Entrepreneur Tom Golisano Endorses National Popular Vote
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Los Angeles Times
Wichita Falls Times
Anderson Herald Bulletin
Sarasota Herald Tribune
MetroWest Daily News
San Jose Mercury News
York Daily Record
Every Vote Equal:
A State-Based Plan For Electing The President By National Popular Vote
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With forewords from:
- John B. Anderson (R,I–IL)
- Birch Bayh (D–IN)
- John Buchanan (R–AL)
- Tom Campbell (R–CA)
- Greg Aghazarian (R–CA)
- Saul Anuzis (R–MI)
- Laura Brod (R–MN)
- James L. Brulte (R–CA)
- Tom Golisano (R,I–FL)
- Joseph Griffo (R–NY)
- Ray Haynes (R–CA)
- Bob Holmes (D–GA)
- Dean Murray (R–NY)
- Tom Pearce (R–MI)
- Christopher Pearson (P–VT)
Alaska - 70%
Arizona - 67%
Arkansas - 80%
Arkansas - 74%
California - 69%
California - 70%
Colorado - 68%
Connecticut - 73%
Connecticut - 74%
Delaware - 75%
Dist. of Columbia - 76%
Florida - 78%
Georgia - 74%
Kentucky - 80%
Idaho - 77%
Iowa - 75%
Maine - 77%
Maine - 71%
Massachusetts - 73%
Michigan - 70%
Michigan - 73%
Mississippi - 77%
Missouri - 66%
Missouri - 70%
Missouri - 75%
Montana - 72%
Nebraska - 74%
Nevada - 72%
New Hampshire - 69%
New Mexico - 76%
New York - 79%
North Carolina - 74%
Ohio - 70%
Oklahoma - 81%
Oklahoma - 75%
Oregon - 76%
Pennsylvania - 78%
Rhode Island - 74%
South Carolina - 71%
South Dakota - 75%
South Dakota - 71%
Tennessee - 74%
Utah - 70%
Vermont - 75%
Virginia - 74%
Washington - 77%
Washington - 77%
West Virgina - 81%
Wisconsin - 71%
Wyoming - 69%
Dist. of Columbia
New Jersey Assembly
New Jersey Senate
New Mexico House
New York Assembly
New York Senate
North Carolina Senate
Rhode Island House
Rhode Island Senate
One Person, One Vote for President (June 21, 2010)
Flunking the Electoral College (November 19, 2008)
Every Vote Should Count, From Sea to Shining Sea (November 4, 2008)
Maryland Takes the Lead (April 14, 2007)
Drop Out of the College (March 14, 2006)
From the late-1960s through the '80s, Republicans were convinced that they had a permanent lock on the Electoral College. The Sun Belt was rising, traditionally Democratic states were losing population, and Republicans won five of six presidential elections beginning in 1968. Democrats complained that this archaic system was a terrible and undemocratic way to choose the country's executive. They were right, but they were ignored.
Now the demographic pendulum is swinging toward the Democrats. Young voters, Hispanics and a more active African-American electorate added states like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia to President Obama's winning coalition in the past two elections, and suddenly Republicans are the ones complaining about a broken system.
They're right, too, just as the Democrats were a generation ago. The Electoral College remains a deeply defective political mechanism no matter whom it benefits, and it needs to be abolished.
We say that in full knowledge that the college may be tilting toward the kinds of candidates we tend to support and provided a far more decisive margin for Mr. Obama earlier this month than his showing in the popular vote. The idea that a voting method might convey benefits to one side or another, in fact, is one of the strongest arguments against it.
There should be no structural bias in the presidential election system, even if population swings might oscillate over a long period of decades. If Democrats win a string of elections, it should be because their policies and their candidates appeal to a majority of the country's voters, not because supporters are clustered in enough states to get to 270 electoral votes. Republicans should broaden their base beyond a shrinking proportion of white voters not simply to win back Colorado, but because a more centrist outlook would be good for the country.
The problems with the Electoral College — born in appeasement to slave states — have been on display for two centuries; this page called it a "cumbrous and useless piece of old governmental machinery" in 1936, when Alf Landon won 36 percent of the popular vote against Franklin Roosevelt but received only 8 of the 531 electoral votes.
But 76 years later, the system continues to calcify American politics. As Adam Liptak of The Times recently wrote, this year's candidates campaigned in only 10 states after the conventions, ignoring the Democratic states on the West Coast and Northeast and the Republican ones in the South and the Plains. The number of battleground states is shrinking, and turnout in the other states is lower. The undemocratic prospect of a president who loses the popular vote is always present (it's happened three times), as is the potential horror show of a tie vote that is decided in Congress.
