The California Legislature recently approved the National Popular Vote Bill, joining eight other states that have approved the idea. The question we all ought to be asking is “What’s holding everyone else up?”
Under current law, in all but two states, the candidate for President who gets the most votes receives all of that state’s electoral votes. There are lots of bad things about that arrangement.
The most offensive is that we can – and have – ended up with a President who gets fewer votes than another candidate -- a result I think most people find repugnant. When there is an election, the candidate who gets the most votes ought to win!!! In 4 of our 56 presidential elections – most recently in 2000 -- the person who “won” got fewer votes than another candidate.
The most important problem is that the current system discourages voting, and thus deprives both politicians and citizens of knowledge about which policy choices the public actually favors. If you are a Republican in a state that is regularly and heavily Democratic, what’s the point of voting? You know in advance that you will be voting for a candidate who cannot win in your state and that as a consequence, your vote will effectively be ignored. The result is that voter participation – lamentably low in the “ battleground states” at about 67% -- was a truly disgraceful 61% in “spectator” states.
Moreover, citizens in states that are tilted heavily in favor of one party are essentially ignored by those seeking the presidency. Why should a candidate bother to poll, organize or advertise in a state he or she is assured of winning? In 2008, to choose an example, 98% of post-convention campaign events involving either a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. The rest of the states were essentially ignored by the presidential campaigns.
As many people know, the Constitution gives the states exclusive control over the manner in which their electoral votes are allocated. Maine and Nebraska now award electoral votes according to the popular vote in congressional districts; many states have altered the way in which electoral votes are allocated several times during the evolution of our political system. Thus, the states can solve this problem anytime they choose to do so.
The Congress cannot alter the way in which states allocate Electoral College votes. The National Popular Vote Bill, although it sounds like pending legislation, is in fact simply a pact between states that have approved it. Its terms provide that it will come into effect when it is approved by states with at least 270 Electoral College votes, which is enough to secure an Electoral College majority. However, since there are many and varied opinions about whether Congressional approval would be required, and since litigation – by someone on some grounds – would almost certainly result, it seems likely that when and if enough states sign on, the next step will be to petition Congress for approval and move on to a Constitutional Amendment.
The mechanics, while interesting, are not really important. What is important – for all of us - is that state level polls have found strong public support for the Bill in virtually every part of the country, in both parties, and in all demographic groups.
So why haven’t more legislatures responded? Because most of us haven’t made it clear that we are not content with the status quo. So, if you agree that it’s time to be sure that the candidate who gets the most votes wins, and if you are tired to having presidential contenders ignore large numbers of us, let your state legislators know that you want your state to approve the National Popular Vote Bill.
It’s about time, in my opinion, to be sure we all have a reason to vote and to be sure that every vote counts!!!
Anyone interested in more information of this subject can find it here: http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/explanation.php