Former Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Indiana, died Thursday of pneumonia at the age of 91.
As the tributes pour in, Bayh will be rightly remembered one of the most consequential legislators this state, and even this country, has ever produced.
He was known as the “father of Title IV,” which gave women far more opportunities to participate in sports.
He authored the 25th Amendment regarding the transition of power due to presidential incapacitation. (You may have heard that one mentioned a time or two recently.)
He also authored the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18, making him the only lawmaker since the founding of the country to successfully author two constitutional amendments.
But, two of his other best ideas have yet to come to fruition.
The first, The Equal Rights Amendment, fell just short of the required threshold of states to be enacted before the 1979 deadline.
The second, a proposed amendment which would have scrapped the Electoral College altogether, never got off the ground, either.
After working for years for such a change, on Jan. 10, 1977, Bayh introduced Senate Joint Resolution 1, “proposing an amendment to the Constitution to provide for the direct popular election of the President and Vice President of the United States.”
It also stipulated that if no presidential ticket received at least 40 percent of the vote, then a runoff election between the two highest vote-getters would be held.
Sadly, despite gathering 45 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, the resolution never achieved the required two-thirds vote in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
“Long overdue, the President and Vice President should be chosen by the same method every other elective office in this country is filled—by citizen voters of the United States in a system which counts each vote equally,” wrote Bayh in the foreword to John Koza and Rob Richie's 2006 book, Every Vote Equal.
The Electoral College is the racist appendix on the body politic, an otherwise useless organ lying in wait to blow up our system every few years.
“Opponents of the direct election often point to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in drafting the Constitution,” wrote Bayh. “At the time, 90 percent of the slave population lived in the South. Since the slaves could not vote, without the weighted vote of the Electoral College, the South faced electoral domination from Northern states. While not the first choice of any Founder, the Electoral College system solved these tricky considerations with a compromise which allowed them to complete the monumental task of creating our country’s Constitution.”
Bayh recognized the truth about the Electoral College long before the 2000 or 2016 presidential elections gave us popular-vote-losing Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively. This outdated system will increasingly lead to a feeling of illegitimacy as the voice of the people is ever more frequently subverted.
Let's honor this man's legacy by finishing the noble work he began all those years ago.