The last serious consideration of a constitutional amendment to abolish the college, in 1970, was filibustered by senators from small states who feared losing their disproportionate clout. The same thing would probably happen today, even though Republicans (who tend to dominate those states) are increasingly skeptical of the college.
The best method of moving toward direct democracy remains the National Popular Vote plan, under which states agree to grant their electoral votes to the ticket that gets the most popular votes around the country. Legislators in eight states and the District of Columbia (representing 132 electoral votes) have agreed to do so; the plan would go into effect when states totaling 270 electoral votes sign up.
Until then, new generations of voters will continue to find themselves appalled by the system left to them by their populist-fearing ancestors. An 18-year-old voter in California and one in Oklahoma will have much in common when they realize they are each being ignored, and when they realize there is something their lawmakers can do about it.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 16, 2012
An earlier version of this editorial misstated the number of electoral votes at stake in the 1936 presidential election. There were 531, not 538.
Nearly 10 years after George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore and became president anyway, the New York State Legislature has a chance to withdraw from the archaic and unfair way this country picks its chief executives.
The State Senate has adopted, by a vote of 52 to 7, a measure requiring the state to assign all of its Electoral College delegates to the candidate who wins the national popular vote. In the Assembly, 79 of 150 members have signed on to the bill, but it remains stuck in committee. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, should bring it to the floor this week and press all members to vote for it.
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. New York, for example, has 31 electoral votes, and whoever wins the most votes in New York gets all 31.
The result 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. Since then, an organization called the National Popular Vote came up with the end run around the Electoral College that is now before the New York Legislature.
Since it takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, the National Popular Vote laws would go into effect only if states accounting for 270 or more electoral votes agree to the new system. So far, five states, with a total of 61 electoral votes, have done that. New York should become the sixth.
On Dec. 15, the United States will endure a quadrennial ritual born in the economics and politics of slavery and the quill-pen era. Members of the Electoral College are scheduled to meet in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to formally choose the next president.
There is no real doubt about how the electors will vote, but it is disturbing that they have any role at all in making this vital choice in the 21st century. The Electoral College is more than just an antiquated institution: it actively disenfranchises voters and occasionally (think 2000) makes the candidate with fewer popular votes president. American democracy would be far stronger without it.
There is no reason to feel sentimental about the Electoral College. One of the main reasons the founders created it was slavery. The southern states liked the fact that their slaves, who would be excluded from a direct vote, would be counted — as three-fifths of a white person — when Electoral College votes were apportioned.
The founders also were concerned, in the day of the wooden printing press, that voters would not have enough information to choose among presidential candidates. It was believed that it would be easier for them to vote for local officials, whom they knew more about, to be electors. It is hard to imagine that significant numbers of voters thought they did not know enough about Barack Obama and John McCain by Election Day this year.
And, while these reasons for the Electoral College have lost all relevance, its disadvantages loom ever larger. To start, the system excludes many voters from a meaningful role in presidential elections. If you live in New York or Texas, for example, it is generally a foregone conclusion which party will win your state's electoral votes, so your vote has less meaning — and it can feel especially meaningless if you vote on the losing side. On the other hand, if you live in Florida or Ohio, where the outcome is less clear, your vote has a greatly magnified importance.
Voters in small states are favored because Electoral College votes are based on the number of senators and representatives a state has. Wyoming's roughly 500,000 people get three electoral votes. California, which has about 70 times Wyoming's population, gets only 55 electoral votes.
The Electoral College also makes America seem more divided along blue-red lines than it actually is. If you look at an Electoral College map, California appears solidly blue and Alabama solidly red. But if you look at a map of the popular votes, you see a more nuanced picture. More than 4.5 million Californians voted for Mr. McCain (roughly as many votes as he got in Texas), while about 40 percent of voters in Alabama cast a ballot for Mr. Obama.
One of the biggest problems with the Electoral College, of course, is that three times since the Civil War — most recently, with George W. Bush in 2000 — it has awarded the presidency to the loser of the popular vote. The president should be the candidate who wins the votes of the most Americans.
The best way to abolish the Electoral College is to amend the Constitution. Until that happens, a national popular vote movement is working to get states representing a majority of the electoral votes to agree to award their votes to the candidate who has the most votes nationally. That would effectively end the Electoral College. Several states, including New Jersey and Illinois, have already enacted popular vote laws, and others are considering it.
When the 2012 presidential election approaches, efforts to reform the electoral system will be viewed through a partisan prism, with a focus on which party they would help or hurt. With the next election still four years away, now is an ideal time to get serious about abolishing the Electoral College.
