Entrepreneur Tom Golisano Endorses National Popular Vote
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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
Congressman John Anderson:
I believe the occupant of the nation’s highest office should be determined by a nationwide popular vote.
The current system of awarding electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in each state divides us on regional lines, undercuts accountability, dampens voter participation, and can trump the national popular vote.
Contrary to what many of my law students think when they start the course on constitutional law that I now teach in Florida, the method of selecting the President and Vice President of the United States is not set forth in detail the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers never reached agreement on the system for selecting the President, but, instead left the important political questions to the states.
The Constitution says “Each State shall appoint [the presidential electors], in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized this state power as “supreme” and “plenary” and “exclusive.”
Over the years, the states have used the Constitution’s built-in flexibility concerning presidential elections in numerous different ways. For example, in our nation’s first presidential election in 1789, only four of the states gave the voters a direct voice in electing the presidential electors. In most states, the legislature “appointed” the presidential electors. However, since 1876, the voters have chosen all the presidential electors.
We’re going to hear a lot today about the law in 48 states that awards electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in each state. Under this rule, the presidential candidate receiving the most votes in each separate state wins all of that state’s electoral votes.
The Founding Fathers did not endorse this winner-take-all rule. The Constitution does not mention it. In fact, when the Founders went back to their states to organize our nation’s first presidential election in 1789, only three states awarded their electoral votes in this way.
States such as Virginia permitted the voters to elect presidential electors in especially created presidential-elector districts. Over the years, voters elected presidential electors from congressional districts or from multi-member regional districts.
In short, there was no consensus among the Founding Fathers in favor of two of the most politically important features of present-day presidential elections—namely voting by the people and the statewide winner-take-all rule. These features are not contained by the U.S. Constitution. These features did not come into existence by amending the U.S. Constitution. Instead, these now-familiar features came into existence because the states used the flexibility that the Founders built into the Constitution to make these features part of our political landscape. These features are strictly a matter of state law.
Virginia and other states that experimented with districts quickly came to realize the “folly”—to use Thomas Jefferson’s words—of fragmenting their state’s bloc of electoral votes while other states gave all their electoral votes to one candidate. The states gravitated to the winner-take-all rule and made it almost universal since 1836. Maine and Nebraska currently use the congressional district approach.
The present-day state laws in Maine and Nebraska are reminders of the flexibility that the Founding Fathers built into the U.S. Constitution concerning presidential elections. They are reminders of the fact that the decision as to the manner of conducting presidential elections is strictly a matter of state law. Because these features are a matter of state law, these features may be changed, at any time, by the states—merely by passage of a change in state law.
The Every Vote Equal book, being released here today, describes the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote an innovative approach that is a politically practical way to achieve the goal of nationwide popular election of the President. It has my enthusiastic support.
Senator Birch Bayh:
The current system for electing the President and Vice President has three major shortcomings.
First, voters today are effectively disenfranchised in two thirds of the states in presidential elections because the President is elected on a state-by-state basis, instead of a nationwide basis. Under the winner-take-all/unit rule, the winning candidate in each states gets all of the state’s electoral votes. This means, of course, that the loser gets nothing. As a result, the presidential candidates do not campaign in states in which they are far ahead—because they do not receive any additional electoral votes by winning a state by a larger margin. Candidates similarly ignore states where they are far behind. Instead, presidential candidates concentrate their public appearances, organizational efforts, advertising, polling, and policy attention on the closely divided battleground states.
Let me emphasize that the present system for choosing our president provides no incentive for voters in red and blue states to vote. It is a a “stay at home plan.” The national popular vote plan encourages voters to vote on Election Day wherever they live.
In the five most recent presidential elections, there are only about 18 battleground states. That means that about two thirds of the states are non-competitive.
The second shortcoming of the current system is that in one out of 14 presidential elections, the a candidate may win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.
In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a few votes in one or two states would have elected the second-place presidential candidate.
