The First (And Last) Serious Challenge to the Electoral College System

Governor of Alabama (and notorious segregationist) George Wallace's independent run for the presidency in 1968 caused the government to truly question the efficacy of the Electoral College.
Governor of Alabama (and notorious segregationist) George Wallace's independent run for the presidency in 1968 caused the government to truly question the efficacy of the Electoral College.
Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

No election cycle would be complete without a debate over whether or not the Electoral College should be abolished. But have we ever come close to actually replacing the system that seemingly everyone loves to hate?

The short answer is: Almost. Once. It all started when Richard Nixon was elected ...

The 1968 presidential election season was messy and contentious. The Vietnam War, widespread riots, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and lame duck Lyndon B. Johnson’s dissolving popularity created a perfect political storm for a third-party candidate. In 1968, that candidate was former Alabama Governor George Wallace, who ran on the American Independent Party ticket against Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

Famed segregationist Wallace was popular in the South, and when the ballots were counted, he ended up snagging 46 of the available 538 electoral votes. Though Nixon garnered 301 electoral votes and Humphrey went home with 191, the two were separated by less than 1 percent of the national total—a little over 510,000 votes. The disparity between the popular and electoral votes, as well as Wallace's success, led New York Representative Emanuel Celler to introduce House Joint Resolution 681 [PDF], a proposed Amendment to abolish the Electoral College and replace it with a system that required a president-vice president pair of candidates to win 40 percent or more of the national vote. In the event of a tie, or if no pair reached 40 percent, a runoff election would be held between the two tickets with the highest number of votes.

Proponents argued that this system was friendlier to third parties (while not being too friendly to third parties, as 50 percent was deemed to be), less complicated, and would virtually never result in contingent elections by the House and Senate for president and vice president (which is a possibility with the Electoral College).

A map of the Electoral College.Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The Amendment was passed easily by the House Judiciary Committee in April 1969. By September of the same year, Celler’s Amendment passed with strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.

President Nixon endorsed the proposal and urged the Senate to pass its version, now known as the Celler-Bayh Amendment [PDF] after it was sponsored by Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana. A Senate Judiciary Committee approved the proposal with a vote of 11-6 in August 1970.

But things looked grim for the Celler-Bayh Amendment as the proposal prepared to move to the Senate floor. The measure was expected to fall short of the 67 votes needed to pass, so Bayh called Nixon for backup. While he never withdrew his support, the president didn’t call for any more favors regarding the Amendment. On September 17, 1970, the Celler-Bayh Amendment was met with a hearty filibuster from both parties, mostly from Southern states.

Senators from Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, Nebraska, Hawaii, and South Carolina argued that even though the Electoral College is complicated and has some potentially messy loopholes, it had served the country well and changing it risked widespread voter fraud, creating numerous splinter parties, and nationalizing the electoral process. But most explicit in his reasoning was Carl Curtis of Nebraska, who explained his state had 92/100ths of 1 percent of the electoral vote, but in 1968 would have had only 73/100ths of 1 percent of the popular vote, saying “I’m not authorized to reduce the voting power of my state by 20 percent.”

It was the beginning of the end for the best attempt in history to abolish the Electoral College. Eventually, the Senate voted to lay the Amendment aside to attend to other business. It officially died with the close of the 91st Congress on January 3, 1971.

This story has been updated for 2020.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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8 Surprising Facts About Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1977.
Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1977.
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Rarely has anyone been more driven to succeed than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian came to America in the 1960s and became a champion bodybuilder. Refuting advice that his accent was too thick, his body too developed, and his name too confusing, he became the biggest box office attraction in the world thanks to films like 1982’s Conan the Barbarian and 1984’s The Terminator. That would satisfy most ambitious people, but Schwarzenegger then went a step further and became governor of California in 2003.

With the “Austrian Oak” celebrating his 73rd birthday on July 30, we’re taking a look at some of the most interesting facts of his life and career.