Re "How Much Is Your Vote Worth?," by Sarah K. Cowan, Stephen Doyle and Drew Heffron (Op-Chart, Nov. 2):
If a Wyoming voter is three and a half times more influential than a Florida voter, why has Wyoming been utterly ignored by the major party campaigns and Florida voters wooed incessantly with multiple visits and tens of thousands of campaign ads?
The reality is that the current Electoral College system values votes based on whether they are cast in swing states.
In 2004, 99 percent of campaign spending went to just 16 states. This year, 17 states have drawn 99 percent of major party candidates' visits to states for campaign events since the party conventions.
Fortunately, there's every reason to believe that by 2012 enough states will have adopted the National Popular Vote plan to enact a system where every vote is equal by whatever measurement. It couldn't come a moment too soon.
Executive Director, FairVote
Takoma Park, Md., Nov. 3, 2008
As the nation braces for a long and numbing presidential election, the State of Maryland has done voters a favor by rejecting the Electoral College as a fossil in need of a democratic makeover. Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Annapolis legislature made the state the first in the nation to decide that its Electoral College members should someday be required to vote for the presidential candidate chosen by a plurality of the nation's voters, not according to the state's parochial tally.
The change would not take effect until it won final acceptance by enough states to amount to a 270-vote majority in the college. (Maryland has 10 votes.) But it is something all Americans would benefit from, particularly the masses of voters routinely ignored when candidates focus on a few battleground states β just 16 in 2004 β that increasingly settle modern campaigns.
The need to scrap the creaky college machinery was made clear in the angst of the 2000 election. George W. Bush lost the popular election by almost 544,000 votes, yet won in a Supreme Court showdown over Florida's electors that hinged on far fewer disputed state ballots. Four years later, it was Mr. Bush's turn to sweat as he handily won the national vote yet came close to losing Ohio β and the White House β in the college's arcane state-by-state fragmentation of the popular majority.
The reform movement, driven by a bipartisan coalition called National Popular Vote, has a long way to go. But Hawaii is close to approval, and hundreds of legislators are sponsoring the change in more than 40 other states. It is an ingenious way around the fact that the alternative strategy of trying to amend the Constitution would require the approval of three-fourths of the states, leaving veto power in the hands of smaller states over-represented in the college.
The objection that reform would mean that rural interests would be ignored is a canard. The change would require candidates to present positions that galvanized all Americans. This is the truer and more certain path of democracy.
The Electoral College is an antidemocratic relic. Everyone who remembers 2000 knows that it can lead to the election of the candidate who loses the popular vote as president. But the Electoral College's other serious flaws are perhaps even more debilitating for a democracy. It focuses presidential elections on just a handful of battleground states, and pushes the rest of the nation's voters to the sidelines.
There is an innovative new proposal for states to take the lead in undoing the Electoral College. Legislatures across the country should get behind it.
Both parties should have reason to fear the college's perverse effects. In 2000, the Democrats lost out. But in 2004, a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio would have elected John Kerry, even though he lost the national popular vote decisively.
Just as serious is the way the Electoral College distorts presidential campaigns. Candidates have no incentive to campaign in, or address the concerns of, states that reliably vote for a particular party. In recent years, the battleground in presidential elections has shrunk drastically. In 1960, 24 states, with 327 electoral votes, were battleground states, according to estimates by National Popular Vote, the bipartisan coalition making the new proposal. In 2004, only 13 states, with 159 electoral votes, were. As a result, campaigns and national priorities are stacked in favor of a few strategic states. Ethanol fuel, a pet issue of Iowa farmers, is discussed a lot. But issues of equal concern to states like Alabama, California, New York and Indiana are not.
The Electoral College discourages turnout because voters in two-thirds of the nation know well before Election Day who will win their states. It also discriminates among voters by weighing presidential votes unequally. A Wyoming voter has about four times as much impact on selecting that state's electors as a California voter does on selecting that state's.
The answer to all of these problems is direct election of the president. Past attempts to abolish the Electoral College by amending the Constitution have run into difficulty. But National Popular Vote, which includes several former members of Congress, is offering an ingenious solution that would not require a constitutional amendment. It proposes that states commit to casting their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. These promises would become binding only when states representing a majority of the Electoral College signed on. Then any candidate who won the popular vote would be sure to win the White House.
The coalition is starting out by trying to have laws passed in Illinois and a few other states. Americans are rightly cautious about tinkering with mechanisms established by the Constitution. But throughout the nation's history, there have been a series of reforms affecting how elections are conducted, like the ones that gave blacks and women the vote and provided for the direct election of United States senators. Sidestepping the Electoral College would be in this worthy tradition of making American democracy more democratic.