For example, Jimmy Carter led Gerald Ford by more than 1.6 million votes nationwide, but a shift of 9,000 votes would have given Ford a majority of the electoral votes in 1976.
We all are aware of the 2000 election, but that is ancient history. What few realize is that a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have made Kerry President despite the fact that Bush was ahead by 3,500,000 votes nationwide.
The third shortcoming of the current system is that there are large disparities in the value of a person’s vote.
For example, Gore won five electoral votes by carrying New Mexico by 365 popular votes in 2000, whereas Bush won five electoral votes by carrying Utah by 312,000 popular votes—an 855-to-1 disparity in the value of a vote. All three of these shortcomings have been created by the near-universal use by the states of the winner-take-all rule.
The American people know that there is a problem. Since 1944, polls have shown that 70% and more of the public favored the nationwide popular election of the President.
A new state-based approach to solve the problem is described in the Every Vote Equal book being released here today which shows that nationwide popular vote is the right way to fix the system.
The President and Vice President should be chosen by the same method as every other elective office in this country —by citizen voters of the United States in a system which counts each vote equally. I unequivocally support this new strategy to provide for the direct election of the President and Vice President. This new approach is consistent with the Constitution. It’s refreshing to know states have the ability under the Constitution to step up and create the sensible solution Americans have long been supporting.
Congressman John Buchanan:
As Congressman Anderson has pointed out, the three shortcomings of the current system that Senator Bayh mentioned are not caused by the U.S. Constitution, but, instead, by the enactment by most states, mainly in the 1800s, of the winner-take-all rule.
The Every Vote Equal book, being released here today, lays out a practical way to accomplish what 70% and more of the American people have long wanted. The book’s novel solution uses state powers that the Founding Fathers built into the Constitution. It is a state-based plan to implement nationwide popular election of the President.
The book’s proposal is in the form of a state law that any state may enact.
At the present time, the Electoral College reflects the voters’ separate state-by-state choices for President or, in the case of Maine and Nebraska, the voter’s separate district-wide choices for President.
The proposed new state law would change the Electoral College from an institution that reflects the voters’ state-by-state choices or district-wide choices into a body that reflects the voters’ nationwide choice. That is, the states would exercise the Constitution’s built-in flexibility to change the procedure by which the presidential electors in the Electoral College are chosen.
Under the proposed new state law, after the people cast their ballots in early November of presidential election years, the popular vote counts from all 50 states and the District of Columbia would be added together to obtain a national grand total for each presidential candidate.
Then, state elections officials in all the states enacting the proposed law would award all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who received the largest number of popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In other words, the people’s nationwide choice—not the state-by-state choice or the district-by-district choice—would determine the President.
Although the proposed new law would be adopted on a state-by-state basis, none of these laws would take effect until identical laws have been enacted in enough states to guarantee that the nationwide popular vote winner will get enough electoral votes to be guaranteed the Presidency. All of these new state laws would come to life at the same time—namely when identical laws have been enacted by states collectively possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is 270 of the 538 electoral votes. This guarantees that the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia would win enough electoral votes in the Electoral College to become President.
The Founding Fathers and the Constitution specifically provided a legal mechanism by which states may pass state laws in the manner I just described. This mechanism is called an “interstate compact.” There are hundreds of interstate compacts. For example, the states belonging to the Colorado River Compact each agreed to limit their water use. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is another example.
In summary, National Popular Vote’s plan is that the states use their existing constitutional powers to assure that the nationwide will of the people elects the President.
The people have supported the direct election of the president for over fifty years. In this book Dr. Koza suggests a way for states to come together and make it happen. I strongly support and applaud any good-faith effort to make the direct election of the president a reality and commend to you the intriguing approach offered in the Agreement Among States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote described in this book. It is high time and past time for the world’s greatest democracy to become a greater democracy!