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger went AWOL in the Austrian military.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984).20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Born July 30, 1947 near Graz, Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s family did not lead a comfortable life. Their home had no plumbing and no telephone. Schwarzenegger’s father, Gustav, was the village police chief and also a member of the Nazi party, which his son didn’t learn until much later on in his life. His father also pitted Schwarzenegger against his older brother, Meinhard, in various athletic contests, but it wasn’t until Arnold discovered bodybuilding that he found his calling.

Schwarzenegger, who made his own weights at a local metalworking shop, trained while performing a compulsory one-year tour of duty in the Austrian Army beginning in 1965. (Thanks to the balanced meals and protein offered by the military, he also gained 25 pounds.) During his time there, Schwarzenegger fled the base without permission so that he could enter a bodybuilding competition in Germany. He won, then spent seven days in military prison for the offense.

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger learned how to drive a tank.

While serving in the Austrian military, Schwarzenegger was given instruction on how to operate a tank. The vehicle apparently held some sentimental value for him, as he later acquired it and brought it to America. In 2000, he loaned the tank to the Motts Military Museum in Ohio, then had it returned to him in 2008 with plans to offer rides to disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles as a reward for working hard in school.

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger used psychological warfare to defeat his bodybuilding opponents.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Pumping Iron (1977).Getty Images

Schwarzenegger arrived in the United States in 1968 to pursue his bodybuilding career and enjoyed tremendous success, eventually winning seven Mr. Olympia titles. But it wasn’t solely due to his physique. In 2015, Schwarzenegger told podcast host Tim Ferris that he purposely engaged in psychological warfare to distract and shake the confidence of other competitors. He might, for example, ask a bodybuilder if they had a knee problem. “And they say, ‘Why are you asking?’” Schwarzenegger said. “I said, ‘Well, because your thighs look a little slimmer to me. I thought maybe you can’t squat or maybe there’s some problem with leg extension.’” The contestant would then feel self-conscious, and Schwarzenegger—always possessed of immense confidence—would capitalize on their insecurity, upstaging his opponent in front of the contest judges.

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger was already a millionaire before he got into acting.

Though he was successful in his bodybuilding career, Schwarzenegger wanted to have a reliable source of income beyond prize purses. He invested the money he won in competitions in California real estate, profiting immensely off the rise in property values in the 1970s. In doing so, he was able to be selective about the opportunities he chose to pursue in acting.

5. Mark Hamill told Arnold Schwarzenegger to lose his accent.

When his bodybuilding career began winding down, Schwarzenegger started looking to acting as his next challenge. Getting the title role in 1970’s Hercules in New York (where he was billed as Arnold Strong) did little to advance his ambition, as the movie was poorly-received and his heavy Austrian accent was dubbed over by an American actor. Later, after 1977’s Star Wars became a hit, Schwarzenegger asked Mark Hamill for advice. Hamill told him to lose the accent and his last name to give himself the best chance for success. Schwarzenegger obviously ignored the advice. He later said that he ultimately felt the accent was a benefit, since it made him a more distinctive commodity in Hollywood.

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger almost starred in a Hans and Franz musical.

Schwarzenegger had a sense of humor about Hans and Franz, the over-pumped Austrian bodybuilders played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon on Saturday Night Live. According to writer Robert Smigel, the actor was even interested in appearing in a big-screen Hans and Franz movie musical in the early 1990s. The characters would have been depicted as heading to California to pursue stardom, with Schwarzenegger appearing as both a version of himself and as the duo’s grandmother. The film was never made.

7. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s childhood home is now a museum.

As the pride of his tiny hometown of Thal, Austria, Schwarzenegger’s childhood residence is now a museum. The announcement came in 2011, with visitors able to go inside the first-floor flat and view Schwarzenegger’s old bed, a motorcycle from The Terminator, weightlifting equipment, and a copy of the desk he used while he was governor of California.

8. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be president (in a movie).

Because he was not born in America, Schwarzenegger is ineligible to run for the office of the President of the United States, which is something the actor said he would have done if he had been able. (And no, he couldn’t become vice president, either.) But there is no such law barring him from playing one in a movie. The actor will appear as the U.S. President in Kung Fury 2, a sequel to the 2014 short film parody of 1980s action movies directed by and starring David Sandberg. A release date has not yet been announced.