National Popular Vote

  • November 29, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Dr. John R. Koza, Chairman of National Popular Vote

    The Constitution provides a built-in mechanism for fixing the shortcomings of the current system of electing the president.

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the president is that four out of five states, and four out of five Americans, are politically irrelevant in presidential campaigns. After being nominated in 2012, President Obama conducted campaign events in just eight states, and Governor Romney did so in only ten. Just ten states received 98 percent of the $940 million spent on advertising by the two campaigns and their supporters.

    These problems are caused by state winner-take-all statutes (that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state). Because of these state winner-take-all statutes, presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. The common feature of the ten states that received attention in the 2012 presidential campaign was that the eventual winner received 53 percent or less of the state’s vote -- that is, they were closely divided “battleground” states.

  • July 10, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Jamie Raskin, a Democratic State Senator in Maryland, a professor of constitutional law at American University where he directs the Program on Law and Government, and a Senior Fellow at People for the American Way

    Another week goes by – and more evidence piles up that all the real political action in the 2012 presidential campaign is taking place in just nine swing states where the major parties are spending "tens of millions of dollars" on a "blizzard of political ads" and engaging in vibrant grassroots campaigning. Meantime, in the 80 percent of America where everything is over except for sending our money into the swing states to chase the remaining swing voters, it is nearly impossible to get national attention and political engagement – even where the stakes are unusually high. 

    Here in true-blue Maryland, the stakes couldn't be much higher, at least for progressives. Not only do we have our 10 Electoral College votes to award, but the November ballot could well feature hugely important referendum questions about marriage equality, the Dream Act and congressional redistricting. Maryland activists are mobilized and trying hard to educate people about these questions, but they’re working against the odds to attract national political and financial support. After all unlike our next-door neighbor Virginia, we’re not a swing state.

  • December 1, 2010
    Guest Post

    By Jeremiah Frei-Pearson, a member of the ACS New York Lawyer Chapter Executive Committee, and a civil rights attorney who ran for the New York State Assembly in 2010
    Remember the 2000 election? Although over 500,000 more Americans voted for Al Gore than George W. Bush, Bush received 5 more electoral votes than Gore and, as a result, won the presidency. An unnecessary and unending war, economic collapse and a rising poverty rate ensued. This sort of scenario could be avoided in the future if our state legislatures could collectively pass the National Popular Vote.

    The debacles of 2000-2008 can't be blamed solely on the Electoral College, but, the fact remains that if the candidate who got the most votes were awarded with the presidency, Al Gore would have been America's 43rd president. (Problems with the Electoral College can favor Republicans as well. In 2004, George W. Bush got over 3 million more votes than John Kerry, but Kerry came within less than 130,000 votes in Ohio from winning the presidency.) Unfortunately, our country relies on the Electoral College, an atavistic system that was created at a time when women and minorities couldn't vote and long before the Supreme Court enshrined "one person one vote" into law.

    In a worst case scenario like 2000, the Electoral College damages our democracy by thwarting the clearly expressed will of most American voters. But, even when the Electoral College does not directly decide the outcome of presidential elections, it harms our democracy. Currently, presidential campaigns are designed to get 270 electoral votes. Both major parties tend to write-off certain "safe" states like New York (safely Democratic in recent elections) or Texas (safely Republican in recent elections) and concentrate all their resources in "swing states" like Ohio and Florida. This means that a majority of Americans are virtually ignored by our candidates (except for constant requests for money), while those who live in swing-states receive a disproportionate amount of attention.

  • November 12, 2010
    The efforts to advance the National Popular Vote law, which would allow for the election of president by popular vote instead of the Electoral College, are gaining momentum.

    As noted by one of the driving forces behind the proposed law, the National Popular Vote Inc., Massachusetts and New York made significant strides on behalf of the law this year. Late this summer, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a National Popular Vote bill into law, making the state the sixth to enact the law and giving the National Popular Vote movement 27 percent of the electoral votes needed to make it the law of the land. (The National Popular Vote would become effective if states holding a majority of electoral votes, 270, enact it.)Upon signing the bill, Gov. Patrick said, "Voter participation in all 50 states is critical to the strength of our democracy and the national popular voter movement will bring more voters into the fold and ensure that every vote counts."

    New York state lawmakers also made major progress toward enacting the provision. The New York Senate overwhelmingly passed the National Popular Vote bill, which is now pending in the 150-member New York Assembly, where the bill has 80 sponsors. The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg said the state senate's action revealed that lawmakers' "interests coincide not only with those of all their constituents, regardless of party, but also with an elementary tenet of democracy: that elections should be decided by counting up the votes of citizens, with every individual vote being of equal vote."

    The New York Times also got behind the National Vote bill, saying in an editorial that the "Electoral College was established by the nation's founders in part to appease slave-owning states. It is based indirectly on population, and slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person. Each state now gets as many electoral votes as it has representatives in Congress. The results can be what we all saw in 2000, where the votes of one state, Florida, decided the election despite the fact that Mr. Gore was the nation's choice by more than a half-million votes."

    In addition, earlier this month the District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty signed the National Popular Vote bill. In reporting on Fenty's action, Reuters cited recent polling that "points to overwhelming majorities of voters" in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kentucky and several other states "favor the National Vote plan over current winner-take-all rules (i.e. awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular voters in each state)."

  • July 23, 2010

    The Massachusetts Senate passed a bill to adopt a National Popular Vote law, approved by the state's House of Representatives earlier this year.

    If Gov. Deval Patrick signs the bill, Massachusetts will join five other states that have agreed to cast their electoral college votes for the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, rather than the candidate who wins the state's vote, according to the Progressive States Network.

    The agreement between the states, which now include Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland , New Jersey and Washington, will not go into effect until states with electoral votes totaling 270 adopt such laws. If the Massachusetts law goes into effect, the number of electoral votes amassed would be 73.

    ACSblog reported last month that New York State is also close to adopting a National Popular Vote law. A June 21 editorial in The New York Times urged the New York Assembly to follow the lead of the state Senate and seize the "chance to withdraw from the archaic and unfair way the country picks its chief executives."

    The Progressive States Network map (above) shows the progress made in other states.

    Jamie Raskin, a Maryland state senator and constitutional law professor at American University, wrote a two-part analysis for ACSblog, available here and here, on the importance of the National Popular Vote movement.

    "Why is the NPV plan spreading like political wildfire?" asks Raskin, who introduced the nation's first National Popular Vote bill to be signed into law.

    The core reason is that it presents an irresistible proposition: that the person we elect president should be the one who collects the most votes. This is how we elect Governors, Mayors, Senators and Congresspeople, and it is how presidents are elected in most democratic nations that have presidents. On the other hand, the current electoral college regime can produce farcical upside-down results like the one we saw in 2000, a dismal turning point in American history, when the popular vote loser (by more than a half-million votes) tortured out a "victory" in the electoral college after the most dubious sequence of assaults on voting rights and political participation by state and federal actors like Katharine Harris and five Supreme Court justices.