As a result of the closeness of the last five presidential elections, the media has focused public attention on the mechanics of the Electoral College. The public has come to understand the concepts of a reliably “red” state, a reliably “blue” state, and a closely divided battleground states. As a result, voters have come to realize votes simply do not matter in two thirds of the state in presidential elections.
Reforming the system for electing the President would go a long way toward reestablishing the trust of the public in our political institutions and giving more Americans a voice in the election of the President.
Most people who follow political news are aware of the fact that presidential campaigns are concentrated on a tiny handful of battleground states and many of them feel that their votes don’t count. However, few are aware of the extreme degree of this concentration.
In terms of polling, presidential candidates pay hardly any attention to the issues and concerns of voters in presidentially non-competitive states. According to one report:
“Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling 18 battleground states.”
Kerry did the same thing.
We can all identify the battleground states by “following the money.” There was two hundred and thirty-seven million dollars reported spent on advertising in the last month of the 2004 presidential campaign. Fully 99% of that was spent in only 17 states. The nine states where per capita spending exceeded two dollars correspond to the top-tier battleground states. They account for seven-eighths of the money.
There were 307 campaign events attended by a presidential or vice-presidential candidates in the last month of the 2004 campaign. Fully 92% of those were concentrated in just 16 states.
Of course, this concentration of polling, advertising, and travel corresponds closely to the states where the presidential election was close because campaign managers do what they need to do in order to win the election.
Another negative effect of the current system is that voter turnout is diminished in the non-competitive states. Diminished voter turnout, in turn, weakens the candidates for state and local offices of the state’s minority party, thereby making the state even less competitive in the future.
The nation’s least populous states are disadvantaged by the current system to a considerably greater degree than the other states. 12 of the 13 of the smallest states like the one I come from – Maine – are non-competitive. Six of them regularly go Republican and six regularly go Democratic. New Hampshire being the only competitive small state. The 13 smallest states have a combined population of 11.4 million and, coincidentally, Ohio has 11.4 million people. The battleground state of Ohio (with its 20 electoral votes) is very important in presidential elections. But, the 12 non-competitive small states (with their 40 electoral votes) are irrelevant.
Indeed, there was not one visit by any major-party presidential or vice-presidential candidate to the 12 small non-competitive states in 2004. Virtually none of the $237,000,000 was spent in these small states. The winner-take-all rule makes the 11 million people in Ohio very important in presidential races, while simultaneously disenfranchising the 11 million people in the nation’s 12 small non-competitive states.
Nationwide popular election of the President is the only system that
We have gathered here today not only to identify a series of problems with today’s winner take all system electoral system. We also have identified a solution which we are taking the following steps to put in place.
First, we are today releasing a book, Every Vote Equal, which outlines the shortcomings of the current system and the way to fix these problems, namely a state-based plan to implement nationwide popular election of the President.
We are also launching a web page, www.NationalPopularVote.com where people can obtain more information and learn about the National Popular Vote plan. We are starting the process of introducing legislation in all 50 states, of which the first is Illinois where a bill has been introduced by Republican, Democratic and Independent Senators.
We are launching a grassroots effort on our web site where the public can sign an on-line petition, volunteer to help, and make donations. Our next step will be the launch of tools that will allow citizens to contact their elected officials and the media from our website.
Let me also mention that other authors of the book include attorneys Mark Grueskin of Colorado and Michael S. Mandell of Arizona, Rob Richie Executive Director at FairVote which authored an outstanding collection of reports available today, as well as Professor Joseph F. Zimmerman of the Political Science Department at the State University of New York at Albany. Professor Zimmerman is author of numerous books on electoral systems, including two on interstate compacts
In addition, former Republican Representative Tom Campbell of California and Dean of the Haas Business School at the University of California, who wrote a foreword to the book, was unable to be here today.
And, former Republican Senator Jake Garn of Utah and David Durenberger of Minnesota have agreed to serve on the Advisory Board of National Popular Vote to indicate their support.