Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton began a victory tour of upstate New York today by calling for elimination of the Electoral College.
At an airport news conference in Albany, the first lady said she would support legislation seeking a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of the president.
At the moment, Americans are waiting to see who wins Florida’s 25 electoral votes and thus becomes the next president. Vice President Al Gore leads Republican George W. Bush in the popular vote nationwide, but the unofficial vote count in Florida has him slightly behind Bush.
“We are a very different country than we were 200 years ago,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me, that means it’s time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president.”
The first lady also said that because of the closeness of this year’s presidential election, “I hope no one is ever in doubt again about whether their vote counts.”
Meeting with Bill’s Co-Sponsor
Clinton was accompanied by Democrat Rep. Michael McNulty, an Albany County Democrat who has co-sponsored Electoral College legislation introduced by Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood.
LaHood has introduced his bill in each of the last two congressional sessions, but aside from a 1997 hearing granted as a favor by House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., it has not advanced.
McNulty thinks the measure will gain momentum if Gore wins the popular vote but loses the electoral tally.
At a later stop in Syracuse, the first lady hedged when asked if she felt Gore should pursue legal action in Florida if the vote recount there leaves him short of victory.
“I’m not an expert on election law in Florida,” she said. “I think that whatever is appropriate in terms of reaching a conclusion that people will accept as fair and which puts a priority on ensuring that people’s votes count, should be pursued.”
At Rochester Airport, where she was met by about 75 supporters, Mrs. Clinton said she did not know if President Clinton shared her views about the Electoral College.
Asked if her opinion had changed over the past week when it looked like Gore would win the popular vote and lose the electoral — instead of the other way around — New York’s senator-elect said no.
“For years, I thought it was an anachronism,” she said. “It’s like many other issues that you think about and you develop an opinion about but it doesn’t rise to the top of any agenda because there are other more pressing issues … but there’s no escaping that we are now in a situation where I think most Americans of either party would have to admit we should try to create a national consensus to do away with the Electoral College.”
As she started her tour across upstate New York, Mrs. Clinton said she had talked with Republican Gov. George Pataki on Thursday about how they could work together to help the state. She called it “a very cordial conversation” and said she and Pataki hope to get together soon.
Pataki was a major supporter of Rep. Rick Lazio, the Republican congressman from Long Island who the first lady easily beat Nov. 7 to win the New YorkSenate seat.