their electors “in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct.” The system would only go into effect when states representing a majority of the Electoral College votes join the compact.

After Colorado’s Democratic-controlled legislature passed legislation to join the compact, Republican activists filed a ballot measure to block its enactment.

Colorado voters will decide the legislation’s fate in the current election. A recent poll found 49 percent of Colorado voters favoring the enactment of national popular vote legislation, and 34 percent opposed.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

This newsletter relies on readers pitching in to support it. If you like what you just read and want to help expand this kind of journalism, consider becoming a paid subscriber by clicking this link.

Subscribe now